Editors note: This column reflects the opinion of the columnist and does not represent a political position or endorsement taken by the Courier-Herald.
I feel like a high school kid again.
Like I have a big test in the morning that I’m not prepared for but, wait, hope is on the horizon. The forecast called for snow, so I’m going to pray for snow – please snow, I’ll do anything just let it snow.
Except I’m not praying for bad weather. I’m praying for this election to be over. Can it be over now? Look, I’ll even promise to start doing adult things. I’ll buy (and eat) vegetables, I’ll drive the speed limit, I’ll remember to pay my taxes on time, just please, please, please let me wake up tomorrow to find it’s Election Day, my ballot’s already in the mail and all I have to do now is sit back and watch the election unfold.
No? Drat. Where’s a pair of ruby slippers when you need ‘em? (Toto, I don’t think we’re in America anymore.)
Really, though. Did I wake up in an alternate universe or something? Suddenly, self-described ubermensch Donald Trump is calling foul at everything – Democrats, Republicans, women accusing him of sexual assault, mainstream media and bankers – citing a global conspiracy to keep him out of the Oval Office.
And some people are still going to vote for him.
So let’s break this conspiracy wide open, starting with our two candidate’s various penchants for political honesty.
PolitiFact breaks down statements into various shades of truth or lies, from “true” to “pants on fire.”
The fact-checking website has recorded Hillary Clinton saying 40 “mostly false,” 28 “false,” and 6 “pants on fire” statements for a grand total of 74 lies.
Donald Trump has told a whopping 208 lies; 58 “mostly false,” 103 “false,” and 52 “pants on fire.”
Someone took PolitiFact’s data and, comparing them visually to claims made by President Obama, Ted Cruz, Chris Cristie, Bernie Sanders, Michele Bachmann and many more politicians between 2007 and now.
Trump, unsurprisingly to some, topped the list, making him the biggest political liar in the last nine years.
Hillary was ranked second most honest, right behind President Obama.
The New York Time’s own Truth-O-Meter gives former President Bill Clinton the title of most honest politician (I’ll admit, that surprised me) and Ben Carson as the least. Trump was given the silver medal for most lies, and Secretary Clinton fourth most honest.
Oh but wait, I forgot – there’s a media conspiracy to elect Clinton and dump on Trump. So of course these liberally-biased news sources are going support “Crooked Hillary,” no matter what she does or says.
I can’t believe I can do this, but I can actually quote the most powerful person in our country when I say, “Stop whining.”
Earlier in January, the BBC reported on a math study that focused on how long conspiracies can stay secret before being revealed to the public.
There were three factors to the equation involved in the study; how many conspirators are involved, the amount of time that’s passed, and the intrinsic probability of a conspiracy failing.
Dr. David Grimes took four famous conspiracies and applied them to his equation.
According to him, the moon landing hoax would have been revealed in almost four years. Climate change fraud, between 4 and 27 years. The vaccine-autism conspiracy, 3 to 35 years. I don’t know what the “cancer conspiracy” is, but Grimes gave that one roughly 3 years.
Is his equation perfect? No, but it shows that basically, the more people that are involved in a conspiracy, and the more time a conspiracy is a secret, the more likely it is that the conspiracy will be discovered.
In another article specifically calling out some 2016 election conspiracy theories, the BBC talked to four lie-detection and fact checking experts about how news readers can spot conspiracy theories from the truth.
Obviously, secret plans made behind secret doors are a big tell-tale sign.
“People acting in secrecy is a necessary feature of a conspiracy theory, as it cannot be disproved,” Joseph Uscinski, political science professor at the University of Miami and author of American Conspiracy Theories told the BBC.
Scale, as demonstrated by the math equation, is another factor addressed. The bigger the conspiracy, the harder it is to keep a secret.
Considering the source of information is also important. Guess what? Google, Facebook, Twitter are not sources of information.
If there’s no citation, you can probably disregard whatever you just read. If there is a citation, follow up and make your own judgement on the validity of the information being presented to you. (Speaking of which, this column is loaded with hyperlinks. Go online to check them out.)
Finding patterns that constantly crop up year after year can also be a red flag signaling a conspiracy theory.
“A lot of conspiracy theories have an alarmist tone. If it sounds too awful to be true, you should view the story with skepticism,” PolitiFact Editor in Chief Angie Halan said to the BBC.
Look. Fact checking, especially the famed “Truth-O-Meter,” will always be subjective and non-scientific. That’s why it’s important for voters to consider multiple, reliable sources of information and check the facts themselves.
And the facts show that there is no Clinton-media collusion.
The facts show that these election polls are not rigged or false, although some can be very unscientific.
The facts show that voter fraud, which does exist, is so rare and widespread that it won’t have any effect on this election.
And the facts show that Trump is loosing this race, not because of a global conspiracy, but – because he is the embodiment of a time when racism and sexism were rampant in this country – he thought that promoting racism and sexism would propel him into the highest office in our country.
Trump is a man who always got what he wanted. Money. Fame. Power. Sexual gratification, whether it was consensual or not, if his own words are to be believed.
He’s wielded this power because he’s rich, famous and white, and assumed that same power and privilege would get him in the White House.
But the race has been much harder than he assumed, and his entire perspective of how the world works is crumbling before his eyes, like sand running through his tiny, tiny fingers.
And Trump would rather drag his staff, his family, his supporters and even our faith in democracy with him into his political grave than to admit that he is wrong.