The counternarrative

By Friday, all the mainstream news organizations will be explaining why Attorney General Barr is in Italy and has been in contact with Australia. They will probably be doing it in a way that maximizes credence in the bonkers conspiracy theory that the Trump regime is furthering as their counterattack against Congress and the Rule of Law.

The conspiracy theory begins with the assumption that the Deep State (that is, the intelligence community and the Civil Service) are executing a coup against the “duly elected President”. The specific purpose of Barr’s counterinvestigation is to prove that the Mueller Report was an unfair slander that should never have been inflicted on The Autocrat, from whom all blessings flow. To this end, they are trying to discredit the Australian intelligence operative who reported on George Papadopoulos. They are in Italy to meet the obscure academic Joseph Mifsud, a one-person think tank with no obvious source of support thought to be someone’s secret agent. Simplest to understand are two ways in which Ukraine is implicated. The first is that Ukraine faked the evidence that Putin-ally Yanukovych paid off Paul Manafort. Or, perhaps, the evidence is not fake, as the amounts correspond to sums he deposited offshore without paying taxes, but that given Manafort’s friendship with the Autocrat, it should have been suppressed. The second association with Ukraine, which may be the strangest claim of all, is that the compromised DNC server is in Ukraine. This is the server Trump mentioned on his phone call with Zelensky. There is no reason whatsoever to believe the server, or the hackers, were Ukrainian (Mueller indicted Russians for this act and laid out evidence).

Tying the loose ends together is the Steele Dossier. Much of the dossier has been proven to be true. Some still seems rather far-fetched, as its own redactor agreed. But in Trumpland, its very existence is an Original Sin, not yielding before the Autocrat. People who should know better insist it couldn’t be used as evidence for warrants because it was paid for by Trump’s opponents. If so, our prisons will soon be emptied when felons learn the police can no longer use evidence obtained from tips given by professional rivals, jilted lovers, and others who don’t like them.

The big hole in the theory is why this Deep State waited until after the election, while before the election their main accomplishments were (1) announcing an additional inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s email server less than two weeks before the election; (2) letting Moscow Mitch McConnell bully them into silence about Russian interference in the election; and (3) keeping completely silent about the connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, involving Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and others, that they already knew about. But like other conspiracy theories, the point is not the plausibility, the point is the shared membership in the club. In fact, believing the impossible is a strong attraction (see also: miracles in religion). So, the question is how to fight the Trump counternarrative. We don’t need to persuade everyone: we just need to keep the believers to the irreducible minimum core. The floor is open.

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