The Road to Jonestown

I hate to start an article with the word “Newsmax” in it, but I’m going to hold my nose and do so anyway. I’ll start by quoting a Newsmax host with the poetically appropriate name Grant Stinchfield — to make a point. First the quote: “May I remind you, [Kamala] Harris is a woman who has yet to resign from the United States Senate in preparation for becoming Vice President and, ultimately, President, if the media gets its way? Why hasn’t she resigned yet? Because maybe, like all of us, she thinks president Trump has a shot at victory.”

Now the point. This is how pushers of conspiracy theories work. They take something completely ordinary and make it sound ominous. Stinchfield (yes, that really is his name) goes on to point out that Barack Obama resigned his seat before Thanksgiving. Cue the ominous music.

Here’s the problem. First, there isn’t a problem. Kamala Harris can resign her Senate seat any time she wants. There is no hurry. But let’s say for the sake of argument that Mr. Stinchfield’s implication is true, that there’s something unusual about her delaying so long. And here’s the real point: that part is completely false.

While it’s true that Obama resigned his Senate seat in mid November 2008, it turns out it was his resignation that was unusual. George W. Bush didn’t resign his position as governor of Texas until late December, 2000. Bill Clinton didn’t resign his Arkansas governorship until late December. Al Gore (like Joe Biden after him in 2009, like Dan Quayle before both of them) didn’t resign his Senate seat until January.

This is a common trick used by conspiracy theorists. And when whole conspiracy theories are propped up by a long, seemingly dramatic catalog of such “amazing” assertions, it becomes very difficult to penetrate believers of such theories with the truth. Even If you’re able to disprove one of them, like I just did, the True Believer ignores it, because there are so many others, and like true cultists, they are devoted to believing the theory no matter what.

In fact, their thinking goes, since there are so many other “breathtaking” revelations surrounding their theory, it doesn’t really matter if one of them is weak. Sometimes they even continue to promote the theory, even if it’s been debunked.

A case in point is the so-called “magic bullet” in the Kennedy assassination. The idea that goes that the bullet that penetrated Kennedy’s back and came out his front, took a hard turn and then another hard turn before subsequently passing through governor Connolly, has been completely debunked. It turns out the bullet followed a straight line after all, and the “magic bullet” theory was based on a complete and long misunderstanding of how the two gentlemen were sitting relative to each other. (The bullet tracks backward to the famous sixth floor window of the Book Depository Building, by the way.)

Even so, the “magic bullet” theory persists to this very day! It persists for three reasons. First, ignorance. Some proponents don’t know it’s been disproved. (“A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth has put on its shoes.”) Second, dishonesty. Some theorists know it’s been disproved but chose to hide it because it’s such a spine-tingling detail and, besides, it’s awash in so many other “stunning facts.” Third, because they don’t believe the debunk. They have come to love the magic bullet theory so much they simply can’t let go of it. So anything disproving it is ignored.

And that, to quote the title of a justly famous book, is the Road to Jonestown. When collections of stories, revelations and assertions are assembled into book form with breathless and humorless narration, you find yourself with yet another tedious tome in a long list of conspiracy best sellers. Some people love conspiracy theories, they love to read about them, they love to believe in them and there’s a huge temptation to write books about them because there’s so much money to be had.

Whenever I write about the Kennedy assassination “theory” I have to remind myself that it’s not a theory, singular, but theories, plural. There are literally thousands of them. Like I said — money.

Now, back to Mr. Stinchfield. Notice his insertion in the midst of his “stunning revelation” about Kamala Harris’ seeming reluctance to let go of her Senate seat. He also said — so insouciantly you may have missed it — that she is going to become “ultimately, President, if the media gets its way.” In other words, according to Stinchfield, the mainstream media has so deftly manipulated the American people into electing the elderly Joe Biden President of the United States in order to realize their “real” agenda, namely, making Kamala Harris President.

This is another trick of conspiracy theorists. In the midst of asserting one bit of nonsense, they use it to quietly reinforce an even bigger bit of nonsense. First of all, the mainstream media didn’t decide who Joe Biden’s running mate was going to be. Joe Biden did. And the mainstream media didn’t elect Joe Biden president of the United States. The American people did. And don’t you (or anyone else) forget it.

If anything, the mainstream media gave too much credence to Donald Trump’s illegitimate and rapacious term of office while he was in power. One even gets the feeling they would have been glad to see him get another term. It was the American people who reduced Donald Trump to one-term infamy. We weren’t about to make the same mistake twice, no matter how much face-time the media gave to the Cretin-in-Chief.

The Road to Jonestown is paved with little cobblestones of lies, propaganda, overstatements and misdirection, with a big punch bowl of Kool-Aid at the end. Whatever you do, don’t drink it. It’s always got poison in it. One hundred percent of the time. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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