There were no truthers back in the 20th century. I grew up in the Golden Age of Kennedy Assassination Conspiracies, but the word "truther" was never used to describe Oliver Stone or any of the other folks who decried the Magic Bullet theory. (DISCLOSURE: I saw JFK when I was in high school and took every scene as gospel and totally bought into the whole thing for a while.) Conspiracy theorists were just that, and nothing more.
But the advent of the internet has allowed conspiracy theorists to blossom—to become even more deeply immersed in their own version of the truth. You can find "proof" of pretty much anything online if you're willing to look and you are strong of faith. At the dawn of the 21st century, conspiracy theorists acquired the power to link up and buttress one another. You no longer need to feel alone with your birther theory. You can find support. You can find validation.
And this is how the truthering movement came into being. The modern truther is more than a simple nutjob conspiracy theorist. Being a truther means believing your truth to such an extent that you shun anyone who dares question it. Let the SHEEPLE out there think that two airplanes knocked down the Twin Towers. A truther knows better. The rest of you are so naïve, so easily led astray. Your wrongness is almost comical. I LAUGH AT YOUR IGNORANCE HAHAHAHAHA I BET YOU HAVEN'T EVEN SEEN LOOSE CHANGE YET. A truther is a rabid devotee of horseshit—someone who can take any imperfection in a tragic narrative and construct an iron mountain of garbage from it. And they'll probably end up dooming us all.
So it's important for you, the average American, to be able to identify a truther out in the wild. They're relatively easy to spot. (At least, Pete Carroll is.) They come in many different shapes (round, oblong) and sizes (large, extra large, Texas beef large) and colors (white, off white, mauve, cream, eggshell) and ages (old, really old, older than they really ought to look). But each truther is insane in his or her own unique way. Keep this handy field guide with you anytime you spot one sitting in a tree in your backyard.
Their Truth: 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by BIG GUBMINT as a springboard to unending war in the Middle East. And I have to say, if that were ever proved true, the U.S. government totally achieved all its goals. Job well done! I'm impressed by our efficiency.
Righteousness Rating: Four Alex Joneses.
Essential Reading: The Terror Conspiracy. "Jim Marrs presents the official government pronouncement on 9/11 as an obvious conspiracy." You hear that? OBVIOUS. So fucking obvious, you guys. I mean, it couldn't be any more black and white and also Arab-colored. "The only question is whose conspiracy it was." See? OBVIOUS CONSPIRACY. We just need to figure out all of the other details of this obvious conspiracy before the rest of the world acknowledges its obviousness.
Other Hobbies: Shooting paint cans; tannery apprenticeship.
Armed? Oh yeah.
Typical Comment Section Argument: "Only a controlled demolition could produce such a perfect implosion."
Chances They Are Right: One percent. I cannot mock a truther's claims to obviousness while being just as adamant myself. Thus, I gotta leave some wiggle room. 9/11 could have been a conspiracy. If it were ever proven, the resulting smug cloud would smother us all in a tragedy I call "9/12: The Truthening."
Viable Truthing Alternative From Deadspin's Own Tim Marchman: "There is that big censored section of the 9/11 report that apparently shows that Saudi government officials knew about/funded 9/11. If a few random Saudi princes did in fact do 9/11, but it wasn't government policy, maybe the public didn't need to know that. What were we going to do about it, invade Mecca?"
Beer and Liquor Truthers
Their Truth: Were you aware that fancy Bulleit Rye you're drinking is part of a larger corporate collective? It's not even MADE in Bulleit. And that microbrew you keep in the fridge is owned by InBev. That's right. The only thing I can taste here is your subservience to branding. Why just burn the word SUCKER into your tongue?
Righteousness Rating: Eight turds in the punchbowl.
Essential Reading: Beeradvocate.com.
Other Hobbies: Microbrewing; experimenting with serving turnips as an entree.
Armed? No. Now's your chance to shoot them.
Typical Comment Section Argument: "For a real independent bourbon, try Pappy Ron Mullenrunner's Virgin Corn Spirits. Only three bottles were made and I have two of them. Not for sale."
Chances They Are Right: Oh, 100 percent. Seriously though, fuck these people. Let me enjoy my mass-produced phony-baloney niche alcohol in peace. I was happy with my drink before you came along and ruined it.
Their Truth: Barack Obama was born in Kenya and forged his birth certificate specifically so that he could rise to the Presidency and destroy America from within as a self-contained, independent human sleeper cell.
Righteousness Rating: Twelve Moroccan stallion hairs hand-plucked for Donald Trump's weave-over.
