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The Man Behind the Right Wing’s Favorite Conspiracy Theories

Meet David Booth, the fake news peddler who is helping Russia spread its lies.

The logo for Booth's What Does it Mean website. Courtesy of What Does It Mean.
The logo for Booth's What Does it Mean website. Courtesy of What Does It Mean.

No one is sure where President Trump got the idea that the Democratic National Committee’s hacked server was hidden in Ukraine. As the impeachment saga unfolds, even the president’s most ardent defenders, from Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, would rather talk about quid pro quos or revive the discredited claim that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 United States presidential election—anything to avoid discussing an evidence-free case that borders on lunacy. In her powerful testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Fiona Hill, a former White House foreign policy adviser, characterized the story of the “missing” server as one of the fictions propagated by Russia’s security services, and Trump’s own staff had made a point of debunking it for the president. Nevertheless, in his fateful phone call of July 25, when the president asked Ukraine’s newly elected president to “do us a favor” and track down the DNC server, U.S. foreign policy was officially replaced by a conspiracy theory.

As tends generally to be the case with most of the overheated conspiracy theories lighting up the internet and our political culture at large, the story of the Ukraine-based server is something of an urban legend for the digital age—caroming across our badly warped systems of news delivery from some great Oz-like font of right-wing misinformation, and just as abruptly alighting on our president’s diplomatic to-do list. Internet anonymity hides the identities of those behind the curtain who push this and scores of other coordinated assaults on consensual reality, from the insane anti-Semitic libels that inspire­ armed young men to march into synagogues and open fire, to the unhinged speculations of the mysterious “Q” who posts cryptic messages revealing Trump’s secret war against a cabal of pedophiles in the American government and Hollywood.

There are exceptions, however. In a handful of cases, it’s possible to trace some of the most destructive theories back to their source. Take, for example, the conspiracy theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was killed in 2016 by a “hit team”; or the campaign seeking to tar Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Justice Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, as deeply tied to the CIA; or the report that the bones of children were found on Jeffrey Epstein’s island—all these myths lead back to one person. In each of these cases, we can confidently trace the confabulation in question to a man named David Lawrence Booth.  

A 64-year-old retired chemical plant control-room operator, Booth is one of the world’s foremost purveyors of conspiracies and fake news. Writing under the nom de plume of Sorcha Faal on his website What Does It Mean, Booth and his wife have spent the past 15 years cooking up fabricated tales of impending war, government cover-ups, looming financial collapse, alien arrivals, Satanic acts, earthquake weapons, man-made hurricanes, global apocalypse, and “deep state” machinations of all descriptions. On his website, Booth has falsely suggested that he is an officer in the Mossad or the CIA. The truth about his life is equally fascinating—Booth happens to have been the youngest person ever to attempt to hijack a plane in the U.S.—and an examination of his past, with its links to both Russia and Russian disinformation campaigns, opens a rare window into how and why someone can be drawn into the world of conspiracies.

At first glance, it’s hard to imagine that anyone takes What Does It Mean seriously. The site’s logo is stuffed with a fifth grader’s idea of mysticism: the Virgin Mary, a dragon, a tarot card, a winged horse, and Noah’s ark. Pages are littered with multicolored links, and the whole thing has an amateurish feel, harkening back to the days of DIY web construction in the mid-1990s. Yet What Does It Mean attracts visitors in numbers that would be a marked improvement over those pulled down by, say, a midsize newspaper’s website—roughly three-quarters of a million views in busy months, according to Alexa search rankings. Fans translate the site’s posts into French and Spanish, read them aloud on YouTube, and discuss them online. One measure of the power of a conspiracy theory is how far and how deeply it spreads, and Booth’s reports travel the globe. Laundered through a constellation of more respectable-looking, but no less empirically dodgy websites, they emerge in overseas news outlets cited as fact. That’s how, to take just one example, Iran’s news agency, Fars, was duped into reporting in 2014 that top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that U.S. policy has been guided by extraterrestrial intelligence.

The site’s slogan is “the news you need today … for the world you’ll live in tomorrow,” but in many ways Booth’s world is already here. The election of a conspiracy theorist in chief has pushed conspiracies, lies, and half-truths onto the front pages and the evening news, while the advent of the internet and social media give web-savvy conspiracy peddlers access to a much larger global market than they formerly dared to dream of reaching. Conspiracy theories have become the political lingua franca of the Trump era—another sordid, sensationalist body of lies sold to people on the fringes of society who have been lied to so often they make sense out of nonsense. The stories are fake, told by a fictional person, but to many devotees, they feel true, and that keeps people coming back to Booth’s site for more.

