TINFOIL SPOON

Don Trump Jr. Is a Sucker for a Good Conspiracy Theory—Or Any Theory, Really

Benghazi, Hillary’s emails, #fakenews, Obama’s wiretaps—Don Trump Jr.’s Twitter feed goes full truther.

In a fledgling autocracy, every family member gets a role. King Donald gets to sign things and sit behind a fancy desk and give speeches in front of flags and fondle glowing orbs. Princess Ivanka gets to have her champagne popsicles and eat them too, a trusted advisor who never seems to successfully enact any of the items her press coverage implies are on her whispered agenda. Jared, the royal vizier, husband of Ivanka, has been elevated to a status above Donald’s biological sons because Donald is obsessed with image and Jared looks better in a suit and has a better chin. Queen Melania stays locked in her tower, by all accounts a devoted mother to her young son, occasionally popping out for just long enough to remind us that she hates her husband.

That leaves Donald’s two large sons to serve their father elsewhere. Eric, flesh colored from the bottom of his feet to the top of his slicked down dome, helps run the Trump Organization. So does Don Jr., the angrier, dark-haired one, the one who always seems like he’s just five minutes from either end of a bar fight.

Don Jr. doesn’t have a political role in the White House. In fact, he’s supposed to be staying out of politics to protect his father’s administration from even the appearance of impropriety (ha ha). But for a guy who doesn’t work in politics, Don Jr. sure spends a lot of time and energy disseminating his political opinions.

A trip through the rich tinfoil tapestry Donald Trump Jr. has spun on Twitter reveals a portrait of a man who, at least online, is deeply committed to furthering the right wing theory du jour. He’s a human subreddit, a wide-eyed disseminator of stories that further an agenda that doesn’t seem to have many policy positions beyond viewing the Trump administration and its sycophants as the sole arbiters of truth. He’s Infowars in a suit. If Ivanka is the First Daughter (poor Tiffany) and Jared is the President-in-Law, Donald Jr. is America’s First Deplorable.

Sometimes, Donny adds his own thoughts. Sometimes he retweets the thoughts of others. Sometimes he just faves to show his support, or perhaps bookmarks something for further reading. But all the heavy hitters are there—Hillary did Benghazi, Obama somehow made a judge in Hawaii block the Trump travel ban, Nancy Pelosi is mentally ill, Fake News! They all make the cut. The man has never met a conspiracy theory he won’t retweet. It’s a wonder he’s found time to run the Trump Organization. It’s a wonder he’s found time to shave.

It wasn’t always this way. Back in 2011—a lifetime ago—he was your semi-basic bro, the sort of guy whose sense of humor consisted largely of quoting movies and misquoted jokes from stand-up specials, except several million dollars richer. But he occasionally delved into more heady space. “Serious question want your thoughts,” he Tweeted in October 2011. “Do you think conservative voters would really flip if the GOP dropped their pro life platform?”

A follower asked him if that would be pandering. “As opposed to pandering by being a pro life pol but not actually trying 2enforce it?” he retorted.

From there, as they say, things escalated quickly.

By 2012, Donald Trump Jr. was deep in the throes of the sort of Obama hate that seems to motivate so many of his father’s future voters. As far as I can tell, he never went full birther, but judging by the state of his feed today, he may as well have.

If Obama was conspiracy tapas for Donald Jr., Hillary was a smorgasbord. Throughout the 2016 campaign, he believed a range of nutty theories about his father’s former opponent. That she was endorsed by a member of the KKK, a man who was her mentor (in truth, the man to which he referred, Robert Byrd, had been a member of the KKK as a young man but had spent his late career sternly disavowing it). Donald Jr. also loved the theory that Hillary Clinton was a frail old lady suffering from unseen health problems, and that the Huffington Post was banning writers that implied as much. After one debate, Junior tweeted that Hillary was wearing an earpiece (she wasn’t). Junior also Tweeted that Hillary, frail but busy, was paying activists to incite violence at Trump rallies. He also tweeted that she had sent classified information to her daughter, that foreign agents had hacked into her server, and that Hillary’s campaign was largely funded by the Saudis.

Imagine living in a country where classified information is inappropriately shared with unauthorized parties, where foreign agents have influence over politics, and where the Saudis shovel money at the powerful in hopes of currying favor. Imagine!  

In 2017, Donny Jr.’s Twitter life ricochets between photos of him being a devoted dad and rants about how everything in the world is a lie created by a liberal conspiracy, and liberals are all evil nutjobs, which is a little jarring.

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Jeff Bezos is changing the headlines on stories because liberals told him to. Here’s a cute photo of a little girl celebrating her birthday. Two brothers who worked for Debbie Wasserman Schultz were spying on Congress—and they’re brown. A few retweets about guns and knives. A little boy eating breakfast in the White House in his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas. Immigrants are coming to America with the express purpose of wreaking havoc—they’re sending their criminals, their rapists—and the mainstream media is deliberately not telling you about it, for reasons. An old photo of his wife modeling! Obama established a secret backchannel with Iran! Here are a few ways to raise your testosterone naturally. Twitter’s algorithm is censoring the tweets of conservatives. Gianforte for congress! Knives! Guns! Children! Hillary’s health! Benghazi! Nap time with daddy!

Donny Jr. doesn’t seem to care much about issues that extend beyond those that prove that his father is right, his father is good, his father is loved, and that those who disagree believe so because they are somehow broken, or evil, or manipulating the truth.

Have you heard the one about how Hillary Clinton should be indicted? How they might appoint a special prosecutor to go after Obama? How about how Donald Trump is doing a great job on race relations? How about how great and cool a dude Sheriff David A. Clarke, a cowboy hat-wearing psycho who let people die of thirst in a Milwaukee jail, is a great guy? How about how climate change data has been manipulated? Or how the same polls that said Trump wouldn’t win are the ones that are now saying Trump is unpopular, ergo they can’t be trusted and everybody loves Donald? Obama was spying on Trump, it’s true, and unmasking who was being surveilled in Trump Tower will be a bigger scandal than Watergate. The whole Russia thing is a Stalin-esque fantasy. Susan Rice is a liar. Our current political climate is just like 1930’s Germany, says Tim Allen. In this analogy, conservatives are the Jews.

Back in April, he retweeted something suggesting that Janet Yellen and the Feds were deliberately raising rates to interfere with economic growth because they don’t like Donald Trump. He suggested in March that alt-right provocateur Mike Cernovich should win a Pulitzer prize. When viral heat behind that cause seemed to die down, so did the frequency of Junior’s tweets.

But that’s not the same as being defeated. Any good partisan Twitter conspiracy hound with a decent-sized following never admits defeat. He simply moves on to the next thing to get mad at or about. Today, he’s on a tear about Kathy Griffin again. Those on the left who were badgered into disavowing her (despite never avowing her) were already tired of her antics, but Donald Jr. is not done being angry about her, effectively Streisand Effect-ing the comedian’s severed head scandal into the next news cycle.

Stand by for news that she was paid by, I don’t know, George Soros. If that conspiracy theory ever exists, rest assured that Donald Trump Jr. will faithfully retweet it.