9/11 was an inside job. Lady Diana was assassinated. American Idol is rigged. President Obama is a radical Muslim. NFL games are fixed. Casinos pump oxygen into the rooms to keep people awake. Five centuries ago Nostradamus predicted JFK Jr’s fatal plane crash, which was orchestrated by agents of the One World Government. Close to two dozen former associates of Bill and Hilary Clinton have died suspicious deaths.
Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with over empowered, semi-educated nit-wits, who using the power of the Internet plague us with their outlandish conspiracy theories, urban myths and ridiculous lies. My own fair city of Portland, Oregon tends to be a Mecca for many of these kind of individuals. Seems like a quarter of my local Facebook friends, as well as numerous people I’ve encountered in coffee shops, book readings and parties believe the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the Bush administration, childhood vaccines cause autism and fluoridation leads to cancer. So, after being fed up with all this nonsense who could blame me for eagerly pouncing on Richard Roeper’s 2008 book Debunked!: Conspiracy Theories, Urban Legends, and Evil Plots of the 21st Century when I stumbled across a copy during my last library trip. After effortless making my way through his breezy book in only a few days I’m thankful that I did. While Roeper’s book might not be a masterpiece, it is however smart, funny and to the point.
Even though his book doesn’t go into a lot of detail I thought Roeper did an admirable job showing that just about all conspiracy theories share at least one fatal flaw: how do you keep conspirators quiet? Even if 9/11 was an inside job or Lady Diana was assassinated, how come none of the perpetrators has gone to the press to confess? No internal memos to share? No pangs of regret? Nobody pissed off enough at their boss to leak sensitive information to the media? One would think that the more elaborate the conspiracy, the greater the number of the conspirators and therefore greater the chances eventually one of them blows the whistle.
Reading Debunked! provided a refreshing bit of sanity. If, after reading my review you end up reading Roeper’s book yourself, there’s pair of books I’d highly recommend. One is Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern HistoryWhy People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time