A Fish Called Oswald: A Donald By Any Other Name

“Jump!” says a fish to the other fish. When some actually do they’re carried off by hawks. You can’t trust everyone in a school. There’s also the adage: “fish stink from the head” but that’s a story for another day.

The problem, such as it is (it’s more than a problem really) has to do with failing to distinguish the difference between impulses and facts.

For a start, the eyes are deceiving. The sun sure looks like it orbits the earth. The famous “Zapruder Film” certainly appears to demonstrate Kennedy was killed by multiple people. “Jump,” says the conspiracy fish, and fishes leap.

You know all this. Why should we entertain the matter? Well for one thing, hordes of Mexicans are not crossing America’s borders and raping people. JFK was really killed by a single psychotic man who was given every opportunity to be a good citizen both in the United States and the Soviet Union. Only Cuba had sufficient sense to reject him.

We feel things and imagine they must be true. Bigots are especially prone to feelings. Trump’s supporters believe everything The Donald says—that President Obama was born in a hut in Kenya, that Mexicans are murdering Americans in droves, that Muslims are a threat to our very survival. Since none of these things are true let’s think about conspiracy theories for—oh, about one minute.

All conspiracy theories rely on the truth being uninteresting. Donald Trump could conceivably run a campaign about serious economic ideas but of course that’s not captivating. In point of fact he has no interest in fixing anything about the American economy. It’s better if you can get the easily misled to jump. And easier.

I remember as a college sophomore in the mid 1970’s sitting up late and arguing with a guy in my dorm who “knew” that JFK was killed by Lyndon Johnson. He talked about “the Yankee-Cowboy Theory” as I recall, and nothing I said about ballistics, fingerprints, forensics, and the ugliness of reality had any impact on him. That was my introduction to conspiracy and pathos as a way of life.

That’s of course “the thing”—belief in conspiracy depends on feelings—unexamined, fact-proof, and always self-serving. Let’s say for the sake of argument your life sucks. You feel it. It’s a daily struggle you have. Everything is wrong, even under your skin. It must be a force beyond you. They stole Camelot, killed the music, swiped your Mojo.

No one would say, “well Lee Harvey Oswald ruined my American fantasy,” since Oswald isn’t a coercive impetus, a strength, a force. Even if you have almost no critical thinking skills you can’t blame a lone nut for your misery. But if there’s a cabal, a secret society, an invasive horde, well then, you’re in good shape Sonny! You’ve been victimized! You’re not at fault if you believe America died on November 22, 1963 or your life has been destroyed because dark skinned foreigners do the jobs you and your children won’t do. If you’re miserable it has to be the product of someone else’s design. And there must be several conspirators, thousands, perhaps millions who are involved. How do you keep the fact that Barack Obama is a Muslim from Kenya hidden from the decent people of America? Millions are complicit. Don’t you see it? The sun orbits the earth. JFK was killed by his own driver. “Jump!” says The Donald.

The facts are of course touted by conspiracy nuts. My wife has been following a woman on Facebook who insists that if only those of us who distrust Trump would just watch a certain video, the smoke would be washed away, we’d see the truth, that The Donald is a messiah.

Trump’s supporters are wholly addicted to conspiratorial misery. Bigotry grows in such environments—I don’t think it always precedes the conspiratorial mindset…that is, you don’t have to distrust people of color or other minorities to hate yourself. But then, ah, how easy it becomes. You’re not a shifty little undistinguished ex-army corporal who couldn’t get into art school—you’re the purveyor of dark facts.