Your neighbor is probably a perfectly normal, reasonable adult. But suppose you and your neighbor are having an over-the-fence chat about this and that. You comment about how many sparrows you’ve had at your bird feeders lately, and his eyes bug out, he starts huffing and puffing, and next thing you know, conversation ceases as he goes off into the wild, blue yonder.
“Hey, pal, those “sparrows” aren’t real,” he says. “It’s not some theory! There’s this Instagram place with 335 thousand followers that tells The Truth about “birds” and there’s stuff on YouTube. That’s a fact that proves that “birds” aren’t real, but you want more proof, then just think on this! There’s an official website about how “birds” are fake! There’s hats and T-shirts! Why the hell would there be hats and T-shirts that say birds aren’t real if birds are real? You follow me? Many people are talking about what “birds” really are! It’s a fact that those so-called “birds” you see and the ones you don’t see are surveillance drone replicas cooked up by the evil so-called scientists and launched by the government to spy on you. Yeah, on you, buddy, and everybody else! Jeez, I had to close all the blinds because three of those damn general surveillance “sparrow” drones just happened to be sitting in the hedge outside my bathroom window trying to record what I was reading on the can! You want the International Conspiracy to take away everything you love? I’m talking about your guns, your freedoms and rights, your Bible, your….” (and so forth)
Did that imaginary rant sound so bonkers that you can’t imagine it happening?
I can’t completely dismiss the possibility. Walking among us are multitudes like the hypothetical neighbor up there, so ignorant and confused, so willing to turn their brains over to some ranting crackpot, and so in need of attention and affirmation that anyone loud and authoritative enough can get them to believe in and act on the most absurd, nonsensical rubbish.
This is nothing new. The human brain has been cooking up mass hallucinations and delusions for centuries. But it feels like we’ve passed a crucial tipping point, and we’re seeing rationality and reason dissolving in a flood of mindlessness. I don’t see how that’s going to change.
By the way, if you’d like to check out the satiric “Birds Aren’t Real” movement, here you go.