Essential Reading: Where's the Birth Certificate? by Jerome Corsi. "As a New York Times bestselling author, Harvard graduate, and investigative journalist, Corsi exposes in detail key issues with Obama's eligibility, including the fact the President has spent millions of dollars in legal fees to avoid providing the American people with something as simple as a long-form birth certificate." Damn, even truthers from Harvard have to throw down a "I went to Harvard" mention.
Other Hobbies: Amassing gold. GOLDDDDDD HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE!!!! (rubs hands together zealously).
Typical Comment Section Argument: "The only problem for Obama is that numerous electronic document experts have shown, using steps that anyone can repeat with if they have the proper software, that the document the White House so proudly uploaded is not simply a scanned version of an original paper document. Instead, it's what's called a layered document. A document that's scanned will have only one layer, which is the image itself. A layered, electronically manipulated document will show one electronic addition after another. The White House's birth certificate PDF has nine layers. This was an assembled electronic document, not a scanned paper document."
(NOTE: Do not click that link, because the site it comes from is spammy as shit, which is standard issue for a truthing site. You came for the conspiracy, and you got 5,000 frozen banner ads.)
Chances They Are Right: Ten percent. Of course, the dirty little secret of the birther conspiracy is that even if the President really was born in Kenya, it wouldn't make a goddamn difference.
Their Truth: That dunk was fake.
Righteousness Rating: Half a FreeDarko. Why would you fake a dunk video when you can contemplate the existential typhoon-ness of a Kevin Durant turnaround J? It is remarkable in how unremarkable he makes it.
Essential Reading: Our comment section.
Other Hobbies: Memorizing Snopes, securing firsties, composing a long essay explaining why going to watch NBA Summer League games live is the truest way of watching the NBA.
Armed? Only with a PhD in Psychology from Oberlin.
Typical Comment Section Argument: "All in one not so fluid motion, (he jumped twice) he manages to jump off the defender's hip and knee him in the eyebrow before dunking. Pretty impressive really although totally illegal and an embarrassment to the sport. Look closely right afterward, when the defender is on the floor (:09) his left brow is messed up. This is what basketball is becoming and I'm not buying in." See? You don't need to accuse the dunk of being fake to truther it.
Chances They Are Right: Ninety percent. Frankly, I would prefer to enjoy an ice-cold Blue Moon (brewed by literal monks, I'm told!) and watch this video of a 720-degree upside-down jam and believe it's all real. Okay? Quit being such a buzzkill.
Their Truth: "This was a coup d'état, with Lyndon Johnson waiting in the wings."
Righteousness Rating: Two grassy knolls, but fading over time. 9/11 truthers have really stolen the thunder away from Kennedy truthers. Which is precisely what the government and the Cubans and the Russians and the mob and a handful of New Orleans dandies wanted to have happen. Who's to say the same people who orchestrated this MURDER weren't also the brainchildren of 9/11? Occam's razor, gang.
Essential Viewing: JFK. The great thing about JFK is that it posits all these cool conspiracy theories, but when it comes time to pin it on one dude (Tommy Lee Jones), there's no evidence of any sort. Kevin Costner is just like … "Hey, this guy lied about his alias. He probably did it." They should have made up more evidence. I would have bought it.
Other Hobbies: Decoding crop circles; slowly giving up on finding Hoffa.
Armed? The truth is the greatest weapon of all!
Typical Comment Section Argument:
Chances They Are Right: Two percent. I'd really like them to be right, frankly. I was born after the killing, so all of this counts as juicy gossip for me, instead of a terrifying abuse of governmental power. I hope there WERE gunmen on grassy knoll, and that LBJ was there, and that aliens were buried under the motorcade route. I want to believe everything terrible.
Viable Truthing Alternative From Tim Marchman: "There actually are good/related alternative JFK conspiracies. One is that the CIA was tracking Oswald all along, and covered it up for the obvious reason that they didn't want to be accused of bungling. The other is that the CIA thought Oswald may have been acting at Moscow's behest, possibly in retaliation for the Bay of Pigs, and were desperate to cover it up, because if the public thought the Kremlin had had JFK killed, there would have been pressure for nuclear war."
Their Truth: I am not entirely certain, to be honest. "Benghazi" has essentially become a catch-all buzzword to signify any and all nefarious dealings of the Obama administration. If you want to accuse Obama of doing something, you simply run it through Benghazi so that people can be like, "Yeah, what DID happen there, man?"
If I can suss it out, I think that Benghazi truthers believe that Obama and Hillary Clinton knew the American embassy was under siege, let people at the Embassy die, deliberately blamed America via an anti-Muslim YouTube video that inflamed the attackers, and have ignored the truth ever since. Is that it? Oh wait… the concussion! (NOTE: more spammy linkage) Hillary's concussion somehow also factors in. And big business! And the Jews! It always come backs to the Jews.
