Next week, the FX TV drama "Rescue Me" begins its fifth season. The show, starring Denis Leary, revolves around a fire house filled with dysfunctional firefighters, a large number of them Irish American.
At its best, the show has proven to be not just groundbreaking, but also one of the more interesting (and controversial) depictions of New York City Irish life.
When the new season begins on April 7, we are going to be introduced to a character who believes 9/11 was an "inside job."
Perhaps, by now, you've come across one or two versions of these conspiracy theories. There are people who believe, say, the Bush administration knew about 9/11 beforehand and did nothing to stop it.
Or who believe it was actually cloak and dagger types who, at the behest of the Bush Administration, planned and pulled off the 9/11 attacks.
Why? Who knows? Presumably so America would have a reason to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, so we could control not just the region's oil but the region as a whole.
You can see how well that's been working out.
Before I go on with this, let me note that I understand this is just a TV show.
It could be that when the second episode of the show airs and the 9/11 conspiracy plot line gets underway, that the whole thing is played for laughs, or mentioned casually and then dropped. But I don't think that will be the case.
After all, the Rescue Me actor (Daniel Sunjata) whose character will be voicing a belief in an inside 9/11 plot believes "100 percent" in the conspiracy.
The weird thing is, Leary is not the first Irish American to be linked with some of the most extravagant conspiracy theories of our time.
The actor/talk show host/professional loudmouth Rosie O'Donnell has been out front proudly proclaiming that the attacks were some kind of inside job.
And, of course, the mother of all 20th century conspiracy theories is the assassination of the nation's first Irish Catholic president, John F. Kennedy.
You know the argument. Oswald had nothing to do with killing JFK.
It was the mob. Or Lyndon Johnson. Or Fidel Castro. Or all of them! There are similar beliefs about Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
Let me add that just because I find most conspiracy theories preposterous, I think it is fine to incorporate them into books or movies or TV shows.
Oliver Stone's film JFK, I believe, is one of the best of the 1990s. But it does not make the case for a vast conspiracy any more plausible.
When the creators of Rescue Me have spoken about incorporating the 9/11 conspiracy into the show, they suggest they are merely asking questions, or voicing a point of view that otherwise would not get mainstream attention.
Perhaps there's a reason such views do not get mainstream attention. Perhaps they are more or less the same reasons we don't pay much credence to the types of people who say the Holocaust was fabricated.
Hey, perhaps the Irish Famine was a hoax?
The problem with conspiracy theories is not in the details. You could indeed spend a few hours on the Internet and be absolutely convinced 9/11 was an inside job.
Just as you'll believe "everyone did it" after watching the movie JFK.
The problem is that conspiracy theories all have the same ingredients -- an almighty power structure capable of keeping many secrets and executing a masterful scheme.
Let me ask you this -- if the Bush administration could pull off a 9/11 inside job, why couldn't they keep gas prices under $4, or grasp that New Orleans was, like, kind of in trouble during Hurricane Katrina?
Why couldn't they sprinkle some of their magic dust over the Iraq War and make that go exactly as planned?
But then again, perhaps there is no Iraq War. Maybe it's all just a conspiracy.
In the end, it is okay to ask questions. But the allure for many conspiracy theorists is that it makes them seem like outsiders crusading against a menacing power structure.
But it is an affront to the many families who suffered as a result of 9/11 to use such a traumatic event to wage your own psychological war.
Go ahead, ask your questions. But be prepared to deal with hard answers -- and admit that they are not part of yet another conspiracy.
(Contact Sidewalks at firstname.lastname@example.org)