The term "conspiracy theory" devalues the robust meaning of the word "theory." Theories are grounded in facts, scientific methodology and demonstrated evidence. They are built gradually over time, often years, tested and retested, as they accumulate, study and incorporate more data. Theories are honed and refined until they are proven, undeniable, generally accepted and understood. (See evolution, a demonstrable, proven fact for the last 100 years.)

If potential theories rest on false, untestable premises or assumptions, they fall apart and are abandoned as "theories."

As a retired psychologist observing President Donald Trump's and most of his followers' postelection behavior, I suggest that instead of "conspiracy theories," we use the more accurate term "paranoid delusions." Paranoia is a dangerous, pathological manifestation of deeply rooted fear — the fear of truth, reality, demonstrable facts.

Through the lens of paranoia, the straightforward fact of Trump's election loss cannot be seen, much less accepted, for what it is. It's not difficult to diagnose individuals who suffer from paranoia. But we are witnessing collective paranoia, a folie-en-masse, a shared delusion, similar to a contagious disease, much like a virus.

In the eye of this distrustful hurricane is one human being who is the president for a while longer. Hurricanes eventually weaken and fade away over the land of truth.

When reality and delusion collide, reality wins. It isn't rocket science.

Semantics — the meanings of words — are important, but paranoid delusions are a much deeper problem than semantics. They reach to the core of character and mental health — both individual and collective.

Without truth, integrity, honesty, credibility — all bets are off. Nothing else matters.

John McClay, Edina
• • •

The Star Tribune article on the state Senate committee meeting on Tuesday chaired by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, was shocking ("Election lies called 'dangerous,' " Dec. 9). Kiffmeyer claimed that "some of my concerns are that we are having the attorney general, the secretary of state and the courts involved in changing election law during the process of actually conducting the election. I think that has opened up some doors that are a concern."

What doors are you talking about, senator? We have been inundated with false claims by Trump and his team since the he lost the election, and now it's showing up in our own Legislature. Please, Sen. Kiffmeyer, stop this attack on our state government and judicial and election systems until you have some proof.



Not a mere definitional difference

Andy Brehm's airbrushed, myopic defense of Trump as merely an issue of decorum was a head-scratcher ("It's time to bring back class, decorum," Opinion Exchange, Dec. 9). He glossed over Trump's bigotry, racism, misogyny, pathological lying, incompetence, separating and caging children, and rampant nepotistic corruption while embracing "impressive" crazy conspiracy theorist Rep. Dan Crenshaw, as if this is all just a simple disagreement over the definition of "decorum."

Brehm's line of "Aside from its precarious penchant for deficit spending, the Trump administration's policy record is in many ways impressive" is like saying, "Aside from burning the forest to the ground, one deserves credit for taking a blow torch to dispose of the forest's dry timber."

There's a reason trickle-down economics is taught as junk science at nearly every business school. It not only doesn't work, it harms society while merely further enriching the already wealthy. The idea of trickle-down has been exploding deficits since Ronald Reagan introduced the "Lafferable" supply-side junk economic theory decades ago.

Furthermore, there's also a reason we don't set dangerous precedent by glossing over and normalizing abhorrent behavior from the president of the United States or a United States congressman from Texas.

Nicholas G. Dolphin, Minneapolis


Some perspective, stat

I am shocked and appalled at the publication of the extremely misleading editorial from the Racine Journal Times on Dec. 9 ("A dose of perspective regarding COVID-19"). The author cites the 169 deaths (at the time) in the county with a population of 196,000 as indicating that the chance of dying is only 0.086%. What the author fails to grasp is that the number of deaths in the county (which had risen to 207 as of a quick online check Wednesday morning) is based on 16,601 reported cases in the county as of Wednesday, which is a 1.2% rate — not the total county population as a whole. To date, only about 8.5% of the population of Racine County has been confirmed to have contracted COVID-19. So the actual death rate is (and should be) much more sobering.

It's been reported, of course, that the number of COVID-19 infections may be as many as 10 times higher than what's been confirmed. So the actual death rate is certainly not 1.2%; it's much lower than that. Yes, all things being equal, you probably do have a 99.5% chance (or higher!) of surviving if you contract COVID-19. But that is nowhere near what the opinion writer is claiming.

Additionally, the statistics appear true — I've seen the same numbers elsewhere — that you have a 1-in-6 chance of dying of heart disease and a 1-in-102 chance of dying in a car accident. But I believe those numbers refer to the chance over your entire lifetime that one of those is your eventual cause of death, not the chance that that is going to happen to you on any given day of your normal life. That is absolutely not an apples-to-apples comparison to your chance of dying of COVID-19 during the eventual 12 to 18 months of the pandemic. To lump them all together only serves to give a terrifyingly incorrect and false sense of security.

I've used math frequently in the last nine months to make myself feel less anxious about the chance that COVID-19 is going to affect me, personally, or even the members of my immediate family. It's just statistically unlikely, thank goodness. But that is an attempt, on my part, to relieve anxiety so that I can function each day. That's not an excuse to be reckless and not take this seriously. I understand the essay writer's desire to do the same thing, but the numbers they are quoting simply are too irresponsibly misleading to warrant inclusion in a major daily newspaper. It's dangerous, and is exactly the kind of COVID denial propaganda that is going to lead to more pain and suffering.

Charlie Leonard, Plymouth


If men feel alone, they can act

Men's feeling of isolation is in part a self-fulfilling prophecy ("Home alone," Dec. 7). No one prevents men from starting a book club on the topic of their choice, taking a hike with other men, or simply talking or journaling about their day in a meaningful way. The vacuous lives most men lead filled with ESPN-provided stats, chicken wings and regurgitated quips from KFAN only leads to further stunting of personal and friendship growth. This generation of "boy-men" are stuck in a moment of prepubescents while grappling with real adult issues and pandemic-induced loneliness without adequate processing acumen.

I encourage men to break away from this PlayStation and hot-dog-eating-contest-watching universe and get engaged with the world around them. Maybe, just maybe, they will find a spark to put down "Call of Duty" and learn loneliness, to some degree, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Greg Davenport, St. Paul

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