Monday, 19 August 2013

You just have to love

conspiracy theories, or perhaps not.
I note there is a new one about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. I am sure she would be bemused rather than amused by it. She has been "murdered by MI6". She was "pregnant". She "faked her own death and is living in luxury in a hideaway". She is "still alive but in a coma". She is "still alive but so badly injured that "they" do not want us to see her". I could go on. The latest one apparently makes more claims about murder. It has apparently been made by an unstable individual who has been in trouble with the law. Enough said.   
Of course the claim has generated inordinate amounts of publicity without any thought for the effect that it might have on her family. The media has no interest in that, not if it sells news.
I have an acquaintance who loves conspiracy theories. He believes them. It's a quirk of his personality. If you try to argue with him he will give you all sorts of whacky reasons as to why you are wrong. I haven't tested him on the latest theory about Princess Diana yet but he is sure to mention it and I can guess the sort of arguments he will come up with as to why it will be proof positive of, well proof of something.
He still believes there was a love affair between President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe and that "those letters" prove it. That the letters were written on a model of typewriter not built until after Kennedy's death is beside the point. "They are  just saying that."
That the letters contained post codes, or zip codes as the Americans call them, is beside the point. "They put those in to fool you."
And how many people type their love letters? "Well they would if they didn't want anyone else to know they were having an affair."
I once made the mistake of jokingly suggesting that the Princess had gone to live with the King (Elvis) and he took this seriously. It was, he declared, a possibility.  Since then I have been very careful about what I have said to him. You don't joke about the news. He takes it as being literally true even when it is obvious it cannot be.
The odd thing is that he is not a fool. He is an otherwise intelligent person. He can look at a practical sort of problem and have it sorted in no time. His solutions are often ingenious. For some reason however tell him something he would like to believe about someone who is rich or famous and he is likely to believe it.

And surely most other people are not fools either but we still get regaled with urban myths and conspiracy theories and lurid details about the improbable and fictionalised private lives of the rich and famous. So why do we want to believe these stories? Is it because the reality is dull? Do we need to believe the untrue? What's the difference between that sort of "news" and another piece of fiction which does not purport to be news?

Of course the internet just makes it easier than ever to spread these sort of stories. We don't have to wait months for a sailing ship from England to land in Australia. The news won't come as a letter written in copperplate handwriting with a pen dipped in an inkwell. All you need to do now is hit some computer keys.
The "send" button on e-mail really needs to be used with more care.  Does that count for blog posts too? Oh, I think I'll hit "publish" today.

No comments: