News & Politics

FBI Warns Conspiracy Theories Are a Domestic Terror Threat

David Reinert holding a Q sign waits in line with others to enter a campaign rally with President Donald Trump and U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A document obtained by Yahoo News from the FBI Phoenix office warns that “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” have committed several violent acts and should be considered a terrorist threat.

The document specifically mentions QAnon, a shadowy network that believes in a deep state conspiracy against President Trump, and Pizzagate, the theory that a pedophile ring including Clinton associates was being run out of the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant (which didn’t actually have a basement).

“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the document states. It also goes on to say the FBI believes conspiracy theory-driven extremists are likely to increase during the 2020 presidential election cycle.

Note that the warning is that “conspiracy theory-driven extremists are likely to increase” in the campaign, not that terrorist acts will increase. While there may be some potential correlation between increasing numbers of kooks and actual violent acts committed in the name of one conspiracy or another, we haven’t seen it yet.

The FBI said another factor driving the intensity of this threat is “the uncovering of real conspiracies or cover-ups involving illegal, harmful, or unconstitutional activities by government officials or leading political figures.” The FBI does not specify which political leaders or which cover-ups it was referring to.

The FBI is being cautious. That’s their job. But hinting of “real conspiracies or cover-ups” and “unconstitutional activities” makes me think the feds may have fallen for a few conspiracies of their own.

There have been conspiracy theories in the U.S. since before the beginning of the republic. Ever hear of the Salem witch trials? The Masons have always been a ripe target for a whispering campaign.

Of course, the internet magnifies everything and even the most cockamamie, loony conspiracies are given life where, in years past, they would have been dismissed as the paranoid rantings of escaped inmates from a lunatic asylum.

It’s interesting that there was heavy criticism from Democrats in Congress last year when it was revealed that the Bureau classified “black identity extremists” as a threat. Liberals huffily pointed out there was no group named “black identity extremists,” so it was unfair to single out black separatists — despite the obvious and ongoing threat.

There are conspiracy nuts on both sides of the political spectrum. Antifa believes in more conspiracies than you can shake a stick at. Even mainstream Democrats think the big oil companies conspire to control the world. The question isn’t whether conspiracy theorists exist, but rather how big a threat there is for their adherents to commit individual acts of violence or domestic terrorism?

Conspiracies are the product of the weak-minded. Most theories can be logically debunked with simple critical thinking. But believing that an organized, shadowy group of bureaucrats (the “deep state”) is trying to destroy the president or that the CIA created the AIDS virus to target and kill black people is not threatening in and of itself. It is the individual’s mental stability that’s the possible threat.

Is that really a job for law enforcement? Or the mental health community? Organized threats should no doubt be investigated, but how do you stop the lone gunman who targets his imaginary enemies?

When the FBI is able to figure that out, we’ll be a lot safer.