I once saw a movie called "There Might be Giants," starring George C. Scott. The story was of a mental patient who was convinced that he was Sherlock Holmes, locked in an ongoing game to the death with Professor Moriarty. Any random thing that this "Sherlock" saw could become a significant piece of evidence, leading the finder another step along the trail of Moriarty. So convincing, however, was the deluded detective, that, ultimately, he was able to convince others of the veracity of his suspicions, most notably the young female psychiatrist who had been assigned to his case.
'George' had a contagious talent for bringing together disparate scraps and clues in such a way that they seemed to be meaningful, somehow. Moriarty became not a delusion, but a reality, lurking behind every tree, around every corner. Moriarty, encompassing the essence of evil, was as real as the goodness, the passion, the devotion in Holmes himself -- a tormented man who just wanted to make things right, not only for himself, but for everybody. At last, the "evidence" gathered seems to lead to the meat department of a 24 hour supermarket, where Moriarty waits in the swaying shadows between the carcasses of cows not yet sectioned for sale.
Well, it was a good movie, in its own way, and it had something to say about what is real and what is not, what is and what might be. The title, of course, is an allusion to Don Quixote, who jousted with windmills, believing them to be giants.
This all comes to mind as a result of the conspiracy theories that I continue to hear from many of the expatriates here, and particularly from my best friend, Mike. From 9/11 to Seal Team 6, the Kennedy assassination to the killing of bin Laden, the theories grow ever more complex and absurd, ever more tangled in their own threads -- and yet you cannot talk the believers out of them! Not amount of factual information will suffice, no amount of good reasoning or logic. They smile and wink. They know something, you see? Something that no one else knows.
In short, it's irritating. And it is also revealing -- not of the truth, but of the human mind, the psychological disposition. What is really behind these theories, I wonder? Fear? Paranoia? Helplessness? Why do people go to outrageous lengths to invent alternative scenarios? What is it that makes them believe the shady rumor in favor of the plain truth? As if what happened, on 9/11, for instance, were not strange enough in itself!
They're right about one thing. Moriarty is out there. No doubt about it. Moreover, he stands before us, in plain sight, needing no obfuscating cloak of shadows. Moriarty is bin Laden. He is Oswald. He is the evil will to inflict destruction and death -- one will with a thousand names and shapes. No need to look any further than that.