Onto the 24-hour reality show that is U.S. politics, 15 package bombs recently made their entrance.
The devices were sent to vocal opponents of Mr. Trump, most of them prominent members of the Democratic Party. The incident became public on October 25, less than two weeks before the November 6 elections that mark the middle of Trump’s first term.
Now, it is an interesting question as to whether the designated perpetrator, Cesar Sayoc, is a lone wolf terrorist or a patsy acting on behalf of larger forces. I am encouraged to see researchers exploring the second possibility. But my focus in this article is different.
The suggestion that the package bomb incidents might be false flag attacks—attacks by opponents of Trump deceptively imputing the attacks to his supporters to discredit them before the elections—was rapidly put forth. Among the fastest off the mark were right-wing pundits, so it was easy enough for various “liberals” (whatever this term means today in the U.S.) to characterize the false flag suggestion as a variety of right-wing conspiracy theory, and as both intellectually ridiculous and morally disgusting. The evident aim has been to stigmatize the concept and drive it from responsible political discourse.
Among the most prominent of the denunciations appeared in CNN and The New York Times.
The article by CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza’s was entitled, “Debunking the despicable ‘false flag’ theory on the mail bombs.” He quoted Rush Limbaugh’s claim that a “Democratic operative” could be responsible for the attacks in order to make it look as if “the Republicans are a bunch of insane lunatics.” Cillizza noted that although we may be tempted to dismiss such “conspiracy crap” without comment, we must not. To refuse to comment on it is “to let it fester.” We must publicly challenge it. His article, it seems, was meant to be a model of such debunking.
Screengrab from CNN
It was not a good model.
Cillizza concentrated on what he believed to be the logistical impossibilities in Limbaugh’s scenario. He named two steps in the scenario:
1. “Someone or someones who wanted to help Democrats—and the media, I guess,