Then there's my own take on conspiracy theories, which is that they're 'all the fun without the work.' The idea behind that is that it's REALLY HARD to sift through all the pages of books like Terry McDermott's "Perfect Soldiers" with complete bios of all the 9/11 hijackers, or technical manuals about steel and high temperatures, but REALLY EASY to watch a movie like "Loose Change," scratch your chin in a coffeehouse and spout pseudo-intellectual babble about "Cui Bono" while citing Rosie O'Donnell and Charlie Sheen's engineering expertise, or some idea about how the U.S. government fabricated the identities of 19 men out of thin air.
But conspiracy theories never look the same from the other side. I got to spend five years on the active duty side of things with the Navy, and yes, there were a couple of those 'magic moments' where one gleans insight into how a decision was made or a result spun, and then how some in the media or other forms of chatter tried to explain it as having some greater, larger meaning than it ever really did.
In my salad days as an undergraduate, I also got to see things from the inside of a daily newspaper, where I could literally hear a decision being made about which photo to print during coverage of some rally (all the photo people ever cared about were light, contrast, the other technical aspects) and then get to hear someone's interpretation the next morning about how "they" (remember, I love the mythical 'they') must have chosen to run such-and-such a picture because it showed students of [insert political or ethnic identity].
So anyway, after voting this morning at the Masonic Center, I got a kick out of this passage from Choosing a Soundtrack today, which predicted a potential train wreck that might result from poll workers' difficulty locating streets and names in a book that lists them in alphabetical order:
i can see where this is going. somewhere towards 8pm tonight, some voter getting to the front of the check-out line is going to discover that his or her name, once his or her name can be located among the seemingly-to-the-poll-worker random lists of names and streets, will already have a check in the box beside it.
how could that possibly happen?
best practice would be rulers and lines, manned (or womanned) by people with a working knowledge of the dictionary, or, at least, alphabetical order.
Besides the humor but oh-so-true aspect of people fumbling around with the alphabet or basic organization (I just took the census worker test on Sunday, which tests those very skills, and yes, there were multiple people in the room who failed), here's the next direction that could go: Someone crying 'conspiracy' based on the 'D' or the 'R' coming after his or her name, or some other part of their identity (gender, race, religion, etc.)
I don't necessarily blame them right off the bat. If I went to vote, and someone at the poll station wrongly told me I had already voted that day, I'd be pretty upset. It's very easy though, to see the next step -- rather than just assume utter incompetence (the actual culprit), instantly get on the phone with the local media outlets, get on the Internet, contact the losing side, and scream about how there's a conspiracy going on in Massachusetts to disenfranchise [insert party or other form of identity].
People love these types of things, because a 'story' about a bogeyman, or a conspiracy, or something that's really pulling the strings and causing disorder is in some ways much more comforting than the thought of various intelligence agencies not talking to each other, or the thought that the failure on the part of our government to protect us from something already spelled out in a Tom Clancy novel could leave so many of us at risk.
Or that the kid on South Park could've dropped a deuce in the urinal just because he was in a rush and didn't want to miss recess.
Or that the Army and the Navy couldn't speak *jointly* enough to tell each other that those planes on the horizon on a sleepy Sunday morning in 1941 weren't the *other guy* doing an exercise.
Or, yes, that someone in downtown Lowell has a box checked next to his or her name, not because he or she already voted, but because a little old lady wearing white tennis shoes needs refresher training on ABC order or a new prescription for her eyeglasses.
But c'mon, is that really possible? Compared to the bogeyman, that just seems like a letdown..