Kevin Kallaugher neatly explains what's going on.
It is a riff, of course, on one of the absolute classics of The Far Side, which was followed by a second take, both of which adorned the bulletin board in my kitchen until they were quite yellow and curled, or possibly until I moved, I forget which.
And here's a law nobody thought to formulate: What is amusing and endearing in dogs and cats is depressing and scary in people.
I realize that people hear what they want to hear, but I like to pretend that this means they only hear things like "you are really beautiful" from Last Call Lotharios and "If You Share This I Will Send You $5000" from Bill Gates impersonators and that most of their foolishness mostly falls under the category of (A) self-defeating and/or (B) annoying.
As noted here last week, I used to help the police and the attorney general try to prevent foolish people from making truly dangerous bad decisions, and not just from bogus gynecologists but from driveway sealant scams and bogus contests as well.
Just because they're sheep, that doesn't mean they deserve to be slaughtered, and the fact that I make jokes about Nigerian widows doesn't mean I'm unaware of the fact that they wouldn't keep trying to pull the scam if there weren't people out there responding to it.
And, common decency aside, fools need to be protected because they can get suckered into some beliefs that make the world less pleasant for all of us: As I noted in that linked blog posting, their steady diet of cop shows, phony "documentaries" and exploitive scaremongering "news" has helped set up a world in which we accept a lot of Big Brotherism to protect us from dangers that don't exist.
Which brings us to the current brouhaha over Syria and the relentless stream of bad reasoning and deliberate misinformation flying around the Internet.
Here's the deal: There will always be delusional paranoia. There will always be people who believe the government has planted transmitters in their fillings or is using mind-rays on them.
There is also, I have long been convinced, a major imbalance in the proportion of undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome folks on the Internet, and I say that as someone who genuinely likes Aspies.
I used to run a high school quiz bowl, and no team that didn't have at least two Aspies ever won much of anything. But the Aspies I knew and liked were aware that they were Aspies and that their differences gave them both some interesting skills and some substantial social challenges.
They took pride in their unique talents, they worked to overcome those challenges, they had a fairly healthy mix of feelings about their status in life.
They also had one or two people in the "normal" community whom they trusted and who, when they made some grand, sweeping incorrect statement about life, could say to them, "No, that's not actually how it works," and they would at least tone it down if not recast their theory.
Grand, sweeping, incorrect statements about the world are, alas, the meat-and-potatoes of the Internet.
In all fairness, the perfectly normal urge to be special, to be among the elite who know things nobody else knows and believe things that nobody else believes has not been fed exclusively by nonsensical "documentaries" on TLC, Discovery and elsewhere, or by the ravings of extremists on Fox and MSNBC, or by the viral conspiracy theories and bad-science ramblings about things like childhood vaccination on the Internet itself.
There is also a significant cause-and-effect because of actual, deliberate lies that the government has actually, deliberately told us.
In fact, I saw an interesting kind of mash-up just yesterday on a screwball true-believer site, in which real-life lies about WMDs and that ambassador's kid who was trotted out to present a cock-and-bull story about Iranian soldiers in a Kuwaiti maternity ward were interlaced with some utterly delusional conspiracy theories about phony news being staged by major news organizations and Russia's plan of military retaliation against the US for any action in Syria.
It's not the first time governmental dishonesty has fed into paranoid delusions.
I had a friend who was going through his psych rotation in med school back during Watergate, when the revelations of FBI spying began to emerge. He had a patient who believed "they" were spying on him and that John Chancellor was not only speaking directly to him but would climb out of the television and follow him around the room.
My friend said his task of treating this fellow became more difficult when the patient could point to COINTELPRO and other reports of phone tapping, mail-monitoring and various intrusions as proof that he wasn't delusional.
So, if it seems simplistic and foolish to believe that any proposal of a military strike is a declaration of war, and that it will inevitably lead to an Iraq-level quagmire, there is at least some rationality behind it.
At least, that is, as much rationality as there is in feeling that, because the FBI tapped the phones of antiwar activists, John Chancellor is following you around the room.
It doesn't really explain the point-of-view that holds that Barack Obama invented the notion that chemical warfare is wrong, given that, wherever the hell he was born, it was certainly well after gassing people was banned in Geneva.
Nor does it explain the apparent notion that war itself is a war crime, and that civilian deaths are necessarily the goal of an action if they are the result of that action, or that defoliating a jungle with something that turns out to have harmful long-term effects is the same thing as gassing a village with something created specifically to kill people.
But as the Rock Man said, you see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear.
All you've gotta do is open your mind along with your eyes.
And be cool.