Conspiracy Watch: Operation Couch Potato

Does the government know you’re addicted to <span style="font-style:normal !important;">Gossip Girl</span>?

Illustration: Peter Hoey

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The latest installment in our ongoing collection of wonderfully weird (and totally whack) conspiracy theories. Find more Conspiracy Watch entries here.

THE CONSPIRACY: Is the government dropping $2 billion on digital television converter boxes just so we can watch American Idol in high definition? No way. The real reason for the June 12 transition from analog TV is so that the feds can secretly monitor every household in the country—and eventually the world. Hidden cameras inside converter boxes and hi-def LCD screens will allow the government and corporate America to peer into our living rooms in search of thought crimes and valuable information about our consumer preferences. And you thought the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program was bad.

THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS: Radio host and 9/11 Truther Alex Jones says digital home surveillance plans have been in the works for years. In February, someone posted a YouTube clip of a Magnavox digitial converter being taken apart, revealing a tiny camera and a microphone inside. This prompted Jones’ InfoWars.com to predict “the ultimate Big Brother scenario whereby the majority of Americans and Europeans will have Orwellian telescreens watching their every move.” A video on the site warns, “All the world’s TV’s [sic] will be able to be operated by 1 computer in 1 room.”

MEANWHILE, BACK ON EARTH: The YouTuber later admitted that the video was a hoax. That hasn’t stopped doubters from posting videos in which they describe the dangers of hi-tech surveillance—to the tiny cameras on top of their computer screens.

Kookiness Rating: Tin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat Small (1=maybe they’re on to something, 5=break out the tinfoil hat!)

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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