With eccentric populist aristocrat presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. now accused of dabbling in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, the question that keeps going through my mind is what Larry David thinks of it all, since the fictionalized TV version of David is married to a character played by RFK’s actress wife Cheryl Hines—not to be confused with Teresa Heinz, the very rich wife of U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, who says he shouldn’t be condemned as a hypocritical fossil fuel foe and private jet owner, since the jet belongs to Teresa.
I assume they all bump into each other on Martha’s Vineyard once in a while and giggle as they discuss the ruling class’s contradictions.
In somewhat more abrasive New York City, my right-wing acquaintance Doug Dechert made his mixed feelings about RFK known: He organized an event at which RFK spoke, then launched a unique protest against RFK’s environmentalism by emitting loud flatulence during the speech, accompanied by some yelling. If RFK sinks low enough in public estimation over the new charges of anti-Semitism, Dechert may yet be looked upon as a heroic defender of liberal tolerance.
RFK has attempted to clarify the purportedly anti-Semitic private aside he uttered during the event—mulling the claim that Covid is a bioweapon and seems less deadly to people with Chinese or Jewish genetics—by explaining that he did not mean Covid was created by the U.S. or Chinese military, merely that it functions as a sort of inadvertent “proof of concept” for genetically-targeted bioweapons.
I find it hard to believe he’ll be able to walk back his comments far enough fast enough to avoid his campaign being destroyed by them—not in a world so sensitive to ethnic slights that, for instance, a member of Congress is now under fire for saying “colored people” instead of the purportedly morally superior phrase “people of color.” His congressional colleagues insisted on striking his remarks from the record instead of making that simple substitution. Whatever the world is lumbering toward, it’s not increased tolerance, not when some 44 percent of millennials reportedly think using disfavored pronouns for trans people should be treated as a criminal offense.
This column is a safe space, though, so we can contemplate ethnically-targeted bioweapons for a moment. They are of course logically possible, and left-wing conspiracy theorists have contemplated them for decades, since some of the same defense-industry-tied people and agencies now accused of creating Covid were accused of creating AIDS back in the 1980s to kill blacks.
I’ll just say of such theories that they tend to get complicated and seemingly self-contradictory pretty fast: The more elaborate version of the Covid conspiracy theory under discussion posits that the real reason for the current U.S.-Russian proxy war is the struggle for control of biolabs in Ukraine (with their ready access to targeted Russian DNA), and furthermore that China newly covets Taiwan in part because Taiwan hosts U.S.-backed biolabs (with their ready access to Chinese DNA). I assume in this theory that the current version of Covid spares Chinese (as RFK implied) but that the Chinese authorities fear what further U.S. engineering will yield when the next pandemic comes.
Compared to all that, RFK’s checklist of other radical qualities suddenly looks pretty dry.
He wants to disband NATO. A plurality of his donors are reportedly Republican, raising questions about whether he’s mainly just an anti-Biden saboteur. He fears Wi-Fi causes cancer. More troubling to me, he once longed to put climate-change skeptics in prison. (But then, he’s hardly the only Massachusetts-bred politician with a shaky grasp of civil liberties: Boston mayor Michelle Wu faces criticism after sending a list of her most vocal critics to the police, as if in the Northeast only dangerous crazy people would disagree with a female, non-white, liberal politician.)
RFK is suddenly being criticized for such views by the likes of NPR, since he threatens Biden’s reelection prospects, even though mainstream liberals happily touted some of the same ideas just a decade or so ago—including the warnings about Wi-Fi and everything else under the sun being possible carcinogens, just as they gave Al Gore a Nobel Prize for warning that chemicals might turn frogs gay but now mock both RFK and Alex Jones for repeating that warning.
People will believe whatever they think is strategically useful for achieving victory, in politics as in private life. If they could make Trump sound like Hitler, I’m sure they can make a Kennedy family member sound like Hitler as well, but mainly he’s just a crank. He’ll bounce around between half-formed ideas and move on to the next one before having time to sort out all the political or scientific implications of what he’s saying—and the electorate will bounce around between one attention-grabbing candidate and the next before, in all likelihood, settling on someone at least as dangerous but far more boring to anoint president of the U.S.