For some reason, many people like to believe things that, to many other people, seem to be utter nonsense. Now, I’m not trying to be judgmental, but the sheer number of conspiracy theories that are floating around are staggering.
John Grisham’s latest novel has to do with a very complex conspiracy theory. Grisham has more novels on summer-reading-lists than most authors. He cranks out spellbinding novels at an amazing rate. I’ve read most of them, and like many best-selling authors, his novels are page-turners. His specialty are intriguing novels having to do with all aspects of the legal profession.
Grisham’s latest novel, “The Rooster Bar,” has to do with four young law students who are ready to start their final semester of law school when they realize that the massive amount of student debt they accumulated during law school will make it impossible for them to have a normal career or a normal life.
One of the four students, during a manic phase of his mental illness, came up with a very convoluted conspiracy theory that shows how an evil, wealthy person has control of several for-profit law schools (including theirs) and runs those schools just to get control of the student’s debt. At first glance his whacky theory seems to be too weird to be real, but, in the course of reading the novel, it is found to be absolutely true. Unlike most conspiracy theories, the one Grisham made up to fit his latest novel… could possibly be true.
In reality, conspiracy theories are rarely true and they have been around forever.
Even in the New Testament, after the death and burial of Christ, the Roman rulers were afraid that the followers of Christ would conspire to steal his body. Then they would claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, as he claimed he would. The Pharisees feared that this would prove that Jesus was the Messiah.
To prevent this, as described in Matthew 27 verse 64, the Pharisees requested that Pilate, “Command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So, they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.”
The Pharisees were concerned that a huge conspiracy would develop, and that Christ would be declared the Messiah, without coming back from the dead. Speaking as a Christian, it was perfect that it happened this way. Rather than just having the word of the disciples that Christ arose from the dead, they now had the Roman soldiers to verify it. In doing this, the Pharisees prevented what could have been viewed as a conspiracy. The resurrection could be proven, not just based on the words of the disciples, but also by the actions of the Roman guards.
It doesn’t take much to get a full-blown conspiracy rolling. Any major historical event will bring out a fair-share of nut-cases that will use the event to develop a conspiracy.
Almost immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attack, some people were claiming the attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon were actually staged by the Bush administration, so they could justify the invasion of Iraq and the wide-spread war on terrorism that started under President Bush.
That’s just nuts.
Almost immediately following the assassination of President Kennedy, the conspiracy theories grew like well-watered corn in June. According to many polls, over 60 percent of Americans believe that Oswald did not act alone. According to many Americans, there were so many questions left unanswered, so many loose ends left exposed, that when piled together, it only took a slight spark to have a full-fledged flame of conspiracy. Obviously, those flames are still burning today.
Recently, in Fairbanks, Alaska, a radio station spent an evening discussing a report that four hunters had shot Big Foot. Very few people argued that it couldn’t happen, because Big Foot doesn’t exist. Most people argued the ethics of shooting such a rare beast. People also believe in the Loch Ness Monster, little green men at Wright-Patterson AFB and that a race of lizard people, disguised as humans, who are running the world.
Did Neil Armstrong walk on the moon? Was President Obama an American citizen? Did the holocaust really happen? Is the FDA blocking the discovery of a cure for cancer? Is there a special powder that can be mixed with water that will power your car?
Real life can be whacky enough. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into any whacky conspiracy theory.
If you do, Big Foot might just track you down and make fun of you.
Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.