Column: Conspiracy theories on the Internet used to be cute; now they’re mainstream

“Here’s why dozens of cargo ships are parked for days off Long Beach’s coast,” was the headline of a story that appeared in the Post on Friday, and the story delivered, as promised, an explanation by reporter Kelly Puente that a number of factors has led to as many as 30 cargo ships having to wait just off the coast of Long Beach for a spot to open up in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to offload a record amount of cargo, an effort that’s further exacerbated by the shortage of warehouse space because of COVID.

If you missed Puente’s story, you can read it here and one hopes that will be a satisfying explanation and you can move on to other issues.

The story did remarkably well in terms of readership numbers, because a lot of people are wondering what’s the deal with all the ships that can be seen easily from Ocean Boulevard. But the readership noticeably spiked again on Monday and Tuesday, boosted by the fact that a few conspiracy-theory or ultra-conservative websites, such as the Conservative Treehouse and Above Top Secret, have picked it up and their fans have been batting it around like a kitten with a catnip-laced stuffed mouse.

Right off the bat, there was this, on a site called Godlike Productions: “Of course that’s the ‘official story,’ but is it the truth?”

Well, not if you’re referring to the fact that the Post omitted noting that the whole issue of ships moored off the coast brings to mind immediately chapter 18, verses 17-19 of Revelation, which predicts all hell breaking loose and a burning city and something about ships. Someone, too, wrote that, and another responded with “Wow. That came to my mind as well when I saw the picture” of the ships. Well, who wouldn’t think of that immediately upon seeing a couple dozen container ships bobbing off the coast?

Long Beach and South Bay locals tended to respond to these posts that ships lined up at our local ports isn’t an uncommon sight, though lately it’s a bit heavier than usual, but, yeah, we see this all the time around the ports. Relax.

Finding nothing to relax about, another conspiracy buff with below-average ship-identification skills, typed, “Those aren’t freighters. They are cruisers and destroyers.” A: No, they’re not. There is no B.

A long post laid out exactly what is about to happen, as long as you’re willing to go along with the theory that the ships aren’t container ships but perhaps cleverly disguised Chinese warships and now is the time for “a textbook start for China to make its first war strike on the US.” Destroying, or severely crippling the ports would shut down import-export business between the US and the rest of the world and render us unable to counter-attack, the commenter noted. “This is the World War 3 scenario with China,” is their inevitable conclusion.

There was some agreement with this assessment. “Not to mention, it keeps America off guard with the official story…. Now is the time for action.”

This kind of stuff used to be hilarious until it became so popular that it’s become the kind of stuff embraced by millions of people—perhaps as many as 74 million people.

Conspiracies about elections, conspiracies about the Deep State, Yellowstone volcano conspiracies, chem-trail conspiracies, Clinton body count conspiracies, pizzeria conspiracies, fake media conspiracies.

Occam’s Razor has been dulled to the point where you can’t cut butter with it. Instead, the Illuminati or Hunter Biden or China warships are the preferred explanations for things that people can’t wrap their heads around, such as why there’s a long line of ships waiting to get into the ports.

They’re not there to destroy America. They’re bringing you that stuff you ordered from Amazon in perhaps a martini-tinged shopping spree. Be patient, your things will be on your porch soon, unless they’re stolen by aliens. Seriously. They do that.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.