The Fentanyl-China Conspiracy Theory
If you caught the GOP primary debate last week, you might’ve noticed that fentanyl came up 12 times.
Most of the candidates said something about how it should be a national security priority. It was the justification for why they thought it necessary to deploy troops and drone warfare against the Southern border. The supposed need to assert a “modern Monroe doctrine” that remilitarizes the Western Hemisphere followed from this logic.
But there was an even more menacing subtext to all of this if you take it in context.
It’s commonly understood that fentanyl is a scourge on the working class—drug overdosing in particular is leading to declining mortality rates even for white men. And since drug use has ravaged communities located in Republican strongholds, it follows that Republican politicians might try to do something about it. Respond to the needs of their constituents.
But that’s not really happening. Or, at best, it’s happening in the stupidest, most violent, counterproductive way possible.
The GOP’s fentanyl obsession is not really based on concerns for the working class. Instead, it’s about demagoguing on the basis of conspiracy theories linking Mexican drug cartels and China.
We know this because of the actual nature of the fentanyl problem; the centrality of fentanyl as a “China threat” in QAnon memes; and because Republicans have not prioritized proposals addressing the ongoing immiseration of the working class.
Let me quickly explain.