I passed a car on US 31 the other day with a bumper sticker that read, "9/11 Was An Inside Job!" With a reflexive sneer I craned my neck to get a good look at the driver as I passed. A bearded, tight-jawed, 30-something dude gripped the steering wheel with clenched fists, glaring at the road before him.
Figures he’d look a little . . . crazed.
My patience with conspiracy theorists is utterly gone. Feels like bat shit crazy is spreading across America like the stomach flu on a cruise ship. I've gone from laughing at it to fearing it. Our nation is overfilled with folks who’d rather believe blurry, complicated, bizarre conspiracy theories than an obvious truth screaming in their face. Vaccines cause autism, global warming isn’t real, Obama was born in Kenya, and oh yeah, he's a Muslim, and the government is hiding the truth about UFOs. Who believes all this crazy shit?
Are these the same people who sign up to sell Herbalife?
Years ago I had a conspiracy theorist next-door neighbor. Once over the back fence he explained that the United States never landed on the moon. Claimed it was all filmed in the Texas desert. He eventually developed his own conspiracy theories about me. After that first unnerving conversation, I started avoiding him. When gardening, every time I saw him pull in his driveway, I’d stroll to my garage as if looking for a rake. I’d wait there watching from the window until he disappeared in his back door. Years later he said to me, “I know you're up to something. I've seen you sneaking around over there.”
He was half-right. I had been sneaking around. Trying to avoid his crazy ass! I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in awhile.
President elect Trump is the king of conspiracy theories and he’s spun some real doozies! On his twitter feed he's claimed that global warming was a hoax concocted by China, that thousands of Muslim American’s celebrated in New Jersey on 9/11, that Christians aren’t allowed to immigrate to America while the U.S. is importing terrorists, Obama wants to take our guns (Aren’t we about up to our 8th annual “Obama’s coming for your guns” gun sale?), immigrants with Ebola are coming to America, and he was a prime promoter of the Obama/Kenya/Muslim story. Problem is, none of that is true. And it’s all demonstrably not true. And I’ve just scratched the surface. When you look at the voluminous list of conspiracy theories he’s spread on his Twitter feed, it gets hard to tell the difference between a conspiracy theorist and a pathological liar who's simply sees the conspiracy theories as a means to an end.
Whether Tump believes the more bizarre things he's tweeted or not, the conspiracy theories resonate with his followers. And consider this: He’s bragged on tape about sexually assaulting women and thus far 14 women have come forward claiming he in fact, did. Yet his supporters don’t believe it. With no evidence they’ll believe global warming is a hoax created by China, but won’t believe a fact based upon the perpetrator's taped confession, backed up by 14 corroborating witnesses.
Sometimes bat-shit crazy is a willful choice.
Most often, conspiracy theories are about deflecting blame or laying it at your enemy’s feet. This explains where holocaust deniers come from– anti-Jewish folks convinced it's just a scheme to build sympathy for Israel or the Jewish faith. Or perhaps Anglo European folks who’d rather not believe what their parents or grandparents did or at least allowed to happen in the 1930s and ‘40s.
My former nutty neighbor told me that the world is actually controlled by three Jewish businessmen. All of the events we see from elections to wars are manufactured elaborate slights of hand, meant to distract us. Elections aren’t real, they’re staged, the winner predetermined. And wars aren't about civil strife or ethnic differences or competition for natural resources, they’re staged to consume our attention, thin the herd, and allow those three Jewish businessmen to maintain control of the world.
And members of the tin foil hat brigade seemingly lay in wait everywhere. Three months after 9/11, I arrived late at real estate classes to find the only open chair was next to a Middle Eastern-looking man. People were avoiding taking that seat, pulling chairs from another room. Dismayed by the way fools and bullies harassed innocent Middle Eastern Americans after 9/11, I promptly took that empty seat. The man sighed with an appreciative smile and shook my outstretched hand. “Thank you for joining me,” he said. We chatted during breaks. He shared worries for his family in Afghanistan and we eventually talked about the horror of 9/11. But as I was leaving for lunch, he leaned in and whispered, “You know, on 9/11, none of the Jews went to work at the World Trade Center. They knew what was about to happen!” My heart sank. I’d heard of the conspiracy theory spreading in the Middle East claiming that Israel did it to frame Muslims and Arab nations. I replied simply, "Really?" Then I walked away and left him to sit alone when I returned for the afternoon session.
But that was a decade and a half ago. Today, my patience with conspiracy theorists is utterly gone. I will no longer nod and smile and avoid them. I’m calling bullshit every time from here on out.
“Kurt Meyer’s The Salvage Man is a gentle Midwestern fantasy made up of one treasure after another. Part historical fiction, part love story, and part rumination on modern day life, this novel asks hard questions about the world we live in and the world we leave behind. I couldn’t put it down.”