At the risk of paraphrasing both Oprah Winfrey and Donald Rumsfeld, I begin with an admission my detractors will love, largely because — like me — they not only might not know much about much and, more importantly, might not know what they don’t know. I, for instance, think I know what I know, but I’m not as certain about it as I might have been five or 10 years ago. In fact, we’re all (most of us, anyway) in the same boat information-wise, whether or not we enjoy each other’s company.
What prompted this examination began about a week or so ago when I was taken to the woodshed for suggesting mass shootings in the United States exceed those in other “civilized” countries. I should have said “industrialized” countries. Someone pointed out we’re actually well down the list of places with rampant gun violence. He was correct and I was chastened, momentarily anyway, until I checked the numbers.
We are indeed 28th on the list, discussed recently on NPR; however, the winners in the violence sweepstakes include places like Afghanistan, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and several others with either weak or non-existent governments; no discernible security apparatus; and a couple actually at war. He was technically correct, but based on my interpretation of the facts, my premise remained unchanged. It reminded me we’re at a tipping point regarding what constitutes a fact and why each of us might believe the things we do.
Information, both accurate and inaccurate, comes at us rapid fire from every direction through a vast variety of devices, espousing a number of different points of view. And increasingly, it arrives via conspiracy theories, some obviously absurd — the Newtown school shooting was faked; others some find more believable — someone murdered Jeffery Epstein.
Although there were few mourners when the serial pedophile was found dangling lifeless in his federal cell and at this point, it’s unlikely anything beyond negligence played a role, we all probably thought — at least for a second or two — that Epstein’s untimely demise was pretty damned convenient for anyone implicated in his sordid life. Speculation grew. Rumors flew. And within that fertile context, a conspiracy theory sprung to life, so ridiculous that only a complete dunderhead would take it seriously or share it with anyone else.
Enter, the dunderhead. Via twitter, a conservative commentator, Terrance K. Williams, alleged without evidence it was the Clintons who were responsible for Epstein’s death. Before you could say “Holy Vince Foster,” the most powerful dunderhead in the world, our own national humiliation, devoured the tweet and disgorged it upon the Twitterverse, sharing the lunacy with his myopic horde of followers.
As if tweeting nonsense weren’t enough, after criticism, he doubled down ... sort of ... took credit, justified it and then said it wasn’t him, essentially suggesting yes, no, maybe, possibly and never, all spanning a couple of mangled sentences: “The retweet — which is what it was, it was a retweet — was from somebody that is a very respected conservative pundit. So I think it was fine ... that was from him, not from me ... he was a big Trump fan ... has a lot of followers ... Attorney General Barr wants to investigate ... Clinton was on the plane 27 or 28 times ... I don’t know if he went to the island” ... but if he did ...
Considering this circus rode into town on Kelly Anne Conway’s “alternative facts” express, thundering past honesty, accuracy and truth on its way toward an event horizon from which no light can escape, it’s unsurprising our increasing sense of darkness cannot simply be rationalized as the end of summer. Although I abstain from social media of all types, I still manage to “learn” things that quite frequently are not even things, but are so outlandish their sheer lack of credibility gets them an inordinate amount of attention. Which is exactly what they hope to accomplish. Evidently, outlandish works for some folks.
Since no former Epstein colleagues emerged saying “Too bad about Jeff,” suspicions peaked in conspiracy circles, enabling the Alex Joneses of the world to ask the obvious: who would want Epstein dead? No CSI investigation was necessary to discover the answer might be “who wouldn’t?” spawning myriad fever dream “theories,” rounding up the usual suspects and joining the pantheon of monuments to imbecility revered by the far right.
A small sampling: Obama was born in Kenya; Ted Cruz’s dad was in on the JFK assassination; and climate change is a hoax — all endorsed by Individual No. 1. Obama again — the antichrist who wants to impose Sharia law on America; Darwin — who took it all back the day he died; The Clintons redux — you name it, child pornography, murder, cocaine distribution and cannibalism....perpetuated by people who claim a first-name basis with Jesus.
True believers are apparently pretty easy to convince, as long as whatever they wind up believing reinforces whatever they already believe: Comedienne Sarah Silverman is “A God-hating whore who must die” ... God sent Katrina to New Orleans because it’s a “gay city” ... (no comment of all those Bible Belt tornadoes) ... and birth control pills turn a woman’s uterus into a grave, littered with tiny, fully formed corpses: all from self-proclaimed “Christians.”
You get the idea.
I truly don’t know what to believe anymore. Next thing we’re apt to hear is that the Dunderhead wants to buy Greenland ... ha ha ha ... but we’re too smart to fall for something that stupid.
Walt Amses lives in North Calais.