Those who refuse to read about conspiracy theories, dismissing them as the warped hallucinations of the stupid, may be unaware of how swiftly they can metastasize. For example, it's now clear that when people tire of their old stories about Unidentified Flying Objects, they don't fall silent. They just invent new stories.
Martin Kottmeyer, a student of this fantasy world, has explained that UFOs stimulated an "evolving system of paranoia," which developed far beyond its origins in Cold War weaponry to embrace New Age narcissism and health obsessions. Now it's possible to believe your bodily imperfections result from alien abductions.
Myth-making has become increasingly promiscuous. The Skeptical Inquirer magazine recently reported that a dentist named Len Horowitz, speaking at the UFO Congress in Nevada, explained in a single lecture that murals in the Denver airport covertly reveal the building's structure to terrorists, that it's necessary to harmonize your DNA with health tips concealed in the Bible, that cancer can be cured by drinking "sacred geometric water," and that Webster's dictionary contains encrypted historical revelations, Noah Webster having been a Mason. Horowitz also revealed that the "numerological value" of the letter X is 6, as is that of the letter O, so that playing tic-tac-toe fills the board with "666," well known as the Sign of the Beast. Who knew?
Horowitz obviously hopes to become an omniconspiracist, the go-to guy for people who want an explanation for any damn thing. His Canadian equivalent is Nelson Thall, 53-year-old heir to a chunk of the Toronto Star and former host of a local Toronto radio show, Cloak and Dagger. He lost that show in 2004 because (Thall says) George W. Bush told Paul Martin it had to be shut down. Now Thall offers his opinions on a Web site, cloakanddagger.de, the "de" standing for Deutsch. (He chose a German Internet server to elude the National Security Agency's scrutiny.)
When I first met him, a few years ago, he mentioned casually that the assassination of Princess Diana was part of a plot involving the CIA. On Thursday he updated his narrative. He now says she had to be murdered because she was a blood relative of the Stuart kings, therefore a threat to the Windsors.
On his site my favourite item is an interview he conducted with Greg Hallett, author of Hitler Was A British Agent. Thall explained to me, in a how-could-you-not-know-this tone, that Hitler was a Rothschild, though born illegitimately, and that he was trained by the British for his role in history.
While North American conspiracists continue to astound us with their creativity, a challenge to their work has recently appeared in Tehran. Hasan Bolkhari, PhD in Islamic philosophy, university professor and cultural advisor to the Iranian government, has provided nothing less than an explanation for the Tom and Jerry cartoons. And he's done it in a way that combines anti-Semitism with a spectacular level of ignorance.
At a recent film seminar on Iranian TV, Bolkhari said the cartoons were devised in the 1930s, when Jews were often called (Bolkhari says) "dirty mice." Tom and Jerry was created, he said, as a way to give mice a better image. The man responsible for this propaganda was "the Jew Walt Disney."
In the translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Bolkhari advises studying the cartoons: "The mouse is very clever and smart. Everything he does is so cute. He kicks the poor cat's ass. Yet this cruelty does not make you despise the mouse. He looks so nice...." This might appear a circuitous way to oppose anti-Semitism, but that would only confirm Bolkhari's claim that Jews operate in a clandestine manner.
Brilliant and original as it is, the Bolkhari Thesis has certain factual problems. Actually, Disney didn't make the Tom and Jerry cartoons. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera did, at MGM. Also, Disney was not a Jew. Furthermore, some commentators (such as his biographer, Richard Schickel) have suggested that Disney may have been an anti-Semite himself. So Bolkhari has everything upside down. But why let facts stand in the way of ingenious theory?
Among all his mistakes, Bolkhari included (I assume by accident) one that could be dangerous. He sprayed around the usual business about Jews hoarding money and suggested that may have motivated Hitler's anti-Semitism. Then, Bolkhari said, "the extensive propaganda about the crematoria began... Some of this is true. We do not deny all of it."
Considering that the President of Iran has made it his business to deny that the Holocaust happened, that last sentence could cast further doubt on Bolkhari's other theories and perhaps even end a promising career in professional mendacity.