An Observation, Updated Fridays
by Mike Czaplinski, Noted Crackpot
I love conspriacies.
Whether it's something as simple as your parents discussing ways of breaking it to you that your Dad accidentally ran over the sleeping cat in the driveway or something as world spanning as Majestic-12 colluding with the Council on Foreign Relations to allow Greys to farm genetic materials from Whitney Streiber, they appeal to the part of me that enjoyed hip 60's spy movies, where all the terrorist masterminds had exclusively female accomplices who wore Rudy Gernrich swimsuits and danced the froog to twangy canned guitar music.
Even though they've been around at least since mankind developed language (I doubt that would have been possible for two cavemen to plan a heist with vocabulary consisting solely of grunts....then again, there are certain mob families that have been quite successful, so perhaps I am off base), it is only recently that they've acquired not only a certain cachet, but downright respectability. The commercial success of the X-FILES is only the tip of the iceberg. The incessant speculation about just what happened at Roswell back in '47 has spawned a Congressional investigation, forgetting for a moment the conspiratorial legacy of men like Richard Nixon, the Iran-Contra junta and even the allegations of backroom dealings by a certain sitting US President.
Because I love conspriacy theories so much, I've spent some time considering the underlying cause of mankinds penchant for seeing conspiracies under every rock. And I think I've found the answer.
Let me caution anyone before I go forward that I hold a degree in Psychology from Rutgers University. Don't try this at home, and be sure to avoid operating heavy machinery for at least an hour after reading the following few paragraphs.
The human brain is a multi-function tool. It slices, dices, makes Julienne fries and can do just about anything else you can think of and quite a lot you'd never think of (like, for example, go to see a Pauly Shore movie). But even for all of its infinite mutability, there are a few things it does very, very well.
One of these things is pattern recognition. The very architecture of the brain means that we do not think in logical sequence. For every neuron that fires while we are working out a simple logical sylogism, many tens of others are also kicked into a veritable rolling boil that can pop up all sorts of unwanted and extraneous information. One minute you're calculating the amortization of the mortgage for your dream home, then for no readily apparent reason you picture Anna Nicole Smith, Diana Rigg and Nikki Cox beckoning to you from a hot tub.
(At least, I do. That reminds me: I need to vacuum my apartment.)
It is possible to train yourself to ignore this noise, but you can never stop it. The most creative of us don't even try to ignore it: they set up mental turbines whose blades are turned by the churning activity, generating masterpieces like the Sistine Chapel or The Desiderata.
But, you don't have to be a Mozart or an Arthur Miller to demonstrate this. All you need to do is look at a dense field of small dark dots on a white background. At first, when your conscious mind is still controlling your eye muscles, you see just a bunch of dots. But, keep staring at it. In short order, your subconscious will take over, and you will start to see writhing patterns dance across the field. Your conscious mind is telling you "That's just an illusion", but those patterns are there all the same.
I believe this process of reflexive pattern matching is the root of our fascination, as a culture anyway, with conspiracies. The brain is an equal-opportunity processor of that most elusive and most valuable of commodites, information. It doesn't matter to the brain whether or not that information is visual or auditory or written or whatever: at it's most basic levels, the rolling boil of the synapses is ALWAYS trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
I present to you a completely unscientific and personal example of this phenomena, drawn from the recent headlines:
Item 1: Recently, a new all-news cable TV network began operation. A joint effort (hereafter referred to as TUNN, "The Upstart News Network") by a former newsmedia powerhouse threatened by the growth of other all news, all the time cable TV channels joined forces with an upstart computer software company lead by a noted egomaniac with an almost pathological level of competitiveness, whom my Samoan lawyers advise me I should call Mr. X.
Item 2: Within a couple of days, there is a mysterious explosion over the ocean off the coast of a very long island off the eastern seaboard of the United States that takes 235 lives. TUNN provides stellar coverage of the story, rivalling (or even eclipsing in some cases) the established News Cable channel (referred to hereafter as ENCC).
Item 3: A week after that, there is an explosion during a free concert at the Summer Olympics, literally in the back yard of the headquarters of said ENCC, and once again TUNN gives excellent marathon coverage of the developments.
Faced with these three incidents, I came briefly to a seeminly obvious conclusion: Items 2 and 3 were planned in some way by Mr. X to give TUNN a chance to shine in the eyes of the world.
(Hmm. I wonder if Nikki Cox even likes hot tubs? Or hot carmel bikinis?)
For a brief instant, it made SENSE! Mr. X's history of prevarication in the name of profitability; his bravado in berating and baiting his competitors, especially if those competitors were established and competant, as ENCC is; the too-convenient appearance of TUNN on the scene of the tragedies; his utter lack of independent creativity by going into a market already dominated by ENCC with a watered-down half-breed attempt to rule the cable TV information market the way he thinks he dominates the computer information market.
It all made SENSE! Why was I the only one who saw this?
It was then that my rigorous scientific training took hold-
(Scratch that: I have no rigorous scientific training. My degree is in Psychology, which when you get down to it is simply the practice of tribal medicine overlaid with some statistical math. And I got a "D" in statistics.)
It was then that my rational mind-
(Better. Or at least slightly less inaccurate)
-took over and I realized that I had made a terrible but classic error in judgement: I mistook coincidence for cause and effect. And I did it because the wiring in my brain told it was right.
I think this is the same process that led some anonymous credulous US Army Air Force officer to claim that a flying saucer had crashed in the desert outside Roswell, New Mexico, when a field of mysterious wreckage was discovered at the height of the first UFO flap of modern times. He had no way of knowing that the USAAF had at least two research programmes going on in the general vicinity (one was a rocket test programme at White Sands, the other was the Moghul Project which was testing ultra-high altitute balloons as a means of surveillance against enemy powers) that could conceivably have been the source of the wreckage.
Of course, the rockets being tested at White Sands may not have had the range to reach the area where the wreckage was supposedly found. And the declassified records of Project Moghul do not show any balloon being launched in the time period that the wreckage was found.
What's my point? Only that it's easy to see conspiracies in every little burp and jiggle of our odd, odd world.
Perhaps that's why they may be more common than we'll ever know.
Oh, and did I mention that Demi Moore was BORN in Roswell, New Mexico?
And if you've seen her with that shaved head...
But, I can't say any more. You never know who's reading this.
As always, if you want to send me email, the address is email@example.com, especially if you're Nikki Cox and you like hot tubs and hot carmel bikinis. If you're the NSA or MJ-12, then feel free to drop by for a visit some night. You know the address.
Copyright ©1996 Mike Czaplinski
No matter what my e-mail address may say, I don't speak for NCR, and the fact that I'm compelled to say so is a sad, sad commentary on the lack of common sense prevalent in our overly litigious society. Nyah.