I love a good conspiracy theory movie. No, I don’t mean “The DaVinci Code”. After all, I did specify “good” movie. No, I’m writing about “National Treasure”, where (basically) Nicolas Cage steals the Declaration of Independence to continue a series of clues (don’t worry, he gives it back) to find a fantastic treasure. Literally fantastic, most people in the film figure Cage’s character (“Benjamin Franklin Gates”) is imagining the treasure. Cage manages to outwit the villain, win the girl, find the treasure and basically give it away to the world at large by the time the end credits roll. The premise is as faulty as John Kerry’s Cambodia Adventure recollections, but the action rolls along, and Cage is a superb actor in this genre, so the film works well as entertainment.
Naturally though, I found myself revisiting various conspiracy theories, starting with the Freemasons. Wow, there are a lot of people blaming things on them! One site I found actually claimed that every single war ever fought since the time of Christ was begun by the Freemasons. The sheer number of conspiracy sites, and the fevered pitch of their believers, struck me as strangely reminiscent of certain political sites, which also were possessed of the most irrational opinions.
It’s a lot of fun, actually, coming up with conspiracy theories. First off, you get to feel intellectually superior to other people; I note that a lot of conspiracy theorists are none too kind in their opinion of the average person’s intelligence. Also, you get to play ‘hero’ in your fantasy – the theorists always like to portray themselves as brave and intrepid trailblazers to the Truth, even when all they are doing is repeating a rumor someone else started. And best of all, you get to hate – theorists always get a good hate on, usually blaming someone in an elected position either for ‘hiding the truth’ is they can’t be shown to be active in the conspiracy itself.
Now, some readers who have read my work for a while might point out that I actually hold certain conspiracies as true myself. That’s part of what makes the deal work for the fanatics. A certain percentage of the claims will turn out to be true, though not quite as they are claimed and not quite to the nefarious degree that their adherents pretend. For instance, it should be obvious that there really was a conspiracy on 9/11 - it’s just disappointing for the theorists to discover that the conspirators in actual fact were bin Ladan, Atta, and that gang, rather than the U.S. Government. It should be obvious that there was a conspiracy behind the Cold War – the Communists launched a long-term campaign to destabilize the West, through espionage and active disinformation programs. The problem for the conspiracy theorists, of course, is that the truth is not spicy enough, and so they choose to blame more prominent and upstanding targets. A good example is Bill Clinton. I know, I know, the guy had his share of serious moral conflicts, to phrase it as delicately as I can, but do you remember all the totally whacked-out theories, like Clinton murdering Vince Foster or having Ron Brown killed? And then, of course, there were all those “Millenium” theories, about how Clinton would set up martial law using the Millenium Bug as an excuse. I mean, in retrospect it is easy to see how silly those theories were, but in their day they had a lot of people talking. And it is not hard at all to imagine how theorists would find a way to blame 9/11 and the War on Terrorism on George W. Bush.