Bridge Accident Conspiracy Theories Highlight Right-Wing Madness

Bridge Accident Conspiracy Theories Highlight Right-Wing Madness

View of the Dali cargo vessel, following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, in Baltimore

Photo by Tom Brenner/REUTERS

Early in the morning on March 26, the container ship Dali crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, destroying the bridge and killing six construction workers. Investigations are ongoing, but authorities said early on that there was no sign that the collision was intentional. However, in the alternate universe of right-wing media, there’s no such thing as accidents.

In the days after the bridge collapse, many in right-wing media quickly embraced absurd conspiracy theories to explain what happened, blaming a “probable” cyberattack, the beginning of World War III, terrorism, the “New World Order,” and the “wide-open border.” Other conservative commentators morphed the tragedy into another casualty of corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion training, or “DEI” — the latest byword, following “woke” and “critical race theory,” for right-wing anger at people of color.

“They should’ve hired a more diverse workforce,” mocked one right-wing pundit, while others called the disaster “DEITANIC,” or claimed it was an inevitable consequence of immigration: “Invite the Third World, become the Third World.”

“DEI equals die, that’s what people need to understand,” announced Trump ally Laura Loomer, while Newsmax guest Victor Davis Hanson claimed, “we’re not hiring necessarily the best people.” DEI came up in the comments of several Republican politicians discussing the disaster, as well.

The unspoken conclusion of these baseless DEI complaints is that only white people can be competent in their jobs.

“They really want to say the N-word,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who is Black, in response to social media posts calling him a “DEI mayor.”

Earlier this year, right-wing media similarly scapegoated racial diversity in response to a series of in-flight incidents with Boeing aircraft, a company that has faced extensive criticism and federal investigations of its safety culture. Invoking right-wing complaints about DEI, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said, “If I see a Black pilot, I’m going to be like, ‘Boy, I hope he’s qualified.’”

Now, conservative media are dismissing the obvious explanation for the Baltimore bridge collapse — a likely accident — in favor of asinine conspiracy theories about some of their favorite talking points.

“When trust is repeatedly broken,” complained Fox’s Laura Ingraham, defending the conspiracy theories, “it shouldn't surprise anyone that during a crisis, our leaders' explanations and assurances, as much as we want them, sometimes don't carry much weight.”

The preening about “trust,” from a conspiracy theorist herself, to defend the impossibly wide array of conspiracy theories about the Baltimore bridge collapse underscores the intellectual bankruptcy of right-wing media.

“The problem is that we have a D.C. establishment that has been wrong or misleading on issue after issue,” Ingraham continued, citing “the lab leak theory” about the origins of COVID-19, CDC guidance on masks, and school closures during the pandemic alongside vague insinuations about Hunter Biden's laptop and references to a Chinese spy balloon.

“Like all conspiracy theories,” said Donald Trump Jr., “they turn out to be right, you know, in the future.”

Given the countless conspiracy theories conservative outlets have pushed over the decades — the “Clinton body count,” birtherism, “Pizzagate,” the “great replacement,” and 2020 election misinformation, to name a very few — it’s little wonder that right-wing media explained yet another tragedy with a bunch of bullshit. Why let an opportunity to spread more noxious conspiracy theories go to waste when those theories are foundational to the right-wing media worldview?

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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