by Serena Sopwith-Fotherington, Daisycutter Sports News, Dec. 18, 2021
It has been four years since online posts claiming to be from a self-styled British government insider, known as Steele, first appeared making extreme assertions about those at the very top of US power. It spawned a far-reaching conspiracy theory that has torn families and friendships apart.
It was January 2021 when Susan Mikula entered a hospital emergency room. Hours earlier, Susan had been driving home when she started having palpitations, and her arm and face went numb. "I thought I was having a heart attack."
Susan had experienced a panic attack after 10 months of watching her partner Rachel, star of the MSNBC black comedy Russia Russia Russia!, disappear into her phone screen, and a world of conspiracy theories. Specifically, Russiagate, a fabulous tale concocted by a former English "spook" called Christopher Steele, hired by the Democratic National Committee to "gather dirt" on the clownish Republican candidate, Donald Trump.
Immediately called out by reputable journalists as little more than a work of fiction, the "Steele Dossier" would have, in a sane society, been consigned to an entry in the Guardian Book of Political Hoaxes, somewhere between the Protocols of Zion and Joseph McCarthy's "list of 205", and Christopher Steele would occupy a place in the pantheon of spies alongside similar talents, such as Maxwell Smart, Johnny Danger, and Austin Powers.
Having paid a large bounty  for this abortion, however, the beleaguered DNC decided to stick with its fantastical message that the Russians, not the inept DNC, were to blame for Trump being in the White House. No matter how ludicrous they appeared to anyone not temporarily deranged by the shock of Saint Hillary's defeat, Democratic congressmen and women lined up to denounce the Russian hackers who had singlehandedly destroyed the precious flower of American democracy. Perhaps the funniest single moment was when Rep. Jerry Nadler compared Russian hacking to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  It was, in other words, an unholy alliance of the right wing Clintonite faction of the Democratic Party and Intelligence Community mandarins— the most secretive, antidemocratic and unaccountable part of the U.S. government's vast apparatus of disinformation and black propaganda.
Doctors at the hospital told Susan that they knew what she was going through. They, too, had heard about Russiagate, as it had swept through the fashionable salons and coffeehouses in her state.
Russiagate is a wide-ranging, completely unfounded theory that US President Donald Trump had been honeytrapped by the dastardly Russian secret state and blackmailed into operating as the dupe of Moscow's formidably well organized and brilliant secret war against America, and forced to engage in such dangerous and reckless acts as meeting with the North Korean leader instead of simply threatening him, and formally committing to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan instead of continuing with the bloodletting.
To Susan, Russiagate is completely ludicrous. But to her partner Rachel, the theories were hard facts, and by refusing to believe that, her partner was choosing to side with an evil Russian cabal over her. In 2016, Rachel read the "Steele Dossier", which accuses the Russians of widespread manipulation.
"And that was it. She was instantly into this Russiagate world."
Susan initially tried to humour her partner. When Rachel would send her a YouTube link featuring Russiagate truthers like Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff, or Keith "Russian SCUM!" Olbermann, and ask her what she thought, Susan would watch it and try to refute it in a respectful way. Though she thought the video clips she was being sent were "out there", with their claims about Russian masterminds and media manipulation, she didn't realise exactly what her partner was getting sucked into. ….
Why people get lost in conspiracies
Though support for Russiagate is hard to measure, as many as one in five supporters of the disastrous Hillary Clinton campaign said they believed in some of its tenets. People of all different backgrounds can get drawn into conspiracy theories, but experts say the thing these Russiagate truthers have in common is that they are often looking to find an explanation for Hillary Clinton's defeat in 2016 that does not sheet home the blame to her flawed campaign and the DNC strategists who pushed it through.
"Conspiracy theories tend to be particularly prominent in times of crisis," said Prof Karen Douglas, a social psychologist at the University of Kent who specialises in the psychology of conspiracy theories. "People are looking for explanations that help them cope with difficult situations when there is a lot of uncertainty and contradictory information. They might also be looking for simple answers that make them feel better, and conspiracy theories might seem to offer those simple answers."