Editorial | The Conspiracy of Distracted Citizens


I am convinced that I am the victim of a vast, international conspiracy … to separate me from my money and quite possibly my sanity.

Think I’m joking?

I see it in the eyes of my children, who I know for a fact are colluding against me right now. I can hear them plotting and scheming, whispering to each other their plans to obtain the coolest new thing or the tastiest, sugar-laden treat. They are encouraged by agents of a financial-industrial complex — the toy manufacturers, the advertising executives, the salespeople at the local Target.

They are aided and abetted by no less than my parents and in-laws, who help execute the ruse whereby I am saved the trouble and discomfort of paying for the bells-and-whistles cleverly disguised as a police car or dollhouse. But it is I who must supply the endless need of batteries to this trumped-up noisemaker, even as its clangs and whirrs reverberate in my head long after it has been switched off.

Is work any respite, you ask? It’s a pleasure, you think? Yes, I do feel accomplishment at seeing the fruit of my labor, if not paying for clothes, food and shelter for my growing consumers, go to the taxes that help support the grants and regulations that make the whole system work.

I’ll stop there. The truth is, I’m no victim of a conspiracy, but in fact a loving father and husband, more than eager to see my loved ones happy, well fed and content. Not only do I enjoy my job, including the perk of getting to write this column, but I would gladly do whatever was necessary to support my family and community. And there’s no all-seeing ruler pulling the levers of the economy to my disadvantage; it’s merely a sea of human beings like myself all trying to get by.

I’m no victim. Am I instead a member of a vast, international conspiracy?

I’m a journalist with a liberal arts degree from an Ivy League institution, and I happen to be Jewish. In the eyes of some — nay, many in the current environment — that makes me a liberally educated liberal member of a liberal profession, and as an editor, I am part of the unseeing hand that makes it all work.


If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m riffing on this notion of conspiracy, because it’s all anybody is talking about these days. There’s a conspiracy, says one particular politician and some supporters, that comprises the government, the media, even this politician’s own party, to deprive the country of the wisdom of his leadership. The other side, meanwhile, invokes images of foreign agents seeking to disrupt the election at the direction of a presidential campaign.

Believing any of that would be like believing that the existence of 4 million dead people on the voting rolls is prima facie evidence of a conspiracy. I’ve lived in a total of seven different voting jurisdictions, and I’m probably still registered in some of them, this despite notifying state elections officials of previous registrations. Have I voted multiple times in a single election? Not once.

We don’t have a voting fraud problem, although there will always be a handful of fraud cases. We have a nationwide procedural and staffing problem that allows voting rolls to continue so long without being examined and updated. Should it be fixed? Absolutely. Is it a conspiracy? No.

And yet here we are, reduced as a citizenry to debating the existence of a cabal of all-powerful conspirators when we really should be debating the issues: taxes, defense, foreign alliances, poverty, security, civil liberties … the list goes on. As a member of the media, I’ll take responsibility for my profession at times emphasizing the relatively worthless as opposed to actually focusing on what matters, but there’s a wealth of information out there — in this publication and on our website, as well as in newspapers across the country — that allows you, the voter, the chance to sift through competing plans and visions, and make a choice.

Believing in a conspiracy might be easy, but it’s not an excuse for making an informed decision and taking responsibility for your vote.

Joshua Runyan is the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Exponent. He can be reached at [email protected].


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