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“No, I’m all right.”

“This your first tête-à-tête on air?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your first time doing a live show?”

“Oh, well, yes. Yes, I suppose it is.”

“Don’t be nervous. You’ve got nothing to be worried about.”

“Why would I be nervous?”

“AND IN 3, 2, 1…”

[background music]

“It’s that time of the week when we break down the whacky, the weird, and the so-far-out-there it’s got to be simple, stupid! Welcome to The Simple Man show, everyone. I’m your host, Joe Simpleton, and today we have with us a very special guest. [fade out music] For those of you who never quite made it out of the high school sandbox, you probably won’t be familiar with today’s distinguished Doctor of Philosophy, the author of several bestselling books, professor emeritus at one of the country’s leading universities, and a man who inspires as much thought about the world we live in as he does controversy wherever he goes. Hopefully some of that controversy has followed him here today, because the Lord knows our ratings could use it. Anyway, without any further much-ado-about-nothing, I’ll pass the mike over to Dr. Roman Kennedy. Doc, thanks for joining us here on The Simple Man.”

“Thank you for having me.”

“I tell you, folks, you might not be able to see him, but this man is immaculately dressed. But that’s neither here nor there now, is it? Anywho, Dr. Kennedy is here today to talk to us about one of our favourite subjects on “The Simple Man,” a subject we’ve exhausted like the tailpipe of a beat-up ’57 Chevy and yet keep coming back for more. The difference today? Dr. Kennedy is perhaps the universe’s leading scholar on the subject. Is that a fair title, Doc, the universe’s leading scholar on conspiracy?”

“[laughter] Well, I’ve certainly invested a great deal of my time into the subject over the years, but I don’t think that necessarily qualifies me to be called the leading voice on the subject.”

“And modest, too! Doc, you’re killing me. But seriously, let’s dive into today’s subjectus mainus: conspiracies and conspiracy theories. For you simpletons, and we all know there are more of you out there than I can shake a stick at, what exactly is a conspiracy?”

“In truth, a conspiracy can mean different things to different people.”

“Doc, I have to remind you. You’re not running for office here. Though as I mentioned before, you do look marvelous! No need to give vague answers that will have folks bashing their heads against the rubberized, soundproof walls where they are undoubtedly listening to this broadcast.”

“Well, as I used to tell my students, the first way to try and understand any idea or concept is to look at its etymological roots.”

“Whoa! Doc! You go throwing out big words like that and listeners are gonna be turning off their radios faster than you can say ‘the third Kennedy assassination.’ In English, Doc!”

“What I meant is the root, or roots, of a word. With conspiracy, its history goes back more than two millennia, to ancient Rome. In Latin, conspirare meant ‘to be in harmony.’ ”

“And what does that tell us exactly? I mean, obviously a conspiracy is more than just being in harmony, right?”

“Today, yes, of course that’s the case. But originally you would be looking at any act that had as its final goal the harmony toward a final end.”

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