From Mother Jones:
On Wednesday night, the conservative news outlet WorldNetDaily published a story in which prominent birther Jerome Corsi claimed that Donald Trump had told him that President Barack Obama’s recently released birth certificate was a fake. We asked Trump about that, and he told Mother Jones that he had done no such thing. After our story ran Thursday, WND editor Joseph Farah seemed shocked that Trump would try to put distance between himself and Corsi, author of the new book Where’s the Birth Certificate?. In a WND story, Farah casts doubt on the “leftist Mother Jones” story, puzzling why Trump would say, as he told Mother Jones, that he had not even read Corsi’s book. After all, Farah writes, Trump had asked for an advance copy. From WND:
Farah wonders aloud why Trump would ask for a copy of a book he had no intention of reading—even going to the extent of having his organization sign a non-disclosure agreement to get an early electronic copy. “If he wasn’t going to read the book, why go to the trouble of requesting a PDF copy and having your representative sign an NDA [non-disclosure agreement] for it?” asked Farah. “Was his intent all along to violate the NDA and give it to someone else? Was his intent other than what he represented to us—to go to school on the eligibility issue? Trump needs to explain himself to someone other than Mother Jones. That doesn’t sound like good faith to me.”
Farah and Corsi can’t understand why Trump might not want to continue the fight over Obama’s citizenship, so they seem to have cooked up yet another conspiracy theory: someone else put Trump up to it. Trump couldn’t have been persuaded by the long-form birth certificate that Obama released in April, or the mountains of other evidence that prove that the president was born in Hawaii. No, Farah writes, Trump must be in league with nefarious forces trying to undermine the birthers:
I have strongly begun to suspect that Trump had other motives than seeking the truth about Obama. I think he was pumping Corsi for information for some other purpose than being on the right side of history.
In a recent on-air conversation, Corsi and conspiracy theorist/talk show host Alex Jones suggested that Trump was now scheming with the White House—and perhaps had been plotting with the Obama crowd all along. They speculated that Trump had been bought off, pointing out that his retreat from birthersm and his attacks on GOP 2012 contenders suspiciously coincided with NBC’s renewal of his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice. Somehow, the pair said, the government had given money to NBC that ended up with Trump. (They didn’t provide details.). Corsi did note, though, that when he recently told Trump that it looked as if Trump’s political loyalties had been purchased by the other side, the billionaire developer told him that for him, the NBC money was “chump change.”
Trump must be ruing the day he got in bed with these people. He’s gone from being their champion to being their target. Perhaps he’ll be the subject of Corsi’s next book.
Conspiracy theory, as many have noted, is “self-sealing”–its arguments are inherently unaassailable. If a key player retreats or recants, as Trump appears to be doing, he’s ipso facto part of the conspiracy. Another attribute of conspiracy theory (and for that matter, most forms of extremist thinking) is that its proponents–as suspicious as they are–tend to cannibalize each other. Who would make a better subversive, after all, than the person who seems most loyal to the cause?
Consider the Belmont Brotherhood, which I wrote about in my forthcoming book, THE NEW HATE:
Nesta Webster’s immense Secret Societies and Subversive Movements (1922), with its timeline that stretches back into the mists of antiquity, its learned excurses on the Eleusinian mysteries, Gnosticism, Cabbala, and the obscure byways of heretical Islam, its manifest fear of European Freemasonry, and its loathing of the Jews, was manifestly influenced by Barruel; Robert Welch, as we have seen, bit off and swallowed chunks of Robison whole. The John Birch Society’s Western Island Publishing would reprint Proofs of a Conspiracy in 1967.
Interestingly enough, just as Robison, a Freemason himself, defended England’s lodges from his own worst imputations about Illuminism, Robert Welch would staunchly defend American Freemasonry as a bastion of anti-Communism. Rumors that he was a Mason himself would spark a schism on his right (if such a place can be imagined) and give birth to a new conspiracy theory that still has some currency in right wing Christian circles—that of the so-called Belmont Brotherhood.
“Welch is on the side of Freemasonry,” a group of insurgent Birchers wrote in the mid-1970s:
No other explanation is possible. To try to explain away these passages in The Blue Book and Welch’s nebulous position on Freemasonry is like insisting the earth is flat. But, unfortunately for Welch, we know that it is not. You may object: ‘Look at all the great things Welch has done -he has exposed the Illuminati.’ Baloney. The Illuminati was merely a branch of the Conspiracy. How can one attack the Illuminati without attacking the diabolical power behind it: organized Freemasonry? Welch has provided the most valuable service of all time to the Conspiracy. He founded an organization to neutralize millions of Americans from discovering what the true power behind the Illuminati really was. And we concede the Masons chose an extremely clever man to do the job…There is entirely too much likelihood …. that in a few short years we shall all be hanging from the same lamp posts, while MASONIC TERROR reigns around us.”
The myth of the Belmont Brotherhood provides a specific sort of poetic justice for Robert Welch, who was so quick to accuse others of treasonous designs, and offers an invaluable moral for everyone else: with depressing predictability, conspiracists turn their suspicions on their own; they swallow their tails and they choke on them. They over-reach, too—just as Robert Welch accused Eisenhower of being a Communist, eighteenth century American conspiracists turned their guns on the likes of Thomas Jefferson. “If I were about to make proselytes to Illuminatism in the United States, Theodore Dwight pointedly noted in a sermon, “I should in the first place apply to Thomas Jefferson.”