There’s nothing particularly new about people believing in the craziest conspiracy theories. Nor is there anything novel about people being astoundingly uninformed about some of the most basic precepts of science.
Today, in the year of their lord 2022, there are appreciable numbers of people who believe, for instance, that gravity is a hoax; that the world is flat; that there is a universal cure for cancer that Big Pharma is suppressing; that the CIA and other fun-lovers are criss-crossing our skies with what we suckers think are jetliner contrails but are actually “chemtrails” — toxic, mind-altering substances being sprayed from tens of thousands of feet in the air so they will descend upon us and…, and…, oh, hell, I dunno, screw us all up in some way.
The aforementioned conspiracies are relatively recent in human history, being they’re mostly high technology-based. But for thousands of years, people have believed with all their hearts and souls that there exist individuals who can read minds, tell the future, move physical objects simply by thinking about them, and cure the sick through magic or prayer.
And, essentially since the first hour early humans were able to communicate ideas to others, there has been in almost every society, every culture, every book of laws, the guiding thought that an all-powerful being lurks about, one who created everything in existence, who listens to our anguished pleas, grooves on our adoring praises, knows the future, and regularly sentences certain reprobates to the fires of an eternal hell. This omnipotent being, I might add, is a tad forgetful: in the world’s biggest religions he has neglected to forbid things like slavery, rape, child molestation, domestic abuse, ecological plunder, and a host of other atrocities.
So, basically, we’re all full of shit. Me too, although my full-of-shitness does not encapsulate the hypotheses enumerated above.
We’ve been full of shit for all our species’ history. It didn’t just start when a certain grifting businessman decided he wanted to become the Leader of the Free World. Although, truth be told, since that incurious, proudly uninformed greed monkey took the collective mind of a huge swath of the American electorate hostage, we have elevated full-of-shittery to an art form. It is now the hallmark of most American political and social discourse.
In this century alone, we’ve seen millions of people buy into 9/11 Trutherism, Birtherism, Stop the Steal, Pizzagate, Grooming, and scads of other inanities I won’t list here because it’d depress the bejesus out of me. This entire century — this entire millennium, for pity’s sake! — kicked off with the Truther phenomenon. Even after an overwhelming preponderance of the planet’s structural engineers, demolition experts, intelligence insiders, analysts, and other appropriate brains stood on their heads to explain how the Twin Towers and other buildings collapsed, millions believed the entire 9/11 operation was an inside job. Millions may indeed still believe it was a Black Bag or False Flag or whatever in the hell else the theorists want to brand it as.
I was reminded of this today when an incident came into my mind. It occurred in the late fall or early winter of 2001. We were all still displaying our American flags (remember that?) and walking around in a state of barely-controlled panic following the coordinated attack on this country by a gang of radical theocrats. I’d gone into a currency exchange on the southeast corner of LaSalle and Chicago avenues, just north of Chicago’s Loop, to cash a check. An aside: my Indiana friends might not know what a currency exchange is because this state doesn’t allow them. Known as poor people’s banks, they are private businesses where folks can cash paychecks, pay utility bills, get payday loans and license plates and their documents stamped by a notary public, among a ton of other services.
There was a long line at the currency exchange on this particular, frigid, sunny morning. As about a dozen of us waited, two people, a man and a woman, struck up a conversation. The man took a crisp twenty-dollar bill and folded it so that the resulting image resembled the Twin Towers belching smoke. You might recall that trick. Here’s a how-to for for it.
When the man finally produced the image of the smoking towers, the woman gasped.
I must add here that the image looks like the burning, stricken World Trade Center only if you want it to. Check the links above and you’ll see what I mean. Also, I learned today that there was a five-dollar bill corollary. Folding a fin similarly produced an image of the Twin Towers unscathed.
In any case, the woman shook her head knowingly and pronounced, “There it is! That proves it was all a conspiracy!”
As if, you know, the conspirators had, months or years before the event, gotten into the design room at the United States Mint and got a willing artist to draw up origami-like pictures of the Twin Towers pre- and post-attack. Simple, right? Happens all the time.
As Julius Caesar said, People believe only what the want to believe. Or words to that effect. He actually said, Men believe…, because his belief was only thoughts originating in the minds of humans who possessed penises counted.
As I said, humans have been full of shit for all our history.