About five years ago, I wrote about the conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Andrew Breitbart. At the time, various conservative groups were suggesting he’d been assassinated by the Obama administration.
Well, now there’s a new theory, promoted by former British MP Louise Mensch, that he was assassinated by the Russian government:
I absolutely believe that Andrew Breitbart was murdered by Putin, just as the founder of RT was murdered by Putin.
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) February 24, 2017
Here at Ruined Chapel, we love analyzing a good conspiracy theory–and if it involves politics, so much the better! So let’s think about this.
To begin, the facts of the case: Andrew Breitbart collapsed suddenly while walking home after dinner one night. His cause of death was listed as heart failure. There was no evidence of any suspicious drugs.
It is common knowledge that journalists in Russia get killed with unusual frequency and under mysterious circumstances, especially since the year 2000, when Vladimir Putin took power. It has not been proven that Putin has ordered or otherwise had foreknowledge of any of these deaths, but the pattern is suspicious.
People are quick to suspect Putin for a couple of reasons: First, it seems like the sort of thing a former KGB agent would do, and second, the Putin regime is generally hostile to the press.
It’s worth noting that most of the reporters dying suspiciously in Russia were undoubtedly murdered. Aside from a few suspicious poisonings and plane crashes, in most cases, nobody questions that these journalists were deliberately killed by somebody; it’s just they can’t figure out who.
And that’s on Putin’s home turf. If he can’t have people killed using untraceable methods in Russia, it seems like it would be even harder for him to do so in the United States.
Now, there’s another element to all of this that makes it even more interesting. Mensch also tweeted this:
Breitbart and Russia are 100% linked. Bannon has been pushing Russia’s line since Andrew Breitbart “died suddenly” https://t.co/kmx59OyGqm
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) February 24, 2017
Additionally, the Wikipedia page for Stephen Bannon states:
“In March 2012, after founder Andrew Breitbart‘s death, Bannon became executive chair of Breitbart News LLC, the parent company of Breitbart News. Under his leadership, Breitbart took a more alt-right and nationalistic approach toward its agenda.”
If you understand Vladimir Putin’s long-term goal to be dissolving the internationalist post-World War II geopolitical order and replacing it with a system of Great Powers acting in their own national interest, the rise of Bannon and his philosophy is clearly good news for him.
Just on the basic facts, it’s hard to argue this entire episode did not turn out splendidly for Putin. I mean, look at it:
- Upon Breitbart’s death, Bannon takes over his operation.
- Bannon uses his power at the Breitbart site to promote nationalism and undercut Putin’s main opponent, then-President Barack Obama.
- Bannon later uses his site to promote the Presidential candidate most favorable to Putin, Donald Trump.
- Trump wins, in part due to major propaganda efforts by Putin and Breitbart, and then appoints Bannon to be an advisor in his administration.
It all went spectacularly well for Putin and Bannon. Since the death of Andrew Breitbart was the first domino that started this entire chain of events, you can see why, in retrospect, Putin would have had an incentive to cause it. The results benefited Putin in a big way.
However, as compelling of a story as that may be, I have a problem with it. Mainly, it requires Putin to have almost supernatural gifts of foresight. And if he has that, he should be ruling the world already.
Who would have ever guessed that the head of a fringe conservative news site would be able to successfully get the ear of a reality TV star-turned-Presidential-candidate, who would go on to win the election, and then appoint said site head as an advisor? So many bizarre things had to happen for all this to work that it is hard to imagine anyone consciously planning it.
Given that, it would seem insane for Putin to have carried out a high-risk assassination operation against a relatively small-time political commentator in the United States. If it failed or was otherwise exposed, the backlash against Russia would have been enormous.
Remember, in 2012, the Republicans were generally anti-Putin. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Russia was the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe”that year. Can you imagine what the Republicans would have done in 2012 if they found out Russia killed one of their people? They would have been screaming that Obama was weak and campaigned on a very aggressive anti-Russia platform.
To me, that argues strongly against this idea. The risk for Putin of assassinating Breitbart would have been too great–the fact that the reward would turn out to be so high would not have been knowable at the time.