DJ Taylor: Conspiracy theorist Bernie Staples has lots of eye-catching secrets about the way the world is really run


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The Independent Online

Charles Dickens once wrote an amusing essay called "It is Not Generally Known". The fragments of data that Bernie Staples so avidly dishes out, in saloon bar, office corridor or in the comfort of his dining room in Potters Bar, are not so much not generally known as completely unthought of.

Were you aware, for example, that half the members of the Cabinet are Freemasons? Or that the vibrations passed into the air by wind farms can give you cancer? Or that the cardboard from a packet of Marlboro cigarettes can be dissected to produce the letter K in triplicate – proof, Bernie claims, of the long-running propaganda campaign conducted throughout the tobacco industry by the Ku Klux Klan?

It is useless at these times to protest that no major corporation would ever be party to this kind of thing, for Bernie will always have some extra detail at his fingertips to confound you, in itself the preliminary to a yet-more eye-catching secret about the way the world is really run.

Did you know, for instance, that of the 17 corpses recently washed up on the coast of Alaska, only one has satisfactorily explained by an autopsy report? And that the deaths undoubtedly have something to do with a nuclear reactor near Vladivostok whose malfunctioning has, you won't be surprised to hear, gone unreported in the international press?

The absolute certainty with which Bernie delivers these judgements is entirely at odds with his personal manner. A meek man in his late fifties with an administrative post in an insurance company, he turns authoritative – if not Messianic – only when circulating some new link in this endless chain of imperfectly concealed subterfuge. Did you know that Hitler didn't perish in the Berlin bunker in 1945 but escaped to Paraguay with the connivance of Churchill and Stalin, taking £500m-worth of Nazi gold with him, and survived until as late as 1972? How else could the Paraguayans have managed to refloat their economy?

Needless to say, his library is full of books about the Kennedy assassination and Jack the Ripper (Bernie reckons it was Edward VII). His intentions, by the way, are thoroughly public-spirited – his only wish is for his fellow citizens to become better informed. It would pain him deeply to discover that his friends regard him merely as a high-grade comic turn.