Dear Ann Cannon • We have a family member who is constantly turning EVERYTHING into a conspiracy theory. Unfortunately, some of the theories have enough normalcy to make the younger, more impressionable members of our family pay attention. How do we cut him off or warn the youngsters to ignore him?
— Conspiracy Theory Cynic
Dear Cynic • The moon landing was faked! Secret societies control the world! Queen Elizabeth (along with Bill Clinton and George Bush) is actually a member of the Reptilian elite! Seriously, who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory? When my friend Gigi Ballif and I were in junior high school, we spent hours combing the covers of Beatles albums looking for clues about Paul McCartney’s death. We even called England one Saturday afternoon using a phone number we found by holding up the “Magical Mystery Tour” album to a mirror. Sadly, I hung up as soon as we got through to a real-live English operator because a) I lost my nerve and b) I couldn’t ask Paul McCartney to accept a collect call because he was — you know — dead.
Paul, as you’ll recall, died in 1966 (he blew his mind out in a car), which seriously cramped the Beatles’ style, so they covered up Paul’s death and replaced him with a look-alike named Billy Shears whom Queen Elizabeth (she of the Reptilian elite) unknowingly knighted in 1997.
Oh. Wait. None of that’s true. So never mind.
That’s the thing about conspiracy theories. They’re like a great thriller (“I Am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes come to mind), which is one of the reasons we’re attracted to them. They make the world seem less … mundane. The problem, of course, arises when conspiracy theories lead people to harm other people. You know. Like Pizzagate, for example — a theory promulgated on alt-right websites that maintained high-ranking members of the Democratic Party were trafficking children out of a restaurant in Washington, D.C., which caused a “patriot” from North Carolina during the 2016 presidential election cycle to drive north, walk into the restaurant and open fire.
Conspiracy theories and the people who promote them aren’t just responsible for physical harm. They can inflict emotional harm, as well. How must it feel for people who lost family members in a concentration camp to hear that even if the Holocaust did happen, the number of deaths has been inflated for political purposes? Or for survivors to hear that 9/11 was an inside job?
Which brings me (finally!) to how YOU should deal with your conspiracy theory-peddling relative. If he says there are aliens in Area 51, fine. Just roll your eyeballs. But if the theories he spouts are more sinister — and those that seem plausible at some level are the most sinister of all — don’t be afraid to call him out to your kids. In the end, they’ll believe what they want to believe. But at least they’ll have your reasonable voice in the back of their heads.
Dear Ann Cannon • Do you have any suggestions for where to donate our leftover Halloween candy? (The Snickers bars have been set aside for ourselves, of course!) Don’t most kids get too much candy already? Most adults do, too, I suppose. But throwing it out seems wasteful.
— So Much Candy!
Dear So Much Candy • Thank YOU so much for this letter. You have no idea how timely it is. Why? I’ve been looking for ways to make a contribution to our community and you’ve just handed me a service opportunity on a silver platter. What should people do with their leftover candy? SEND. IT. TO. ME. Boom! Problem solved. You’re welcome!