Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s White House bid is the latest sign of the apocalypse for the media, which are shocked, shocked, that yet another presidential candidate would try to ride the populist wave of our times by deliberately making himself unpopular among the elites. The irony is delicious. Here are media outlets, whose daily stock-in-trade is paranoia and conspiracy, working themselves up into the usual self-flattering lather of indignation about what they cry is Kennedy’s paranoia and trafficking in conspiracy.
There are now, apparently, two criteria for a presidential candidate hoping to grab the national attention: You have to be a celebrity, and you have to satisfy the general hunger for defiance of norms that are oppressive or simply boring. Kennedy is a celebrity by virtue of his family name, and his defiance of norms at times veers toward the moon, as when he recently suggested that Covid-19 was artificially created in such a way as to spare Chinese people and Ashkenazi Jews. His insistence that the childhood vaccines cause autism, a claim that has been thoroughly disproved, is a menace to public health. But what really seems to have set the media against him is his claim that the media is working hand-in-hand with ruling elites to control Americans’ perceptions of reality—just as it was not so much Trump’s sentiments, or rhetoric, or even his character that enraged and outraged journalists, but his utter contempt for journalism. Nothing arouses the media’s moral indignation like attacks on the media.
The near-hysterical response to Kennedy might have its origins in an awareness that Kennedy is not really so outrageous. Even his most lunar assertions overlap at crucial junctures with what is plausible. The idea that Chinese scientists worked with shadowy Jews of Ashkenazi origin to cook up a virus that would wipe out everyone but the Chinese and Ashkenazi Jews might be the stuff of wild satire—Act I, Scene I: Shang Li’s Chinese restaurant, Christmas Day, where Jewish families escaping the dreaded Christian holiday are whispering excitedly in the kitchen with the Chinese staff—but the idea that the ruthless Chinese government might develop a targeted bioweapon is hardly beyond the realm of the plausible.