Late last week, on the way home from school, my son tried to convince me something he had heard was the TRUTH. For starters he’s decided he’s going to be a cryptozoologist and he already knew almost everything he’d need to know to do it. While that would be an interesting career path, that wasn’t the true zinger of the conversation. He had heard, probably on the playground, that the U.S. Government was distributing guns and paying people to hunt Sasquatches in the Florida forests.
Being that he’s nine I took this with a grain of salt and calmly explained a few things to him that the U.S. Government
- Has no vested interest in Sasquatch one way or the other; it simply doesn’t show up on their radar
- Is not in the business of giving out guns
I also asked him why anyone would want to hunt and kill Sasquatch – a creature that (if it exists) is causing no apparent harm and is no threat to anyone.
To his credit, he listened calmly to the arguments and agreed that there was no way what he had heard was true. As for his final assertion – the one about being very close to knowing what he’d need to know to be a cryptozoologist I asked him one question: What do you know about the Mongolian Death Worm? He admitted he’d never heard of it and I explained the wee beastie briefly.
It would seem he has quite a bit of study before he can say he’s a cryptozoologist. At least he listened to reason, which is more than you can say for a lot of people out there.
A few months ago I wrote about a little military exercise known as Jade Helm 15. It was a military exercise that took place on U.S. soil and was intended to train American troops in a variety of things including escape and evasion and less than linear warfare. All very important things in this day and age. Exercises like these take place pretty regularly and are mostly innocuous. What blew this one up was a unclassified PowerPoint presentation that got leaked that labelled Texas as hostile territory. Alex Jones, of the famed InfoWars site, saw those labels and decided that meant the U.S. Government was about to invade Texas. Soon the Governor of Texas was making noise about keeping an eye on things, Chuck Norris was asking questions, and even Ted Cruz – who never met a crazy theory he didn’t love – was making noise.
All of these folks ignored a couple key facts about the situation:
- Texas was already part of the United States
- The U.S. military already had thousands of troops stationed in Texas, just like there are lots of U.S. troops all over the country. Yes, even in Albuquerque.
I can get Alex Jones blowing this all out of proportion. That’s just the kind of thing he does. But shouldn’t a Governor and a United States Senator be a little smarter? And why didn’t any of these people stop to think about what they were saying? It makes almost as much sense to say the United States military will be taking over Texas as saying the Government is handing out guns and paying people to hunt Bigfoot.
My guess on this is our good friend Cognitive Dissonance, a wonderful tool we’ve adopted to allow us to continue believing what we like to believe. If we start from the premise that we don’t trust the Government then everything flows neatly from there and all the crazy theories (faked Moon Landing, Kennedy was killed by the CIA, Obama is a foreign-born secret Muslim, Jade Helm 15 was an attempt to take over Texas) suddenly work because they fit with our internal narrative. It’s a beautiful bit of IRL novel writing.
The crazier parts of the Jade Helm 15 nonsense would have made a great novel. A secret Government cabal decides to invade a state because the state has far too many people who KNOW TOO MUCH. They can’t flat out invade because no one would stand for it, so they concoct a story about an exercise that’s supposed to take place nationwide. The exercise goes off as planned, but all the troops working in Texas are loyal to the cabal. Instead of rubber bullets, those guys are rounding up dissidents and disappearing them. A former vet witnesses a disappearance and saves the plucky, but smart daughter of a patriot. Together, they sneak out Texas and blow the lid off the whole thing.
Great summer read. I might consider writing that. Well, that and the one about the Texas gold. Both of those would make some cracking good stories because they have enough of an element that all novels need: Truthiness.
Now that Jade Helm has blown over and the only change to America is Texas is now part of the United States, we should be able to look back on the whole thing and laugh. Well, that and write books using the whole mess as a backdrop or clever plot device. Because, in the final analysis, a good story needs only a few things: relatable characters, a clever story, and a hefty dose of truthiness. It doesn’t matter that there’s no way a story can be real, what matters is that it feels real to the reader. No one will read a story where it’s patently obvious that the events of the story could never happen. But a story where the events could be real, especially if they’re pretty outlandish, and you’ve got a winner on your hands.
I’m hoping, in the future we’ll see people spinning yarns about the things that really matter: like how werewolves have been secretly infiltrating our school system in the hopes of creating an army to fight the vampires. That’s totally real. I also hope our elected leaders learn to think a bit before they start shooting their mouths off, but that’s never happened. A story about werewolves taking over the schools seems plausible. A story about elected leaders thinking a bit before they start talking is about as plausible as a story about the government handing out guns and paying people to hunt Sasquatch in Florida.