Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power
New York: Henry Holt, 2019
Anna Merlan’s Republic of Lies exemplifies the typical Leftist outrage over the recent rise of nationalism on the Right. Instead of taking on Right-wing concerns in order to refute them, however, Merlan attempts to smear and discredit Right-wing people – who are mostly white – as deranged conspiracy nuts with a weakness for snake oil and demagoguery. Ostensibly, her book chronicles “American conspiracy theorists and their surprising rise to power,” as its subtitle tells us. But really, it’s a reaction to President Trump and the people who put him in office. She likes neither and makes that very plain over 249 pages of selective reporting, biased editorializing, and base insults. It would be easy for someone on the Right to get offended at all of this, but an effort this insipid is difficult to take seriously. Only the dimmest bulbs on the literate Left will find Republic of Lies illuminating.
For a quick rundown, Merlan covers most of the obvious conspiracy theories that have been floating around the American mainstream for a while: Pizzagate, Russiagate, the Seth Rich murder, UFOs, the anti-vaccination movement, MKUltra, Jade Helm, the climate change hoax, the Clinton Body Count, and several “false flag” and anti-government conspiracies of varying degrees of unsavoriness. Her big point here seems to be that kooky conspiracy theories are bad and can sometimes lead to kooky people doing bad things. Of course, we already knew that. As would be expected, she spills a lot of ink on Alex Jones and QAnon, but also finds time for lesser-known conspiracy peddlers such as Sean David Morton, David Icke, David Wilcock, Corey Goode, and others.  Some of these people are real weirdos, too. She includes Mike Cernovich in this number because of his reporting on Pizzagate, the Deep State, and Seth Rich, as well as Rush Limbaugh for his global warming skepticism. She also repeatedly dredges up the most outlandish anti-Semitic conspiracies theories and is quick to demonstrate how the tinfoil hats on the Right have not seemed to lose their predilection for them.
Merlan seems to have two main objectives in her anti-Right smear campaign: Select only the low-hanging fruit of the Dissident Right, insert them into the cornucopia of compost that represents the worst of conspiracy theories, and then pass the whole lot off as rotten. One can essentially sum up her approach like so: Donald Trump and his supporters are weak-minded and dangerous because they support pernicious conspiracy theories like the Sandy Hook hoax, the anti-vax movement, the Great Replacement, and David Icke’s Lizard Illuminati hypothesis. Her skepticism towards some of the more bizarre conspiracy theories is, of course, warranted. But blithely lumping White Nationalism among them isn’t. There are three main reasons for this.
First, in her chapter dealing with White Nationalism, she avoids addressing the ideas of the heavyweight intellectuals of the movement (i.e., Greg Johnson, Kevin MacDonald, Jared Taylor) and instead focuses on more flawed characters such as Matthew Heimbach. Most of her reporting deals with some White Nationalist rallies she attended in 2017 and caps it off with the first Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. So, of course, she encounters lost souls who are out-and-out Nazis or otherwise naïvely wear their badthink on their sleeves. Merlan seems to concede that Heimbach himself makes some interesting points and handles himself well in front of the press, but Heimbach’s embarrassing downfall – involving domestic abuse, an affair with his mother in-law, and the rapid dissolution of his Traditionalist Workers Party in 2018 – makes him easy to discredit and totally eclipses whatever concessions Merlan makes for him.
Could she do the same for the more responsible and thoughtful leaders of the Dissident Right? Of course not. She doesn’t even try. In fact, she is so ignorant of the Dissident Right that she states that Arktos Media is “probably” its only publisher, completely ignoring the prodigious output of Counter-Currents as well as all the books published by American Renaissance and VDARE. Setting aside how dated most of her research is, she’d rather mischaracterize people on the Right as mindless haters than people who have legitimate grievances about how they are being treated in their own country.
Second, she tacitly denies the right of whites to have legitimate group interests. Therefore, since such group interests don’t exist in the same way that David Icke’s twelve-foot-tall lizard-human hybrids don’t exist, whites who purport to have racial interests must be labeled conspiracy nuts. Observe:
Heimbach was the founder and most recognizable face of the Traditionalist Workers Party, and at this moment in Kentucky, he was busy capitalizing on two things: increasingly open rage and disaffection from white voters, and Donald Trump’s shameless pandering to those feelings a few months into his presidency.
