Recently, I wrote about Glenn Beck and his awful treatment of a Saudi injured in the Boston Marathon bombing. I wrote that piece the night after they caught the two brothers who were, in all likelihood, responsible for the terrible violence that played out for days on our television and computer screens. You can find that here. I assumed, as has happened before, that Glenn Beck would slink away, and never mention this particular story again. After all, there are tons of potential conspiracy theories to choose from and nobody knows as well as Beck does that you have to keep up with the current news cycle.
That all changed when I woke up the day my article was published and found that Glenn Beck was once again in the news. Sometimes, things don’t go as I imagine they will (go figure).
Instead of, as I predicted, Glenn Beck simply ignoring his erroneous reporting, he decided to double down. In an impassioned monologue on his radio program (watch above), Beck states that he and his “investigators” have uncovered a lot of troubling details about the Saudi national (which he insists on referring to as “the Saudi national once considered a person of interest” because why not). Beck seems to have found evidence that he is a “bad, bad, bad man”. Then, Beck starts to cry because why not. At length, Beck demands that the U.S. Government release the information they have on this “once considered person of interest” or, gasp, he will TODAY.
Which he is running with on his radio program and website as I write this. Apparently, the Saudi, who he decided was a part of the terrorist plot, is now NOT being investigated by the government in connection to the terrorist plot. DUN DUN DUN. If that doesn’t sound very scary, obviously you haven’t entered into this from the lens of Glenn Beck’s irrational, racist fears. It doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility that in the hours after the bombing the investigators would look into a foreign Arab, that after all, what we have been told for a decade a terrorist will look like. It is also unsurprising that after no evidence is found for his guilt that the government would stop looking into him and attempt to damage control about having looked into him in the first place (it makes us look a bit prejudiced, I’d say).
But this is how conspiracy theories go. If memes are like genes, then conspiracy theories are like viruses. They are persistent, fast moving and hard to kill. For someone like Glenn Beck who already assumes a government cover up, any fact can be used to confirm that theory. The Saudi is being deported? He must be a terrorist. He isn’t being deported? The government is protecting him. Suddenly, things such as files classifying him as not a suspect become suspect. I can imagine Glenn Beck sitting in a darkened room, running his eyes over pages and pages of documents trying to find links to his theory. It’s the equivalent of middle schoolers playing with an Ouija board, spooking themselves. You’re pushing it, no you are!
One of humanities greatest assets is our ability to detect patterns. It’s so important, that we actually get a psychological benefit from the act of finding patterns. If you’ve done a crossword, a word scramble, or played a video game recently you are experiencing the effect of your brain being high on pattern recognition (if you did this on 4/20 you may just been high, though). Do any of you like music? Wow, all of you? That’s so cool, me too. Well guess what, we are enjoying patterns. A beat is a pattern. Did you hear that latest pattern by Dr. Dre? That pattern was sick!
So clearly, humans love patterns but that can also lead us astray. If we start finding meaning when there is none (think “shapes in the clouds”) we begin to go too far and risk losing an accurate view of our environment. This can lead mothers to ban their kids listening to Led Zeppelin due to the tenuous idea that playing their tracks backward reveals hidden satanic messages. It can also lead to Glenn Beck publicly demonizing a young man because his preconceived biases have betrayed his pattern detecting brain into thinking there is meaning when there is none.
Of course, it is always possible that Glenn Beck is right and he has stumbled upon a vast cover up that reaches the highest levels of government but it doesn’t seem likely. Firstly, if the type of shadow networks existed that Glenn Beck thinks existed, and if their power was as absolute as Glenn Beck thinks it is, then Glenn Beck would have been silenced long ago. He knows TOO MUCH! In reality we are living with a government that is cumbersome, unwieldy and ineffectual. We can see that just by looking at how pathetic it is when trying to accomplish even simple tasks. It doesn’t appear to be the ALL POWERFUL ALL CONTROLLING juggernaut that its detractors claim it to be.
Unless….unless that’s what they want us to think… WAKE UP SHEEPLE!
EDIT: Stumbled across a great article about recent conspiracies and why we should not pay them any mind. Check it out: http://thedailybanter.com/2013/04/why-people-believe-conspiracy-theories-and-why-you-shouldnt/