The second season of Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura finds the former Navy S.E.A.L., professional wrestler, and Minnesota governor again facing down government malfeasance wherever he sees it. He wears the same black leather jacket over plain black shirt. He again demands access to an off-limits government facility—last season it was the Navy’s HAARP array in Alaska; now it’s the Department of Homeland Security’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center, off the coast of Long Island, New York. Again, he’s denied. Last time, he declared, “An operation run by the U.S. Navy doesn’t shut out a former S.E.A.L unless they’ve got something to hide.” This time: “I used to be a governor. What do they think I am, a ***king terrorist?”
Again fueled by righteous outrage, Jesse Ventura continues his quest to hold government accountable. That his show becomes repetitive—with the same copious use of stock footage, the same nervous camerawork in under-lit locales—underscores the nobly Sisyphean aspect of his life’s work.
Ventura persists because, as he explained in an interview with PopMatters, it’s our civic duty. “Remember what Jefferson said,” he said:
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. If you don’t hold your elected officials’ feet to the fire, you’ll get bad government. If you do hold their feet to the fire, you will get—not necessarily good government—but you’ll get better government. It’s essential for us as citizens to question our government on everything they do.
Ventura’s questioning usually involves confronting the Powers That Be with his counter-knowledge, an ambush strategy that yields mixed results. Conspiracy Theory‘s Season Two premiere declares the Plum Island facility a secret biowarfare lab. One source, labeled an “internet journalist,” points to the Montauk Monster as proof, calling it a “mutant escapee” from the facility. Ventura adds, “I knew that eventually I’d be making an assault on Plum Island.”
He seems most comfortable with this kind of assault: the daring raid, physical action that promises results. Repeatedly, such action is thwarted, as his target, “government,” looms too large and shadowy. He tries to get answers, but, he said,
The one thing I’ve learned in doing this show, is that you can’t expect to go to the government and ask any question, let alone expect an answer from them. Why? Why can’t we have questions answered? When we ask the government a question, the government should be forthcoming enough to give us an answer.
Because the government is not forthcoming, Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura is a kind of doomed odyssey. Viewers know Ventura can never be sated. His antagonists will never relent, being too many and are too powerful. Eventually one begins to wonder whether the truth truly is out there.
Ventura reminded the interviewer that government is not a monolithic enemy. “We forget that government is made up of people,” he said, “and people can be corrupted. People in this country think that somehow when we elect a President, the President somehow can’t be an evil person. Yes he can. If you need an example of that, go to 1930s Germany.” He went on,
Bill Clinton said something that terrified me once. He said, ‘How can you love your country and not your government?’ And I countered that by saying, ‘Easy. Ask the Germans. They can love their country and not their government.’ That’s the position I’m in today. I love my country, but I do not love my government.
In his ongoing dissent, Ventura sees before him a long battle. “Corporations control our government now, which is the definition of fascism,” he said.
We’re right in the middle of it. I get a kick out of people claiming ‘Obama’s turning us socialist, Obama’s turning us socialist!’ He is not. We’re already fascist. How could we be fascist and socialist at the same time?
There is slender hope, Ventura suggested, if only because democratic government consists of people. “Let’s remember something,” he said. “The government isn’t some elite entity. Government is made up of people, government is made up of power, and government is made up of money.” Therein lies the hope, that by demanding answers, as Ventura does, you can reach people, and if you reach enough people, things can change.
”We’re not powerless. We still have the vote,” he declared.
It’s simple: stop voting for Democrats and Republicans. Vote for anyone but them! You gotta remember something: we’re a country full of lemmings. We get led over the mountain and right into the water and we don’t even look sideways.
His voice cracked almost imperceptibly. And then the Time Warner publicist came on the line to say, ”I’m so sorry, but on that note, we have to move on. Thank you.”