“I’m getting tired of everybody saying that Sorcha Faal is a fake,” complained Gary Larrabee, an elderly YouTuber with 35,000 followers who’s fond of reading Faal’s posts aloud. “I’ve been following her for 20 years. She’s not right on everything, but what other media service is more reliable?” Carol Elmer, a widow who posts stories from What Does It Mean on her Facebook page nearly every day, says she values the site for a “perspective” she can find nowhere else. She said she is aware of reports that Booth is the sole author of the site’s content, as well as the claim pushed by Booth himself that he’s “an ex-CIA operative.” Most remarkably, she even downplays the frequency with which her computer crashes when she visits What Does It Mean—a common sign of multilayered hacking efforts. “I figure you only catch flak when you are over the target,” she told me.

Booth, who wears a large, white Santa Claus beard and lives with his wife in a modest home near the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, declined repeated requests to speak with me. He is, by both profession and temperament, a suspicious man—a Google search shows his driveway lined with “No Trespassing” signs—and his guarded posture toward the world is inevitably reinforced by encounters with the kind of people his website attracts. In 2004, as What Does It Mean was finding its first significant online following, a fan showed up in the backyard of his previous home in New Hampshire. “You and I both know that some of these people aren’t the kind of people you want at your house,” Booth’s son, Justin, told me.  And to judge by the people who share David Booth’s stories on Twitter, it’s wise to be wary. His work is popular with followers of QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory group that the FBI recently labeled as a domestic terrorism threat.  The U.S. government, which has been tracking Booth’s site for years, used nearly a dozen links from What Does It Mean as background for a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on the threat of right-wing extremism—before, that is, an outcry from right-wing political leaders prompted the Obama White House to mothball the report and many of its recommendations.

Gloria Jean House (left) was held at knifepoint in a plane hijacking by David Booth in 1969 in Cincinnati. “I was really scared after he put that knife at my side and said ‘You’re going with me—we’re going to Sweden,’” she recalled.
Cincinatti Enquirer/AP

A day after I contacted all the phone numbers and emails I had collected for Booth, I received a reply from one of his email accounts. “Hello Seth Hettena, We’ve been waiting for you, or at least someone like you, for many years.” The email was signed by a “Nun Rahab,” who told me the email address (which I found on a family genealogy page) had been set up under Booth’s name to “catch” reporters like me who were fascinated by “one of the most mysterious persons I’ve ever come across in my entire life.” Nun Rahab’s email about Booth was a mix of fact and fantasy that tried to suggest Booth was a CIA psychic, but the writer did show a familiarity with intimate details of Booth’s life that turned out to be true, such as his recent medical problems, as well as previously unreported incidents from 27 years ago.

Although Nun Rahab claimed to be writing me from outside the U.S. (somewhere in the time zone that includes Amsterdam and Vienna), the emails I received showed they were coming from a data center near Knoxville, Tennessee, not far from Booth’s home. When I pointed this out, I received a call in no short order from Booth’s son, Justin, who told me his father had dictated him a note that appeared to be an attempt to make me believe that David Booth had nothing to do with the site he founded. This turned out to be a mistake. First, Justin Booth and I started talking about his father and his website, and second, it resolved any nagging doubts I had about who was really behind the site. Nun Rahab was David Booth.

I tried to ask “Nun Rahab” about the website’s fascination with Russia and whether someone from abroad was feeding What Does It Mean its information, or, more precisely, its disinformation. The site’s content has followed the same basic pattern for most of the past 15 years: A “chilling,” “astounding and frankly terrifying,” or “heart-stopping” new report out of a Kremlin ministry or a Russian intelligence agency has revealed some frightening bombshell or some new orders issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Booth’s obsession with Russia has perplexed members of his family. When Justin asked him once what it was all about, his father told him, “I can’t talk about it.”

