Of course, belief in conspiracy theories isn’t an isolated metaphysical phenomenon. It brings with it moral and political ramifications. Rare indeed is the conspiracy theorist who believes the world is controlled by a secret, powerful cabal—be it the Jews, the Illuminati, or the lizard people—and decides to stay on its good side. Embedded in the conspiracy theory itself is the need to fight the conspiracy, often violently. No wonder Republicans are so tolerant of violence. According to one poll, more than two-thirds of Republicans said the storming of the Capitol on January 6 was not a threat to democracy. A plurality (45 percent) approved of the insurrection.
Nor are most conspiracy theories (and for that matter, conspiracy theorists) devoid of other ideological stains: The QAnon conspiracy, after all, is based in part on a warmed-over version of the thousand-year-old anti-Semitic blood libel. Some Republicans spent years defending themselves and their co-partisans against accusations of racism, only to have the regime of “they’re not sending us their best,” the Muslim ban, “good people on both sides,” “go back where you came from,” “shithole countries,” family separations, kids in cages, and “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” make racism an integral part of the modern Republican platform. Last week, QAnon apostle and Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert live-tweeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s location as the U.S. Capitol Police were being overrun; Republican Rep. Mary Miller told a crowd that “Hitler was right about one thing” (she has since apologized); and Trump himself told those engaged in armed insurrection against the U.S. government, “you’re very special.”