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The international reach of nonsense

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently wrapped up an important diplomatic mission in Cairo the other day, including lengthy discussions with newly-elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who said Egypt will respect its international treaties.

But if you saw any of the media coverage of Clinton's visit, you may have noticed significant numbers of protestors in the streets of Cairo.

What were these protestors angry about? Why were they throwing shoes and tomatoes, while using Monica Lewinsky taunts? Robert Mackey explained that the demonstrators "appear to have been inspired by fears that the Obama administration harbors a secret, pro-Islamist agenda which originated with American conservatives."

As my colleague Kareem Fahim reported on Sunday, some political opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt claim that the United States even plotted to install the Islamist party's presidential candidate in office. "Although wildly counterintuitive," my colleagues David Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh observed on Saturday, "that conspiracy theory has tapped into the deep popular distrust here of the United States."

The strength of that belief was on full display on Saturday in Cairo, as hundreds rallied outside Mrs. Clinton's hotel, waving placards that read: "Stop U.S. funding of the Muslim Brotherhood."

Of course, the United States isn't funding the Muslim Brotherhood. So why have these folks taken to the streets to complain about?

It's amusing in an unsettling sort of way. The protestors believe the United States is too much in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, and they believe this because they saw reports online from Michele Bachmann, Frank Gaffney, and other American extremists who peddle strange conspiracy theories -- including absurdities about the Muslim Brotherhood "infiltrating" the American government.

But the people on the streets of Cairo don't realize that Bachmann, Gaffney, and their cohorts are ridiculous, so they're taking the strange "news" they're finding on the Internet seriously.

Congratulations, far-right activists, your nonsense now has a global reach.