The physicist Michio Kaku was a guest on a radio show and was answering a question about possible intelligent life visiting Earth when Joe Rogan interrupted him.
“The three pyramids are aligned with Orion’s belt,” Rogan said. “Do your research, man. Look it up.”
Rogan, who was into 9/11 truther conspiracies at the time, went on to explain how the Egyptians couldn’t possibly have built the pyramids on their own, and that aliens helped them align the positions of the giant structures to correspond to important celestial features.
Here was Kaku, one of the brightest minds in human history, co-founder of string field theory, a man whose textbooks are required reading for PhD-level physics students, getting talked over and “educated” by a pothead who rose to fame hosting a game show in which he forced contestants to eat cockroaches.
I thought of that cringey interaction this week after reading about Rogan insisting school districts are accommodating kids who identify as cats by replacing toilets with litter boxes in school bathrooms.
Rogan’s source was rock solid if you’re the type of person who thinks ancient aliens traveled thousands of lights to the Earth of deep antiquity to teach human beings how to stack stones on top of each other: Rogan’s friend’s wife, who works at the school district, insisted the litter box story is true.
Like previous claims of school administrators gone mad in service to alleged furries, Rogan’s claim was intentionally nebulous and unverifiable. He didn’t name the school, the district or the teacher. We have to take his word for it.
If you like that sort of thing, I have good news for you! Rogan’s in great company.
Marjorie Taylor Greene — the congresswoman who once claimed “Jewish space lasers” were responsible for California wildfires, the shining testament to US education standards who warned “the Gazpacho police” will imprison patriotic Americans, the genteel stateswoman who said scientists are creating fake meat in “Peach tree dishes” to “zap” Americans — has also warned of the apparently widespread practice of furry school children shitting in litter boxes.
Not to be outdone, Rep. Lauren Boebert has co-signed the cat conspiracy, telling donors that evil cat-loving people are hell bent on destroying wholesome American values by unleashing cat-identified children on an innocent and unsuspecting public.
Say it enough and it becomes true
The claims have been repeated so many times that they’ve spread to school board meetings and state legislatures across the country, perpetuated by gerontocratic leaders who think The Onion is a real news source. Two current gubernatorial candidates, in Colorado and Minnesota, have also repeated the claim.
“Schools are not disclosing that they are allowing children who identify as snakes, cats, whatever, they’re providing litter boxes for the [student] cats,” a Tennessee state representative said during a hearing in September. “And obviously it’s very disruptive to the learning process. If a child has that much of a self-identity issue they probably need a different environment, and it’s creating a lot of anxiety, a lot of confusion with the children who are boys and girls.”
“But Big Buddy,” you might be thinking, “I thought you said PITB was apolitical and you’re a moderate?”
It is, and I am.
I dislike all ideology equally because it invites people to abdicate their responsibility to think for themselves. I believe our two-party system and the divisiveness it fuels could be the ruin of our great nation, particularly at a time when polls show up to half the US population expects to fight in an ideologically-driven civil war. I worry that we are doing precisely what our enemies want by feuding amongst ourselves. Indeed, we know for a fact that “troll farms” in countries like Russia and China exist to sow the seeds of division and crank up poisonous political rhetoric online.
But I’m also against pure, abject, mind-boggling, depressing, Idiocracy-style stupidity and the idea that anything is true if someone says it is. Neither party has a monopoly on this kind of thing.
In particular, I’m not a fan of injecting cats into the American culture wars. (Although it’s not just cats at this point. A Texas school district was forced to deny rumors that administrators were allowing “furries” to eat out of dog bowls in school cafeterias.)
We already fail these innocent creatures in myriad ways, from allowing declawing and doing little to improve weak animal welfare laws, to tolerating the idea that it’s perfectly acceptable for people to shoot cats with arrows, BBs and real firearms as some grotesque form of entertainment.
Now people want to use cats as the rope in a perverse game of cultural tug-of-war, which could further degrade their status and lead to more proxy violence against them.
Cats are vulnerable, and are already targets of hate
Violent criminals, including the perpetrators of the recent mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo, often get their start by killing cats before “graduating” to humans.
Cats are also frequent victims of redirected anger, with studies showing they’re abused and killed in domestic violence situations because they’re viewed as extensions of the feminine, or simply because killing them causes emotional distress to the people who care for them.
Of domestic violence victims who have pets, more than 70 percent of their abusers also took their rage out on the victims’ pets.
Politics have pervaded and infected so many things, cats and dogs are now staked to territory on either side of the political fault lines.
So how long will it be before an Alex Jones type claims the government is using cats to spy on Americans? The best conspiracy theories always have a nugget of truth to them, after all, and in the 1960s the CIA tried — and failed, spectacularly — to use cats implanted with transmitters to spy on Soviet officials.
How long before a Boebert or a Greene tells a crowd that it’s their patriotic duty to shoot “liberal cats” on sight? How long before Tucker Carlson follows up one of his thrilling UFO/crop circle/cow mutilation investigative specials with a breathless exclusive about America-hating cats?
“Why do so many cats want to see America burn? Why do cats like to line their litter boxes with the American flag? Does the government allow cats to vote? Hey, I’m just asking questions!”
If you think that’s outlandish, I’d point out that we’ve been there, done that.
Tucker Swanson Carlson has already claimed that “decadent rich people” who “detest the country” like to plot America’s downfall from cat cafes. Those evil America-haters stroke cats and sip lattes while “working through the night to destroy” our great nation, Carlson told his viewers. I’m not making this up.
Europeans almost extirpated domestic cats in the middle ages when people were convinced they carried the Black Plague, and cats had even bigger targets on their backs after the Inquisition’s most overzealous prosecutors insisted felines were used in Satanic rituals.
Likewise, my Google News alert for cat-related articles shows a depressing, never-ending feed of stories about people chugging beer and shooting cats with BB guns, mystery killers strangling neighborhood kitties and “hunters” who put arrows through these sentient, innocent animals who have the mental and emotional capacity of three-year-old human children.
And there’s already plenty of nonsense online about how our choice of pet reflects our political beliefs, as well as unhinged rants about the kind of people who prefer cats. There are even research studies about the intersection of politics and attitudes toward companion animals, and research shows certain people consider cats “liberal” because they don’t adhere to social hierarchies and don’t recognize authority.
Is it really a stretch to imagine some 85, deep into a case of Miller High Life, taking target practice at neighborhood cats because he sees them as evil, feminine, America-hating animals? Are we sure it doesn’t happen already?
Politics really does ruin everything.