Hyperbole and Mass Distraction
Posted by PintofStout on October 12, 2006
As I sit and watch South Park tonight I see something I feel needs addressed. The new episode tonight talks of conspiracy theories about 9-11 (and someone dropping a deuce in a urinal). The approach which, apparently, spans all of mainstream America as well as some mostly-free thinkers fawned upon by Libertarians with celebrity worship issues is to focus on and target the most sensational of the theories. In both this South Park episode and a Penn & Teller: Bullshit episode about conspiracy theories (as well as countless treatments in the mainstream media), the most extreme and far-fetched conspiracy theories are presented, ridiculed and refuted while anything remotely plausible gets lumped in through the use of the strategic words “conspiracy theory.”
Ironically, both shows made the point that the government is too inept and powerless to pull off such deeds as some theories attribute to them (conspiracy anyone?). Government ineptitude is a given, but can’t there be directed, purposeful ineptitude? Sure, there are people who want nothing more than to destroy our country. When you’re the international asshole bully, you’ll have enemies, and if Hollywood is any kind of lesson, bullies always get theirs in the end. But why were all the warnings ignored? Why is the public blatantly and constantly lied to? Why don’t people care?
Much like the constitution that established it, the government either willfully allowed the events to happen or were powerless to stop it. One thing that the far-fetched conspiracies do, and may be why they get so much attention, is make the government see more powerful than it actually is. South Park pointed out as much in the midst of a funny episode with more plot twists than a contortionist at a hard-boiled detective convention.
The intent of the show is to entertain, and it does. But some people probably read too much into these episodes. The biggest problem isn’t in the brief analysis I gave it, but in the nonchalance with which the passive viewer can associate anything labeled as a conspiracy theory as completely bogus and hatched by paranoid geeks on the internet. Even giving lip service to these fantastic theories justs adds to the noise through which the truth must be deciphered . Not that there may not be a sliver of truth in all of them, but to bring the most radical to the forefront gives them undeserved attention at the expense of other more plausible theories.
Hyperbole and the generalization of one’s enemy is a common tactic; when one can’t be proven guilty, one can be proven guilty by association. For instance, when one half of the Demublican party associates the entire other half of being an immoral pervert who’s drunk on power on account of the one guy…maybe that’s a bad example. In the past, the libertarian movement, in and out of the political arena, have been associated with various conspiracy theorists, cults, and the extremes of the movement by political opponents and the media, and as a result the entire movement was/is marginalized. This is an effective tactic, and whether or notSouth Park or Bullshit were intentionally trying to marginalize reasonable doubt is irrelevant after they have passively done so.