By MARC MCDONALD
Years ago, conspiracy theories were usually only embraced by wacky people who were beyond the fringe. But after five years of George W. Bush in the White House, some conspiracies don't seem that wacky after all.
In a way, this reminds me of Conspiracy Theory, a 1997 film in which Mel Gibson portrayed Jerry Fletcher, a paranoid cab driver who is consumed with dark visions of shadowy CIA plots and black helicopters.
Although initially no one takes Fletcher seriously, as the film progresses, we learn that Gibson's character isn't really crazy after all. The wild conspiracies that he's constantly rambling on about turn out to be true.
I think a similar situation exists in the real world today. Even before the 9/11 attacks launched a thousand conspiracy theories, the Bush White House was already operating in the sort of shadowy nether world that's always been a hallmark of this administration. It's the sort of secrecy that's long fueled conspiracy theories.
Until recently, I was never that big a proponent of conspiracy theories. It seemed to me that the simplest explanation was always likely to be the truth and that a mundane explanation was more plausible than a complex conspiracy.
However, with Bush in the White House, I've come to the opposite conclusion over the past few years. These days, the most plausible explanation IS a conspiracy.
Take for example the event that put Bush in the White House in the first place: the highly disputed 2000 election. To this day, there is still a great deal that is unanswered about this election. A lot of people continue to believe that there was a GOP conspiracy to steal the vote. And the 2004 election was even more controversial and shrouded in mystery.
Although the mainstream media never took an in-depth look at the unanswered questions surrounding the 2004 election, a number of notable books have examined it, including Mark Crispin Miller's just-released Fooled Again. The book examines a number of factors in the election that will warm the heart of any conspiracy buff. These include voter disenfranchisement, mysterious computer glitches and exit poll discrepancies.
To me, the scariest part of the 2004 election isn't the possibility that the Bush people stole it. It's the fact that the media refuses to examine this possibility. After all, this indicates a conspiracy on a much more grand scale than simply a corrupt administration trying to steal votes.
Conventional wisdom has long been that conspiracies on a vast scale are generally implausible, simply because they're too complex to successfully pull off. However, in the aftermath of the Judith Miller/New York Times case, it's become clear that no conspiracy involving the media in this country is too far out to be implausible.
At one time, America's once-credible mainstream media itself made the idea of grand conspiracies implausible. But in the past few years, the U.S. media's credibility has crumbled. No serious person these days believes that a conspiracy is unlikely simply because it hasn't been reported by the mainstream U.S. media.
Because it holds few press conferences and operates in shadowy secrecy, the Bush White House has spawned many conspiracy theories in recent years. Given the corrupt nature of this administration, a lot of conspiracy theories are frighteningly plausible. During a previous era in our nation's history, we could have depended on the media to act as a watchdog. But those days are over. Indeed, Big Media's eerie silence itself seems to give credence to even some of the wildest conspiracy theories these days.