The return of the paranoid style

Political paranoia can also serve as a kind of moral salve by manufacturing cosmically evil enemies to excuse one’s own, relatively smaller transgressions. Conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate” and “QAnon” — which posit the existence of a vast network of elites engaged in human trafficking and demonic rituals — reassure the consciences of those who voted for a president whose moral character is difficult to defend on the merits. It’s easier to sleep at night knowing that whatever wrongs were committed by your own side, the other team is busy pursuing a dark and sinister agenda.

In this way, pro-Trump conspiracism has something in common with anti-anti-Trumpism. Both share the same nihilism, a sensibility of fear and loathing that stands in for more principled justifications.

None of this amounts to a positive or durable case for Trump, but that doesn’t matter. It’s good enough for his supporters.