The Truthers Out There

By Bill Maher

It's often said that you can measure the health of a society by how readily it believes in conspiracy theories. ...OK, maybe it's not often said, because I just made it up, but it should be. Because it's true.

Now, our fair country has its share of conspiracy theories, and we may have just added another: that the Boston Marathon bombing was a false flag operation designed to frighten the citizens so the government can take away our rights and our guns. Or something like that. I try not to click on those links so my IP address doesn't get "pinged" in the FBI’s PND -- Potential Nutcase Database.

But when anything major happens in America, you can set your watch and within 48 hours someone will be explaining to you how some nefarious group wanted this to happen, and also planned it. These are usually fringe, Alex Jones-type groups, but not always. The 9/11 Truther movement wasn't exactly tiny, probably about the same size as the Ron Paul movement. Because they're the same people. Then there are the Roswell/UFO conspiracy types, the U.N. black helicopter conspiracy people, those who think the moon landing was faked. Not to mention the people who think all the fat black women in Tyler Perry movies are actually Tyler Perry.

But nothing compares to the Middle East, where conspiracy theories are so pervasive you'd think the whole region was entirely backward and overly religious or something.

For instance, a 2011 Pew survey showed that 75 percent of Egyptian Muslims don't believe that Arabs were behind the 9/11 attacks. They believe it was...oh, I'll let you guess who they think did it. But it rhymes with "Da Blues."

But there's a reason people in the Middle East believe in so many conspiracy theories -- because their governments are often so corrupt and evil, they are working behind the scenes to screw their people. And then blame it on America and the Jews. In the Middle East, people are also usually confined by a state press and have no history of not being lied to.

Also, we're now in an era where, in addition to porn and bomb-making guidelines, you can see any amount of crazy information you like on the internet, whereas before you could only communicate with like-minded losers via ham radio or at a Star Trek convention.

But we should be way ahead of societies where everything the government does is greeted with automatic suspicion, and I'm not sure we are. In America, there seems to be a very thin wall separating those of us who are being critical and skeptical and those who are just being conspiratorial and crazy.

Isn't that, you know, bad for democracy?