If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a billion times: the Internet is simultaneously the greatest and worst thing to ever happen to humanity. It opened the floodgates of information, allowing people to connect with each other around the world and break free from their tiny cultural bubbles. But alas, that flood of info is primarily comprised of bullshit.
I recently came across a bit by Jim Jefferies (my current favorite comedian and the closest thing we have to a Carlin these days) where he sat down with five conspiracy theorists. The results are hilariously predictable.
What always strikes me with these loony halfwits is the willful lack of critical thought. I understand that it’s difficult to battle the immense tidal wave of bullshit hitting us on a daily basis, and I understand that distrust of institution can leave you mentally unbound, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of brain power to identify total rubbish. There is a gulf of difference between the distrust of extreme political groups with shady agendas (rational), and distrust of NASA (wholly irrational). With all possible scenarios on the table, there is one shining piece of evidence that seems to evade every single conspiracy theorist.
I present to thee, Exhibit A: humans are stupid.
For the most part, we are dumb mammals that are barely out of the jungle. Sure, there are a few of us who create and discover things that make life easier for the rest of us (these kindly folk are called scientists), but the overwhelming majority of human beings are rife with bias and primed to accept extraordinary explanations that are entirely detached from reality. In other words, we want to believe that there is more than meets the eye, because the rational explanation is all-too-often dissatisfying.
Take the moon landing for instance. Deniers often cite the fact that we haven’t returned as credible evidence for the batshit crazy notion that we never went. It’s titillating to think that we faked the entire thing to beat the Russians and that NASA is colluding to cover it up. It plays out like a thrilling movie. But, nevermind the fact that manned space missions are super expensive and the government has slashed NASA’s budget over the years. That’s a simple and rational explanation, just not a sexy one. Also, the conspiracy theory shows a complete disregard for what NASA has achieved, things like, I don’t know, the HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE! Or if that’s not sexy enough, how about sending spacecrafts to survey Pluto and land on asteroids?
But anyway, back to the stupid. The human desire to believe fantastical nonsense is embedded in our DNA (look no further than religion). We like to think that powerful people are capable of constructing elaborate conspiracies that implicate entire nations. But, we fail to recognize one key constraint: the humans themselves. Your average world leader is great at spinning bullshit to get themselves elected, but I wouldn’t trust any one of them to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Hell, Donald Trump is one of the most powerful people on the planet, yet he speaks at a third grade level and has the social graces of a pubescent boy. The reality is, most people just aren’t that smart. We are profoundly fallible, often to a hilarious degree.
In closing, I will leave you with one of my favorite George Carlin quotes: “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” For the sake of all that is good and sane, stop giving people credit they don’t deserve. The next time you come across some tantalizing conspiracy theory, do yourself a favor: accept the simplest explanation and move on with your life. There are no lizard people, we landed on the moon, and the Denver Airport is just that … a goddamn airport.