Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Romances and Conspiracies

Many years ago, I dated a girl who was addicted to Harlequin Romance novels. Seriously, there was an entire wall of them in her dorm room, and it was from these books that she got all her ideas of what relationships should be like.

Needless to say, we are no longer together.

While those books may be entertaining, they’re not realistic. They set up the reader who believes that they are to expect something they’re never gonna get, and puts the poor guy who dates the reader in a position where he can never live up to those unrealistic expectations.

And because they’re perfectly scripted, with not a stray word to be found; nothing happens that doesn’t advance the plot…unlike real life, where things happen for no reason all the time.

And…if the guy has the nerve to tell her that those books are unrealistic, well then, that’s just proof to her that he’s not trying hard enough, and isn’t good enough for her.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with those books if you read them for what they are…entertaining fluff. But to base your expectations of real life on what you’ve read there…well, that makes as much sense as me basing my life on Superman comic books.

Which brings me to the disturbing number of people out there who seem to believe the most whacked-out conspiracy theories. I couldn’t understand it at first. Why were these people so drawn to theories that, to my mind, defied logic and common sense? Why were they so willing to believe theories that required huge amounts of mental gymnastics to think had even a shred of plausibility?

And then, as I considered popular culture, I thought about the number of books, movies, and TV shows that are built around some conspiracy or another. Some conspiracy that makes perfect sense because the writers set everything up to work out that way…just like in the romance novels.

Now don’t ask me to give you a laundry list of examples, because those books, movies, and TV shows just aren’t my style. But suffice it to say that as far as I’m concerned, stories in which some great national, global, or even galactic, conspiracy is an underlying premise of the plot are to politics what Harlequin Romances are to relationships…entertaining fluff, but not necessarily indicative of how things are in the real world.

OK, yes, I’ll grant you that every now and then things work out in real life like things do in one of those romance novels; and every now and then you will find conspiracies of one sort of another. But…to believe in many of those conspiracies requires believing that the government is much smarter than it really is and runs much more smoothly than it really does.

My point is that if you consume a steady diet of novels, movies, and TV shows that feature huge conspiracies, you’re going to tend to start seeing them in real life…just like the person who reads tons of medical books and magazines, and is then convinced that they have every disease they’ve ever read about.

At least that was how I saw things until a friend of mine showed me an article that presented a different point of view. This article, Why Trump Supporters Are So Susceptible to Conspiracy Theories, basically says that many conspiracy theories come from people who can’t believe that their side, the right side, the side that should’ve prevailed, actually lost. They can’t accept that the other side was better, was better organized, or was more popular; and that they lost fair and square. If they lost, then the balls were tampered with, the refs were biased, and the election was rigged.

But once again, this speaks to the fact that some people just can’t bring themselves to believe that strange coincidences happen all the time in real life. That sometimes tragedies come about not by deliberate planning, but by institutional ineptness and miscommunication. It’s much easier for some people to construct a story line that connects the dots to create a conspiracy than it is to believe that seven or eight things went wrong at the same time…even though the latter happens all the time.

Quite frankly, when all is said and done, it’s like this: The truth is out there…but it’s more benign and boring than you want to believe it is.

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