We begin with a western scene: multinational corporations, big agriculture, and distant cities are draining Lake Mead in California. The thrust of this episode is that "big business is stealing our water from us, then selling it back to us at a profit."
This is another phenomenon which is patently true. It just isn't the kind of thing that most people would call a "sinister plot" or "worldwide conspiracy." But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe we should.
We take it as a given that these companies take tap water, bottle it, and sell it back to us at a profit. Happens all the time. Dasani is just the water they use to make Coke, without the Coke stuff. Check the label of your bottled water for the phrase "bottled from a municipal source." That phrase means "tap water." It's hardly a secret.
Ventura and his team frame this as "the privatization of a substance critical to human life." And they're not wrong about that. I guess my only real complaint about Ventura's framing is that a conspiracy must, by definition, be something kept secret. And none of this is secret in the least. It's on the evening news and the front page of the newspaper just about every day. It's practically trite to say that if the last war was fought over oil, the next one will be fought over water. Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens has shifted his business strategy from oil to water.
Once again, the unacknowledged heart of the conspiracy is capitalism and the free market. Perhaps Ventura is wise not to tackle this angle, because he'd surely lose a lot of the paranoid right-wing members of his audience. It is capitalism, for example, which leads Nestle to drain the Great Lakes and ship the water to China for sale.
Ventura calls them the "Great Lakes water thieves," but the term "thief" implies that their actions are illegal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is it perfectly legal, but a lot of people would wrap themselves in the flag while waving red white and blue sparklers and declaiming that it's part of What Makes This Country Great.
So far, so good. But then Alex Jones shows up (inexplicably in a speed boat tied to a dock), and things get wacky. According to conspiracy theorist Jones, the corporations want to start adding lithium to the water in order to keep the population sedated and happy.
(This apparently all stems from a thought experiment posed by a bioethicist. He claimed that adding lithium to the water supply would save 12,000 people a year from suicide, so should we do it? It wasn't any kind of a plan.)
As a diehard environmentalist I'm well-versed in the evils of bottled water. But I must say that, accurate though it may be, this was definitely one of the odder screeds against it. In hindsight, I'm surprised they didn't bring up claims of a fluoridation conspiracy. Perhaps that's a theory too wacky even for Jesse Ventura?
Photo credit: Flickr/NASA Goddard Photo and Video