Let's face it: We love nothing more than tearing a new one for the political entities that preside over us with varying degrees of efficiency. Often, our criticism is completely justified. Other times, we temporarily forget how to think and base our opinions on a flame-bait Facebook post by some random guy. But, even at our lowest moment -- as we find ourselves in the middle of a 3 a.m. online screeching fit about forged birth certificates and magic bullets -- we'll never stoop as low as some of the truly crazy theories out there.
Namely, these ones:
#5. Barack Obama Is Basically A Supervillain
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People of a certain mindset have always held ill will toward whichever butt is occupying the real-world equivalent of the Iron Throne. I bet there are old, tin-wallpapered bunkers full of notebooks concerning James Madison's secret vampire society shenanigans, and there's no way people looked at Abe Lincoln's freakish build and super strength and didn't think he was an alien warlord who came to conquer us all.
On top of all of that, Barack Obama has the misfortune of being just the second POTUS during the age of social media and thus an automatic target for all the insanity that lies within. Most obviously kooky conspiracy theories tend to sink under the digital equivalent of a particularly slimy rock, but, in the case of Obama, everyone and their deaf grandmother seems to know at least a few. Go ahead, ask around the family and see if you don't get a few of the following from everyone except your 4-month-old niece: Obama forged his birth certificate. Obama is a fundamental Muslim. He never actually killed Osama Bin Laden. He actually is Osama Bin Laden. He's an active terrorist who wants to "gas the Jews." Hey, he might be the Antichrist, too, why the shit not?
Of course, apart from the nation-dividing fact that he's a Democrat, this may be because there's a certain colorful aspect about Barack Hussein Obama that will always rub a certain segment of people the wrong way: He's the first American president who's also a huge-ass geek.
Wait, what did you think I was talking about?
Still, regardless of what you think of the man and his actions, it's unlikely that he's the real-life Ernst Stavro Blofeld in disguise, what with already fucking being the most powerful guy in the Western world. So, why is all that horse crap making rounds? It's almost like there is some major institution out there, presenting themselves as a credible entity yet knowingly feeding utter bull to everyone it can reach ...
... oh, hi, Fox News! Didn't see you there! Who would have guessed we would see you in an article about crazy conspiracy claims, channel that causes actual foxes to storm the county clerk's office to change their species' name to "pumpernickel" just so they wouldn't be associated with you. I would normally throw a  after that sentence, but you know what? I'll do it after Fox starts doing it.
"I would sue, but they tell me the last 'Giant Corporation Vs. Small, Vole-Eating Mammal' case was a fucking bloodbath."
Yeah, all the theories above -- among others -- might originally come from crazy/confused/ill-advised individuals, but they're all offered a mouthpiece and a millions-strong audience by one of the rare major news channels that makes you less informed than not watching the news at all would. Considering that the very definition of conspiracy theory is "an explanatory hypothesis that accuses people, a group, or an organization of having caused or covered up, through secret planning and deliberate action, an event, or situation that is typically harmful," there's probably an ironic joke in there somewhere.
#4. Angela Merkel Is Hitler's Daughter
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Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and easily the most powerful woman in the world, has been sailing her ship for more than a decade with nary an expression changing on her face. She's often considered the true leader of the European Union and the second most powerful person in the world. It's an insane achievement and truly a testament to the leadership qualities of Mrs. Merkel.
Or, should I say Angela Hitler? You know, what with her being ol' Chaplin impersonator's daughter and all.
Christ on a toast, the resemblance is uncanny!
No. No, I shouldn't. Crazy people, on the other hand, have no qualms in making the familial connection: This gem is a surprisingly popular theory among the people who are unable to comprehend a Germany that doesn't have at least some kind of Nazi conspiracy going on at all times. Generally, the "shocking discovery" is "attributed" to "leaked Stasi documents" or "secret informants" and involves "Angela Hitler" and her vast power as a part of Adolf's "long-term plan" of bringing all of Europe under the iron boot of the "Hitler dynasty." Damn, I think I ran out of my entire quotation mark supply for this column already. Here, see for yourself how this shit works:
"But, Chad," you ask, grabbing the nearest person screaming these theories on the street by the shoulder and immediately realizing that your hand will never be truly clean again. "Even if you forget the facts that Merkel is from Hamburg and we know precisely who her parents are, this thing makes no sense. Also, half of these people are using WWII-era pictures of Hitler and a random girl as 'proof,' but Merkel wasn't born until 1954." And you will be bombarded with long-winded explanations about artificial insemination, Soviet and Papal conspiracies, mad doctors carrying out their dead fuhrer's plan, and half the plots in the Wolfenstein franchise, all aimed to give power to a lady who, for all intents and purposes, seems to be doing a pretty decent job at governing a country. So ... good job, Conspiracy Hitler?
Of course, it could also be that the world is just full of confused and scared jerkwads who just can't accept a woman in a position of power without arbitrarily making her a pawn for a half-dozen man-fueled conspiracies. However, that would be just insane.
#3. The Pope Was Behind Lincoln's Assassination
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The really creepy thing about far-out theories is that, sometimes, someone who has a modicum of fame and credibility gets one in his or her head, and many people wind up listening way more carefully than they probably should. The following sounds way too stupid to be true, yet -- again and again -- we witness confused ex-MTV announcers convince a dangerously large segment of the nation that vaccinations are bad. Decorated surgeons (who are also, uh, decidedly less-decorated human beings) bumble their way to the presidential race and use the platform to sprout their dubious theories about pyramids. Although you just shrug and laugh a sad laugh, others stare at their TV screen in awe, thinking: "I knew those pointy things in Egypt were just grain silos. I'mma vote for this guy; he seems to know his shit."
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"If you think that's stupid, wait until I inevitably enter the presidential game."
Of course, bugfuck theories by notable people are not exactly a new phenomenon. One of my favorites is the case of Emmett McLoughlin, a respected Franciscan priest who championed for healthcare and low-income housing in the Phoenix area during the 1930s. For all intents and purposes, dude was an Arizona version of Mother Theresa, clearing out slums, founding hospitals, and generally becoming a legendary figure in the area -- to the point where he actually resigned from priesthood because he was too busy making hospital stuff happen to act as a priest.
Oh, and he also happened to be a full-on conspiracy theorist who was convinced that Pope Pius IX arranged the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
According to McLoughlin's book, An Inquiry Into The Assassination Of Abraham Lincoln, the brain behind the operation to insert bullets into Honest Abe was John Wilkes Booth's co-conspirator John Surratt, who, in turn, was an honored veteran of Vatican Bullshit whose actions were either acknowledged and allowed by the pope -- or outright ordered by him. As a way of motive, McLoughlin offers that Pius IX was a bit of a pro-slavery asshole and saw Lincoln as his antithesis and a potential risk for the church's foothold in America.
To be honest, I kind of like this theory. It's a pretty intriguing idea to cast the freaking pope as a supervillain in one of the formative events of the nation, especially considering that Pius IX had a habit of dabbling in U.S. politics, and his perceived Confederacy sympathies eventually caused the Congress to flip out and sever diplomatic ties with the Vatican for an impressive 117 years. However, it's worth noting that the theory is a brainchild of a resigned priest with a notorious chip on his shoulder toward the church, and, at that point, several decades of heavy criticism against the church under his belt.
Still, maybe in some alternate universe McLoughlin was not only right, but the situation also escalated to the point where the bad guys in Call Of Duty games wear Swiss Guard uniforms instead of military fatigue.
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Not that it makes the game any easier. These guys are fucking hardcore.
Hey, speaking of weird shit revolving around popes ...