In recent years, far-right conspiracy theorists got the most attention due to their attacks on former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama.
But the tin foil hat brigade actually runs the full political spectrum, from far-right to far-left.
Now a far-left conspiracy theorist is getting his 15 minutes thanks to a thinning field of Democratic presidential candidates that happens to include his target.
Who is the latest bonkers nonsense about?
Military veteran and former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg.
What's the claim?
Mayor Pete is a CIA operative trying to win the White House as part of a grand deep state scheme.
Well, according to statements made to The Daily Beast, Pete has "mesmerizing, hypnotic blue eyes" which is an "obvious tell."
Steve Poikonen on YouTube vlog series Slow News Day said in an April episode titled "Pete Buttigieg: CIA Democrat?":
"He's one of the many intelligence community operators working in government."
In his 13-minute video, Poikonen breaks down Buttigieg's education, career and skills to further substantiate his claim.
And, of course, don't forget those "mesmerizing, hypnotic blue eyes."
Not content to keep the crazy confined to YouTube, Poikonen told The Daily Beast:
"Put together, a picture forms of an elite-educated, multi-language-speaking employee of the CIA's consulting firm who currently serves as an intelligence officer in the naval reserves."
"If you created a CIA asset in a lab, you'd wind up with Pete Buttigieg."
Then Poikonen pointed out Buttigieg's "mesmerizing, hypnotic blue eyes" as an obvious tell of CIA involvement.
Poikonen failed to elaborate on why such eyes are an "obvious tell" however.
Apparently Huskie dogs and Siamese cats are also CIA assets...
The theory moved to mainstream media as more far-left political writers, podcasters and keyboard warriors tried to push their own candidates while finding fault with others. According to recent claims, Buttigieg is a spy for another nation like his father's native country of Malta OR a CIA intelligence asset OR a Freemason.
Because of those "mesmerizing, hypnotic blue eyes" perhaps?
Presidential campaign-themed podcast Worst Year Ever just did an entire episode about Buttigieg titled "Is Pete Buttigieg a C.I.A. Agent?" In the 73-minute episode, hosts Robert Evans, Katy Stoll, and Cody Johnston included mainstream critiques and the CIA asset conspiracy theory.
Host Evans declared:
"Conspiracy theory thinking is like a disease that is doing incalculable damage to the body politic, and like I hate jumping into stuff like that, but [Buttigieg's history is] so f***ing sketchy!"
"It's so hard to not sound like—to not be, in fact—a conspiracy theorist when you talk about this guy, but there's so much of it that screams f***ing spooks."
Buttigieg—in an interview with The Atlantic—was asked about Poikonen's and others' claims. The Democratic candidate denied he was in the CIA.
Back on his YouTube channel, Poikonen asks his followers while mangling the candidate's name:
"Y'all, who's Pete Booteggegg, really?"
The comments offer proof as compelling as Poikonen's own "mesmerizing, hypnotic blue eyes" claim.
One commenter combined the CIA and Malta connection in their response, posting:
"Buttigieg has CIA ties for sure. I know this for a fact because I worked beside the CIA in a similar capacity."
"Buttigieg = Knights of Malta."
It's completely believable a CIA adjacent agent is commenting on random YouTube videos, so case closed!
Others go beyond Buttigieg's eyes to point out more compelling evidence. Mayor Pete matches their idea of what a spy or CIA operative would be based on their extensive film and TV watching and fictional novel and comic book reading experience.
Samuel D. Finkelstein, a student at Seton Hall Law School, wrote in left-wing online publication The Grayzone:
"It's like he was grown in a laboratory for the purposes of the perpetuation of empire. Obviously, there's no evidence solidly that we can point to say, 'oh yeah, Mayor Pete is an asset of the CIA.' That's not a claim that I would make publicly."
"But that said, if the CIA were to have a presidential candidate, it would look a lot like Mayor Pete."
"Those people, you know, they're there for decades. They outlast presidential administrations, and they're really the ones operating the machinery, so to speak."
Beyond his education and job resumé, two pieces of "evidence" are routinely put forward:
- his 2008 trip to Somaliland with a college buddy that was later highlighted in a letter to the editor by Buttigieg and friend Nathaniel Myers calling for the international recognition of Somaliland as a sovereign state appearing in The New York Times
- his campaign's contracts with a private security company
Chris Meagher, the Buttigieg campaign's national press secretary, stated:
"We hate to break the news to Twitter, but no, Pete was not in the CIA. As for the Somaliland trip, it was not related to his work anywhere. Pete visited a friend while his friend was living in Ethiopia, and the two visited as curious tourists."
And CIA operatives on secret missions rarely out themselves with letters to The New York Times.
The other proof concerns Virginia-based Patriot Group International which has a Blackwater type reputation on the global security market. But it's a case of mistaken identity.
According to Patriot Group International's general counsel:
"[The company] has never provided any services to Pete for America or Pete Buttigieg, period, full stop."
The actual company contracted by Buttigieg's campaign is Patriot Group Global Inc. According to the company, they provide "event security, protective services, security consulting and background checks." Despite knowing the claim is false, the security contractor is one of the most popular items cited by conspiracy theorists as their definitive proof.
Well, aside from Pete's "mesmerizing, hypnotic blue eyes."