And bad news is all around us. We have wars that have dragged on for years, we have an economy that is sputtering at best and we are constantly reminded that many of our leaders have moral shortcomings.
No one shoots the messenger over anything like this.
But when the subject concerns facts about government involvement in criminal activities, the reaction of much of the public and the media is perhaps even worse: the messenger gets ridiculed.
Recently, Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Nation brought 9/11 Commission member John Farmer on his show to discuss his new book. Right away, Colbert asked in a facetious tone whether there are any conspiracy theories in the book, like "Dick Cheney as a flight attendant." Predictably, Farmer assured Colbert that there were no such theories.
Oliver Stone's 1991 movie JFK, which supports conspiracy theory in the John Kennedy assassination, was attacked by media critics before it even came out. This response contrasts sharply with the admiration the media gave the Warren Report and its support of the official lone gunman theory. Many of the critics did not actually read the report.
When I discuss the assassination of Robert Kennedy, I frequently mention facts such as an audiotape of the event that indicates that thirteen shots were fired, five more than the number of bullets in convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan's gun. I also point out that Sirhan was never seen within two feet of Kennedy, whereas the coroner said the fatal shot was fired at point-blank range. Eyes start to roll and I am called a "conspiracy nut."
The typical response I get in giving factual support for conspiracy theory is for people to give the benefit of every possible doubt to the official (non-conspiracy) theory. "Sure, I hear what you say, but the audiotape and eyewitnesses could have been wrong."
There is nothing wrong with speculation and exploring alternate hypothesis. This is frequently how theories get started. But those who use speculation (such as thirteen mistaken eyewitnesses) to prove a theory only succeed in keeping their view viable in their own minds. If people could be convicted of crimes based on this way of thinking, we'd all be in jail!
Does anyone believe our government never does anything wrong? I doubt it. The blind eye that many turn as to the facts of events like 9/11 likely stems from the refusal to confront the horror of something that has power over us.
As one who supports certain conspiracy theories, I never recommend forming any conclusion until one has accounted for all relevant facts. And therein lies the problem: critics of anything that smacks of conspiracy decline to consider or counter the message. They shoot the messenger (and any chance of a reasonable discussion) instead.