December 9, 2019


The Man Behind the Right Wing's Favorite Conspiracy Theories: Meet David Booth, the fake news peddler who is helping Russia spread its lies. (SETH HETTENA, December 9, 2019, New Republic)

No one is sure where President Trump got the idea that the Democratic National Committee's hacked server was hidden in Ukraine. As the impeachment saga unfolds, even the president's most ardent defenders, from Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, would rather talk about quid pro quos or revive the discredited claim that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 United States presidential election--anything to avoid discussing an evidence-free case that borders on lunacy. In her powerful testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Fiona Hill, a former White House foreign policy adviser, characterized the story of the "missing" server as one of the fictions propagated by Russia's security services, and Trump's own staff had made a point of debunking it for the president. Nevertheless, in his fateful phone call of July 25, when the president asked Ukraine's newly elected president to "do us a favor" and track down the DNC server, U.S. foreign policy was officially replaced by a conspiracy theory.

As tends generally to be the case with most of the overheated conspiracy theories lighting up the internet and our political culture at large, the story of the Ukraine-based server is something of an urban legend for the digital age--caroming across our badly warped systems of news delivery from some great Oz-like font of right-wing misinformation, and just as abruptly alighting on our president's diplomatic to-do list. Internet anonymity hides the identities of those behind the curtain who push this and scores of other coordinated assaults on consensual reality, from the insane anti-Semitic libels that inspireĀ­ armed young men to march into synagogues and open fire, to the unhinged speculations of the mysterious "Q" who posts cryptic messages revealing Trump's secret war against a cabal of pedophiles in the American government and Hollywood.

There are exceptions, however. In a handful of cases, it's possible to trace some of the most destructive theories back to their source. Take, for example, the conspiracy theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was killed in 2016 by a "hit team"; or the campaign seeking to tar Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Justice Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, as deeply tied to the CIA; or the report that the bones of children were found on Jeffrey Epstein's island--all these myths lead back to one person. In each of these cases, we can confidently trace the confabulation in question to a man named David Lawrence Booth.  

A 64-year-old retired chemical plant control-room operator, Booth is one of the world's foremost purveyors of conspiracies and fake news. Writing under the nom de plume of Sorcha Faal on his website What Does It Mean, Booth and his wife have spent the past 15 years cooking up fabricated tales of impending war, government cover-ups, looming financial collapse, alien arrivals, Satanic acts, earthquake weapons, man-made hurricanes, global apocalypse, and "deep state" machinations of all descriptions. On his website, Booth has falsely suggested that he is an officer in the Mossad or the CIA. The truth about his life is equally fascinating--Booth happens to have been the youngest person ever to attempt to hijack a plane in the U.S.--and an examination of his past, with its links to both Russia and Russian disinformation campaigns, opens a rare window into how and why someone can be drawn into the world of conspiracies.

Posted by at December 9, 2019 12:00 AM