Until the 2016 election, the lurid fare featured on What Does It Mean could easily be dismissed as overheated, but ultimately harmless, nuttery.  Here, too, we can fix a fairly precise point of origin for the site’s ascension in the Trump era: On May 6, 2016, What Does It Mean revealed that a “war of words” had broken out inside the Kremlin about whether to release tens of thousands of emails that Russian spies had obtained from Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The dispute, What Does It Mean reported, was between Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Russian FSB, the successor agency to the KGB, and Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of Parliament. In fact, although it was not yet public knowledge, Russia did have thousands of emails Russian spies had obtained from the DNC servers and the Clinton campaign that would shortly be released by WikiLeaks. What Does It Mean’s story was quickly picked up by the fervently pro-Trump website The Gateway Pundit. Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano (a onetime Trump ally who’s since fallen out with the president) discussed it on Megyn Kelly’s show and later in a column in The Washington Times. At the summit of the innuendo-laden right-wing news cycle, Sean Hannity repeated the substance of the What Does It Mean report on his radio show. Neither Napolitano nor Hannity credited the original source.

On July 13, 2016, three days after Seth Rich was gunned down in the streets of Washington, D.C., in what investigators suspect was a botched robbery, Sorcha Faal quoted a “somber” account from the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, claiming that Rich was preparing to testify against Hillary Clinton. Instead, he was assassinated by a “hit team” during a secret meeting he believed he was having with the FBI. The “hit team,” the report continued, was captured after a prolonged gun battle near the White House. It was all a lie, except for one critical part: The What Does It Mean report matched details in an actual SVR disinformation “bulletin.”

In a story first reported by Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff, Deborah Sines, the U.S. attorney in Washington overseeing the Rich murder case, learned of the SVR bulletin from U.S. intelligence as she grappled with the many conspiracy theories swirling around the case. (Sines declined to speak with me.) The details of the What Does It Mean story matched those in the SVR bulletin—Rich’s purported meeting with the FBI, a Hillary Clinton “hit team,” and the gun battle near the White House. The SVR bulletin had been written—in Russian, Isikoff told me—on July 13, the same day that What Does It Mean published its report, which contained a helpful note: “Some words and/or phrases appearing in quotes are English language approximations of Russian words/phrases having no exact counterpart.”

The “hit team” story was knocked down the following day by the fact-checking site Snopes—a fate shared by many of the site’s dispatches that go viral. But as in most of these cases, the damage had already been done: The story was blood in the water for a large audience long predisposed to believe that the Clintons murder people. The ranks of these believers included Roger Stone, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump, who resurrected a common hard-right conspiracy theory from the long-ago time before internet virality, dubbing the circumstances of Clinton White House attorney Vince Foster’s 1993 death “very fishy.”

For his part, “Nun Rahab” told me it was “preposterous” to suggest that What Does It Mean used secret Russian government information. Someone in the U.S. intelligence community was obviously trying to make me think that, Nun Rahab suggested, adding “maybe your mind should turn around and consider the possibility that it’s us who are talking to them.” When I asked Nun Rahab about the source of the “hit team” story, he pointed out that What Does It Mean wasn’t the only high-profile the-truth-is-out-there site raising suspicions about Rich’s murder. None of the examples he cited went beyond speculation, and more significantly, this was an answer to a question I wasn’t asking. When I pressed the question, I received disquisitions about international finance and the price of gold. I had my own Twitter posts quoted back at me and was told to stick to facts instead of unsupported short-term political agendas. Later, I heard from “Brian,” the webmaster at What Does It Mean, who wrote letters to the Justice Department accusing me of using my FBI contacts to “access restricted U.S. government database information on a private American citizen named David Booth.”

Without a full-fledged government investigation, it’s nearly impossible to figure out how an SVR bulletin wound up on What Does It Mean, said Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and (yes) a former FBI agent. Although he didn’t know any specific background information about Booth or his site, Watts said the Kremlin does identify outlets willing to publish virtually anything and supplies them with material when they need to push a particular message. This battery of online “useful idiots,” as Watts called them, may have one-on-one contact with Russian operatives or receive (dis)information passed through third parties. “The closer you get to Moscow, the more they are in coordination with the Kremlin,” he said. “The further away you get the less so, unless they happen to have traveled back and forth to Russia and developed connections—or [if] they’re really into Russia or Vladimir Putin.”

