Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to an audience gathered at the University of Colorado in Boulder last year.


You know — because anyone with access to social media knows — that it was Obama’s secret hit squad of pillow-wielding assassins who took out Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The timing of the “murder” seems a bit curious, so late in his second term that the president has little chance of getting a successor past the Senate. And, of course, Scalia was 79 years old with a history of serious heart problems.

No matter. Rational thinking hardly keeps lunatic conspiracy theories like this from spreading through cyberspace like a brain-eating virus.

Speaking of which, apparently the Zika virus was spawned by an entomological experiment gone horribly wrong, after a British bio-tech company released genetically modified mosquitoes in a bungled attempt to control dengue fever.

The GMO Frankenbug theory was born last month on a Reddit post — “mankind’s arrogance may have backfired on us” — and has since been disproved by reputable science writers.

But too late.

Sinister plans to spread Zika have now been attributed to, among other conspirators, Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation. Or to a larvicide manufactured by Monsanto (though it turns out that Monsanto didn’t make the larvicide and that the larvicide can’t be linked to Zika). But so what?

This Zika plot has some kind of link to the old one-world-government thing. Though a counter theory roiling through the blogosphere holds that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention invented the Zika sham just to scare us into submission (“The CDC is the medical CIA.”).

Nutball conspiracies are hardly new. When I was a kid, the John Birch Society was sure that fluoridated water was a commie plot. Then the investigation of the Kennedy assassination left enough troubling questions to spawn a thousand counter-theories.

But nowadays, the digital age can lend even a few disparate paranoids the sense that they are one of many. Even the craziest notions — that George W. Bush plotted 9/11 and the Katrina floods, or that Obama staged Sandy Hook — find a community on Facebook or Reddit or Twitter or beyond.

I’ve noticed that James Tracy, the infamous conspiracy-theorist professor whom Florida Atlantic University finally fired last year, has added posts about Scalia and Zika to his netherworld blog.

It’s getting crazier. Maybe even scarier.

On Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report warning about the rise of conspiracy-minded anti‑government “Patriot” groups, which increased their number from 874 in 2014 to 998 last year.

Conspiracy theories have become so prevalent on the Internet that mainstream news outlets now spend time and space debunking rumors we once would have ignored. In the last week, the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, Fox News and others deconstructed fantastic suppositions about Scalia’s death and the Zika virus.

Of course, out there in crazy land, the Times and the Post and the rest of the news media are all in on the big secret plot.

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