A new drug has been developed to combat what its manufacturers' claim is an increasing rise in what it calls "conspiracy theory syndrome". We went along to F.U. Pharamceuticals in Baltimore to interview leading research scientist there Dr. Hugh.B.Still.
I asked the doctor:
"Do you believe there is a need for this drug?"
"Our research shows that the need is overwhelming. We see the syndrome as an offshoot of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that is rampant in our society and around the world. Victims find their lives cannot be conducted normally while they are beset by it. Our job is to see to it that these symptoms are alleviated."
"What about a cure...?"
The doctor, tall and gangly with a thin face, moustache and goatee and suprisingly long hair tied at the back, paused as he twiddled his pen.
"A cure is something else."
"Assuming this is a psychological ailment, and I have to say I am not entirely of that view, can a cure be found, Doctor?"
"I believe a cure can be found, but not in the immediate future", he replied. "Our researches into large numbers of severe cases indicate at present that a cure might be very difficult."
"And what large numbers have you examined?"
"Iraqi prisoners, mostly," he coughed returning his gaze to the ceiling.
There was a long, awkward pause before I could focus sufficiently to proceed.
"I see. And conspiracy theory itself...?"
"Yes, a highly delusional condition....Even dangerous, from the point of view of law and order. Delusional patients can be prone to violence."
"Like a man who suspects his wife may be cheating on him/" I ventured.
"Precisely," said he removing his gaze from the ceiling.
"The conspiracy theory," I went on, "Might it not be an exercise of one's right to be sceptical about what is happening to others and especially oneself... and sceptical too about the motives behind such actions? Are we not naturally inclined to doubt things we cannot rationalize?"
"Scepticism is all very well if you have grounds for it but belief in a conspiracy is another matter entirely. And sooo many people have that affliction. You need evidence."
"And if one has no evidence, one is suffering from a delusion, is that it?"
"More or less."
There was another silence. Dr. Still looked at his watch and called for his secretary.
"You must excuse me," said he. "They never give me a minute here. What were you saying?"
"You were saying Dotor, that if one has no evidence for one's scepticism... I mean "conspiracy" then one is delusional."
"That is correct. And thankfully now, we have found a treatment. Not a cure since there is no money....I mean, we must work at alleviating the symptoms, the anxiety behind it. We have pumped millions into finding out precisely what areas of the brain are responsible for wayward thinking in general and controlling the compulsion at source. That is what this medication does."
"It subdues all natural scepticism, I mean conspiracy beliefs? I mean, Doctor, might not conspiracies be going on all the time irrespective of whether or not we personally have access to any evidence to prove them?"
At that, Dr. Still rose abruptly from his chair and led me to the door.
"I am sorry to have to cut our little chat short, but I have an urgent meeting with our marketing committee," said he grabbing my arm in a vice-like grip as he opened the door. "We are planning a take-over this afternoon of Radion Pharmaceuticals who have been nibbling at our profit margins for years. Thanks for calling. Have a nice day."
I strode down the corridor, puzzled and confused.
"One other thing!" he shouted after me.
"Our medication will be available soon in all good drug stores. Very affordable!"