by Jim Powers
I rarely drink alcohol, not because I’m opposed to folks drinking alcohol, but because I don’t like the taste of alcoholic drinks. If you want to ruin good grape juice, ferment it. As a result of that dislike of alcohol, you will rarely find me hanging out in bars…unless there’s a good live band.
And, coincidentally, one of my top 10 favorite songs is James Taylor’s “Bartenders Blues.” Even though George Jones’ cover of the song is the most popular (George Jones and drinking just seem to go together), I’ve always preferred Taylor’s own version best. The chorus to the song goes like this:
But I need four walls around me, to hold my life
To Keep me from going astray
And a honkytonk angel, to hold me tight
To Keep me from slipping away
Minus the honkytonk angel, this chorus is the anthem of my life. I’m happiest when I have clearly defined structure in my life. I’ve chosen careers that involve structure and deadlines. For me, it makes life simpler and less confusing. The fewer choices I must make, the more time I can devote to creating and innovating.
While that kind of structure is clearly not for everyone, I find that most people don’t thrive on constant drama. We don’t want uncertainty. And we generally like simple solutions to complex problems. That’s a problem, though, because few things in life are simple.
A lot of what happens to us in life happens randomly, suddenly, without warning and we are uncomfortable with that randomness. We want to find a reason for everything that happens. We want to blame someone or something for our bad luck or pain. We want four walls that force everything into a box we can understand. And if there is no answer, only randomness, we are susceptible to grasping at any answer that resolves our uncertainty, whether it has any basis in reality. Too often, folks choose conspiracy theories to resolve the uncertainty.
There are numerous new conspiracy theories launched every day in modern times. So, I’ll use two examples from videos I saw last week to illustrate this.
Tucker Carlson highlighted on his show on Fox News a couple of recent accidents at food processing plants, expanded that to a dozen accidents over a longer period, and posited that these weren’t just accidents, but a conspiracy by the Biden administration to create chaos in the food processing industry. He offered no evidence that would support that conclusion.
The other was a video on a right-wing talk show where the gentlemen was saying unequivocally that the Covid vaccines cause AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), all concocted by (pick one) Anthony Fauci, the Chinese, the Democrats, etc.
Carlson, in advancing his conspiracy theory, failed to note that these dozen incidents he pointed out occurred over several years, or that there are 25,000 food processing plants in the United States. Accidents happen regularly in every large industry, so there is nothing sinister in the fact that they happen. In this case, this is a simple answer to these incidents; but, that answer didn’t fit into his agenda.
As for the guy promoting the Covid Vaccine causing AIDS conspiracy theory, he offered no explanation for the fact that 220 million Americans are fully vaccinated, yet there has been no new outbreak of AIDS in the U.S. Again, this bogus theory is easily debunked, but the facts don’t fit his agenda.
Some conspiracies are real. People get together and conspire to commit crimes. And if law enforcement can develop the evidence to prove they conspired to commit a crime, they are prosecuted. But Carlson’s theory and the vaccines cause AIDS theory are fact free. And that’s the point I want to make in this column.
When anyone suggests to you that there is a conspiracy afoot, don’t just accept what they are telling you. Demand that they prove it. Ask them for verifiable facts. And then follow up and see if you can find multiple sources for the “facts” they offer you. If they can’t provide these facts, then ignore what they are saying. If a conspiracy is so deeply hidden that even supporting facts are not available, then how does the teller know about it?
Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy, has said, dozens of times with absolute conviction, that he has facts, voting machines, etc. that prove the 2020 election was fraudulently stolen from Donald Trump. He has repeatedly organized events where he said he would lay all those facts out, yet he has failed to do so. Almost every week lately he has promised a new release of those “facts,” yet he has never produced them. He has billion-dollar libel lawsuits against him for making false statements about several companies involved in the election. The absolute defense against libel is the truth. Yet, even with his own fortune on the line, he fails to produce facts.
Trump’s lawyers lost 60 court cases alleging the 2020 election was fraudulent because they failed to offer any evidence when the cases got before a judge.
What’s the common thread with all these Conspiracy Theories? They are all fact free. Facts are alleged, but never produced. A theory must be backed up with facts, or it is just pie in the sky, by and by.