The economist John Quiggin likes to call economic ideas that keep rising from the dead despite being endlessly refuted “zombie economics” but nowhere is the zombie pejorative more appropriate than when discussing conspiracy theories. There are zombie ideas on the fringes of most fields but what’s unusual about today in the U.S. is that zombie conspiracies are coming from high ranking public officials, politicians and pundits.
Over three and a half years into the Obama presidency not only is there still significant belief that Obama is a Muslim but the belief level has gone up among self-identified conservative Republicans since he’s become president. This should demonstrate just how irresponsible it is for people to make unjustified, and unjustifiable, claims publicly but nothing of the sort is slowing down congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
Bachmann’s latest absurd accusation is that Huma Abedin, aide to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and Bachmann’s fellow congress member Keith Ellison have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which it’s claimed has infiltrated the U.S. government. The spurious nature of this claim has already been pointed out by many but what makes this so tragic is ideas like this don’t die. No one can count the number of times 9/11 or Moon landing conspiracies have been explained as a mix of lies and misunderstanding yet the same ridiculous claims are still being made.
This is why the fact that others, like Newt Gingrich, are doubling down with the classic conspiratorial “just asking questions” claim and painting anyone who doesn’t agree the claims as reasonable as being weak on radical Islam is really troubling. Instead of universally being pilloried, as totally unwarranted conspiracy theories should be, this is turning into a political issue so I think many conservatives are likely to take this not as matter of fact versus fantasy but a liberal versus conservative issue. Once ideological identities are attached to a foolish idea, no matter how foolish, it’s bound to keep coming up no matter how thoroughly debunked it is. I don’t often make predictions but this Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy claim looks very much like the birth of a soon to be zombie conspiracy.