Got that? White people who feel disaffected as a racial group should have no recourse to their elected officials, and those elected officials who offer them recourse are by definition “shamelessly pandering.” Does she allow for similar restrictions on other racial groups? Of course not. Only for whites. And then she hypocritically accuses White Nationalists of being racists.
Later, in the White Nationalism chapter, she references Trump’s famous speech in which he correctly described some Mexican illegal immigrants as rapists and murderers. She dings Breitbart for tagging some stories as “Black Crime” (the scare quotes are hers). She also castigates various anti-immigration groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) for believing that “nonwhite immigrants wish to do us harm.” These, of course, are all conspiracy theories and not based in any truth whatsoever, according to Merlan; but she never attempts to prove this. In her Epilogue, she goes even further, implying that the “Islamophobia” expressed by Dutch politician Geert Wilders as well as the Swedish Right are equally conspiratorial – as if there are no grooming gangs , no no-go zones , and no increased incidences of rape  and crime  whenever there are sizable Muslim populations in those countries . . . as if anti-immigration politicians like Wilders don’t have to travel with extensive security details  to protect against jihadist assassins . Why, whites might as well as believe in UFOs if they’re to be concerned with such crazy notions.
This leads into the final reason why lumping White Nationalism in with loony conspiracy theories doesn’t work. Like many lightweights on the Left, Merlan makes no effort to refute it. She’d rather demonstrate how White Nationalist ideas fall short of political correctness (which is, of course, propped up by the Left) than demonstrate how they are actually incorrect. Sometimes, yes, the people she interviews say stupid or outlandish things that refute themselves (remember, she’s picking only the low-hanging fruit). Other times, however, her interlocutors make perfect sense and give her the benefit of their honesty; but she doesn’t seem to appreciate that. For example, she encountered Michael Hill, the founder of the League of the South, and wrote the following about their encounter:
Hill, too, was worried about the Jews. “We’re always concerned about people with dual citizenship,” he said amiably. “And most American Jews have dual citizenship. A lot of problems, from the Southern perspective, come from the Jews. The Jew has been no friend to the South. They’re behind every left-wing organization that wants to take down our monuments, you know. Where we can oppose them, we will.”
When Pastor Terry Jones suspected that “the Great Satan Obama” might cover up the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013 out of sympathy for the terrorists, there’s really no need to refute such a stupid claim. But can the same be said of Michael Hill? Merlan seems to think so and so doesn’t lift a finger to determine if there is any truth behind what he is saying (there is ), or if any scholars have ever reported as much (there are, one being Jewish professor Benjamin Ginsburg in his always-useful work The Fatal Embrace ).
Is she being lazy here? Or insidious?
Probably both. Here’s an example of utter sloppiness that makes me wonder if Metropolitan Books, which published Republic of Lies, employs proofreaders. While attempting to discredit Trump’s “America First” mantra, she writes this:
The original America First Committee opposed the United States’ entering World War II for reasons both isolationist and anti-Semitic. In 1941, Charles Lindbergh, a spokesperson for the group, blamed American Jewish leaders for rushing the country into conflict. “I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people,” he said. “Both races, I admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.”
Now on what planet is this quote from Charles Lindbergh anti-Semitic? He says he admires Jews and, by grouping them with the British, does not single them out. He is merely stating that Anglo-Jewish interests circa 1940 might not have been in America’s interests when it comes to declaring war on a nation that had not declared war on them, to say nothing of getting over a hundred thousand Americans killed. One can agree or disagree with this sentiment, but one cannot discredit it or the person making it the way Merlan does. 
Here is Merlan at her most insidious:
Patrik Hermansson, an activist from Sweden in the group Hope Not Hate, infiltrated the alt-right movement both in the United States and abroad and spent several months among its leaders. Given their glorification of Norse culture, he was welcomed with open arms. What he discovered was a world that looked remarkably like standard-issue neo-Nazism, one of “extreme racism, antisemitism, Holocaust denial, esoteric Nazi rituals, and wild conspiracy theories . . . a movement that sometimes glorifies Nazi Germany, openly supports genocidal ideas and is unrelentingly racist, sexist, and homophobic.”
