It used to be that conspiracy theories were relegated to the thought processes of the extreme paranoid right wing – embodied in movies like “The Clinton Chronicles,” and a vague dread over the constituents of the “Council on Foreign Relations” and the UN (listen to Michael Medved some Wednesday afternoon on his “Conspiracy Day” show; invariably one of these nuts calls in). More recently, however, ideas with even less credibility are making the rounds among fundamentalist lefties – from Michael Moore’s website, to 9/11 conspiracies like those that hold that no plane that crashed into the Pentagon, or that “Bush Knew” about the planes prior to the World Trade Center attacks.

To me, “fundamentalism” is manifested as a serious personal and often dangerous weakness. Specifically, it’s the practice of keeping one’s worldview hermetically sealed and free from critical examination. When people surround themselves with like minded individuals and exchange views only within this cloister, the resulting ideas are often inbred and distorted. Marginalization of those outside of the group serves to further protect and seal off the ideology from criticism. The fundamentalist’s perception of reality itself will eventually be bent to further serve her worldview.

Such an atmosphere breeds ignorance and creates a situation that allows conspiracy theories to thrive.

For example, if you already believe that George Bush and his cronies are the most evil people on the planet; bent on the destruction of the human race if it puts a few dollars in the pockets of their coven-mates, the perception is only confirmed by lunatic accusations that “Bush Knew” about 9/11 before hand – or that the World Trade center was actually detonated by explosives – all for oil money.

It should be come as no surprise then, since the most vociferous fundamentalists in America today are academic leftists, that conspiracy theories and misplaced fear of things different (along with a large dose of irrationality) pervade the thinking of much of the left. In a series of posts, of which this is the introduction, I’d like to explore several prominent fundamentalists (and some not so prominent) as they make the news. In my next post in the series I will deal with David Byrne of “The Talking Heads” fame, whose blog has recently been brought to my attention.