The Corner

U.S.

The FBI Keeps an Eye on Conspiracy Theories

(Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Yahoo News reports that the FBI “for the first time has identified fringe conspiracy theories as a domestic terrorist threat.”

The FBI intelligence bulletin from the bureau’s Phoenix field office, dated May 30, 2019, describes “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” as a growing threat, and notes that it is the first such report to do so. It lists a number of arrests, including some that haven’t been publicized, related to violent incidents motivated by fringe beliefs.

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).

This is news that sounds more groundbreaking than it actually is. Just about everyone who commits an act of terror believes in some sort of conspiracy theory, from the familiar to the nutty.

Willem Van Spronsen, who attempted to firebomb an Immigration Customs and Enforcement building in Tacoma, believed it was a “corporate for profit concentration camp” and that the U.S. government was a facist institution designed to benefit “Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Tim Cook, Bill Gates, Betsy de Vos, George Soros, Donald Trump.”

Francisco Duran shot at the White House in 1995 because he believed he was trying to “destroy a ‘mist’ that was connected by an umbilical cord to an alien being he encountered in the Colorado mountains.” You know, that old story.

John Patrick Bedell attacked the Pentagon because he thought the government had staged the 9/11 attacks. In 1997, Bradley Playford Glover and Michael Leonard Dorsett were caught heavily armed en route to Fort Hood, where they believed Communist Chinese soldiers were hiding.

Timothy McVeigh believed “a shadowy elite of bankers and industrialists and politicians are plotting in secret to take over the world, disarm gun enthusiasts and implement a sinister New World Order — a world government that will destroy anyone who disobeys. McVeigh considered the Murrah building in Oklahoma City to be the local headquarters of the New World Order.”

Thankfully, very few conspiracy theorists are terrorists. But just about every terrorist is a conspiracy theorist.

The FBI told Yahoo that it can “never initiate an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity. As with all of our investigations, the FBI can never monitor a website or a social media platform without probable cause.”

As it should be. The First Amendment guarantees your right to believe any nutty idea you like, whether it’s UFOs, or the Trilateral Commission, or that if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. You’re also free to say any nutty idea you like. You just can’t assault people or blow stuff up in the name of those nutty ideas.

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