An incentive for heated conspiracy theories is that they allow blame. Candace Owens, a right-wing activist and media personality who was invited to the White House earlier this week, responded to the bombings by tweeting that "this left for Midterms GOING OUT EVERYTHING" (Ms. Owens, who is now the communications director for the conservative student group Turning Point USA, appeared only last year on info wars with Mr. Jones.) Later she deleted the tweet, but another one in which she said she still believed that "when it comes to political violence, the left is probably the culprit. "
There are structural reasons for the boom of conspiracy theory. Social media platforms such as YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook have allowed edge theaters to bypass traditional gatekeepers and reach millions of people directly. In addition, the dominance of Fox News and other partisan media has created a booming market for conspiratorial indignation. And a polarized electorate has eagerly sought explanations for key news events that meet their views.
Of course, Mr. Trump has promoted a number of conspiracy theories more than any other prominent person (or, in the case of the racist conspiracy theory on Mr. Obama's birth certificate, to popularize). Other theories have prevailed among his followers – like Pizzagate, QAnon and the groundless, sensational claims made about Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Mrs. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault – often without official censorship.
"We have a president who pushes these ideas forward because he's formed a coalition that believes in conspiracy theories," said Joseph Uscinski, an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami who studies conspiracy theories. "He needs to push those ideas forward to keep his people motivated."
Conspiracy theories play particularly well in social media, which reinforce provocative and engaging content through design and often reward misinformation with increased dissemination. A study conducted this year under the direction of M.I.T. Researchers found that Twitter treats were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than accurate news.
Conspiracy theories are not false news. They often rely on a doubt or gap in evidence to make a bold statement, even ignoring some of the other available evidence. But they travel the same nets and differentiate themselves from more accurate – albeit predictable – stories in a similar way.