What the heck. Everything else in the news this week seems to have careened off into crazytown, so we may as well take a really deep dive into the madness. Covering politics for a living, I’ve run across more than my share of conspiracy theories that leave you scratching your head. But over at Motherboard, investigative journalist MJ Banias has dug one up that’s going to make Q-Anon look like the college debate team. According to one surprisingly popular conspiracy theorist named Richard Van Steenberg, President Donald Trump contracted the novel coronavirus on purpose. But why would anyone do that, you ask? It’s because (you might want to sit down and grab a stiff drink for this one) he believes that Trump is an immortal alien who is planning to “shed his mortal flesh and shapeshift into something else.” Either that or Trump is an Earthly coconspirator working in league with the aliens to enslave mankind. Don’t look at me that way. I didn’t make this up.
QAnon is not the only movement getting worked up over Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis. Conspiracy theorists on the extreme fringe also suspect that Trump—who they believe might be an immortal alien—might have contracted coronavirus in an attempt to shed his mortal flesh and shapeshift into something else.
Steenberg started an online petition three years ago called “Disclose: Humanoid Extra Terrestrials Live Among Us.” His website highlights the bulk of his theories and with nearly 30,000 Twitter followers and over 10,000 signatures on his petition, Steenberg is confident he knows the truth. He is a purveyor of bizarre conspiracies that are largely divorced from anything happening in the observable universe. While he has a following among conspiracy theorists, his beliefs are fringe even for that space.
As most regular readers know, I hang out in the ufology community quite a bit, which is how I came to be acquainted with MJ’s excellent work. (And he produces a lot of great reporting and other content.) As such, I tend to fall down more than my fair share of rabbit holes, but even I’d never heard of this Steenberg fellow. But he has tens of thousands of followers on social media and his petition to force the United States government to disclose the existence of alien hybrids living among us and occupying positions of vast wealth and power has garnered more than ten thousand signatures.