Righteousness Rating: Five fallout shelters. These people aren't gonna let go until they know the truth. And if the truth comes out and happens to be more benign but no less tragic, they will not stop until they find the RIGHT truth.
Essential Reading: Dark Forces: The Truth About What Happened in Banghazi. Good call throwing "dark" in the title there. Truthers will flock to anything containing "dark," "shadowy," "untold," or "shocking truth."
Other Hobbies: Listening to Rush on the way to dropping off this shipping container in Akron.
Armed? Shit yeah. Super armed. All of the arms. Benghazi could happen here if you don't arm yourself.
Typical Comment Section Argument: "You don't have all the facts!" This, right here, is the most frequent claim of any professional bullshitter. You can posit anyone as ignorant simply by saying they don't have the facts. Why, I bet you don't even read! The truther has read more facts than you, has ALL of the facts, and is most qualified to pass judgment. If anyone ever accuses you of not having all the facts, RUN. You have just come face to face with a liar.
Chances They Are Right: N/A. There are so many Benghazi theories that I can't assess them collectively. Benghazi is whatever you want it to be.
"Courtney Killed Kurt" Truthers
Their Truth: Courtney killed Kurt, stole his songs, and made Live Through This with them.
Righteousness Rating: Just don't call grunge "grunge" in front of them.
Essential Viewing: Kurt and Courtney. I like documentaries that are IN NO WAY objective.
Other Hobbies: Pretending old live Nirvana recordings are fun to listen to; alternating between liking Dave Grohl and hating his guts.
Armed? No. Kurt was armed, but they are not.
Typical Comment Section Argument: "Courtney's a fucking liar!"
Chances They Are Right: Fifty percent. I mean, she IS a liar.
1985 NBA Draft Truthers
Their Truth: David Stern froze the Knicks' lottery envelope so that he could pluck it first and ensure the NBA's largest TV market would have Patrick Ewing. Please note that I find this theory amusing because Patrick Ewing was the most unwatchable basketball player of my lifetime. I would have rather watched a bird try to break free from a bear trap.
Righteousness Rating: Two Spike Lee jerseys. These truthers just like using the theory to make David Stern angry. Per our own Tommy Craggs: "He does bang the corner. I just watched it again. It does look significant, in retrospect."
Essential Reading: Every Bill Simmons column from 1999 to 2014. Who says no?!
Other Hobbies: Playing point guard at the YMCA, appointing themselves team captain even though rec league teams don't need captains, yelling at everyone.
Armed? Only with hip pop-culture references. I haven't seen a rigged outcome like this since Marisa Tomei won that Oscar ZINGGGGGGGGGGGG
Typical Comment Section Argument: "Watch for the one card to be thrown into the side of the drum, folding the corner. You can also see Stern giving a big exhale before he draws out the card." I saw that! It all makes sense now.
Chances They Are Right: Forty percent. Though, when David Stern chose to be evil, he usually didn't bother hiding it. Right, Chris Paul?
The Shining Truthers
Their Truth: Don't ask. Please do not ask. You are in for a world of hurt if you ask. Something about Stanley Kubrick faking the moon landings and then using this movie to tell the world about it? OH WAIT THAT REMINDS ME …
Their Truth: It was fake.
Righteousness Rating: One can of Tang.
Essential Reading: This post, which I found after searching Google for half a second. "Authors Joseph Farrell and Henry Stevens both have shown us undeniable proof that Nazi scientists had developed advanced flying saucer technology as early as 1943." Oh, okay! Well then, it all ties together. Naturally, Nazi spaceships and a faked moon landing would go hand-in-hand. Why would we need to fake a trip to the moon if we could take a Nazi UFO there?
Other Hobbies: Guessing your real age, kicking puppies, ruining anything that is fun and good.
Armed? Yes. They have an old Winchester sitting up over the fireplace. Sure, it's mostly for decoration, but the ol' girl can still shoot out a bird's eye from across the county.
Typical Comment Section Argument: From the above link: "Anybody mentioned … How NASA claim they have destroyed all the original footage of the moon landings? Hmmmmm."
Makes you think.
Chances They Are Right: Three percent. I mean, the moon IS super far away. Getting there looks crazy hard.
Their Truth: No one who can sing with that much passion and soul can possibly be a mere teenager!
Righteousness Rating: Half a mud shark.
Essential Reading: This Lorde quote: "I remember when you discovered The Virgin Suicides, and then I watched it kind of along with you, and it really resonated with me as a teenager. I mean, I am still a teenager." Oh, are you? Sounds like someone just let the cat slip out of the bag. No one watches movies after they've had a theatrical run. You are a fucking liar.
