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RFK Jr. conspiracies arrive at their ugly conclusion.
July 17, 2023
For many people, their least favorite president is “the current one.” They (wrongly) believe that the President of the United States controls every aspect of their lives and therefore blame the current occupant of the Oval Office for their lot in life. Such people are also quick to blame waitresses, teachers, store clerks, and every other driver on the road for their daily unhappiness. And then there are “the contrarians,” for whom it is “cool” to dislike everything that their friends and family members believe in or support. Those archetypical human responses to incumbent leaders explain much of the counter-intuitive unhappiness of voters with Joe Biden and dangerous support for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
But for the accident of his DNA, RFK Jr. would be an isolated, fringe figure whose irrational views would consign him to the dark corners of the internet where conspiracy theorists gather to assure one another that they alone have discovered the global conspiracies that secretly control our lives. The good work that RFK Jr. has accomplished in some areas has been overshadowed and cast into doubt by his willingness to adopt baseless, harmful, and (most recently) antisemitic conspiracy theories. Despite Kennedy’s flawed and dangerous thinking, he currently garners 15% support in polling for the Democratic nomination for 2024.
Over the weekend, we learned that Kennedy’s conspiratorial thinking regarding the origins of Covid and the (alleged) evils of vaccines led him to the place where many conspiracy theories seem to inevitably land—blaming “the Jews” for the world’s problems. Most conspiracy theories begin by blaming the ubiquitous and anonymous “they”, which inexorably morphs over time to “liberal elites,” then “Bill Gates and George Soros,” and then “the Jews.”
Kennedy denies that he blamed Jewish people for the creation of Covid. But given his willingness to promote and platform other baseless conspiracy theories, his denials ring hollow. Per a New York Post article (which includes video), Kennedy said the following:
COVID-19. There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately. COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.
We don’t know whether it was deliberately targeted or not but there are papers out there that show the racial or ethnic differential and impact.
We do know that the Chinese are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing ethnic bioweapons and we are developing ethnic bioweapons. They’re collecting Russian DNA. They’re collecting Chinese DNA so we can target people by race.
Like many conspiracy theories, there is so much disinformation packed into a few sentences, it is tiresome to refute each gobsmacking lie. But let’s start with the most insidious aspect of Kennedy’s antisemitic trope: Like every practiced conspiracy theorist, he spreads his conspiracies by resorting to the “I am just asking questions” rationalization.
Does Kennedy explicitly say that “the Jews” and Chinese created an “ethnic bioweapon” to target Caucasians and Black people? Nah! Instead, he says “We don’t know whether it was deliberately targeted or not” implying, of course, that it was deliberately targeted. How do we know that is Kennedy is acting with malevolent intent in “just asking questions?”
Well, let’s examine Kennedy’s premise, which many outlets have glossed over in the rush to get to his antisemitic slur: He claims that the Chinese and American governments are developing “ethnic bioweapons.” The notion that governments are building bioweapons that will selectively attack people based on their “ethnicity” is a delusion based on monumental ignorance about DNA, biology, race, ethnicity, science, politics, and reality. It is the stuff of 1950s comic books, adolescent imagination, and Nazi eugenics—which is how sheer stupidity morphs into absolute evil in the reality free cauldron of conspiracy theories.
In his rebuttal tweet, Kennedy claims that there is “Copious documentation that yes, U.S. and China have both been developing bioweapons targeted at various genetic groups.” I have chased down some of the rabbit holes of citations in the sources that Kennedy referred to in his tweet.
To the extent that legitimate documentation exists regarding “ethnic bioweapons,” it relates to the fear that some government might exploit the gene editing technology CRSPR/Cas9 to develop ethnic bioweapons in the future. Uh, okay. A fear about something that may—or may not—happen in the future is NOT “evidence” that U.S. and China have both been developing bioweapons targeted at various genetic groups.
But those “copious sources” do include statements by some government officials pointing to an alleged existing “ethnic bioweapon” that has been developed by China: Officials in the Trump administration and GOP members of Congress suggested COVID-19 was an ethnic bioweapon. See, e.g., op-ed by Trump administration official Paul M. Dabbar in WSJ, U.S. Research Scientists Are Blind to China’s Threat. This op-ed was at the bottom of one of the rabbit holes that RFK Jr. hopes you will not follow.
Like RFK Jr. Mr. Dabbar has no proof that China is working on ethnic bioweapons, he is “just asking questions.” He writes, “While it isn’t clear whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology was working directly with China’s military biology programs, both were definitely using the same U.S. gene-editing technology.”
Do you see Kennedy’s neat trick? He starts by “just asking questions” about Covid-19 potentially being an ethnic bioweapon based on “copious documentation” that links back to his original baseless conspiracy theory about Covid-19 being an ethnic bioweapon. As I said, chasing down conspiracy theories is tiresome and a waste of time.
Democrats should stop wasting time with RFK Jr. He squandered his credibility decades ago by engaging in conspiracy-mongering that likely damaged the children he claims he is trying to protect. Does RFK Jr. harbor antisemitic views? I don’t know, and I don’t care. It is enough that he gives oxygen to theories that breed antisemitism. He knows better—or at least should. The fact that he apparently does not “know better” tells us all we need to know about a man who has squandered his intelligence and social privilege on garbage theories that mislead gullible people.
[The Covid/Jews/ethnic bioweapon comment is not Kennedy’s first association with Nazi-adjacent theories and people. See Forward, RFK Jr. tied to controversial streamer who claimed Hitler was ‘utterly set up’ by Jews.]
It is time for those who support Kennedy to walk away. Be mad at Biden if you want. Urge Democratic leadership that it is “time for a new generation” to take the reins. Abandon the Ukrainian people to Putin if you believe that will bring peace. But do not support RFK Jr. His delusional and disordered mind is a threat to democracy and is being weaponized to elect Donald Trump.
Which brings us to the final point. RFK Jr. is a right-wing stalking horse to help elect Trump. He is being promoted by Steven Bannon. He is being funded by some of the same people who are supporting Ron DeSantis and No Labels. See Mother Jones, Meet the Rich Guys Who Want RFK Jr. to Be President.
Worse, he is the darling of the conspiracy theory caucus in the GOP. See Business Insider, RFK Jr. Has Fans on Capitol Hill. They Just Happen to Be Republicans. If Senator Ron Johnson is publicly flirting with the idea of supporting RFK Jr., why the in the world would any rational Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, or Green Party member support RFK Jr.?
And the media has a role to play in the RFK Jr. vanity presidential run. The RFK Jr. story is fascinating in a perverted way. It can sell a lot of soap and Musk-mobiles. That doesn’t mean that it should be covered in a way that suggests Kennedy is a legitimate candidate.
The media can inadvertently give RFK Jr. legitimacy by running fluff pieces like, “Why five voters in Plano, Texas are considering voting for RFK Jr.” The only stories the mainstream media should be running about RFK Jr. should say that he is a danger to democracy and the health of America’s children. See, e.g., Washington Magazine, Memo to the Media: You Are Not Obligated to Cover a Crackpot Like Robert F. Kennedy Jr..
A quick note to those of you who are about to send angry emails claiming that I am dismissing concerns about CRSPR/Cas9 gene editing technology. I am not. I am more worried about it than you are. My point is to distinguish between legitimate fears of uncontrolled gene editing by amateurs and bad actors versus the false assertion that the US and China “have both been developing bioweapons targeted at various genetic groups.” That latter is a conspiracy theory based on distorted wisps of truth and a misunderstanding about gene editing technology and the social constructs of race and ethnicity.
Let’s not distract from legitimate concerns about uncontrolled or illegal use of CRSPR/Cas9 by promoting conspiracy theories about non-existent ethnic bioweapons allegedly developed by the Chinese to protect Jewish people.
Finally, if you are still intent on sending an angry email, please do not write to me about genetically engineered bioweapons—which have existed since at least the 1980s but are not “ethnic bioweapons.” RFK Jr. is hoping that people will conflate similar-sounding bioweapons to cover up his slur against the Jewish people. Don’t help him out.
I will not be sending a newsletter on Monday evening. My wife and I and eighteen friends have rented the 100” Hooker Telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory from 8:00 PM to 2:00 AM. Astronomer Edwin Hubble used the Hooker Telescope to make his groundbreaking discoveries that the universe consists of galaxies (“island universes”) beyond the Milky Way and that all distant objects are receding from our galaxy at an accelerating rate. (Many others helped Hubble achieve those insights, including Henrietta Swan Leavitt of the Harvard College Observatory. See The Glass Universe, by Dava Sobel.)
Sadly, because of light pollution, the Hooker Telescope has been decommissioned as a scientific instrument but is now available to the public for rental. So, please do not panic if you do not receive the newsletter on Monday evening for Tuesday. All is well.
The controversy over RFK Jr.’s comments covers a lot of ground relating to the 2024 presidential race. The most important point is this: Every possible opponent to Biden believes in some form of anti-scientific, anti-democratic, anti-LGBTQ, antisemitic, or anti-Black conspiracy theory. Virtually every GOP candidate dismisses the January 6th insurrection as a “demonstration” by peaceful tourists. Or they believe that Covid vaccines were unnecessary. Or that that the FBI is targeting conservative speech on social media. Or that a global pedophilia ring is grooming children for blood sacrifices. Or that the Walt Disney Company is encouraging children to be gay. Or that votes cast by Black voters are presumed to be fraudulent until proven otherwise.
Joe Biden is the only major candidate for president in 2024 who has his feet firmly planted in reality, loves our democracy, and views himself as a servant of all Americans. The news over the weekend may have been about RFK Jr., but it was an indictment of the entire GOP. Let’s not lose sight of that fact.
Talk to you on WEDNESDAY!
Swinging for the fences!
As promised, attached are two photos of the swing I built for our granddaughters. Before you become overly impressed with the metal swing depicted, you should know that I got halfway through building a wooden swing that would not fit in the narrow area available. (Long story, don’t ask, but I blame the internet.)
So, I switched course and built a swing set out of 2 inch galvanized steel pipe with Speed-Rail Fittings, eight bags of Quikrete, 2 inch pipe insulation by 1” thick, and swing hardware from Swing Set Mall. (I received no remuneration for mentioning those products and they probably wouldn’t want my endorsement if they saw the building process.) My wife has documented the process at her blog, Robert Builds a Swing Set! (everydaywithjill.com).
The good news is that the swing works fine and was inaugurated by two granddaughters “swinging for the fences” at Sunday brunch today.