The conspiracy-theory petard Update: Lee believes Wright's HIV conspiracy theory, too

Rev. Jeremiah Wright likes to spout conspiracy theories from the pulpit, including his allegation that the US government created HIV to commit genocide against people of color. Maybe he’ll find it complimentary to be accused of being a part of a conspiracy against Barack Obama. Spike Lee wondered aloud whether someone has paid Wright to wreck Obama’s campaign while telling the former Trinity United pastor to spike the speaking tour:

Director Spike Lee has waded into the ongoing controversy surrounding Jeremiah Wright, the Chicago pastor whose provocative statements have proved a thorn in the side of Democrat frontrunner Barack Obama. Lee advises the preacher to do the right thing and keep quiet. “The more he opens his mouth, the more damage he does,” he told the Guardian yesterday.

For good measure, Lee hinted at a political conspiracy behind Wright’s recent, contentious attempts to justify his remarks. “It looks like he’s being paid to keep talking,” he said. …

“Jeremiah Wight needs to be quiet,” Lee said yesterday. “If he loves Obama he needs to shut up right now. It makes me question his motives for talking. I’m starting to wonder whether somebody has been contributing to the building funds of his church. Seriously.”

Lee, whose best-known films have frequently tackled the issue of race relations in the US, believes that Obama had hoped to survive the presidential contest without talking about race. “But now he’s been forced to – by a combination of Jeremiah Wright and the Clintons,” he said.

As conspiracy theories go, Lee’s qualifies as one of the more strange. In order for this to be true, Obama’s pastor for 20 years would have to have reached an agreement with the Clintons to blow Obama out of the water. Never mind that Wright has been preaching a rather extreme form of Afro-centrism for two decades, and that he has publicly lambasted the Clintons on several occasions. Why would the Clintons have waited until March to light the fuse on this bomb? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to spring the Wright Stuff on Obama in December, just before the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, the latter of which Hillary won by a teardrop?

Still, in the grand scheme of things, it’s no stranger than Wright’s own HIV allegation or the laughable theory that the CIA flooded American streets with crack cocaine to enslave black men. Like all conspiracy theories, it lasts only as long as the first rational look at its support and its implications. In this case, Lee doesn’t even provide the why that more resilient paranoid fantasies exist to answer. Why would Wright sell out to the Clintons? Just for the money? Wouldn’t he have done better with Obama in the White House for eight years?

Lee provides other laughable moments in this interview. When pressed for the reason he supports Obama in the election, Lee says that Obama is a “unifier” who will “change everything” about America’s standing in the world. Lee apparently doesn’t read headlines outside of the Village Voice. Pro-American politicians have won election in Western democracies over the last two years, including France, Germany, Italy, and if the regional elections yesterday give any indication, the UK, too. Eastern Europe has remained pro-American. Lee also gives no concrete examples of Obama’s “unifying” efforts, but in that, he’s no worse than the Obama campaign itself.

Update: Reader Carl F dug through the archives to find this 1993 NY Times profile of Charlie Rose, which reports that Spike believes the Wright conspiracy thinking on HIV as well:

It is when a guest takes the compliments seriously, not an uncommon susceptibility in public life, that celebitis sets in. No ego is so bloated that Mr. Rose cannot puff it up further. “You’re a living, breathing, bright person with opinions,” he told Ms. Arnold. “You couldn’t do this if you weren’t a sensitive person.” She did not disagree. “I’m an artist,” she announced.

Turning to her husband, he asked, in tones that he had applied the night before to the situation in Bosnia, “Tell me what it is about Tom Arnold that brings the two of you into harmony.” Mr. Rose received the self-promoting grievances of Spike Lee with reverent mien, and although he indicated he had doubts about the movie director’s theory that AIDS had been concocted by the white establishment to kill off black and Hispanic people and homosexuals, he did not get adversarial about it.

Well, of course not.  We couldn’t have the media debunking paranoia and irrational thought, could we?