Evi and Randy Quaid

Our reg­u­lar read­ers have prob­a­bly noticed by now that we’ve ini­ti­ated a series of reg­u­lar features.

Some of these will per­sist, while some will not. It’s sur­vival of the fittest.

The lat­est muta­tion is today’s fea­ture: Tin­foil Hat Tues­day. That’s where we kick around a con­spir­acy theory.

The whole series could get really heavy. It’s Christ­mas Week. Let’s start off the fea­ture with a lighter Advent-​​ure.

Randy Quaid and his wife Evi were arrested in Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia in Octo­ber. They claim they feared for their lives, des­tined to be the next vic­tims of a secre­tive cult called the Star Whack­ers, who have already claimed Chris Penn (d. 2006), Heath Ledger (d. 2008), David Car­ra­dine (d. 2009) and Ronni Chasen (d. 2010) as vic­tims. What were the Star Whack­ers doing in 2007? We may never know.

Police and pros­e­cu­tors, coldly ratio­nal and small-​​minded peo­ple that they are, claim that the Quaids are flee­ing to avoid prosecution.

Both Quaids were arrested last year in Pre­sidio County, Texas on charges of skip­ping out on a $10,000 hotel bill in Sep­tem­ber 2009. Charges against Randy Quaid in that case were dropped; Evi Quaid pled “no con­test” and was placed on probation.

Appar­ently Sep­tem­ber is a bad month (men­sis hor­ri­bilis?) for the Quaids, because this Sep­tem­ber they were arrested again on charges of “squat­ting” in a house they for­merly owned, but had allegedly sold sev­eral years ear­lier. (Quaid was appar­ently chan­nel­ing his inner Bartleby.)

So, they did what any­one in their sit­u­a­tion would do, and fled from the shad­owy Hol­ly­wood cult known as the “Star Whack­ers.” Obvi­ously, when one’s friends are mur­dered in Bangkok, New York, Santa Mon­ica and Hol­ly­wood, one must go to a remote and inac­ces­si­ble loca­tion to save one’s life. That would be Van­cou­ver, British Columbia.

(Hear Randy Quaid explain the con­spir­acy in his own words.)

Both Quaids were detained by Cana­dian offi­cials, but released after it was dis­cov­ered that Evi Quaid’s father was actu­ally — Cana­dian. Now Evi Quaid is Cana­dian, too. Chan­nel­ing her inner McKen­zie, she said, “I am so proud to be a Cana­dian. … It is a beau­ti­ful day.” At this writ­ing, Randy’s peti­tion for asy­lum from the Star Whack­ers is still pend­ing. I’m cer­tain that Avi Quaid’s pride in her Cana­dian her­itage will increase his chances of get­ting a suc­cess­ful hearing.

So, there’s a great con­spir­acy the­ory. Is there a secre­tive cult of “Star Whack­ers” who have already offed Heath Ledger and David Car­ra­dine, as the Quaids claim? Let’s run the claim through the Sher­mer Con­spir­acy The­ory Detec­tor.

(I’m not diss­ing the Short­chain mod of the Sher­mer CTD. I invite Short­chain to chime in here with his analysis.)

This con­spir­acy the­ory is rated on a zero– to five-​​tinfoil-​​hat scale. Each “hit” gets a half-​​hat.

  1. Proof of the con­spir­acy sup­pos­edly emerges from a pat­tern of “con­nect­ing the dots” between events that need not be causally con­nected. When no evi­dence sup­ports these con­nec­tions except the alle­ga­tion of the con­spir­acy or when the evi­dence fits equally well to other causal connections—or to randomness—the con­spir­acy the­ory is likely to be false. Most author­i­ties would agree there is no causal link between the appar­ently acci­den­tal deaths of Chris Penn in Santa Mon­ica, Heath Ledger in New York, Keith Car­ra­dine in Bangkok and Ronni Chasen in Hol­ly­wood. Hit.
  2. The agents behind the pat­tern of the con­spir­acy would need nearly super­hu­man power to pull it off. Peo­ple are usu­ally not nearly so pow­er­ful as we think they are. These guys are Nin­jas. They spe­cial­ize in mak­ing deaths look like dilated car­diomy­opa­thy, drug over­dose, asphyx­i­a­tion and gun­shots and have tricked med­ical exam­in­ers in all those venues into think­ing these deaths are acci­den­tal and uncon­nected. Plus, the Quaids are due to be killed by knife. These guys are ver­sa­tile. Hit.
  3. The con­spir­acy is com­plex, and its suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion demands a large num­ber of ele­ments. See #2 above. Hit.
  4. Sim­i­larly, the con­spir­acy involves large num­bers of peo­ple who would all need to keep silent about their secrets. The more peo­ple involved, the less real­is­tic it becomes. None of these deaths were exactly low pro­file, except maybe Penn’s. Hit.
  5. The con­spir­acy encom­passes a grand ambi­tion for con­trol over a nation, econ­omy or polit­i­cal sys­tem. If it sug­gests world dom­i­na­tion, the the­ory is even less likely to be true. Miss, unless you count dom­i­na­tion of Hol­ly­wood. Small beer.
  6. The con­spir­acy the­ory ratch­ets up from small events that might be true to much larger, much less prob­a­ble events. Hit.
  7. The con­spir­acy the­ory assigns por­ten­tous, sin­is­ter mean­ings to what are most likely innocu­ous, insignif­i­cant events. Hit.
  8. The the­ory tends to com­min­gle facts and spec­u­la­tions with­out dis­tin­guish­ing between the two and with­out assign­ing degrees of prob­a­bil­ity or of fac­tu­al­ity. Hit.
  9. The the­o­rist is indis­crim­i­nately sus­pi­cious of all gov­ern­ment agen­cies or pri­vate groups, which sug­gests an inabil­ity to nuance dif­fer­ences between true and false con­spir­a­cies. Hit.
  10. The con­spir­acy the­o­rist refuses to con­sider alter­na­tive expla­na­tions, reject­ing all dis­con­firm­ing evi­dence and bla­tantly seek­ing only con­fir­ma­tory evi­dence to sup­port what he or she has a pri­ori deter­mined to be the truth. Hit, mostly because of the pos­si­bil­ity of what psy­chol­o­gists call “sec­ondary gain”, namely, stay­ing out of jail.

We have our first Tin­foil Hat Tues­day Award Win­ner, with a rat­ing of 4½ tin­foil hats:

Star Whack­ers: 4½ Tin­foil Hats