Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and U.S. president Barack Obama greet supporters during a campaign rally on July 5, 2016 in Charlotte, N.C.
A couple of years ago, some Colorado voters elected former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt to the state’s General Assembly, which struck me as rather amusing. For those who follow the religious right movement closely, Klingenschmitt is a rather notorious figure, best known for, among other things, writing a book that argued, in all seriousness, that President Obama is possessed by demons.
Things didn’t go particularly well for Klingenschmitt in the state legislature – even other Republicans kept their distance – and the right-wing lawmaker will be out of office next year. But Klingenschmitt and his wacky ideas nevertheless came to mind yesterday, because apparently the idea of the president being demon possessed isn’t limited to one obscure state lawmaker.
Media Matters noted yesterday that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones told his audience yesterday that both Obama and Hillary Clinton are literal demons.
“There are dozens of videos and photos of Obama having flies land on him, indoors, at all times of year, and he’ll be next to a hundred people and no one has flies on them. Hillary, reportedly, I mean, I was told by people around her that they think she’s demon-possessed, okay? I’m just going to go ahead and say it, okay?
“I’m telling you, she is a demon…. I’ve been told this by high-up folks. They say, ‘Listen, Obama and Hillary both smell like sulfur.’ I never said this because the media will go crazy with it, but I’ve talked to people that are in protective details, they’re scared of her.”
I suppose it’s worth emphasizing that Jones wasn’t being metaphorical. We’ve all heard expressions about people battling their own personal “demons,” but that’s not what the Info Wars host was referring to. He’s talking about actual demons, running the government, and Jones believes all of this because unnamed, “high-up folks” assure him it’s true.
The next obvious question, of course, is why anyone should care. Alex Jones has spent years saying all kinds of bizarre, wild-eyed things, all of which was easy to ignore. So why bother taking note now?
Because those previous quotes pre-date the Donald Trump era.
Vox’s Ezra Klein explained yesterday that Trump and people close to him are “weirdly close” to Alex Jones, including several instances in which the Republican presidential candidate has touted and promoted unhinged Jones ideas. Trump has even appeared on Jones’ show, where the GOP nominee gushed to the host about his “amazing reputation.”
ll this would be hilarious if Jones wasn’t, in some way, an actual player in Donald Trump’s informational ecosystem. But among the scariest things about Donald Trump is the sources he chooses to trust. Polls are only legitimate if they show him ahead. Conspiracy theories are valid so long as they flatter his view of the world. Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Muslims in New Jersey cheered the fall of the Twin Towers. Climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Vaccines cause autism. The FBI hasn’t jailed Hillary Clinton because the system is corrupt. The Clintons perhaps murdered Vince Foster. Obama is a secret Muslim. Antoni Scalia was assassinated. And on, and on, and on.
Jones is nuts, but he’s the kind of nuts Trump listens to, at least when convenient.
If elected, Trump would presumably take Jones’ ideas with him to the White House. That’s why it may be tempting to ignore the kind of obvious nonsense Jones’ audience heard yesterday, but it’s worth pausing to note because the Republican Party’s nominee for the presidency isn’t inclined to ignore the nonsense at all.