Readers of Counter-Currents should recognize the name Patrik Hermansson since he was the mole who interviewed Greg Johnson in September of 2017 and published the video. Here is Johnson’s take on it . Note that Hermansson’s extreme depiction of “the alt-right movement” of the time does not in any way describe his encounter with a reasonable and well-informed pacifist like Johnson. That Merlan includes this base smear in her book without mentioning this speaks to her dishonesty and lack of ethics as a writer.
Another sleight of hand Merlan tries to pull is to approve of some conspiracy theories while dismissing others. She dedicates an entire chapter to black conspiracy theories and – sure enough – supports them, even when they are completely wrong. Why? Because black. She claims that “marginalized ethnic or religious groups would be predisposed to conspiracy thinking: their experiences of the social order make them more inclined to see conspiracies as possible.” She also claims that such people have “well-founded grounds for distrust.” So when some black kooks came out of the woodwork after Hurricane Katrina and blamed the US government for bombing the levees, just like it supposedly did in 1965 during Hurricane Betsy according to unsubstantiated rumors , Merlan effectively gives them a wink and a smile. Fake, but accurate and all that. Same with the wacky claim that Bill Gates is trying to depopulate Africa and the belief of recently-deceased Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe that AIDS is a “white man’s plot” to kill blacks. Merlan claims that their history as an oppressed minority gives blacks a pass for some of the wilder conspiracy theories they can come up with.
Compare this with her contemptuous treatment of Pizzagate. Pizzagate she describes as a “very white phenomenon” and goes on to cast doubt on the very idea that a cabal of pedophiles was using a pizza parlor in Washington, DC as cover for their disgusting behavior. She may be right about this. I don’t know. Counter-Currents did a two-piece exposé  on Pizzagate  back in December 2016, and succeeded, in my opinion, in casting doubt on the doubt.  Of course, this cannot count as proof. Regardless, Merlan refuses to indulge the white conspiracy theorists the ways she does the black ones. Her excuse is that after a history of oppression, blacks cannot be blamed for conspiracy theorizing. Yet there is a history of pedophiles oppressing children , is there not? Pedophiles rings have been discovered in the past , yes? Pedophilia is a serious crime, is it not? So why can’t history be applied to Pizzagate? And why does Anna Merlan seem so dismissive of the idea that children might be getting raped to begin with? Is she covering for powerful short eyes who are indeed raping children? James O’Keefe of Project Veritas has recently proven that ABC did exactly that  with Jeffrey Epstein for three years. So if ABC can protect powerful pedophiles, why not Anna Merlan? 
But this leads into another aspect of this astonishingly awful book. It was published this year, in 2019, and yet it’s already dated thanks to Merlan’s unwise decisions to support failed conspiracy theories herself. In her chapter on the Deep State and Russiagate, she writes, embarrassingly:
This new set of conspiracy theories, founded and unfounded, around Russian interference in our elections and a Deep State campaign against Trump, mirroring each other across the aisle, involved one difference: one was real and the other was not. Despite much scoffing from the right, a persuasive case was made that the Russian government did meddle in the 2016 election. The CIA, FBI, and NSA – not the most left-wing institutions, traditionally – jointly issued a report in January 2017 stating that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the meddling efforts to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and undermine democratic processes.
Where to begin with this drivel?
First, there’s the delicious irony of a writer condemning conspiracy theorists actually being one herself. Secondly, Special Counsel Robert Mueller had his time in the Sun before the House Judiciary Committee in July of this year and proved to be a stuttering , self-contradicting  mess. Russiagate as a “real” conspiracy died at that moment (although most of us on the Right knew it was DOA long before that). As a result, Merlan’s statements above have not aged well. Finally, this year there have been several admissions in the mainstream media that yes, indeed, there is a Deep State. Here is the New York Times admitting it . Here is former FBI Director James Comey admitting it . And here is attorney Mark Zaid admitting  there have been people trying to effect a coup against President Trump since early 2017 (i.e., a Deep State). Merlan herself inadvertently admits the existence of the Deep State with this hilariously asinine statement:
Actual opposition forces within the government allowed the Deep State conspiracy theory to flourish, buoyed by inarguably real events.
