Sunday, October 10, 2010

It’s All Fun And Games Until Someone Gets Elected To Congress

A lot of people are paying attention to Dana Milbank’s column about conspiracy theorists finding succor in Glenn Beck. The guy Milbank focuses on is currently in jail after going on a shooting spree with police. His intended targets were employees of the Tides Foundation, to which Beck has devoted hours of fearmongering.

Welcome to post-9/11 America, Mr. Milbank. What took you so long?

Milbank’s lack of self-awareness is astonishing. Our mainstream media has created these heroes of the right -- Beck was foisted on the nation to a large extent by CNN, remember? So it’s a little too late to complain that there are crazy people running the asylum. Y’all are the ones who handed them the keys.

Anyway, I linked to it last month but the definitive word on media culpability was penned by author Rick Perlstein in an excellent New York Times piece prompted by the Terry Jones affair.

There are lots of conspiracy theories out there, and it’s interesting to see which ones gain traction among our power elite and which ones do not. My favorite is the one about how Mark David Chapman didn't shoot John Lennon, author Stephen King did.

I first heard about it when the guy who cooked it up called in to a liberal talk show -- it might have been Thom Hartmann. The radio host hung up on him, but not before the guy could get the URL onto the airwaves. Apparently Stephen King has been harassed by this guy for years.

It’s crazy shit and yet, no one has launched a Congressional inquiry into this. It’s immediately written off as not credible. Yet conspiracy theories about the Clintons killing dozens of people including Vincent Foster or President Obama’s birth certificate get serious attention. It's all fun and games until someone gets elected to Congress and then suddenly this wacko conspiracy shit becomes public policy.

The left has its own conspiracy theories - and no, I’m not talking about the 9/11 Truth movement. That is one conspiracy theory which appears to be truly bi-partisan. I know plenty of people both right and left who cling to the belief that the government was somehow involved in 9/11, beyond just basic negligence. Let's remember: this conspiracy theory started on the far right, the anti-Semitic neo-Nazi nutjobs who claim no Jews were killed on 9/11 because they got the heads up.

Lefty conspiracy theories include Bohemian Grove, which is a real place and a real retreat for the nation’s really wealthy and powerful. The conspiracy part is that they all get together to decide who the next president will be -- hey, how else to explain how we got saddled with a dufus like George W. Bush, amiright?

We’re still waiting for the Congressional inquiry into that one.

Why do right wing conspiracy theories gain traction in the culture while left wing ones do not? Maybe because liberals don't send crazy people like Michelle Bachmann to Congress to spout their crackpot ideas about FEMA camps, perhaps? In the unlikely event that Christine O'Donnell wins a seat in the Senate, is she going to launch an investigation into those mice with fully-functioning human brains?

I repeat: it's all fun and games until someone gets elected to Congress.