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on 24 May 2008
Roeper's "Debunked" is a witty, no-holds barred look at a few of the sacred cows of conspiracy theorists and believers in urban legends. Happily, he's an equal opportunity critic, skewering the icons of the American left (Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah Winfrey) with as much verve as the idols of the right (Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter). I'm delighted by his "fair and balanced treatment" of assorted conspiracy theories, urban legends and evil plots (just like on Fox "News"!). All in all, it's a pretty brave book: Roeper could have just as easily called it "Please Send Me Sackloads of Vitriolic Hate Mail," because that's what he's probably going to get.

Too bad, because "Debunked" does a nice job of explaining why 9-11 was caused by terrorists and not the US government, why casinos don't cheat (your odds of winning are so low that they don't need to), why there's no good reason to think that Princess Di or JFK, Jr were murdered, why "The Secret" is hokum, and why there is no vast left-wing conspiracy in the United States. (On the last point, my own guess is that the left wing conspirators were murdered in a vast right-wing conspirancy organized by Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, and Elvis, but Roeper doesn't really mention that theory, probably because he's part of the conspiracy).

Speaking of extreme American right wingers like O'Reilly and Coulter, I've always wondered why their evident love for conspiracy theories doesn't extend to traditional conservative institutions. I mean, who's to say, for instance, that America's National Rifle Association isn't a front organization for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, or that the BATF hasn't by nefarious means secured access to the NRA's computerized mailing lists? You'd send the NRA your address when you become a member or subscribe to the National Rifleman, right? So they'd know where you live, that you probably own guns, and that you support the Second Amendment. Won't that put gun-owning Americans in an awkward spot when the Shadow Government implements its evil plans? Since the NRA membership or subscription wouldn't tell the Bad Guys how many guns you own or where they are located, the Shadow Government would just have to kill or imprison everyone at that address. And if gun owners think they are safe because they use a PO box--the US Postal Service is a government agency, right? Why don't O'Reilly and Coulter ever fret about that possibility unless---gasp!--they're part of the conspiracy!!! All of this is very silly, but no sillier than some of the other urban legends and conspiracy theories that Roeper debunks with great flair.

The bottom line is that Roeper's latest installment in a series that began with "Urban Legends" and "Hollywood Urban Legends," will upset people who hear the words "coming soon to a theater near you!" and scream "oh, my God, how did THEY know?!"
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