“Conspiracy-theory driven domestic extremists” pose a serious threat to the US, and their numbers are growing thanks to frequent “uncovering of real conspiracies” involving powerful government figures, the FBI has warned officers.

Conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” an FBI document obtained by Yahoo News warns. While the briefing – filed “unclassified/law enforcement sensitive” – acknowledges that “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists” are not a new phenomenon, it blames their increasing number and virulence on the internet and social media – as well as the increasing prevalence of what might be termed “conspiracy facts.”




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The not-infrequent “uncovering of real conspiracies or cover-ups involving illegal, harmful, or unconstitutional activities by government officials or leading political figures” is contributing to the spread of conspiracy theories, the agency acknowledges, lamenting that the exposure of such plots “encourage[s] conspiracism in society.”

Rather than name any of the “real conspiracies” that might be fueling the fires of these domestic extremists, however, the FBI mentions QAnon and Pizzagate as examples of theories motivating people to violence and warns that “anti-government, identity based and fringe political conspiracy theories very likely encourage the targeting of specific people, places and organizations,” listing a handful of violent incidents where the perpetrator was apparently motivated by belief in some “fringe” theory, such as the 2016 Pizzagate shooting at Comet Ping Pong in Washington DC.

Yet “conspiracy theorists” are far from marginal – nearly two-thirds of Americans believe something other than the official story regarding JFK’s assassination, while more than half believe the government is concealing information about the September 11 terrorist attacks. Other conspiracy theories receive hours of mainstream news airtime – Russiagate theorist Rachel Maddow continues to push the discredited narrative claiming President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the presidency, months after the Mueller investigation concluded with no charges and no evidence.




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Confronted with the document, the FBI’s press office insisted the agency would “never initiate an investigation based solely on First Amendment protected activity. As with all of our investigations, the FBI can never monitor a website or a social media platform without probable cause.” (That job tends to fall to the NSA and CIA.)

The FBI “like[s] the radicalization theory because it justifies mass surveillance,” former FBI agent Michael German told Yahoo, referring to the idea that perfectly normal citizens are radicalized by accessing extremist content on social media. The notion that “conspiracy theories” can transform people into gun-wielding madmen also gives social media platforms all the excuse they need to censor users, even in the absence of evidence that conspiratorial content causes harm, creating a symbiosis between Big Brother and Big Tech.

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