Booth is really into Russia. In the early 1990s, while Booth was living in Nashua, New Hampshire, he and his then wife launched a charity drive called “To Russia, With Love” that collected 4,500 pounds of donated food, clothing, and medicine to help former Soviet citizens get through the winter. When that marriage fell apart, Booth entered into a series of relationships with Russian women, one of whom he sued for libel and accused of stealing nearly $30,000 worth of his household goods during a contentious divorce, according to court documents. He has visited Russia at least once. In 1995, a curious item appeared in The New York Times Magazine that identified David Booth as president of a Nashua-based company called “War Tours Ltd.” that offered clients visits to war zones in places like the former Soviet Union. There was no record of War Tours Ltd. at the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office, and I heard later that Booth told his son that the whole thing was a hoax to prove that the media would publish anything.

Booth’s Russian infatuation is reciprocated on the far side of the former Iron Curtain. Booth and his alter ego Sorcha Faal have become a reliable source of fascination in Russia’s mediasphere, where news outlets have fallen for several of his viral hoaxes, such as the 2014 What Does It Mean report claiming that 13 CIA military operatives had been killed in Ukraine on a mission to help battle Russian forces invading the country. In recent years, the Russian press has published numerous  “Who is Sorcha Faal?” stories. Among them is a 2009 story in the Russian newspaper Izvestia that quoted two leading Russian experts on information warfare. Alexander Dugin, an ultranationalist Russian political scientist who is considered close to Putin, maintained that What Does It Mean was an example of what he called “network wars”: “Organizations that are neither special forces nor secret societies arrange for the information to be thrown around. For example, ideological divisions waging geopolitical war.” Igor Panarin, a Russian political scientist and former KGB officer, told Izvestia that “of course” Western and Western-aligned intelligence services were behind the website, but it wasn’t clear whether it was the British MI6, Israel’s Mossad, the CIA, or the U.S. National Security Agency. The Russian experts saw the site as a way of increasing geopolitical tensions between, say, Russia and Iran in an untraceable way.

Over the same general timeline, a robust network of global conspiracy-mongering sites has sprung up to help Booth spread lies. Sorcha Faal’s stories were occasionally promoted by Russian internet trolls connected to the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg troll farm that amplified divisive content during the 2016 election, according to millions of online postings released by Twitter from thousands of IRA accounts. Kremlin-aligned Twitter trolls tracked by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, an initiative of the German Marshall Fund, have occasionally done the same thing over the past few years, according to Eric Ellason, a security researcher at Slickrockweb, a small data analytics and information technology firm. One of the frequent reposters of Sorcha Faal stories is The European Union Times, a site the Southern Poverty Law Center found was registered to Jessica Nachtman, whose husband, Christopher, was identified as a racist skinhead gang member.  (Jessica Nachtman told the SPLC she provides web hosting for a “European” she declined to identify.) Overseas, Sorcha Faal stories often land on the Bulgarian site Strogo Sekretno (Top Secret), published by Krassimir Ivandjiiski, whose son, Daniel, founded Zero Hedge, a website owned by a Bulgarian company that pushes right-wing conspiracy theories and publishes pro-Russia commentary originating in the West. This network of conspiracy sites repeats the same information so often that impressionable readers who stumble into it can leave thinking they’ve done their homework, said Emerson Brooking, a resident fellow at the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council, a think tank. “The effect on these people is they get enmeshed in these worlds of conspiracy theories, and it becomes harder and harder to make their way back out,” he said.

As the 2020 election approaches, What Does It Mean’s far-flung conspiracy network has Russian disinformation experts like Watts worried. “Russia doesn’t have a Wikileaks or DC Leaks this time,” he said. “The only option if they wanted to mess around is to go to conspiracy websites, go to friendly outlets that we call ‘fellow traveler’ outlets, content providers that share Russia’s worldview, and deliver them information one-to-one, and let them be the messenger into the target audience space.”   

There’s no surefire way to pinpoint the birth of a full-fledged conspiracy-monger, but, if one were to take a stab at such a thing in Booth’s case, the night of May 16, 1979, would be a strong contender. At the time, Booth, then 23, was managing a rental-car office and getting over a troubled childhood that had exploded a decade earlier onto the evening news. A self-described “confused, messed-up kid,” Booth had cut school one day in the fall of 1969 and gone to the airport in his native Cincinnati. There, he took a teenage girl hostage with a butcher knife, boarded a plane, and demanded to be flown to Sweden. Airport police were able to quickly talk him down, and the 14-year-old surrendered without incident when authorities promised not to arrest him.

