Archive for May, 2011

OBL Joins Elvis in Kalamazoo

The thinking in some quarters as to whether the report of Bin Laden’s death is to be believed (or not) has been an interesting example of the weird dynamics at work in our culture. On one hand, it highlights the pervasive tendency toward skepticism; while, on the other hand, it shows that the pervasive tendency toward skepticism doesn’t necessarily preclude the strong tendency to embrace conspiracy theories. Apparently, a paradigm of doubt about authorities can also produce very strong beliefs about those same authorities. It really produces a strange combination where everything that the authority says is questioned, yet just about anything alleged against the authority is believed.

Conspiracy theories have been around for a long time, so I don’t think that phenomenon is going anywhere. Before Al Gore came along, though, most of us only encountered the occasional conversation about them. Now, anybody with an axe to grind can create a website or Facebook page where people can string together the pieces of info that “support” their peculiar conspiracy theory. All a conspiracy theory needs is the combo of pervasive doubt and a hint of possibility in order to grow. That means we live in the most fertile time imaginable!

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