For all of us who work and play in politics — or its journalistic and/or entertainment divisions — there is always a real danger of burn-out; I burned out so bad once that I didn’t write a word of opinion, on politics or anything else, for almost the entire decade of the 1990’s. What pushed me to the edge of sanity, distorted my vision, and hamstrung my heart was a lack of balance and a total loss of perspective; everything was urgent, everything was life-threatening, every odd turn of fate or illogical outcome was a conspiracy, and nothing was lightweight, fun, or enjoyable anymore. — Erik Jay, American-Partisan.com, 2000
Above is an excerpt from my friend Erik Jay’s review of Politickles: Limericks Lampooning the Lunatic Left. When I first discovered Erik in the mid-1980s, he was the editor of an idiosyncratic humor magazine called Pedantic Monthly, which showcased his brilliant wit and mischievous literary skills. Sensing that we were sympatico, I sent him some satiric pieces of my own (e.g., “A Humble Suggestion” & “Lite Motif”) and soon had the pleasure of rereading them in the pages of PM. Early in 1989 I was promoted from managing editor to editor at The New American and asked Erik to fill the slot I’d vacated. We made a great team, rapidly improving the look and content of the magazine, reducing expenses by $250,000 in the first year, and having a lot of fun in the process (at least initially).
Erik and I were well-versed in conspiracy theory (the magazine’s focus), but we often joked that anyone who didn’t believe in conspiracies would soon change his mind after working for The New American — not because of the persuasive power of our articles, but because the office was full of them. A significant number of the staff members believed so strongly in conspiracy that they made a practice of it, constantly engaging in furtive efforts to advance themselves and bring others down — which they succeeded in doing to Erik (and several competent co-workers) less than a year after his arrival, and to me and another capable colleague a year later.
It’s true, as Erik observes above, that an obsession with conspiracy can drive a person mad; even more maddening, however, is to be the victim of one.