If ever there was a cry for help, this was clearly one, but Booth’s family washed its hands of him. Newspaper reports quoted an attorney for the parents calling Booth “mentally ill,” and his family declared him incorrigible, which made the boy a ward of the state. The system, however, showed Booth the mercy that his parents couldn’t or wouldn’t. Instead of locking him up in juvenile detention, a judge sentenced him to a home for vulnerable children, which helped him get his life back together. The judge “was the one person who had enough faith in kids that they could be rehabilitated,” Booth told The Cincinnati Enquirer nearly three decades later. “I haven’t been in trouble with the law since.”

Ten years after the hijacking, on that night in 1979, Booth was living in Cincinnati with a wife and a newborn baby, when he had the first in a series of disturbing, recurring dreams involving an American Airlines airliner that crashed upside-down. After experiencing the same dream for several nights running, Booth called the Federal Aviation Administration and told the agency about it. Three days later, American Airlines Flight 191 rolled over and crashed after takeoff from Chicago, killing 273 people in what remains the deadliest passenger airline accident on U.S. soil. In a story that appeared in The Chicago Tribune, the FAA conceded that there were remarkable similarities between the dream and the crash, but Booth himself was skeptical.  “I don’t believe in any of that spooky stuff, you know?” he said.

Over time, though, Booth became a believer. His dreams of Flight 191 led to a string of appearances on TV shows exploring the paranormal, such as In Search Of… and Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers. When A&E Television Networks aired a show that featured Booth’s dream with an actor playing him and got key details wrong, the future founder of one of the world’s foremost sources of fake news sued the network for, among other things, defamation and deceiving the public. In his lawsuit, filed in 1997, Booth said he had never experienced any subsequent premonitions of any kind, but “he carefully guards the story of his 1979 experience because he feels that if it were to occur again in the future, his continued credibility will be extremely important.”  (The case was later settled out of court, and representatives of A&E did not return messages seeking comment.)

“I love my dad. He’s been a great dad, but when you are the son of, arguably, the only documented psychic in the history of the country, it can be taxing,” Booth’s son, Justin, told me.

Sure enough, six years after the A&E lawsuit, the premonitions came again, and this time they foretold a much larger disaster. In March 2003, Booth had a series of dreams about a “large, dark planetary object” hurtling toward the Earth followed by a huge explosion. Identifying himself as an “internationally-known psychic,” Booth registered What Does It Mean later that year as a collaboration with his friend, the late Wayne Green, an early computer pioneer.  With Green’s help, and his past dreams of Flight 191 serving as his calling card, Booth appeared on Coast-to-Coast, a hugely popular, overnight AM radio show on the paranormal. The man who didn’t believe in spooky stuff was, in the promotional language of the show, now “the only person in the world to have had a pre-cognitive experience fully documented prior to the event by a government agency.”

Booth moved quickly to capitalize on his Coast-to-Coast appearance with a 2004 book, Code Red: The Coming Destruction of the United States, which his son, Justin, hastily assembled by hand.  The dream and book came at an opportune time for Booth, who had endured three personal bankruptcies, three broken marriages, and the dissolution of his latest venture, a computer business. But Booth’s burgeoning career as a twenty-first-century psychic came to an end almost as quickly as it had begun. He traveled to Europe and returned claiming he had met with Sister Lucia of Fatima, a Carmelite nun celebrated for her visions of the Virgin Mary. Coast-to-Coast invited Booth back again in 2004 to discuss his meeting with Sister Fatima, but he refused to talk about it and was kicked off the air and banned from the show. The show’s host, George Noory, said he had been duped. A barrister in Australia claimed that Code Red plagiarized his wife’s 2002 article word for word, down to the typographical errors. The credibility that Booth had carefully nurtured for years was destroyed.

It was around this time that Sorcha Faal appeared. Displaying a knack for reinvention, Booth took his name off his website to be replaced by the mysterious Ms. Faal’s. She was initially described as a Russian researcher from St. Petersburg with an engineering background and, later, as a nun from a made-up Irish order said to predate Jesus. Faal’s picture on What Does It Mean is that of Booth’s current wife, Kathy. 

What motivates a man to wake up every morning and write lies? I had started this story thinking it would yield some insight about Russia’s hidden hand in U.S. affairs, but another story was staring me right in the face. “The only reason to run and start a website like that is to do it as a business,” Justin Booth says.