As they say in debate club, QED. 
Lastly, Anna Merlan’s writing style is to editorialize and insult as much as possible. It’s pretty egregious. In the second paragraph of her Prologue, she admits to feeling “a little superior” to the conspiracy theorists she writes about – and it shows. She considers anti-Hillary merchandise at the 2016 Republican National Convention to be “sexist,” yet on the next page describes burly InfoWars reporters at a Mexican restaurant as “quietly shoveling chips into their mouths with their bear-paw hands.” That’s a pretty sexist comment coming from someone who claims to oppose sexism. She describes the theories surrounding Seth Rich’s mysterious murder as “a towering mountain of moldering garbage pushed by some of the worst people to ever open a Twitter account.” When FOX News reported on it, she called it “a spray of bullshit.” She describes White Nationalist ideas as a “rank contagion.” She offhandedly refers to Identity Evropa as a “hate group.” She refers to Rush Limbaugh as a “right-wing gasbag.” And so on.
Anna Merlan is a shrill piece of work who seems to think she can help Donald Trump lose in 2020 with a smear job of a book filled with dishonest scholarship, unethical journalism, and base insults. The conspiracy theories themselves seem beside the point in Republic of Lies – or, better yet, merely the bludgeon which the author has selected to bash white people with. How such a shallow-thinking, hypocritical, radical-Leftist hack gets a book deal in the first place is anyone’s guess.
Actually, I would venture a guess, but then I would be pointing to a conspiracy.
  Unfortunately, Merlan does not mention Francis Dec  and his loony tunes conspiracy regarding the “Worldwide Mad Deadly Communist Gangster Computer God.” Read more about this fascinating nutball here .
  According to Anne Morrow Lindbergh in her diaries, her husband caught a tremendous amount of abuse from Jews for his honest desire for America to remain neutral. Isolationism has been an American tradition since George Washington, yet adhering to it in his case made him and his family pariahs in their own nation. This raises the question not of whether Lindbergh was being anti-Semitic for wanting to spare American lives in Europe, but whether his Jewish opponents were indeed anti-white in their zeal to expend American lives in Europe.
  Merlan doesn’t include some of the more disturbing stuff surrounding Pizzagate, such as John Podesta’s e-mail to guests for a get-together claiming that “Bonnie will be Uber Service to transport Ruby, Emerson, and Maeve Luzzatto (11, 9, and almost 7) so you’ll have some further entertainment, and they will be in [the] pool for sure.” Check out the Counter-Currents articles  as well as “Precedents for Pizzagate ” by the same author for more.
  This, of course, is a rhetorical point. In the absence of evidence we cannot assume that Anna Merlan or her publishers are protecting pedophiles with their public skepticism of Pizzagate. But this author found Merlan’s overall lack of concern that such a pedophile ring might exist to be callous and off-putting, to say the least. She showed more respect for the theory that Bill Cosby was convicted of rape because he’s black than she does for Pizzagate.
  While she mentions Jeffrey Epstein very little in Republic of Lies, Merlan does refer to him as a pedophile. She just dismisses outright any conspiracies regarding Epstein’s purported links to Bill and Hillary Clinton and other powerful individuals, and their supposed sexual encounters with children. This conspiracy theory has been given new life since the publication of Republic of Lies with O’Keefe’s leaked video of ABC news anchor Amy Robach candidly admitting  the Clinton-Epstein link, as well as a cover-up of the whole affair. Further, Epstein’s highly suspicious murder-by-suicide in August of this year has made conspiracy theorists of us all , and discredits Merlan even more. Epstein may not have killed himself, but Anna Merlan has certainly killed her own credibility with Republic of Lies.
Spencer J. Quinn is a frequent contributor to Counter-Currents and the author of the novel White Like You .