Filler: Shape-shifting reptilians and other conspiracy theories
There's a question missing from a list of queries pollsters recently spewed at their subjects that should be part of every survey: "When your attempts to catch up on DVRed episodes of 'Swamp People' and 'Finding Bigfoot' are interrupted by calls from pollsters, do you gleefully lie to them?"
I'm hoping the answer to that question for some meaningful percentage of the populace is yes. I find that more comforting than the idea that 4 percent of Americans -- or more than 12 million of my nation-neighbors -- think "shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our societies," as a recent survey by Public Policy Polling reported.
The survey, released Tuesday, asked respondents for their take on a series of topics from the traditional tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracies ("Do you believe media or the government adds secret mind-controlling technology to television broadcast signals?") to some cutting-edge whackdoodleism, like the lizard-overlord theory, about which one more thought: In addition to the 4 percent who believe Nancy Pelosi and/or John Boehner are Komodo dragons with opposable thumbs, 7 percent of those polled answered "not sure." Really? It doesn't feel like the kind of issue that allows for fence-sitting. Commit!!
Do you need more evidence that folks are covering the receiver and yelling, "Honey, pick up on the other line! I'm about to skew the entire world's perception of Americans"? The responses in the 34-page report are broken down by the age, ethnicity and political predilections of those questioned. When asked whether they believe President Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, 13 percent said yes. That gave me pause until I realized 5 percent of the respondents claimed they voted for Obama and believe he is the anti-Christ.
So this pro-anti-Christ cohort is what, 5 percent of the nation? If that were true, we would be seeing more "End Times=Good Times" T-shirts and "It's Time We Put the Hell Back in Hello" bumper stickers promoting the movement.
There was also something insidious about the survey. Along with the question "Do you believe Paul McCartney actually died in a car crash in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike so the Beatles could continue?" it mixed in far more mainstream stuff: Is global warming a hoax? Do vaccines cause autism? Did President George W. Bush purposely mislead the nation about the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to promote the Iraq War?
Bush may not have purposely misled the nation on WMDs (I'd call it stubborn and willful, not intentional), but I don't think the 44 percent of respondents who believe he did should really be considered "conspiracy theorists." They're just . . . theorists.
Why would Public Policy Polling try to muddy the conspiracy waters by grouping the crazily crackpot theories with the merely cynical? Jim Williams, a polling analyst with the company, told me they had to throw in some semi-serious questions to get people to answer seriously. When I scoffed and accused him and his company of being in on the huge mind-bending conspiracy that is secretly controlling every aspect of our being, he said, "You know, we get a lot of emails and phone calls from people who believe exactly that."
Think about it. If "a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order," as 28 percent of respondents said, wouldn't controlling the pollsters be an important part of that vast conspiracy?
The beauty of all top-notch conspiracy theories is that they can defeat any argument with the answer, "They're all in on it." In fact, anyone who believes in such things will likely think I, as a member of the mainstream media, am just another actor in the vast mirage that is reality.
I swear it isn't true, but I do so knowing you can see my picture, and my resemblance to a shape-shifting reptilian overlord isn't doing much to convince you.
Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.