Sound like another silly conspiracy theory…? Oh, they come sillier than this. The point is not how silly but how often they bubble up in our country’s paranoid history. Going all the way back.
JFK was not the first president whose life was threatened. As far back as Andrew Jackson in the 1830s there were conspiracy theories about Southern slaveholder undergrounds trying to eliminate him. The Masons and the Vatican were also recurring favorites for our conspiracy theorists. Along with other president’s like Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and of course JFK. The historian Richard Hofstadter put it this way: “Buffeted in a world of seeming chaos, the fearful often find a perverse comfort in conspiracies, for they at least seem to say there is some order in our world after all.”
National traumas like Pearl Harbor, Dallas and 9/11 all fit that description, and so there continues to be endless theories about the vile, secret conspiracies behind them. In a recent ABC News poll, 70% of Americans interviewed still believe there was a conspiracy to Kennedy’s assassination, and 36% believe Americans were involved in the 9/11 attacks. Among the “conspirators” dotting our history we have the ever popular: Jewish Cabal, International Bankers, munitions makers, communists and terrorists.
Granted, profiling some of these groups as conspirators is not entirely illogical. However, one of our better journalists, Walter Lippmann, wrote this advice many years ago: “The crowds that drift with all the winds that blow are caught up in the great hurricanes….these masses without roots are the chaos in which the new Caesars are born.”
From hysterics like Father Coughlin, Orson Wells, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, right up to today’s incendiary basement bloggers, there is never any lack of conspiracy theories. And those feverish minds that mold them. What there is a lack of is an informed national citizenry who can think calmly, reason carefully, and reach the right conclusions.
The embarrassing fact that we lack such a citizenry has to make us wonder if we will ever get this democracy thing right….
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