Russian meteorite: The conspiracy theories

It might well be that Bill Nye has explained fully about the meteorite that showered a Russian city, but others have darker explanations.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read
A strange time for a military attack? CNN; screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

A good hearty conspiracy theory can shine a sharp light on two of humanity's most enduring traits.

One, of course, is humanity's boundless imagination. The other is humanity's essential suspicion of humanity.

So while you might be deeply immersed in Bill Nye's explanation of the Russian meteorite, those with darker sensibilities have filled the Web with their fears and hauntings about the phenomenon.

There are few nations with greater awareness of dark sensibilities than Russia. The fact that there seems to be little evidence of meteorite fragments on the ground has encouraged some Russians to offer their own suspicions.

As the Toronto Globe and Mail reports, nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky hasn't been slow to offer something of a Hot War perspective.

"It's not meteors falling. It's a new weapon being tested by the Americans," he was quoted as saying.

We know from our recent experience of North Korea that weapons testing is an imprecise science.

But if you were an American in the mood to test a weapon, would Chelyabinsk, Russia, be your very first choice of place for the experiment?

Perhaps Tallahassee; Area 51; and Bialystok, Poland, were all unavailable due to prior commitments. Or perhaps it wasn't the Americans, but, say, the North Koreans, who mistook Chelyabinsk for, say, Chelsea.

Zhirinovsky's rather emotionally manipulative offering was countered by Russia's Emergency Ministry, which dedicated itself to an extensive rebuttal of his belief (and that of others) that this was some sort of military thing. The rebuttal? "Rubbish."

But that wasn't going to put off the local media, was it? Not only do they have papers to sell, they also have theories to expound to a troubled nation and world.

So, as The Atlantic reports, the local Znak newspaper accepted that this was a meteorite but insisted the explosion was caused by military defense blowing it up.

Yes, of course it has a source in the military. You thought it didn't?

Though I've watched a few movies in which exciting things happen, I don't find it easy to imagine that some sort of terrestrially created missile-laden aircraft could really explode a meteorite in such a manner.

It is easier to imagine, though, that politicians like Zhirinovsky might take the opportunity to foment a little rage.

Indeed, Alex Jones' infamously well-guarded Infowars site offered that Zhirinovsky insisted that America -- in the person of Secretary of State John Kerry -- had tried to give Russia advance notice of its "attack."

The Drudge Report led me to a piece at Foreign Policy that explained that Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, simply hadn't called Kerry back.

Which all suggests that Russia isn't, after all, living in fear of an attack from the U.S. Especially one over Chelyabinsk.

On balance, I prefer to currently believe Nye. He is the science guy, after all. And science guys know scientific events when they see them.

I hope.