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From Missouri, to Japan, to DC, and back to Missouri again. I'm 30 years old, and currently attending law school at the University of Missouri. I'm a six-year veteran of the United States Navy, a rational conservative/libertarian, a born politico, and a horrible golfer. These are my random scribblings. I hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

On bin Laden, Birthers, and Conspiracy Theorists

As of this writing, it's been 4 days since Osama bin Laden was given his receipt for 9/11, for the USS Cole, for the first World Trade Center bombing, for the bombings of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and for several other actions. I can only imagine he is absolutely perplexed and wondering where the virgins are.

(And that's not anti-Islam--no matter whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever religion, I think there is complete agreement that he is not in paradise at this time)

Does this solve anything in reality? No. At this point, his death is purely cathartic for the families of those he added to his list of victims. But as tacky as it might be to cheer the death of any person, this would be the person that you get a pass on. This doesn't help us strategically, and it won't end any of the wars. But damn--it feels sooooo good.

Or, at least it did. I wanted to gloat. I wanted to brag about the exploits of SEAL Team Six (or, as Stephen Colbert called them, "these Abbottabad-asses"). I wanted to finally celebrate that, 9 1/2 years after he popped up on the majority of our radars, and 10 1/2 years after he popped up on my radar, he's finally roasting in Hell.

But now that the days are wearing on, I'm noticing that the usual crowd is out and about. We saw them when JFK was assassinated. We saw them when man landed on the moon. We saw them after Vince Foster's tragic suicide. We saw them after the collapse of the towers. And we've seen them since about 2008, when it became clear that Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee.

Let's be clear: conspiracy theorists of all stripes are systemically delusional. They see this:

and interpret it as this:

They see this:

and interpret it as this:

And they see this:

And interpret it as this:

You can't deal with this level of crazy. You simply can't. Obama took them on finally a couple of weeks ago. Rather than ignore them like everyone should, he finally released his long-form birth certificate. The response? "Oh, his father's race is listed as 'African', when it would've been 'Negro' back then. It's obviously a forgery." Popular Mechanics took on the 9/11 Truthers to no avail, because men with advanced degrees in physics are no match for kids living in their mom's basement. And had the White House released the photos (and subsequently endangered our troops and Americans abroad to higher risks), the response would be that the photos were Photoshopped. "Oh, see? Osama's beard is shorter in previous photographs than this one! It's obviously a forgery!" (Actually, there would be far more grammatical, spelling, and capitalization errors--maybe even a couple of LOL's, and definitely a "teh" somewhere--but you get my point)

Where can you find these people? Back in the day, you simply couldn't. As I told a friend, we properly and correctly stuck them in far-away corners of our society. We let them go on with their tales of endemic corruption that would allow perfectly good people to take actions that would harm their own country, and we occasionally looked at them, pointed, laughed, snickered, and then went back to being competent adults.

But we now have the Internet. That great tool that has brought us such worthwhile hits as the Pamela Anderson sex tapes and LOLcats has also been an enabler for a large number of these not-so-great tools in our society. It allows collaboration between the various corners we've put them into, and thus made one big corner which serves as an echo chamber that is hard not to notice. Combine that with the 24/7 news channels and other news media, which have to report on something and usually prefer that something to have a weird hook--and what you see is a slow infection of otherwise sane people to start believing these theories.

And it is affecting politics more and more over the past 10 years. You see Republicans trying to distance themselves from the crazy, while not upsetting them so much that they will lose their vote. You saw Democrats pander to them as well during the Bush Administration, trying to force symbolic votes that sent the message of "Yes, Bush stole the election and we're fighting it", even though the vast majority of serious Democrats saw them as nothing more than moonbats. In short, the end result of these people is that they are becoming a poison, a cancer upon our body politic.

What can be done about it? Not very much in terms of swaying the true believer. The problem with a conspiracy theory is that it goes against the grain of how something is proven. In court, the party that makes a claim then has to prove it up. In science, the person who has a hypothesis has to do the research to prove their hypothesis and get it recognized as a working theory. But conspiracy theories work in reverse--the claim is made, and then the burden of proof is thrown on the accused to prove down. And you can't prove it down, because every piece of proof can be explained away, or even turned around and shown to be more "proof" that such a conspiracy exists. Rationality doesn't exist--merely the overarching conspiracy against the aggrieved.

But, there is one possibility, and it's the same thing we used to do to shut down conspiracy theorists--ignore them. The media has to make a concerted effort to only talk about issues of importance. Even if you're a biased cable news channel that sees a possible conspiracy in someone's origins (hello, Fox News) or in someone's military service (hello, MSNBC)...ignore it. Demand proof. Demand that this Church of Latter-Day Aint's either prove their case, or leave us alone and shut up. We, as citizens, have to stop rubbernecking to view the crazy guy shouting on the side of the road in between breaks where he drinks his own urine.

To Obama-ize my point, let me be clear: in an pharmaceutical era where the worst affliction one can experience is restless leg syndrome, we need to treat these self-perceived pariahs as the lepers of our time. Ignore them. Marginalize their crazy. Demand proof or silence.

Maybe then, we can finally start having an adult conversation and get back to trying to solve the problems that America faces.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

This is all a conspiracy! Hey Nick, I just dropped in to see where your views were. I remember meeting you some time ago with Nicole B. I've been reading and listening more to politics of late and it's nice to see rationality still exists. Keep up the writing!