Going to X-Tremes

It's tough to be a conspiracy nut these days, because the conspiratorial worldview has gone positively mainstream. Nobody's sure anymore who's a nut and who's not. So it is no accident that the best new TV show of the 1990s is The X Files.

The "files" of the title are a grab bag of unexplained phenomena tucked away in the basement of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C. On a weekly basis, the "X" agents, Scully and Mulder, investigate Satanists, unknown life forms, corporate criminals, bovine growth hormone, and, especially, the ongoing cover-up of America's alien abduction epidemic. It is thrilling stuff, all dedicated, right there in the opening titles, to the proposition that "The Truth Is Out There."

The popularity of The X Files is telling. Perhaps it tells us that people from outer space really are snatching up our citizens and using them in a massive DNA experiment of some sort...with U.S. government collusion. Who knows? But I suspect the show also tells us something very earthbound about the state of our culture.

Conspiracy theories always flourish at the alienated extremes of the politico-cultural spectrum. In one zone of influence, which we still, for lack of better terms, call the Far Right, apparently reasonable people, and lots of them, are sincerely convinced that Vince Foster was murdered. Even further out on a limb is Rev. Jerry Falwell, who has set a new low in moral cynicism by peddling the notorious Clinton video series, which claims our president is a murderer and a dope dealer. Future installments may expose President Bill as a Satanist from outer space, and Falwell will probably sell those, too.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1995
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