Americans seem to love conspiracy theories. Long discredited, and completely incredulous, stories get repeated or periodically revived. A friend who grew up in the Soviet Union shared a few over lunch last Saturday, leading me to believe that Russians love their conspiracy theories, too! One implicated Salvador Dali in the assassination of Trotsky.
Maybe it’s simply human nature?
Here goes —the moon landing was faked; the U.S. government is holding extraterrestrial remains and space ships in storage; Marilyn Monroe was murdered because of her romantic involvements with the Kennedys; Elvis Presley faked his death; the Holocaust didn’t really happen; Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.; the HIV virus was invented in a lab… The list goes on and on.
I enjoy a good wacky theory as much as the next writer, but enjoying a ridiculous story is one thing. Believing it is another. Crazy theories — like the Protocols of Zion and the insane belief that President Obama’s birth certificate was faked — develop a life of their own and cloud the truth. Facts, often dull, can’t compete with wild stories.
The lightning fast speed of electronic communications means that news spreads very quickly — and so do crackpot stories and lies. Twitter broke the news about Michael Jackson’s death before the conventional media. Of course later that day rumors spread about the deaths of other celebrities — including the very much alive Britney Spears and George Clooney. It doesn’t take much to morph a misleading rumor into a falsehood with a long life.
The news media has an obligation to parse out the truth, to verify sources, to double check facts and to go back and make corrections. Reports made during a breaking news story often turn out to be false. The national, local and Internet-based news media garbled much of the Newtown shooting story. The brother of the shooter was taken in for questioning and his name was reported as the killer. All sorts of flat out wrong statements were made. It was terrible — not as terrible as the massacre, of course.
But what about fiction writers, do we have an ethical obligation when we create wild and crazy stories? That’s a good question. Maybe our obligation is to be clear about our creations. Inspired by a true story is not the same as a historical record. So I’ll keep writing wacky tales — and reading them, too. But I won’t mislead anyone with cheeky conspiracy theories that muddle the truth. When it’s fiction — it’s fiction and there will be no doubt about it.
Blog Hop News…
Doing a “blog hop” next week. If you’re interested in checking out the blogs of a variety of writers and/or reading my answers to a long list of “getting to know you” blogger questions… be sure to visit Candy’s Monsters next week. Or just click FOLLOW and know when I’ve updated the blog post.