conspiracyI love a good conspiracy theory, and fortunately for me, this country generates a boundless supply of them: Obama isn’t an American citizen, NASA faked the moon landings, Elvis is still alive and living in Area 51, and of course, Michael Jackson faked his own death. In fairness, the last one doesn’t really qualify as a true conspiracy theory, because the Weekly World News prudently put a question mark at the end of “Michael Jackson faked his own death?” Asking the rhetorical question introduces just enough doubt to make it a conspiracy hypothesis than a theory. Conspiracy theorists  appreciate the subtle difference. The rest of us don’t.  I’m not being an elitist, here. Conspiracies are great fun. Anything is possible, nothing is too improbable, and there are always people gullible enough to give the most bizarre ideas traction.

Conspiracy theorists share some common beliefs: nothing is as it seems, nothing happens randomly, there are dark forces too clever for us to detect, and the lack of evidence of the conspirators is proof of their evil cunning. Conspiracy theorists are adept at seeing connections between events that escape the rest of us.  Conspiracy theorists feel sorry for us mere mortals who are too blind to see the Truth. Conspiracy theorists know that the simplest, most likely explanations for an event are never true because that’s what they want you to believe.

Conspiracies that end with someone’s death (JFK, Elvis, Michael Jackson) are especially fun because the principal isn’t alive to refute them, so nothing is too incredible. When you have someone like Elvis and Jackson who had “issues,” then the conspiracies take on the extra quality of tragic victimization. Elvis was a victim of his manager, Michael was the victim of money-hungry parents who made their children lie in court, JFK was a victim of the Mafia and Fidel Castro.  Whole media entertainment groups have sprung up around these beliefs.

To the true believer, there’s never enough evidence to disprove a conspiracy and the absence of evidence is compelling proof of the conspiracy’s existence. To those who still have a shred of rationality, conspiracy theories induce eye-rolling laughter and a fervent hope that these crazy people don’t live next door. Well, they do.

And they’re watching you.