The story is famous, but may be worth repeating: Paul Wellstone was a senator from Minnesota, serving from 1991 until his death in a plane crash in 2002. A Democrat, Wellstone consistently ranked as one of the most liberal Senators – he was also for instance one of only a handful of Senators to have voted against military action in Iraq in both 1991 and 2002. Wellstone’s Senate seat was up for election in 2002, running against Norm Coleman, but eleven days before the election, Wellstone, his wife, and one of his children were killed in a plane crash. Partially because they handled the aftermath poorly (experiencing a backlash after politicizing Wellstone’s funeral, for instance) the Democrats lost the election.
Enter the conspiracy theorists. According to an NTSB investigation, numerous pilot mistakes were solely to blame for the crash that killed everyone on the plane carrying the late senator, but, you know, such conclusions carry little weight in certain quarters. Here, for instance, is Michael I. Niman raising the question on alternet (Jim Fetzer also weighed in). But we will let one Jackson Thoreau (a pseudonym) serve as the front figure for the idea. Thoreau raises, in particular, the pertinent question of whether Wellstone was assassinated by Dick Cheney for voting against the invasion of Iraq. “My first hunch upon hearing about the tragedy was that the Beech King Air A-100 was tampered with by right wingers, possibly the CIA, either directly or through electromagnetic rays or some psychic mind games. And,” rather unsurprisingly, “nothing I have heard or read since then has made me drift from that hunch.” And what do you know – Thoreau has rumors, second-hand stories from people who have allegedly been in contact with the CIA and can verify that something fishy is going on, and unverified sightings and tidings of black vans and helicopters.
He does assure us, however, that “I'm not a big conspiracy nut,” which is, I suppose, good to know, but somewhat undermined when you explore Thoreau’s other writings, which include articles for Rense.com with titles like “The Strange Death Of The Woman Who Filed A Rape Lawsuit Against Bush”. I have found little information on the contents of his books, such as Born to Cheat (on the Bush elections), but he is at least behind several political campaigns to “impeach Bush”, “indict Bush and Cheney”, “remove Tony Blair”, “remove Texas Gov. Perry”, and “totally recall Schwarzenegger”. I suppose some readers here agree with the sentiment, but presumably not the reasons Thoreau offers.
Diagnosis: Another event, another conspiracy theory. Thoreau is not the most incoherent of such theorist, and one even suspects that he could have been a force of good if he realized a few things about how psychological biases work and why conspiracy theories are stupid.