It has been over a decade since the 9/11 attacks. Still, one-third of Americans still believe it was somehow an inside job.
What surprises me the most about conspiracy theories is how vocal some celebrities are on the matter.
My favorite was Charlie Sheen’s take on the subject when he made a heartfelt plea for President Obama to reopen the case and investigate 9/11 again. It says a lot when this belief is piled on along with all of Sheen’s other erratic behaviors, yet it has not brought an end to his career.
From fame to infamy, celebrity status is not quite something people can vote on anymore. In this age of reality TV, for better or for worse, we don’t get to pick who is famous. Their fame is thrust upon them, and they in turn are thrust upon us.
How do we end conspiracy mongering when we are unable to make an example out of its most high-profile enablers?
It’s when I heard about the “birth certificate” scandal that the solution to ending conspiracy theories dawned on me.
The key is in the publicly elected officials. Last spring, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio had one of his deputies go to Hawaii — paid for with taxpayer dollars — to investigate Obama’s birth certificate.
Upon return, the sheriff’s office investigated the evidence and proceeded to release videos detailing their belief that the president’s birth certificate is a fake. To be fair, he insisted that private donors would ultimately recompense the tax dollars spent on this “investigation.”
Still, it is going too far to include tax dollars in ventures like these.
I was ready to start making the popcorn. Here we had two political titans going toe to toe: Sheriff Joe and President Obama.
They couldn’t both be right. One of them had to be a fraud. Either Arpaio was wasting tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on a cheap political stunt, or the president had a forged government document, knowingly or unknowingly playing in his favor. One of them had to fall.
Nothing. The whole thing just fizzled away.
Like a wounded animal, the birth certificate conspiracy was allowed to limp onward in hopes of regaining strength and finding new converts for its pack.
I don’t mean to sound violent, but in conflicts like these, there needs to be political bloodshed. Public examples need to be made by humiliation.
It is not enough for someone to write a snarky rebuttal from behind their computer screen. The evidence has to be examined and refuted, point by point, and the conspiracy theorists’ enablers have to be held accountable by name.
Making a household name of a publicly elected figure driven from office by the minute details of his or her failed theories is the only way to remove the theory itself.
Reach the columnist at email@example.com or follow him at @coltongavin
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