Topic: Decline of the West
Former Democratic Congressperson Cynthia McKinney, who is, hilariously, this year's Green Party presidential candidate, has accused the Department of Defense and the Louisiana Army National Guard of murdering some 5,000 prisoners in the days following Hurricane Katrina. The white devils who run Louisiana evidently took advantage of post-Katrina chaos to clean out the state's correctional system. Each prisoner is said to have been shot in the back of the head. The bodies were supposedly dumped into one of Louisiana's numerous swamps.
Two questions arise in connection with McKinney's charge. (1) Does she believe it? (2) Does anybody else believe it? I think that the answer in both cases is no.
It would be bad enough if the nation's conspiracy theorists—and their name is Legion, for they are many—actually believe their assorted fairy tales. But suppose they don't? In a way, that would be worse. Take Cynthia McKinney. She has no evidence to back up her story, nor does she seem interested in obtaining any. She has simply chosen to believe it.
It's possible, I suppose, to construct a scenario in which troops of the National Guard execute thousands of unarmed civilians. During World War II, few people in America and Britain could bring themselves to believe that the Nazis were actually bent on the physical extermination of European Jewry. Persecution, yes. Brutality, most certainly. But genocide? The mind boggled. Yet that was precisely what the Nazis were doing. Given the tragic history of the last century, prudence demands that even the most implausible charge of this kind be given a fair hearing.
Even so, most such stories have absolutely no basis in fact. The most that one can say of some of them is that they have a tenuous basis in reality. For example, while it is not true that the US government deliberately infected black men with syphilis in order to study the disease, it is true that they left a small number of previously infected black men untreated for the same reason.
But mostly (the Moon landings were faked, the CIA sold crack to inner-city blacks, etc., etc.) conspiracy theories are woven of whole cloth, and those who profess to believe them are completely uninterested in such inconvenient realities as a total lack of evidence. They cling to their fairy tales because fairy tales make them feel good. Large numbers of black Americans, for example, pretend to believe that the US government invented AIDS to kill off black people. They know it isn't true, but it's a convenient untruth. It buttresses an ideology of failure that lets black Americans blame their discontents and disappointments on anyone but themselves. Cynthia McKinney is simply providing them with another bedtime story.