Different Drummer

Watching reality itself slipping away

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” (Translated from the Latin)—Desiderius Erasmus

 I sometimes think there is contemporary America and contemporary Fox News America, with reality serving as the line of demarcation.

For almost four out of every 10 people in this country, conspiracy theories, the less tethered to fact apparently the better, are becoming the norm. I have been writing about this and suggesting the potential dangers inherent in this for a number of years and in no small part due to our friends in the employ of Rupert Murdock, it has now come to fruition, transforming what used to be relatively normal, run-of-the-mill humans into blooming idiots.

Just watch or read an account of any current event from a legitimate news source and then take in the Fox News account of that same event. Forget the oh, so revealing notion of “alternative facts;” what you will find is an alternative reality.

But keep watching it at your own peril, because when the nighttime “advocates” come along, their concocted conspiracy theories will not be far behind.

Remember that original news event? Well, by the time that Sean and Tucker and the other boys and girls get through, you will be ready to adopt an explanation for that event that invokes an unwarranted conspiracy, generally one involving an illegal or harmful act carried out by the government or other powerful actors (currently almost always Democrats or other evil denizens of the metaphorical “swamp,” aka the “deep state,” aka the “secret society.”)

Advocacy ain’t analysis, folks, and just making stuff up out of whole cloth sure as hell ain’t “news.”

On the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, Time Magazine published a list of what it billed as the “Top 10 Conspiracy Theories.”

And while accurate at the time and a noble act for those who value rationality, that magazine’s editors’ effort must in retrospect now be viewed as decidedly premature.

Compiled in the summer of 2009, Time’s list, in order, was as follows:

• The Kennedy assassination.

• The 9-11 “cover-up.”

• Area 51 (including Roswell and other variations upon the aliens theme).

• Paul McCartney is dead (the whole Sgt. Pepper “play it backwards” business).

• Secret societies rule the world.

• The moon landing was faked. (My grandmother, God rest her splendid soul, went to her reward convinced of this one because she had looked at the moon her whole life and if they had landed up there, she would have seen them).

• Jesus and Mary Magdalene (were married, fooled around, etc.).

• Holocaust revisionism.

• The CIA and Aids (in the black community).

• The Reptilian Elite (our overlords who live among us).

All of those are still around, with some obviously being more “popular” than others, but the sad truth is, that were Time or any other source to attempt to compile anything close to a representative list of contemporary conspiracy theories alive and well in this country today, it could start with 10, but it would require adding an exponent.

Americans have always been susceptible to conspiracy theories. I think it is in our DNA. But at least they used to be fewer and farther in between. Now there are new ones every time Alex Jones takes to the radio, Hannity comes on the TV or the President of the United States tweets.

And that doesn’t even consider all the goobers you knew from high school who couldn’t get dates or rid of acne, but now for reasons unfathomable, capture your attention when they start to wax poetic about things of which they know little to nothing on Facebook.

Regrettably, were the question to be posed, far too many of us would no doubt guess Ockham’s Razor to be a competitor of Gillette.

But Ockham’s Razor, a problem-solving principle dating back to the 13th Century, is instead the mortal enemy of conspiracy theories one and all, holding as it does that the more assumptions an explanation for something requires, the less likely it is to be correct.

As example, if your car has a flat in the morning, you could explain that by deducing you ran over a roofing nail or you could deduce that a serial tire-flattener is on the loose in town and that you are his latest victim. Both are possible, but one’s a whole lot more likely.

Thomas Edison once observed “There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking.” It strikes me that not since the dawn of the Age of Reason has that truth been as evident as it is in the United States of America today.

 Ray Mosby is editor of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.

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