Glenn Reynolds, in his latest USA Today piece, writes that “government conspiracy theories aren’t crazy — From the IRS to the NSA, Americans have reasons not to trust the Obama Administration”:
Spend a little while on Twitter or in Internet comment sections and you’ll see a significant number of people who think that the NSA may have been relaying intelligence about the Mitt Romney campaign to Obama operatives, or that Chief Justice John Roberts’ sudden about-face in the Obamacare case might have been driven by some sort of NSA-facilitated blackmail.
A year ago, these kinds of comments would have been dismissable as paranoid conspiracy theory. But now, while I still don’t think they’re true, they’re no longer obviously crazy. And that’s Obama’s legacy: a government that makes paranoid conspiracy theories seem possibly sane.
The problem with government is that to be trusted, you have to be trustworthy. And the problem with the Obama administration is that, to a greater extent than any since Nixon’s, it is not. Do not be surprised if the result is that people mistrust those in authority, and order their lives accordingly. Such an outcome is bad for America, but bad governance has its consequences.
If more and more everyday Americans are engaging in conspiracy theories about the federal government, it’s worth noting that the federal government and the elite MSM that supports it (and often serves as a farm team for it) at the dawn of the Obama administration was rife with conspiracy theories about everyday Americans.
Most people think of conspiracy theories occurring almost exclusively among disenfranchised groups on the fringes of politics. However, as Jesse Walker noted first in his must-read 2009 Reason article on the paranoid center of power, and then his follow-up book last year titled The United States of Paranoia, Beltway and Northeast Corridor elites have plenty of conspiracy theories of their own. They viewed the rise of the Tea Party as an enormous threat to a political class that believed it was at long last now hermetically sealed off from criticism, now that the next FDR was ensconced in power as Time claimed, and hence, “We Are All Socialists Now,” as the Washington Post added on the cover of Newsweek. Picture Pauline Kael’s infamous quote after Richard Nixon won reelection that “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them,” and update it to reflect not Nixon voters, but everyday conservatives and libertarians. Couple it with Charles Krauthammer’s 2002 observation that “liberals think conservatives are evil,” and you begin to get a sense of what was going through the leftwing minds of those in the Obama White House, the IRS, the NSA, and of course, the MSM.