In many ways, 2009 has been a year where the crazies have come out of the woodwork. With the election of Barack Obama, conspiracy theories alleging that the president is of Kenyan birth or is a secret Muslim extremist purposefully trying to undermine our values and economic stability became rampant and were even given credence by a number of political pundits and elected officials. While these theories are undoubtedly hogwash, they still flourish in certain facets of society, proving that conspiracy theories work best when faced with mountains of evidence proving them wrong. For the most part, conspiracy theories thrive on mistrust of the government, and with today’s environment of the disenfranchised right, the arrival of Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura couldn’t have come at a better time.
If you’ve seen recent interviews with Ventura, you may have noticed that the former Navy seal, pro-wrestler, mayor, governor, and Running Man star has started to sound a little crazier than usual. His radio appearances have often been reduced to lengthy rants alleging the U.S. government’s involvement in everything from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the terrorist attacks on September 11th. With his new show, Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura, the typically entertaining Ventura has assembled a team of supposed experts to research some of the most prominent conspiracy theories of the last 10 years, including the true source of global warming, secret 2012 government bunkers, and the genocidal plot of the secret Bilderberg Group.
The concept seems great, at least on paper. If Ventura took these theories and broke them down, and separated fact from fiction using a range of qualified testimonials and research, Conspiracy Theory could have been a twisted cocktail—part Mythbusters and part Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Sadly, the show doesn’t bother with trivialities like “reliable sources” or “in-depth analysis,” but rather acts more like a mouthpiece for Ventura’s crazy ideas; it’s sloppily researched, poorly executed, and laughably one-sided.
Taking notes from the popular Glenn Beck school of posing unsubstantiated fear-mongering theories in the form of questions, Conspiracy Theory feels more concerned with spreading these nonsense theories rather than revealing if they hold any validity. Ventura chalks the one-sidedness of his program up to a lack of government cooperation, but how exactly is the government supposed to prove that they aren’t using mind control on an unsuspecting populace beyond saying, “No, that’s silly,” and calling it a day? The burden of proof is on Ventura and his cronies, who rely on the worst kinds of Alex Jones-type fringe loonies to support their theories. The dissenting voices, what few government officials or scientists that actually appear, are treated like sniveling pencil pushers—men eager to toe the party line rather reveal “the truth” behind their supposedly devious deeds.
Ventura’s hokey methods are clear throughout the premiere episode, in which the former governor and his team travel to Alaska in order to investigate HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), a defense agency-funded research center that uses a massive amount of electricity to heat up the ionosphere and could be used to better communicate with deep sea submarines. Of course, the show takes this innocuous bit of information and twists it into HAARP being used as a weapon capable of controlling the weather and disintegrating human beings, as well as being a possible cause of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. Apparently, the United States government is more like Cobra or SPECTRE than one would imagine.
Ventura’s proof that something fishy is going on up in Alaska is a single hapless HAARP employee (“dressed like a civilian,” as the narrator quickly notes), who denies him and his camera crew access to the compound. He quickly jumps to the conclusion that they would only shut out a former Navy Seal and governor if they had something to hide, completely bypassing the more obvious reason of not wanting to let in a cracked, opportunistic television host hoping to skewer the government on just about anything. As if this weren’t silly enough, Ventura’s cameras apparently begin to short out as they’re leaving the compound for mysterious reasons—distortion caused by either HAARP or Adobe After Effects (it’s up to the viewer to decide).
One thing that Conspiracy Theory does have going for it is the banter of unbridled wackos. The HAARP episode alone has a remarkable share of wannabe mad scientists and toothless mountain folk spouting hearsay and pseudoscience like gospel. It’s obvious that Ventura and his crew hit a dead end with HAARP, which forces them to drive around a nearby town to interview anyone willing to talk to them. So while it makes for some of the worst investigative television this side of Dateline, seeing a former United States governor sit down and attempt to have a serious discussion with a fat, bearded, middle-aged yokel wearing an undersized 50 Cent t-shirt is the kind of markedly hilarious scenario one could only find on Conspiracy Theory.