There’s been enough mindless blather surrounding our politics recently to fill a whole library of books, but one prevailing concept that is used to explain the views of too many fanatics, both left- and right-wing, is the notion of “conspiracy theory.” For example, countless responsible and knowledgeable reporters and commentators have described the belief that a cabal of elite government and Hollywood cannibal Satanists are running an international pedophilia ring as a “conspiracy theory.”
What kind of theory is this? Was it a “theory” when Jews were accused of drinking babies’ blood? Was it a “theory” when the moon landing was said to be a fake video? Calling these wacko and often evil fictions “theories” implies that they are facts or concepts that possibly could be proven true with research and experimentation.
Calling these wacko and often evil fictions “theories” implies that they are facts or concepts that possibly could be proven true with research and experimentation.
There are countless real conspiracy theories. When President Kennedy was assassinated, the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald might have been controlled by Russia or Cuba were very real possibilities that had to be investigated. But other notions just flew in the face of reality. People who accused Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon (or, more recently, Ted Cruz’s dad) of involvement with the murder were dismissed as kooks. These weren’t “theories” to be explored. If I told you that this magazine was actually written and edited on Mars and printed in a cave under the South Pole, I wouldn’t be a conspiracy theorist. I’d be a candidate for psychiatric examination.
Dressing up obviously absurd and often vicious stories as theories elevates fiction to possible reality. It gives those who spout them an excuse to say, “I don’t know if it’s true or not but it should be studied.”
No. Actually, these things shouldn’t be studied. They should be called out as fantasies or frauds or crocks or lies. They can’t be debated any more than Little Red Riding Hood can be debated. They’re just fairy tales … or nightmares.
Featured image: Shutterstock
This article is featured in the January/February 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
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