Bud Herron: Caving to conspiracy theories

By Bud Herron
For The Republic

Homo sapiens love a good conspiracy.

I am sure when the first member of our species climbed down out of a tree on the Serengeti Plains of Southern Africa or suddenly found himself in the Garden of Eden, the first thing he did was suspect foul play.

In spite of being the only Homo sapien on Earth, that first human’s first thought likely was “someone has conspired to do this to me.”

With this conclusion, the first conspiracy theory started to germinate.

Of course, a complete theory was hard to formulate at first. A one-person conspiracy theory is as hard to organize as a cat parade through a dog pound. But once more people climbed down out of the tree or a woman showed up in the garden with a talking serpent, the game was on.

All of the elements were at hand to develop conspiracy theories able to spread like omicron and intrigue the masses with implausible plausibility:

1. Informed ignorance — Homo sapiens were not dumb and someday would more or less conquer the world with their brain power. Yet wide gaps between what they knew and what they thought they knew abounded. People were often not smart enough to figure out the difference.

2. Fear — This new, ever-changing world was a bit frightening. Folks kept dying. Some just got angry and killed each other. Life seemed so unnervingly random.

3. Paranoia — One day a homo sapien hiding in his cave from a velociraptor began to analyze why the vicious raptor was out to eat him for lunch. He had never done anything to the beast. It made no sense that the velociraptor had specifically chosen him for lunch and knew exactly where he lived. The attack could not be random.

4. Enlightenment — If the attack were not random, someone must have planned and executed it. Secret plots were being carried out by secret groups to do secret things.

5. Informed truth — The man in the cave was proud to have figured out something no one else knew — velociraptor killings were being planned by someone. He felt special for the first time since his mother gave him a coonskin loin cloth for his 14th birthday. The world needed to be warned and the conspirators needed to be exposed.

6. Rejection — The man soon discovered not everyone accepted his enlightenment. Some saw him as no more than a nut hiding in his cave, writing doomsday notes on the walls. Obviously, these detractors were either too uninformed to understand or had been bought off by the conspirators themselves who were making a fortune secretly raising and training velociraptors.

7. Acceptance — While most people continued to think the man in the cave was just a nutcase, others began to join the movement to expose the “deep cave” cabal behind the velociraptor killings. Each new convert brought a few more pieces of evidence to support the conspiracy theory. Most killings took place at lunch time, seeming to confirm that someone had taught the raptors to tell time by the position of the sun.

8. Recruitment — The world needed to know about the conspiracy to avoid doom, but the task was too large for just the small fraternal lodge that had sprung up to take on the challenge. The news had to be spread to all people who asked “why” but could not figure out the answer. Lodge members began documenting their findings in pictographs on stone tablets and sharing them with others just a stone’s throw away.

9. Legitimacy — Then one day a man campaigning to be king of the cave people accidentally got hit by one of the pictograph stones. He read it and thought it was a bit ridiculous, but then realized how many additional votes he might get if he just went along. His backing would even make the group grow, adding the votes of people who would finally feel someone was working to hold down velociraptor attacks.

10. Mainstreaming — Small stone pictographs were suddenly replaced by gigantic carvings on mountain walls owned by Wooly Mammoth News (WMN). WMN said the velociraptor conspiracy is a proven fact and is endorsed by the candidate for king. Several commentators were hired by WMN to stand on the wall each night and shout further validation of the existence of the conspiracy.

I guess the rest is history.

In the words of Huckleberry Finn — a fictional character who would emerge thousands of year later — “Ain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”