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How Republican and Right Wing Anti-Immigrant Conspiracies Spread

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Last week, we highlighted how right-wing xenophobic conspiracy theories can have real world consequences and are increasingly being embraced, amplified and mainstreamed by Republican candidates and elected officials in addition to right wing media and activists.

In a new blog post and analysis posted on the America’s Voice website, AV’s Senior Political Manager Zachary Mueller highlights how Republicans use similar nativist misinformation and hyperbole in their political ads. It exposes the four most popular “dog whistle images” used to advance Republican’s xenophobia. 

And the New York Times explores a topic we looked at last week in their story, “How a Butterfly Refuge at the Texas Border Became the Target of Far-Right Lies,” highlighting why a national butterfly sanctuary along the border has been forced to close due to right wing conspiracies:

For nearly two decades, the National Butterfly Center has provided a place of wonder along the banks of the Rio Grande, attracting curious visitors and nature enthusiasts from around the country to watch delicate creatures like the xami hairstreak float over flowers and alight on logs. Among those who trade in outlandish right-wing conspiracies online, though, the center is said to be something else: a cover for human smuggling, sex trafficking and the exploitation of children. The lies have spread so widely in recent years that the center is now receiving visitors with no interest in butterflies at all.

Last month, a Republican congressional candidate from Virginia came to the center looking for a site of human smugglers and had a physical altercation with its director. Days later, a man from an upstart media organization associated with Steve Bannon recorded a video outside the center’s gates, claiming ‘credible threats of the cartels trafficking children through the butterfly center.’

According to Zachary Mueller, America’s Voice Senior Political Manager:

On their way to the midterms, Republicans will breathlessly warn of the dangers of ‘open borders.’ While this warning is pure political fiction, Republicans also fail to provide any reasonable solutions preferring to have the issue to demagogue. In lieu of solutions, on immigration or otherwise, Republicans create a xenophobic boogeyman for voters to mobilize against. To do this they repeatedly employ the same out-of-context imagery to subtly play on voters’ anxieties with racial fear and division. 

As we see in the case of the butterfly sanctuary closure and too many other examples around the country, these right wing and Republican conspiracy theories can too often have real world consequences. If we want to fight back against these made-up conspiracies and their potential harms, we need to know how they spread and what images and falsehoods they rely on.