Today's the day: The Iowa caucuses. The beginning of a new, more intense phase of the endless, nightmarish churn of American electoral politics. Fortunately, as things ramp up, there are more batshit conspiracy theories to warm the cold Iowa and New Hampshire nights.
For instance, did you know that Microsoft is going to fix the GOP Iowa caucus for Marco Rubio? The good folks over at 8chan's racist, conspiracy-theory-filled, Trump-loving /pol/ (short for Politically Incorrect) board do.
This impending threat is announced at the start a thread that the board's moderators have stickied at the top of /pol/, which begins in bright red, capital letters "RED ALERT: MARCO RUBIO BACKER TO FIX IOWA CACAUS" [sic]. The opening post continues (emphasis theirs):
We MUST expose this immediately. Their plan is to tip the delegate count to Marco Rubio's vote count, not to let him win this round, but to put Trump in the 2nd position, allowing Ted Cruze to take first.
THIS IS NOT A DRILL
Microsoft is going to count the votes:
>Microsoft Corp. will be providing the technology to count the votes of Iowa caucus-goers, according to a new report.
This is the same company behind ed-tech and Trump said he will kill common core which Bill Gates heavily supports.
THIS IS A RED ALERT PEOPLE
The sole citation for this is a Breitbart article, which in turn cites an article from The Hill about how Microsoft is "on the hot seat in Iowa" because the company has offered up software for free to help tally the results of both Republican and Democratic caucuses tonight. The Hill article is fairly restrained, noting in other words that this is basically free advertising for Microsoft and that "the Republican and Democratic parties in Iowa have expressed strong confidence in Microsoft, dismissing late suspicion of corporate influence from the campaign of Bernie Sanders early last week."
The Breitbart article piles on a little more, pointing out that Microsoft is a significant donor to Senator Marco Rubio's campaign, before turning at length to discuss Rubio's position on H1-B visas, which are given to foreign workers with specialized skills or expertise, compared to other candidates. Rubio's a proponent, as are Bill Gates and Microsoft.
On 8chan, however, mild concern about corporate involvement turns into a full-on election fraud conspiracy.
As is often the case in these sorts of discussions on 8chan, there's some disagreement.
Which is quickly dismissed out of hand as "shilling" for Microsoft/Rubio/whomever.
A lot of /pol/ posters also expressed concern over Ron Paul's loss in Iowa in 2012, even though Paul ended up with 22 of Iowa's 28 delegates that year in the end.
And for good measure, people are blaming the Jews and suggesting that Microsoft executives and their families should be killed.
There are two (2) funny things about this theory. The first is surprising, the second is not:
- It's not too far off from the plot of the 2006 Robin Williams vehicle Man of the Year, in which Williams, playing a comedian, wrongly becomes president due to a voting software issue which a tech company then tries to cover up.
- Unlike many of the ideas that 8chan entertains, corporate involvement with U.S. politics actually has a basis in reality. However, they've managed to seize on an incredibly unlikely and absurdly involved conspiracy about the Iowa caucuses to gin up urgency about.
Meanwhile, recent polls have Rubio up a little, but still trailing Donald Trump and Ted Cruz by several points.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org