Why western elites now can’t resist conspiracy theories

This style of conspiracism allows political and cultural elites to shift blame for mass dissatisfaction with liberalism to someone else. In this sense, it’s not unlike the Persian variety, which would sooner blame national failures on wily Zionists and Yanks than look closer to home.

Don’t get me wrong: Russia is a serious adversary of the US and democratic West. Putin seeks to dominate the small and unfortunate states that live under Russia’s shadow. He wants to displace America as the leading outside power in the Middle East. And he wants to downgrade American prestige. No doubt sowing social division inside Europe and the US is part of the plan.

But liberals would do better to listen to the angry cries of voters and left-behinds rather than pretending that they act under Moscow’s spell — or worse, treating them as pathological bigots whose online speech needs to be closely monitored and curtailed, lest it spreads the pro-Russian germ to others. That elite attitude is far more likely to widen social divisions than any meme produced in a troll farm on the outskirts of St. Petersburg.