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Spook Juice for the Conspiracy-Minded

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My perception of reality has been shaped, in part, by a near transcendent fascination with odd "coincidences," juicy cover-ups, furtive conspiracies, and mind-boggling mysteries. You know, the kind that stretch way beyond the often easy-to-debunk urban legends. I have vivid memories of being so thoroughly captivated, at age nine, by the mysterious and still-unexplained disappearance of Joan Risch that I established my own unofficial, one-kid search for the Lincoln, Massachusetts housewife. I spent a more than a week engaging in a Keystone Cops-like search for clues to her disappearance -- in fields, back alleys and abandoned buildings of my Boston neighborhood over 25 miles away!

Not long after that insouciant hapless misadventure, the barrage of endless unanswered questions surrounding that infamous riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, aka, the
JFK assassination, helped further germinate this nascent seed of interest in events that arouse intrigue.

Sure enough, I soon found myself drawn into an irresistible vortex of interest in UFOs. An interest that intensified considerably after reading author John Fuller's unearthly account of Betty and Barney Hill's "Incident At Exeter" alien abduction experience. My UFO fascination reached dramatic new heights -- literally -- after a personal "close encounter" that summer with what I still believe was an object of extraterrestrial origin hovering over a nearby housing development. (I know: a housing development instead of, say, a power line? Who knows? Perhaps apartments were scarce on Zeta Reticuli that year.)

In any case, my sighting went down during the summer of 1965, a period marked by a flurry of UFO reports and one that oddly coincided -- in an eerie "X-Files" kind of way -- with the pre-911 Mother of all Mysteries: the great
Northeast Power Blackout. This was followed three years later by a breathtaking surge of sinister conspiracy theories, conjured up like moody apparitions in the wake of the Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations.

Apparently, after being captivated by this seemingly endless materializing of mystery-shrouded events, all transpiring during a brief six-year span of my young life, a sort of caliginous uncertainty crept into my perception of reality. A submerged, steadily fermenting wellspring of insecure skepticism about how my perception was being shaped by an unpalatable diet of "official" answers to deliciously unsavory questions. Answers that seemed increasingly difficult to digest. Answers, that in fact, channeled into even more questions. Questions about what is genuine; what is synthetic; and what may just be a simple coincidence.

For me, the perception/reality conundrum has again resurfaced, in part, due to the on-going global financial crisis -- itself fodder for endless conspiracy theories -- but mainly as a result of my stumbling across an item about a conspiracy involving the theft by our government several years ago, of a highly valuable software product for use in so-called "off-the-shelf" clandestine activities by our intelligence operatives and to be sold on the black market to regimes around the world, both friendly and unfriendly.

It is fairly well understood that cyberspace is overwhelmed by a broad and dynamic spectrum of
conspiracy theories linked to secret societies, the paranormal, geographical locations, religion, blood feuds, extraterrestrials, the occult, and anything else an imaginative mind can conjure. Not surprisingly, a fair number of these tales, like the software theft, involve elements from within the U.S. government or more specifically, the Central Intelligence Agency. You name it, somehow, the CIA, aka, "Criminals In Action" are in some way, a part of it. The words or phrases that many observers consistently find woven into many CIA-based plots include, "Octopus," "Illuminati" and "New World Order."

These conspiracies, both CIA-based and others, run the gamut from colorfully comical, (were you aware of the CIA connection to the
Monica Lewinsky scandal?); to disturbingly absurd (a plan to rid the planet of "useless eaters" ); to outright bizarre (allegation that the actual WMD sought by the Bush administration in Iraq consisted of alien technology buried thousands of years ago, deep beneath the Iraqi desert).

But wait, there's more. Were you aware of the on-going conspiracy to prevent us from knowing that the
Earth is hollow? (Perhaps the Flat Earth Society is behind that one.) How about conspiracy by the U.S. government to spread AIDS among Africans through the injections of HIV-laced smallpox vaccine?

Maybe you've heard of the allegation that since perhaps as far back as the early 1950s, the government has been operating under a
super-secret agreement with extraterrestrials that gives the ETs -- in exchange for sophisticated alien technology -- free rein to abduct humans whom are stored in joint U.S./alien underground facilities for use in biological experiments? Talk about your arms for hostages scandal!

For many reasons, including the absence of sustained investigative media coverage and tepid, maybe even shallow handling of above-the-radar conspiracies by congressional committees, it has been difficult for the general public to come to definite conclusions about whether any of the potentially plausible CIA-based conspiracies (the
Iran-Contra Affair or the alleged CIA/crack connection for example) are part of a coordinated effort by spooky unknowns functioning under the umbrella of a single, but powerful clandestine, "Illuminati"-like group.

However, what might be considered to be an "odd coincidence" is the fact that in so many conspiracies, particularly those
rooted in geopolitics, a fairly coercive argument can be made about the similarities between the immediate goal of some of these conspiracies -- for example, the manipulation of the Iran hostage crisis in order to alter the outcome of the 1980 presidential election, aka the "October Surprise" -- with that of the long-term agenda some conspiracy theorists insist is being pursued by Illuminati-types, i.e., abetting the establishment of a New World Order. Just a thought.

This raises another question. What's up with conspiracy "nuts" anyway. What are they thinking? The question of what kind of thought processes contribute to a belief in conspiracy theories is clearly provocative insofar as in a lot of cases, such thought processes are inexorably attributed to paranoia. But as the saying goes: "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean there ain't someone out to get me."

One study conducted in 2002, linked the acceptance of conspiracy theories to what it called
"major event; major cause" reasoning which contends that people will assume that a cataclysmic event with "substantial, significant or wide-ranging" consequences would most likely be caused by something substantial, significant or wide-ranging. Meanwhile, most skeptics are perhaps wedded to the wisdom of Occam's Razor, the assumption that in most inquiries, the simplest answer that best fits the known facts is usually correct.

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Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a left-handed leftist. "When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn't change the (more...)

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