Trump's election is turning the left into a breeding ground for conspiracy theorists

At its most extreme, conspiracy accounts for—and even celebrates—facts that outright contradict one’s premise. Presented with overwhelming evidence that Trump is acting rashly, conspiracists simply treat his erratic behavior as further proof that he’s working the long con, that the seeming chaos is a canny form of misdirection, that the administration is engaged in some form of three- or four- or eleven-dimensional chess. The chess metaphor, initially floated as a reference to the supposedly inscrutable brilliance of Obama’s foreign policy, has been repurposed to suggest that Trump’s apparent incompetence is actually a cover for an extremely complex and sinister plot that’s going completely according to plan. On Medium, one Jake Fuentes, a technology executive at Capital One, recently suggested that the botched roll-out of the first Muslim travel ban was, in fact, a means of testing “the country’s willingness to capitulate to a fascist regime.” Yonatan Zunger, an engineer at Google, concurred, calling Trump’s constant missteps, mistakes, and retractions evidence of “a trial balloon for a coup d’état against the United States.”

When you begin to treat evidence supporting one conclusion (that Trump’s administration is staffed with ideologues and novices who don’t know what they’re doing) as though it supports the exact opposite conclusion (that this apparent incompetence is a masterpiece of misdirection), you have moved away from logical fallacy and into deep-seated paranoia. Whereas confirmation bias simply ignores or downplays contradictory details, conspiracy embraces them as further proof—of false flag operations, of the unreliability of the reporting source. “An infuriating feature of conspiracy theory,” the journal Skeptical Inquirer notes, “is its propensity to take the standard of evidence that skeptics value so highly and turn it on its head: Extraordinary claims no longer require extraordinary evidence; rather an extraordinary lack of evidence is thought to validate the extraordinariness of the conspiracy.”

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