The Latest Conspiracy Theory…

…being encouraged and promoted at kook sites like 1 Peter 5 is that Pope Francis is having the dubia cardinals rubbed out.

It occasioned a reflection on my view of most conspiracy theories over at the Catholic Weekly. Here’s a taste. By the way, the captions on the photos they picked killed me.

I have a congenital allergy. I am allergic to conspiracy theories.

Oh, to be sure, they are great fun as premises for yarns, tales, and stories. I’m working on a novel right now that is a wildly crazy tale which, in real life, would be dismissed as a conspiracy theory in a heartbeat. Give me an elaborate piece of fiction involving body swapping, immortals, aliens, Nazis tunnelling under your house, and occult forces and I am happy as a clam. Everybody loves a good yarn.

But in real life: I want some good hard evidence, not a loopy tangle of “what ifs” and “suppose this!” and ridiculous connections between remote points of data.

Not that conspiracies never happen. As the result of an eighth grade history project, I know more than any normal person should ever know about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Way more. Like “what is wrong with that guy” more. I will not bore you with the precise type of gun John Wilkes Booth used (a single shot Derringer), nor trouble you with the precise line of dialogue spoken in Our American Cousin for which Booth waited so that the roar of the audience would drown out the shot (“You sockdologizing old man trap!”). Nor will I bother to overwhelm you with the name of the doctor (Leale) who pronounced Lincoln’s wound mortal.

Rather, I will simply point out that the murder was, in fact, a conspiracy—and that the conspiracy was exposed almost instantly and we know every detail of it. The conspirators, Booth, Lewis Paine, George Atzerodt, David Herold, and the unfortunate Mary Surratt (who was likely innocent) were all captured lickety split and all were hanged within three months. (John Surratt escaped). Same with Caesar. Everybody knew who did it. Same with the greatest conspiracy in the history of the world: the Holocaust. We know whodunnit. The Nazis kept thorough records. Real conspiracies get uncovered because bad people have a habit of ratting each other out.

US President John F Kennedy and Pope Paul VI, no doubt plotting nefariously. PHOTO: AP

Oh yeah? says an interlocutor, what about the conspiracy to kill JFK?

Yeah. About that. There was no conspiracy. What happened was that an angry loser with some Marine Corps marksman training snuck a rifle into work, perched himself into an easy position for creating a kill zone, and shot the president of the United States. I’ve seen the place. It’s an easy shot. I could have done it no problem. And all the ballistics tests ever done show that this is exactly what happened. Then he ran away, went home, got a gun, and when a cop stopped him, he shot him to death in front of a bunch of witnesses and ran into a theatre, where they arrested him. A couple of days later, in a supreme American and Texan moment of vigilante gun nuttery, an angry citizen patriot decided to gun him down in a scene from a hundred American westerns. There is no evidence for anything beyond that. And one of the best proofs of that, paradoxically, is that there are hundreds of conflicting and contradicting theories which eliminate each other and leave us with the humdrum conclusion that Oswald and Ruby both acted alone.

But, but …

Note, gentle reader, the eagerness to find more dots to connect than really exist. Thereby hangs a tale.

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