Present with the president: How to debunk conspiracies
It’s March 1999. My friend, let’s call him “Conspiracy Joe,” is leaning against my kitchen counter regaling me with tales of conspiracy, complicity and general high-level wrongdoing. There are the secret prison camps underneath the Denver International Airport, of course. The fluoridated water meant to keep us all docile. The microchip implant program. And since Y2K is around the corner, there’s plenty of talk of computer failures, impending martial law and the need to buy lots of dried garbanzo beans. Joe then goes on to mention something that his personal conspiracy source told him regarding President Clinton’s recent visit to Aspen. According to Joe’s “Conspiracy Deep Throat,” Clinton was in the middle of a Democratic Party fund-raising speech in Aspen when Hunter S. Thompson came fishtailing up the gravel road, slid to a stop, jumped out of his convertible and handed a fax to the president saying that Jordan’s King Hussein had just died. In light of this news, the president was whisked away to somewhere else. This isn’t strictly conspiratorial, but Joe seemed to find it worth mentioning. It was in the news that Clinton was in Aspen, and that he had to leave because of King Hussein’s death, but the interesting part – the part about Hunter Thompson, who lived just down the road from where Clinton was speaking – that never got reported. Just another example of the public not getting the truth about what REALLY happened. A conspiracy of information, if you will.One of my all-time favorite tales of Conspiracy Joe’s is that of a friend (of a friend) who saw an unmarked truck full of road signs that read, “ROAD CLOSED DUE TO MARTIAL LAW.” Now, sure, I can assume that this is an urban legend – certainly a simple “ROAD CLOSED” sign would suffice, even during martial law – but how can I really know? I mean, I wasn’t there, right? I didn’t actually not see these signs with my own two eyes. And that’s what I find so frustrating about Joe’s information. It’s interesting, if kooky, stuff that I’ll just never know the truth about, because I wasn’t there.This is why, as Joe finished the story of Hunter delivering a fax to Clinton, my eyes lit up. Interesting story. May have happened, right? And unless you were with the president the entire time, how could you really be sure?And, as it happened, on that very day, at that very place, I was with the president the entire time.No, I’m not kidding, or even exaggerating. I WAS WITH THE PRESIDENT THE ENTIRE TIME!President Clinton was indeed in Aspen, raising funds, and did, in fact, leave early because King Hussein had died. But the good Doctor Thompson never came racing up the road, fax in hand. And I know this for certain because I was there working as an AV Guy! Yes, I was the guy in charge of the PA system through which Uncle Bill solicited funds to the gathered Democrats. I saw him get out of his limo, walk up and make a speech, thank everyone for their money, apologize that he had to leave early due to King Hussein’s death, get back in the limo and drive away, taking all the Secret Service with him, meaning that I was finally able to sneak a bagel from the brunch buffet.The president never left my sight.Pretty uneventful. Actually, beautifully uneventful. Gloriously uneventful! And I know because I WAS THERE.When Joe finished, I stood up. I cleared my throat. I savored the moment, because I knew that I would never, ever get to honestly say this again. “I was with the president the entire time,” I announced, then went on to triumphantly explain it all to him.He looked disappointed. If his conspiracy source couldn’t even get that story right, what other lies had he been fed? No secret prison camps? No Y2K? No microchip implants? This was horrible news. Joe’s world was crumbling around him, and this brought my victory dance to a halt. I suddenly felt bad.”But,” I lied, “as they were leaving, one of the Secret Service agents dropped an envelope with ‘Martial Law Countdown’ written on it. He picked it up real fast. I’ve been meaning to tell you that.”Who am I to let facts get in the way of Joe’s happiness?Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at http://www.Irrelativity.com
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