Stand by your sham: Conspiracy theory (1)

To the limited extent that news of Ilhan Omar’s curious marital arrangements has seeped into the national press, it has been disparaged as a “conspiracy theory.” I take this personally because it has been used to defame me. New Yorker staff writer Benjamin Wallace-Wells (hereinafter “W-W”), for example, provides a disgusting example in his hagiographical profile of Omar this past March. Wallace-Wells put it this way:

Omar managed to embody the velocity of the change to come, both to those who liked it and those who didn’t. She was a magnet for conspiracy theories and hate. During her state-legislative run, a prominent conservative blogger, Scott Johnson, alleged that she had committed immigration fraud by marrying her brother. In replying, Omar revealed a complicated marital history: she had three children with one man, whom she never legally married, and divorced him “in our faith tradition.” She then married another man before reconciling with the father of her children….

W-W had contacted me before he wrote the profile. After it was published I wrote W-W to ask what ground he had to assert that I was peddling a false story of conspiracy animated by hatred of Omar. W-W has rested on his right to remain silent or on his right as a member of the mainstream media to hit and run. I posted my correspondence with W-W in “Sideswiped by the New Yorker.”

The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer followed W-W in his story “How the Ilhan Omar Marriage Smear Went From Fever Swamp to Trump.” According to Sommer, “What many of the smear’s promoters never reveal to their audience is both the evidence Omar has provided to disprove their conspiracies and the fact that the completely unproven idea that she married her brother is based entirely on a single, anonymous, unsourced allegation initially made on an obscure internet forum.”

Sommer added: “Omar’s efforts to disprove the claims have been stymied by the fact that—like earlier right-wing conspiracy theories alleging that Hillary Clinton eats children in a Washington pizzeria or murdered Democratic staffer Seth Rich—her critics never appear satisfied with her explanations.”

Working at PBS and serving as a contributor to NBC News and MSNBC, Yamiche Alcindor is a prominent member of the mainstream media. She knows approximately nothing about the evidence but that hasn’t deterred her from dismissing the proposition that Omar married her brother for fraudulent purposes as a “conspiracy theory” (tweet below).

I should note that the New York Times has treated the question whether Omar married her brother in a more muted fashion. Linking to my City Journal column “The curious case of Ilhan Omar,” Sheryl Gay Stolberg called the controversy “fodder for conservative bloggers” in her post-election profile of Omar. In a phone call following the publication of her story I asked Stolberg why she failed to acknowledge the substance of the controversy. Stolberg told me (I am paraphrasing) that Omar’s election in the face of the controversy rendered the issue more or less moot. Voters were supposedly in a position to make up their own minds.

Purporting to fact-check President Trump, Times “fact-check reporter” Linda Qiu summarily judged: “Rumors that Ms. Omar had married her brother have been circulating since 2016, when she ran for state representative in Minnesota. No proof has emerged substantiating these claims.”

This is simply false; Qiu necessarily relies on the ignorance of Times readers in rendering this judgment. By now, however, I am grateful for simple falsehood minus the personal disparagement.

The propagation of the “conspiracy theory” line among like-minded members of the mainstream media looks like a real conspiracy, but it’s just the hive mind at work. We might nevertheless ask what it means to characterize the case that Omar married her brother as a “conspiracy theory.” I have almost no idea what it would mean in this case and these savants of the mainstream media don’t bother to explain. I want to pursue this question in subsequent posts.

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