I watched a highly entertaining (and yet, amazingly annoying) programme last night about conspiracy theorists and the "fake" moon landing.
If you're one of the two people who hasn't heard about the bunch of fruitcakes who claim that the moon landing was a fake, you haven't missed much.
(Objective reporting? Not here. We deal in mockery, pal.)
There is a small select (for relative values of the word "select") group of people who have written extensively about how the entire US government, the entire media, and everyone employed at NASA from 1960 to the present has participated in a conspiracy so vast that the Paris-Paris broken engagement and the J-Lo/Ben split put together pale in comparison.
(Throw in Renee Zellweger's breakup, and you might come close, but really, nothing can compare.)
The presenters of the programme (who clearly thought the conspiracy people were complete basket cases) said it was suprising that so few people could effectively spread the idea of a conspiracy theory so that almost everyone has heard of it.
Well, I think all the programmes that interview them might be contributing to the general dissemination of their crackpot idea, but what do I know. The ways of the world are mysterious, my son, and it must be an incredibly huge conspiracy, or else people wouldn't know all about it, right?
(You'd also think that these people would be savvier about knowing how they were going to be portrayed in programmes like these, but I guess they're too excited about the prospect of their inane theories being aired on TV to consider how they will come across.)
The theories are monumentally stupid, and rely on the perpetrator of the theory not only ignoring all the contrary evidence, but also having no real knowledge of engineering and physics.
Especially the physics.
I imagine it must be quite hard to make yourself single-minded enough about a subject that you can dismiss anything that doesn't fit into your conspiracy theory as bogus, no matter how many times it's been proven, but I've seen it done with academic research, so I am not surprised that it's possible. I can't make myself believe something once it's been demonstrated to me as false, but then, I never was very good at the whole "it's all a conspiracy!" thing anyway.
I am a big fan of out-of-the-box thinking; some of the best discoveries and thoughts have come from people venturing outside the mainstream. Many of those ideas have been mocked, because taking a sideways look at life can seem to threaten the status quo. Still, there's a big difference between going outside the mainstream and abandoning all logic and evidence in pursuit of a pet theory.
The trouble with conspiracy theorists is the complete refusal to believe anything but their pet theory, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary (it's pretty hard to fake a moon landing when people from countries all over the world are independently tracking the progress on their own instruments). That's when "outside" thinking slips, sprains its ankle, and falls into a dark cave, whereupon a large boulder is rolled in front of the opening.
And unlike Jesus, those ideas don't come out of the cave three days later alive and well and ready to kick butt.
(Don't stand too close to me - I'm liable to get hit by lightning.)
I am not surprised by their fanatic devotion to their particular conspiracy theory - there's great romance in being the only one who sees the truth when everyone around them is blind. Writers make use of this phenomenon all the time (most notably in horror movies, which amuses me for some obscure reason). The person who claims to know the "truth" is special - and in the realm of conspiracy theories, the person who accepts the common truth is a willing tool of an oppressive government.
(A government that is clearly a million times more effective than ours at keeping secrets, but I digress.)
I've touched on this idea before, and I think it's a valid one - some people want so badly to be special that they have to create a reality where they are the only one who knows what's really going on. They are not content with the life that they have, so they have to create a special purpose that throws them into a risky and romantic struggle with the Forces of Evil Oppression.
It's much more fun to be the misunderstood prophet crying in the wilderness than it is to be a lonely old man living in a trailer in the middle of Nevada (watch out for those secret bomb tests!) with too many cats. One scenario makes you important and clever, while the other makes you - well, a lonely old man living in a slightly radioactive Western State with the aforementioned menagerie of felines.
I'm sure the cats all meow reassuringly at him when he tells them about his latest theory.
I'm being mean, I know it. In truth, we all create a reality that puts our lives in the best possible light; there isn't a Universe, not as far as our perceptions go. Instead, there are Verses, one apiece, that revolve around our lives. We are the center of our world; it's hard (not impossible, mind you) to see life from any perspective but your own.
For instance, I have a dentist appointment this afternoon, and it's interesting to me (and probably the dental office which will be taking my money), but not many other people care at all that I will soon have a temporary crown on my third right upper molar, even though it's going to be all I can think about for a while as my tongue gets used to the new "tooth" in my mouth.
My world revolves around my senses and my thoughts; it cannot be any other way. If I think that my teeth are important, well then, they are.
The trouble happens when people erroneously think their reality impacts anyone else's. You personally may believe that the Earth is flat, men never set foot on the moon, and that aliens carried away the members of the lost Roanoke colony1, but don't expect me to believe it just because you do.
In the end, if you're the only one with the truth once or twice in a lifetime, you may be right. However, if your whole existence revolves around the fact that you're the only one with the truth and the world is against you, you're probably wrong.
Especially if the Government hasn't come for you yet. After all, they are in on the conspiracy.
1. A theory put forward this weekend by a friend. It could be true; there's no evidence that it isn't. However, in my world, they were carried off by giant bloodsucking insects, and "Croatoan" is an old Elizabethan word for "Fuck! Mosquitoes!".
Text and images copyright L. Mellin, 2000-2008, except where noted. All rights reserved.