Booth’s lies have managed to attract a large audience, which he regularly importunes for donations. A September post about the “forces of Lucifer” trying to destroy President Trump concludes with a plea that would sound familiar to every public radio listener: “Our needs today are dire indeed, but, if every one of you reading this gave just $20.00 today, our budget for the entire year would be met!” David Booth told Justin that What Does It Mean takes in between $5,000 and $7,000 a month in donations, which is more than the average salary in Tennessee. Despite a total of five bankruptcies between them, Booth and his wife now hold title to more than 100 acres of land in Kentucky.

I made a $1 contribution to What Does It Mean via PayPal. The contribution was refunded, but PayPal provided me with contact information that connects the money to Booth via his Nevada company Long Trail Acres Publishing LLC, previously identified as the registrant of What Does It Mean. (In papers filed in 2012 in connection with his fourth bankruptcy, Booth stated that he last worked for Long Trail Acres four years earlier.) There’s also an LLC called Sisters of Sorcha Faal in Nevada registered to Booth’s wife, Kathy, presumably for some business venture connected to the phony religious order.

What Does It Mean also tries to profit from the fears of its audience in other ways. In 2010, the site offered readers the limited opportunity for $24.99 to buy a “Cloak of Athena” that was said to protect them from government eavesdroppers and credit-card thieves. “Danger is upon you now,” the site warned, “it lies in your cell phone listening in on every conversation you have and tracking every place you go and in every ID and credit card you leave unprotected.  Make your decision about this incredible offer before it’s too late!” 

Of course, the conspiracy business can lead to even bigger things. There is no better example of this right now than Donald Trump, whose meteoric rise to power came on the back of the racist “birther” conspiracy theory he pushed for years—a completely bogus claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Trump’s shameless conspiracy peddling gave him a platform to launch a presidential campaign that would be “the greatest infomercial in political history,” according to his former attorney, Michael Cohen. “Mr. Trump ran for office to make his brand great,” Cohen told Congress under oath, “not to make our country great.”

Conspiracy is also a business that has made people like Alex Jones, the founder of Infowars, very rich. Jones’s angry, nativist rants and conspiracy theories, about everything from the sinister origins of “chemtrails” to the horrifically baseless assertion that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a “false flag” action orchestrated by the federal government, have propelled the Trump-allied radio talker into lucrative national renown—even as his Sandy Hook lies have led to defamation lawsuits from parents of murdered children. By 2014, Jones’s Infowars empire was generating $20 million a year in revenue and $5 million in profits, according to an investigation by The New York Times. Most of that money came from the sale of supplements like “Super Male Vitality” and “Brain Force Plus.” (Not coincidentally, What Does It Mean runs advertising for Phi Sciences, an Arizona company that sells supplements like “Mega Hydrate” and “Crystal Energy.”) Likewise, the legions of QAnon followers have inspired a bazaar of online merchants hawking Q-branded T-shirts, ball caps, iPhone cases, coffee mugs, and books. 

Like the mysterious “Q,” Sorcha Faal is a mask—one that David Booth dons in order to spin out his fantasies from an imaginary arm’s-length source. The Faal persona also allows him to keep his two identities separate: David Booth ran a local union representing workers at a New Hampshire chemical plant; Sorcha Faal writes about the “leftist-socialist union bosses trying to destroy President Trump.” David Booth told his son he was excited about the historic election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president of the United States; less than a month later, Sorcha Faal wrote that “Obama from Kenya” presaged the age of the “Mark of the Beast” and noted the “stunning parallels” between Hitler’s and Obama’s rise to power. David Booth sues for libel and defamation when people get facts wrong; Sorcha Faal produces mountains of fake news and defamatory content.

Russia may be the flavor of the month, but the sad, shabby truth about Booth and his world of conspiracies is that it’s just another cruelly exploitative business, one that offers a fleeting, intoxicating glimpse of a hidden world for readers and listeners who feel ever more lost and overlooked in the real one. What drives a man to wake up every morning and write lies and fables is, in other words, the same thing that drove the old snake-oil salesman to travel from town to town peddling tinctures and other bogus home medical remedies. Like his fellow conspiracy peddlers Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, and Alex Jones, David Booth is a true believer, until believing is bad for business.