Our regular readers have probably noticed by now that we’ve initiated a series of regular features.
Some of these will persist, while some will not. It’s survival of the fittest.
The latest mutation is today’s feature: Tinfoil Hat Tuesday. That’s where we kick around a conspiracy theory.
The whole series could get really heavy. It’s Christmas Week. Let’s start off the feature with a lighter Advent-ure.
Randy Quaid and his wife Evi were arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia in October. They claim they feared for their lives, destined to be the next victims of a secretive cult called the Star Whackers, who have already claimed Chris Penn (d. 2006), Heath Ledger (d. 2008), David Carradine (d. 2009) and Ronni Chasen (d. 2010) as victims. What were the Star Whackers doing in 2007? We may never know.
Police and prosecutors, coldly rational and small-minded people that they are, claim that the Quaids are fleeing to avoid prosecution.
Both Quaids were arrested last year in Presidio County, Texas on charges of skipping out on a $10,000 hotel bill in September 2009. Charges against Randy Quaid in that case were dropped; Evi Quaid pled “no contest” and was placed on probation.
Apparently September is a bad month (mensis horribilis?) for the Quaids, because this September they were arrested again on charges of “squatting” in a house they formerly owned, but had allegedly sold several years earlier. (Quaid was apparently channeling his inner Bartleby.)
So, they did what anyone in their situation would do, and fled from the shadowy Hollywood cult known as the “Star Whackers.” Obviously, when one’s friends are murdered in Bangkok, New York, Santa Monica and Hollywood, one must go to a remote and inaccessible location to save one’s life. That would be Vancouver, British Columbia.
Both Quaids were detained by Canadian officials, but released after it was discovered that Evi Quaid’s father was actually — Canadian. Now Evi Quaid is Canadian, too. Channeling her inner McKenzie, she said, “I am so proud to be a Canadian. … It is a beautiful day.” At this writing, Randy’s petition for asylum from the Star Whackers is still pending. I’m certain that Avi Quaid’s pride in her Canadian heritage will increase his chances of getting a successful hearing.
So, there’s a great conspiracy theory. Is there a secretive cult of “Star Whackers” who have already offed Heath Ledger and David Carradine, as the Quaids claim? Let’s run the claim through the Shermer Conspiracy Theory Detector.
(I’m not dissing the Shortchain mod of the Shermer CTD. I invite Shortchain to chime in here with his analysis.)
This conspiracy theory is rated on a zero- to five-tinfoil-hat scale. Each “hit” gets a half-hat.
- Proof of the conspiracy supposedly emerges from a pattern of “connecting the dots” between events that need not be causally connected. When no evidence supports these connections except the allegation of the conspiracy or when the evidence fits equally well to other causal connections—or to randomness—the conspiracy theory is likely to be false. Most authorities would agree there is no causal link between the apparently accidental deaths of Chris Penn in Santa Monica, Heath Ledger in New York, Keith Carradine in Bangkok and Ronni Chasen in Hollywood. Hit.
- The agents behind the pattern of the conspiracy would need nearly superhuman power to pull it off. People are usually not nearly so powerful as we think they are. These guys are Ninjas. They specialize in making deaths look like dilated cardiomyopathy, drug overdose, asphyxiation and gunshots and have tricked medical examiners in all those venues into thinking these deaths are accidental and unconnected. Plus, the Quaids are due to be killed by knife. These guys are versatile. Hit.
- The conspiracy is complex, and its successful completion demands a large number of elements. See #2 above. Hit.
- Similarly, the conspiracy involves large numbers of people who would all need to keep silent about their secrets. The more people involved, the less realistic it becomes. None of these deaths were exactly low profile, except maybe Penn’s. Hit.
- The conspiracy encompasses a grand ambition for control over a nation, economy or political system. If it suggests world domination, the theory is even less likely to be true. Miss, unless you count domination of Hollywood. Small beer.
- The conspiracy theory ratchets up from small events that might be true to much larger, much less probable events. Hit.
- The conspiracy theory assigns portentous, sinister meanings to what are most likely innocuous, insignificant events. Hit.
- The theory tends to commingle facts and speculations without distinguishing between the two and without assigning degrees of probability or of factuality. Hit.
- The theorist is indiscriminately suspicious of all government agencies or private groups, which suggests an inability to nuance differences between true and false conspiracies. Hit.
- The conspiracy theorist refuses to consider alternative explanations, rejecting all disconfirming evidence and blatantly seeking only confirmatory evidence to support what he or she has a priori determined to be the truth. Hit, mostly because of the possibility of what psychologists call “secondary gain”, namely, staying out of jail.
We have our first Tinfoil Hat Tuesday Award Winner, with a rating of 4½ tinfoil hats: