Just throw an idea out there, no matter how crazy, and in today’s world people - sometimes a surprising number of them - will buy it. As a friend used to say, “I can teach it round or I can teach it flat.”
And that was before the internet made it much easier.
Elvis is alive living in Paraguay, or is it Hitler who lives there and Elvis in a secret room in Graceland where he subsists on peanut butter and banana sandwiches? Lyndon Johnson was part of the conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy, having cut a deal with Fidel Castro and the Mob. The moon landing was a fake, and how about this one: Hillary Clinton was running a child sex slave operation out of a pizza parlor in Washington?
But the winner of the most detestable theory: The Sandy Hook massacre of 20 children was a hoax.
All these conspiracy theories and dozens more have been given credence at one time or another and snapped up by TV news looking for ratings among the nut cakes that populate more of the earth than one might imagine.
Now because everyone is connected to everyone else through the insidious marvels of the information highway, instant gratification with all the “real” news is never far from our reach, 24-7. One doesn’t have to wait for the “fake” news of the mainstream media, which even enhances the world of make believe by interviewing the theorists about their most preposterous claims, thereby giving them even more credibility.
It makes seers and stars out of persons who, if they truly believe their own babble, belong in one of those ominous places that studded the landscape before the Supreme Court turned loose the inmates to talk to themselves on street corners. In fact, one might do as well to head for a park, overpass, or downtown street to find an interview subject. It would be cheaper.
Just be careful not to touch the grocery cart full of precious possessions. One of them might be a portrait of Donald Trump.
The excuse for giving Alex Jones - one of the purveyors of the Sandy Hook hoax theory - any airtime is to reveal to the vast network audience just how deeply into banana-land he is.
Exposing him is the right thing to do, or is it? Truth is that such revelations often add followers. Saying outrageous things appeals to true believers, especially if the one doing so has the attention of a president. The White House even gave Jones’ website, infowars.com, a day press pass and Trump has praised Jones’ “amazing reputation.”
Therefore, it might be considerably better to stay as far away as possible from not only those who spread their conspiracies but those who subscribe to them, unless in either case one happens to be president of the United States and then one might want to consider taking some other action.
An expert on fable construction once explained in detail just how he could take the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and connect it to that of John Kennedy 100 years later. While it was among the more convoluted of theories, it made sense in a diabolic way.
And, of course, that is the problem. They all share some weird similarities. So, giving exposure to them is exceedingly dangerous. It might prompt someone to fire a gun in a restaurant, which is what happened at the Washington pizza place that was linked to the bogus child sex ring, or desecrate the memory of little children who were victims of a monstrous event like Sandy Hook.
Also, American presidents are vulnerable enough to questionable influence without listening to the whisperings of those who would delude them further. Being a friend of Alex Jones or those like him is not a great idea, Mr. Trump.
And, Megyn Kelly, giving Jones a platform larger than the one he already has isn’t any better, even under the guise of public service.
Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers.