The joke gets funnier when you join in!
Around January 2021, this joke started to circulate in political circles:
A Jew and a black guy walk into a bar in Georgia, and the bartender says, “What can I get for you, senators?”
In case you’re a bit behind on the news, Georgia had a run-off election for its two US senate seats, where two Democrats won: Rev. Raphael Warnock, a black pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Jon Ossoff, a documentary film producer and investigative journalist who happens to be Jewish.
For those suffering from Humor Deficit Disorder, the joke is funny because it plays on the old trope that Georgia is full of racists and anti-semites, so the fact that those two were elected caught you off guard, which implies that you are racist and antisemitic for thinking that Georgians are racists and antisemitic.
This prompted me to think of my own joke:
An antisemitic conspiracy theorist walks into the same bar in Georgia, and the bartender says, “What can I get for you, congresswoman?”
Again, if you’re behind on the news, Georgia’s 117th district just elected Marjorie Taylor Greene as their Republican representative. She is a self-described supporter of QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory that claims President Donald Trump is (was) secretly fighting a “deep state” cabal of satanic pedophiles and cannibals. She has also stated that the fires in California were started by space lasers shot by a cabal of Jewish politicians and corporations, had indicated support for executing prominent Democrats, and asserted that Nancy Pelosi is “a traitor to our country, she’s guilty of treason, punishable by death.”
You can read more of her words of wisdom in the congressional record.
For the humor-impaired, my joke plays on the fact that Georgia elected into congress polarly opposite figures: An ultra-right Republican and conspiracy theorist into the House, while at the same time, a black guy and jewish guy as Democratic into the Senate.
This elevates Georgia to be on par with California for being really weird.
To be clear, I’m not saying anything about Georgia here. It’s a lovely state, and I’ve enjoyed visiting there many times. It’s people are warm and gracious, including the bartenders. But, C’mon. It’s pretty weird that this happened.
When it comes to conspiracy theories, we both know the real truth about all these ideas floating around, don’t we? And by “we,” I’m really referring to you. That’s right, you have it all figured out. You believe in things that are actually and demonstrably true, and the things you do not believe are fabricated by extremists in the other party, whose sole mission is to destroy America.
Does that about sum it up?
Let’s put this to the test: Tell me which of these are true, and which are falsehoods rooted in conspiracy theories.
- The coronavirus is a hoax.
- The 2020 election was rigged.
- Climate change is real.
- The Earth is round.
I know what you’re thinking: The last one about the Earth being round was a trap. But no, this is actually a thing. According to this YouGov poll, only 66% of millennials firmly believe that the earth is round. In fact, Kyrie Irving, the dazzling point guard that used to play for the Boston Celtics, who also attended Duke University, made headlines when he openly questioned whether the Earth is actually flat or round.
If the last four years has taught us anything, it’s that the USA is divided between those who are fully in touch with reality and know the truth (you), and the rest of the poor souls who are under a manufactured delusion orchestrated by the media and political operatives (the other guy).
Accordingly, this excerpt from this NYTimes article shouldn’t surprise you, regardless of your politics:
Since the election, surveys have consistently found that about 70 percent to 80 percent of Republicans don’t buy the [election] results. They don’t agree that Joe Biden won fair and square. They say the election was rigged. And they say enough fraud occurred to tip the outcome.
If you’re a Republican, you’re nodding your head in agreement, possibly wondering where I’m going with this whole argument. Fair enough. In fact, you may also be one of the 30% of Republicans who sympathize with QAnon. I’m not judging. Just sayin’.
Now, if you’re a Democrat, you’re nodding your head in disbelief that such people are so out of touch with reality that you find it hard to believe they can feed themselves.
But the NYTimes article also shows that it’s not that simple — that both Republicans and Democrats are susceptible to the same thing:
Research has shown that supporters of the winning candidate in an election consistently have more faith that the election was fair than supporters of the losing candidate do. This pattern is true of both Democrats and Republicans. And when the parties’ fortunes flip in subsequent elections, people’s answers flip, too.
This idea is even more fully explored by an article in the Atlantic titled, How the Left Lost Its Mind, which enumerates ways that liberals can fall for falsehoods and get caught up in hyper-partisanship. However, the article acknowledges that the types of falsehoods that are propagated are vastly different between conservatives and liberals, aware that many proclaim it all as a false equivalency.
Be that as it may, my greater point is this: Regardless of your political biases, you’re susceptible to falsehoods, which then make you more likely to believe in conspiracy theories.
You math wizards out there are probably doing some sophisticated number crunching and realizing that both halves of the population adds up to almost everyone.
Of course, it’s not actually everyone, because there’s you. You are the outlier, the statistical anomaly that we experts in the field of Investigative Satire call a “comedic rounding error.” More serious psychologists would say you’re in a state of self-delusional plausible deniability. (To those of you suffering from Humor Deficit Disorder, please don’t look this up and email me that there is no such thing.)
Therefore, as the only sane person left in America, you’re probably thinking about your own relationship to these conspiracy theories and so-called “falsehoods.” Option one:
Dude, I am far too intelligent and rational to believe any of these silly conspiracies. I research everything I read or hear, and I only follow trusted sources of information reported by those who have journalistic integrity. It’s the other guy that believes in those crazy ideas.
Or, you may choose option two:
The term “conspiracy theory” is pejorative, and I’m offended. There are clearly alternative facts that are so self-evident, you don’t need any more proof than that. A blind guy and his dog can spot them a mile away! I know because I’m an intelligent, rational person who researches everything I read or hear, and I only follow trusted sources of information reported by those who have journalistic integrity. It’s the other guys that fall for conspiracy theories, which are those things that I don’t believe in.
Great! See how we’re making progress? We’ve established that there are conspiracies, and you don’t fall for them.
Or do you?
Let’s test you again, but this time, with a very simple question: Why are you reading this article?
You had no idea what it was going to be about, but the title suggested you’d probably get a fun chuckle out of the punchline that somehow made fun of idiots that believe in totally stupid stuff.
Nice try, but that’s not really why you’re reading this.
For instance, I could have led with a different lead-in, such as “Why did the turtle cross the road?” Would you have clicked on it? Probably not, because the best you’d expect to see is a rather juvenile punchline like, “To get to the Shell station!”
Sure, that’s a cute punchline — if you’re five — but as an adult-like person who has strong political beliefs, that joke would not have lured you in. Instead, you’d have skipped it completely and moved onto the more provocative article about how Kyrie Irving believes the Earth is flat.
Why? Because it’s self-evident!!
No, I’m not saying that the Earth being flat is “self-evident,” silly. I’m saying that “it’s self-evident” that you’d rather read a story about a celebrated celebrity (i.e., a person who is celebrated) who actually questions the shape of our planet than a story about a turtle crossing a road so it can get “serviced” at a Shell station. Of course, now that I phrased it that way, maybe such an article would get clicked-on. Shoot. Now, I’m distracting myself.
Look, the real reason you clicked on this article is because I baited you by using a phrase that was sure to get your attention: Conspiracy Theorists.
See? I did it again! And now you’re salivating just a little aren’t you? (Use of the bold font made it worse.)
In case you’re unaware, you just fell victim to being “clickbaited,” which is the technique used by Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to lure you into reading crazy articles that are, for the most part, complete garbage, which leads some people (but not you) into believing conspiracy theories.
In return for receiving this valueless information, you allow these platforms to collect information about you so they can feed you ads for things that they think you want, but you don’t really need, but will buy anyway, because the pandemic has made life so friggin’ boring.
This is the Faustian bargain we’ve made with social media. On the one hand, you get to be inundated with complete bullshit for free (such a deal), while on the other hand, these highly profitable companies are all in your 401K plan, which invests in index funds, which invest in these social media companies, which make a lot of money because people like you fall for clickbait, which is why the stock market is at an all-time high. So, in the end, even though these platforms cause you to feel lonely and depressed, not to mention misinformed, your retirement account is flush with cash! See? Everyone’s a winner.
Anyway, I’m sorry I clickbaited you into reading this, but I needed to help you see how you too fell for the gateway drug that leads to believing in conspiracy theories.
You’re not alone. Consider Facebook’s moderators. Yes, the people whose job it is to review content for possible removal because of falsehoods and baseless conspiracy theories, were themselves believing the very falsehoods and conspiracies they were supposed to be removing, including how the Earth was flat and that the holocaust didn’t happen.
According to this article in Verge, “The Secret Lives of Facebook Moderators,” the moderators were suffering a form of PTSD from their constant exposure to ridiculous stuff that you and your friends read everyday. Facebook agreed to pay $52M to 11,000 moderators who developed depression, addictions and other mental health issues.
So yeah, you — yes you — might also believe some of the falsehoods and conspiracy theories going around. I dunno. I’m just sayin’.
But, don’t feel badly. Falling for click-bait is a very natural human behavior, much like buying things whose prices end in a 9. That’s right, no matter how much you’re aware of this fact of human nature, you’re more likely to buy something priced at $4.99 than $5 because there are certain psychological patterns built into us that makes us act like idiots. Falling for bullshit on social media sites is another.
Now, if you thought it was strange that some people believe the Earth is flat (or round, whichever you prefer), at least it’s not a self-contradictory belief. The super-crazy people are those who believe in two polar opposite theories that contradict one another. For that, put your seat in a locked and upright position, because this 2019 Gallup poll asking US adults about their beliefs in UFOs will have you lurching for the barf bag.
The survey asked people if they believed 1) whether extraterrestrial life has visited Earth, and 2) whether the government was hiding it. (Here’s your cue to open your barf bag.) According to that survey, only 33% of U.S. adults believe that some UFO sightings over the years have in fact been alien spacecraft visiting Earth from other planets or galaxies. However, 68% believe the government is withholding information about UFOs visiting Earth.
Let me rephrase those same numbers in clearer terms: 67% of US adults do not believe that aliens have visited us, yet 68% do believe that the government is withholding information about aliens that have visited us.
I’m not a math wizard, but I think that if you carry the one, those two numbers add up to more than 100%, which means there’s an overlap of people who believe in two completely opposing theories: that aliens don’t exist, and that the government is hiding information about aliens that have visited us.
You may ask your flight attendant if you need another bag.
This may now help put Georgia’s recent election results into perspective. I can only imagine what life might be like at the home of a Georgia couple who voted for both Marjorie Taylor Greene, and the two Democratic senators.
Husband: Hon, should we invite the Greenbergs over to celebrate Easter with us, even though they don’t believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior?
Wife: Only if they promise not to bring their space laser guns this time. But they can bring the Matzo and that stuff they put on it.
Sigh. We’re a weird species, so it’s no wonder that Aliens are keeping their distance. (You know, the aliens that don’t exist.)
Anyway, the next time you find yourself reading an article about how the Clintons and the Illuminati conducted a false flag operations to make it look like Sandy Hook was really conducted by the Deep State in order to distract Americans’ attention from whatever is still being investigated about 9/11 so that voting machines from Venezuela could be installed around the country that would allow Biden to be elected as President (but Democrats would suffer massive losses in state and local elections), think about this:
You’re one of those people.