Americans waking up to check Twitter were greeted with the trending hashtag “#ClintonBodyCount.” Referencing a long-running conservative conspiracy theory, its re-emergence has of course been blamed on ‘Russian bots.’
The hashtag is familiar to anyone immersed in the murkier ends of American right-wing culture: think late night talk radio and dog-eared copies of ‘None Dare Call it Conspiracy’ passed around backwoods militia meetings.
Coined by writer and conspiracy theorist Danny Casolaro in the late 1980s, the phrase has since been used by conservatives to link the mysterious deaths of people in some way connected to Bill and Hillary Clinton, like the 1993 suicide of White House Deputy Counsel Vince Foster, and the fatal armed robbery of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich in 2016.
Adding to the mystery, Casolaro himself committed suicide in 1991, while working on a story supposedly involving an international cabal.
The hashtag broke into the mainstream on Thursday, trending at number three in the US. Its emergence came after millionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein was found“injured and in a fetal position” on the floor of his New York jail cell just hours before. An associate of Bill Clinton, Epstein is currently facing up to 45 years in prison on charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking, with some of his alleged victims as young as 14.
Twitter sleuths joined the dots:
To some, the hashtag had nothing to do with a decades-old right-wing horror story. To an army of establishment bugmen, its sudden reappearance was the work of, surprise, surprise – “Russian bots.” The Democrat version of the conspiracy theory goes that Russian President Vladimir Putin was so incensed by the knockout testimony given by former special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday that he cranked up the output of his “troll farms” and swamped Twitter with the hashtag as a distraction.
Except the hole in that theory is that no amount of sneaky Russian meddling is needed to distract from Mueller’s testimony. Stammering through answers, seemingly forgetting key details from his report, and declining to answer any questions outside its scope, Mueller did a pretty good job deflating the expectations of Democrats hoping for some new ‘Russiagate’ revelations.
With the left and the right fighting an infowar forcontrol of the hashtag, one commenter summed up the state of the debate. “#ClintonBodyCount is trending… Watch for people trying extra hard to convince you they know things they don’t today.”