Adventures in credulity

I didn’t know there was a myth that Oliver North told the Iran-Contra investigation and in particular Al Gore (!) that the reason he had such a pricey security system was because he was afraid of “the most evil man in the world” and that that man was Osama bin Laden.

(Actually maybe I did know it, once upon a time. It sounds very faintly familiar now – I may have caught a whiff or a glimpse of it at some point. But if so, the knowledge didn’t stick.)

I was told it yesterday. I was driving an acquaintance back from the airport, and he told me it. He told me it as something he saw – he saw Al Gore questioning Oliver North, and he saw Oliver North tell Al Gore that.

Wait, what? I said. Are you sure? That can’t be right. That was in the 80s – bin Laden was a mujahid then. He was an anti-CommOnist, just Olly North’s kind of guy. (I forebore to point out that Al Gore wasn’t on the Iran-Contra committee, because I’m a kind and loving person.)

My acquaintance all but laughed. He knew absolutely that it was right; he remembered very clearly watching it. There was no possibility of error whatsoever.

You know…I’m not used to people like that. I don’t get out much, so I don’t meet them. I’m not used to people who are so stupid that they think their memories are infallible. That level of certainty combined with cluelessness kind of startles me. (It also profoundly bores me, but that’s another story.)

I wasn’t having it though. He’d been talking non-stop since the instant he got in the car, lecturing on this and then on that, not even paying attention to whether I was interested or not, so I wasn’t having it. I kept pointing out that it was in the 80s, bin Laden was on Reagan’s side, what he was saying made no sense. Once I mentioned the dates for about the sixth time, his certainty wobbled a little, so then he started to lecture about something else.

My friend Claire looked it up on Snopes for me, so now I know it’s not just some fantasy my acquaintance made up from scratch, it’s an existing myth, that went flying around the internet in 2001. He’s a sucker for things that go flying around the internet, and emails them to everyone in his address book, which unfortunately includes me. He got it from some stupid mailing or other, swallowed it whole, and now thinks he saw it happen, and thinks he remembers seeing it. Not even that: he’s certain he remembers seeing it, and he treats skepticism with amused contempt.

Stupidity in action. It’s not a pretty sight.

(He embellished the story with a bit about Gore trying to scare North, saying North had looked down the barrel of a blah blah blah and wasn’t about to be scared by blah blah blah – I became less kind and loving for long enough to interject that Gore had been in the military too. I wanted also to point out that most military people despise Oliver North; they think he’s a traitor and a disgrace to the service…but I didn’t. Too many flies to swat.)

Not a pretty sight.

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