Monday, March 20

The Trump-Russia Collusion Rumor and the Orléans Rumor

"Many Democrats have reached the classic stage of deranged conspiracists where evidence that disproves the theory is viewed as further proof of its existence, and those pointing to it are instantly deemed suspect."
-- From Key Democratic Party Officials Now Warning Their Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion; The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, March 16, 2017

If the quote from the Intercept article sounds familiar to longtime Pundita readers, it harks to the reaction of the residents of Orléans, France when the police categorically stated they'd received no reports of anyone in the city being kidnapped. Voila! This explained how the criminals were getting away with so many kidnappings: obviously the police were colluding with them.

But the Americans who believe the baseless conspiracy theory of Donald Trump colluding with the Russian government to undermine American democracy and the presidential aspirations of Hillary Clinton are no more deranged than the French who believed a baseless rumor about kidnappings in the city of Orléans in the 1960s.

As I took some trouble to explain in 2005, what came to be called the 
Orléans Rumor was fueled by reasonably sane people who were determined to impose a sense of order on mysterious, ominous events during a period of fear about the future of France.

Put another way, if the residents of Orléans couldn't predict the outcome of a crucial national election nor halt the threat of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, at least they could try to solve the mystery of a spate of kidnappings in their city.

So these armchair detectives set to work with the zeal of Inspector Lestrade to explain how several young women could be kidnapped in broad daylight from women's clothing and shoe stores and spirited out of 
Orléans, to be sold into slavery in Shanghai.

City residents who tried using sarcasm to deflate the rumor quickly learned that this approach just made more fodder. For example, when the amateur sleuths couldn't figure how the kidnappers kept evading border guards, the President of the 
Orléans Jewish Committee sarcastically commented that obviously the kidnappers smuggled their victims out of France in a submarine. Voila! That explained how it was done! 

History as much repeated itself when Donald Trump sarcastically suggested that the Russians attempt to locate Hillary Clinton's missing 33,000 emails. Ah ha! Another clue that Trump was in cahoots with Russia's spy agencies!

Yet while the 
Orléans Rumor is preposterously funny in its telling there was nothing funny about where it was headed. The apparel stores where the purported kidnappings took place were owned by Jews; this fact converged with resentment about the prosperity of the city's Jews (who were actually keeping Orléans afloat financially) and uncertainties about the future. An explosive situation was building that could have resulted in tragedy if it had gone on much longer. 

Cooler heads prevailed after the French election; the schoolgirls who started the rumor confessed to their prank, and the rumormongers began publicly acknowledging that they knew of no evidence to suggest there had been kidnappings.

In addition city officials and community leaders had no reason to support the rumor; this meant that when things calmed down a little they were able to help in stamping it out.

This is not the case for the Trump-Russian Collusion Rumor because it was started by political operatives in either the Republican or Democratic camp (or both) to further agendas, and carried forward by major media and establishment figures in Washington who supported the agendas.

There is another significant difference between the two rumors, which is that the 
Orléans Rumor had a limited shelf life due to the approaching national election and secondly due to the complete absence of any evidence pointing to kidnappings. The Trump-Russian Collusion Rumor is happening in an open-ended time frame, and there is evidence of at least some contact between the Russian government and various Americans associated with Donald Trump and his presidential run. These factors aid in the rumor's continuance.

The upshot forms the basis of Glenn Greenwald's editorial, which passes along warnings that the Democratic National Party is now on a 
runaway train:
But given the way these Russia conspiracies have drowned out other critical issues being virtually ignored under the Trump presidency, it’s vital that everything be done now to make clear what is based in evidence and what is based in partisan delusions. And most of what the Democratic base has been fed for the last six months by their unhinged stable of media, online, and party leaders has decisively fallen into the latter category, as even their own officials are now desperately trying to warn.
Yet failure to stop the unfounded conspiracy theories threatens to destroy several high-level careers in Washington if not the entire Democratic Party. In that event the fall of the Democrats could easily bring down the Republican Party as well.

In short, the breakup of the American political system, unthinkable a year ago, is now a distinct possibility. Such an outcome would create even greater uncertainty for Americans who already fear the future.

Here I'll recall the circumstances that led me to write about the Orléans Rumor in 2005.  An American blogger had asked me whether I shared his belief that the greatest threat the U.S. faced was from Islamic terrorism. My account of the Orléans Rumor was by way of replying that I believed the greatest threat to the United States was going to come from inside our nation.


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