Tall tales popular on the political right are distorting mainstream politics and undermining democracy.
Radical-right conspiracy theories about secret plots to impose Islamic religious law, confiscate guns from Americans, or foist a “homosexual agenda” on the country are not only animating extremists but are distorting mainstream politics, according to the Winter 2015 issue of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, released today.
The cover story, “Margins to the Mainstream,” examines 10 leading conspiracy theories that have reached shocking levels of acceptance on the political right. The report also exposes the activists, media figures and politicians – including several presidential candidates – who have helped these tall tales gain traction.
“Outlandish conspiracy theories may be great for the movies, but they’re highly destructive to our democracy – particularly when mainstream politicians and trusted media figures promote unfounded beliefs that trade knowledge for ignorance and reason for suspicion,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC and editor of the Intelligence Report.
“These far-right conspiracy theories can stoke hate and bigotry as they travel across the Internet and through the mainstream media. They also have the effect of making many of our nation’s problems exponentially more difficult to solve.”
Among the conspiracy theories explored in the issue: the belief that Agenda 21, a nonbinding United Nations sustainability plan for natural resources, is a plot to impose a one-world government; the claim that a recent military exercise in Texas was the first step toward martial law; and the assertion that the Common Core State Standards, a set of achievement standards for schoolchildren, is a plot to indoctrinate students with anti-American beliefs.
The law enforcement edition of the magazine also includes a DVD of the SPLC’s new training video, Understanding the Threat: The Rise of the Lone Wolf. Produced in the wake of a lone gunman’s deadly attack on a Charleston church this summer, the video focuses on extremists who commit acts of terror without the help, financing or guidance of other individuals or groups.
Also in this issue of the Intelligence Report:
- “Trump Stump” looks at how white nationalists are rallying around the anti-immigrant message of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
- “Furling the Flag” examines the backlash against efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from public spaces after photos surfaced of the suspected gunman in the Charleston attack posing with the rebel banner.
- “The X-Ray Files” explores a fantastic plot by a Klan member and another man to create a radiation weapon to murder Muslims and others. The men came surprisingly close to creating a weapon that one described as “Hiroshima on a light switch.”