If you are interested in conspiracy theories as a form of knowledge, or at least as a type of theory, you should read Hillary Clinton’s account of why she lost the 2016 election:
If Donald Trump offered this explanation, people would say crazy Donald is at it again. They would remind us he insinuated Ted Cruz’s father helped Lee Oswald kill Jack Kennedy, though he didn’t actually do that. Even Democrats who want to see him impeached for collusion with the Russians would doubt a president they see on the unhinged fringe. Yet when Hillary Clinton argues she lost the election because the Russians did it, The Atlantic publishes her ideas as a serious piece. More than one person apparently wants to believe a nefarious Vladimir Putin in Moscow can fool voters and thereby influence votes in Milwaukee, Lansing, and Pittsburgh on election day.
Let’s suppose Clinton is correct. That would mean our current president owes his office to a foreign power. It would mean people decide who receives their vote based on what they read on Facebook and Twitter. Of course, many voters have explained why they cast their vote for one candidate or another. I have not heard one of them say they selected their candidate based on what they read on social media. Not one Trump voter has said, “If it hadn’t been for Russian disinformation, I would have voted for Hillary.” We already know what Hillary Clinton thinks about people who voted against her. It should not surprise anyone she regards them as susceptible to propaganda.
I’ll make this point one more time: we will not see a lot of evidence in the upcoming year to help us determine whether Hillary Clinton is right. Intelligence agencies will not reveal their sources and methods, no matter what. They already permitted a sitting president make a fool of himself in December, when he publicly accused the Russian government of interference in the election without evidence. They do not intend to produce evidence on the matter six months to a year after the fact. Hillary Clinton’s accusations have the same status as President Obama’s: you have to believe, or disbelieve, without foundation in a detailed narrative.
We will have to see what Mueller’s investigation actually produces. Meanwhile, I’m happy to say, theories about shady people who conspire to do bad things are back in vogue right now!