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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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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