Other Hobbies: Saluting any female artist who does not adhere to society's definitions of beautiful.
Typical Comment Section Comment: "Well then that is sad cuz she looks older ..much older than that.Her posture is that ofan old hunched over person too. She is in trouble cuz the industry will age her even more!"
Chances They Are Right: Zero percent, because how could it possibly fucking matter.
Joe Paterno Truthers
Their Truth: The Penn State administration seized upon the outrage over the Jerry Sandusky scandal to blame Joe Paterno for not stopping Sandusky, allowing them to push him out, leading to his death. Also, the media had it in for JoePa and Penn State the whole time, because they couldn't stand the idea of a school winning games the RIGHT WAY, even if Penn State hasn't won jack shit since 1994. By the way, if that turns out to be true, I can't wait to frame Notre Dame for a series of local serial killings.
Righteousness Rating: Five gang showers.
Essential Reading: No reading. Just chant WE ARE! until you cannot hear anything else inside your own mind. Be sure to watch The Framing Of Joe Paterno on an endless loop.
Other Hobbies: Scrapple; claiming unofficial national titles; defiantly ordering Peachy Paterno at the Creamery.
Armed? Half and half.
Typical Comment Section Argument:
Chances They Are Right: Thirty percent. Who the hell knows when JoePa turned senile? Twenty years ago you probably could have hit him with a car and he wouldn't known what was going on.
Their Truth: You can't get AIDS if you only fuck girls, bro!
Righteousness Rating: Two and a half barstools.
Essential Reading: The collected works of Tucker Max. "It's really hard to get AIDS. If you're a straight person sleeping with other straight people, it's hard to get AIDS. If you know anything about STDs, you know it's a pretty stupid question. Those people are trying to scare you away from having sex, that's why. Seriously go look at the actual … go look at the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website and look at the actual numbers … don't read their rhetoric, look at the numbers. Do you know how many new heterosexual cases of AIDS there are a year? Like, 3,000 or something." Women and THE GAYS are conspiring to keep you from getting some serious bareback action, broseph. They're scared of the D.
Other Hobbies: Tailgating; date rape; having HIV.
Armed? Only with a hot schlong BRO I CAN KILL SO MUCH PUSSY WITH THIS FUCKSTICK I GOT.
Typical Comment Section Argument: See above.
Chances They Are Right: Zero percent. As per Tucker's instructions, I did go look at the CDC website. If you have unprotected heterosexual intercourse, there is a 1 in 2,500 chance you will contract HIV, which is not bad, but is not zero. I think I'd prefer that number to be zero before I burn down the Durex factory.
Sandy Hook Truthers
Their Truth: The government pretended that a madman shot up a school full of kids so they could take your guns. Call me crazy, but I feel like there are more direct routes to confiscating firearms than this.
Righteousness Rating: Twelve Hannitys.
Essential Viewing: YouTube shit like this:
Other Hobbies: Subscribing to pretty much all of the conspiracy theories listed above.
Armed? Yes. Also, these are the people most likely to shoot up another school, which is kind of ironic.
Typical Comment Section Argument:
Chances They Are Right: Zero percent. Those kids really were all killed, which … Christ. I mean … why? You know what? Tell me more about how it was all pretend and everyone was fine. I'm down with that version. I can live inside that world.
Their Truth: Roger Goodell saw the Ray Rice tape, had a good laugh about it, lit a cigar, suspended Ray for two games, and said to his friends, "Bitches be crazy, am I right?!" Hey, wait a second … I am one of these truthers! I don't believe a word the NFL says and I will rush to paint any of their excuses as further proof of a league-wide coverup. I'm a truther. OH FUCK.
Righteousness Rating: Ten ESPN suspensions.
Essential Podcasting: The BS Report. I dare you to listen. If anyone listens, I will go public.
Other Hobbies: Changing Twitter avatar to IT'S ON US logo; hating Clay Travis; actively seeking out every last possible form of sports racism.
Armed? No. Thanks to Goodell, the NFL is a partisan enterprise now. So if you're against Goodell, you are probably a namby-pamby gun-control lover. How can America be so obsessed with a game when there is a REAL WAR out there?
Typical Comment Section Argument: "Seriously though, FUCK Goodell." At least, that's my argument.
Chances They Are Right: A hundred percent, and if you disagree then you're just part of the football old boy's network and I will BRING YOU DOWN.
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter@drewmagary and email him at [email protected]. You can also order Drew's book,Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.
Image by Jim Cooke.
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