May 17, 2010
I have a love-hate relationship with conspiracy theories.
When I worked as a legislative correspondent in Congress, it seemed like 10% of the mail we received was for legitimate concerns and questions, 30% was rehashed party lines and mass mailings, and the rest were paranoia and craziness from South Texas. You wouldn’t believe some of the theories I read, everything from a secret president ordering mass executions, the end of world brought on by the economic crisis knocking Venus out of orbit, to the Jewish cabals seeking to control us.
And that’s just dumb.
We all know it’s Dick Cheney, in the patented Cheney-Cave, who’s controlling the world.
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While theories like this are dangerous because they rely either on illogic or false information, they are also quite fun. What can I say? I get a thrill from watching people jump like Chicken Little at the slightest things.
Lately, though, from Obama’s birth certificate to the allegations that global warming are a scientific hoax, it seems that conspiracy theories are more rampant today than they were even when the X-Files was still airing new episodes. Just for laughs, here are two of the funnier theories I’ve heard.
Oh you know me… I can’t start my day until I listen to good ol’ Rush Limbaugh. Man’s like a shot of caffeine right to the eye, and in the last few days, he’s been accusing Obama of blowing up the oil rig that has now created one of the worst ecological disasters in history.
It’s very simple. See, Obama and his radical left-wing progressive sociocommunazi friends want to force environmental protection regulations that will save us from that fakey global warming hoax. Control carbon emissions today… world government tomorrow! Blowing up the rig, says Limbaugh, gave Obama and the eco-terrorists the ammunition they need to pass bans on off-shore oil drilling.
This disaster serves as an example of just how bad things can get if we don’t act now.
So… environmentalists polluted hundreds of square miles of ocean, killed several workers, killed untold amounts of plant and wildlife, and have created a gaping wound in the ocean floor that still floods the water with toxins… all in an effort to save the environment?
By conservative estimates, the oil spill is worse than the Exxon-Valdez accident. There will be repercussions for decades. Entire ecosystems are destroyed. This is a bit like saying that Saddam Hussein secretly instigated the Gulf Wars in order to boost tourism to Iraq. Also, did you notice how Rush ended his segment? He’s just “asking questions.” Yeah, but you have no answers. Asking the question is not the same as addressing it. Hey Rush, did you take so much OxyContin that your ability to use higher brain functions has been destroyed?
I’m just asking.
Okay, that one was fairly easy and could be attributed to political paranoia, so let’s look at another theory that’s… special.
Did you know Earth actually has two suns, just like in Star Wars, and NASA is spraying chemicals to hide the fact from us? Oh yes. Our sun actually has a twin star and, if conditions are right, you can see this elusive second star.
Nibiru, which the cameraman mentions, is an object that is supposed to collide with Earth and cause mass devastation.
The theory for this video and others like it is actually very simple. See, the government is trying to hide this from us because… wait, no, it’s the GLOBAL government! It has to be since this has been viewed as far as Russia. Yeah, they’re spraying chemicals in the sky to hide the second sun from us because…
Yeah, this one is stupid to the extreme. While there are videos and photos of these two suns, it’s actually a very simple effect called a sundog. And if you honestly believe that NASA is hiding evidence of a second sun… where was this second sun, oh, say, the last five billion years? Even if there was a star with one percent the output of our parent star, we would see it and FEEL it! For it to be that far in the sky, it would have to be on a large orbit!
Dear gods, people… a second sun and the government is hiding it?!
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Why do people buy into this stuff? Part of me wants to just say that people are stupid and will believe anything. I want to blame a lack of education. I want to blame it all on the laziness to investigate, to really use the scientific method as it was intended instead of coming to a conclusion first, then finding evidence to support it. If you follow that route, you can justify almost anything. Combine it with a public that is frighteningly ignorant of basic science, history, and critical thinking and you get little nuggets of laughter like this woman:
It’s fraking refraction and reflection through water, lady! It’s not a government conspiracy to sterilize you, although, seeing this video, I would endorse such a measure for you!
Conspiracy theories do have one thing in common. All of them have some small basis in truth. They also rely on information that is either wildly contested or on the fringe of data sets. For any scientific experiment of report, there will be lots of numbers, and geniuses like Beck and his “research” team and others looking for the “truth,” any slight inconsistency in the data means that it’s not reliable in the least.
Let me put it this way. Say you want to measure the height of a building and you have a ruler, a yardstick, and a tape measurer. You use all three and come up with 350 inches, 310 inches, and 333 inches. Most people would see these numbers and simply assume, rightly, that there are imperfections in the method used to gather information, but all methods point to a rough height between 310 and 350 inches or about 30 ft.
It takes a special kind of nut to say that the building must be 500 inches high because someone told you that was the height of the building and no one can prove you wrong, so you must be right.
Personally, I love deflating these little conspiracy bubbles. There are few things I hate more than misinformation or the bastardization of science for these kinds of things. I’m all for keeping an open mind about the world, but people, please, learn to think critically. I know the best conspiracy theories have the big bad villain(s) lying to you, forcing you into blind obedience, and making you the victim… but come on!
Next thing you’ll be telling me is that Kennedy and Michael Jackson are hiding in Puerto Rico with Tupac.
If you have any conspiracy theories you’re fond of, share them in the comments below. I’m always on the lookout for more crazies.