Don't tell anyone, but the shocking truth about conspiracy theories is...
THE ink is barely dry on the Peter Slipper affidavits and already the conspiracy theories are upon us.
It's a Liberal plot, involving the calculated deployment of the undercover massage expert James Ashby in a complex ''honey trap'' designed to induce the Speaker to send seedy text messages.
It's a News Ltd plot, the Ashby allegations being collusively timed to blow out of the water the limitless, glorious, restorative media coverage the government would otherwise have enjoyed for its aged-care reform blueprint.
One correspondent contacted me this week to remind me Tony Abbott was charged with (and later acquitted of) grabbing the upper thigh area of a lady protester in 1977. Was this, perhaps, connected in some way?
Another got in touch to remind that Mr Slipper is also a good mate of Kevin Rudd's. ''Is this Rudd's revenge to get the ALP running back to him?''
So many theories; so little time.
I'm not sure how to feel about it all. (Apart, obviously, from feeling markedly more confident that our Speaker would be adequately equipped to adjudicate any close-run ''Twink or Bear?'' disputes arising on the floor of the House of Representatives).
I do not know if Ashby's allegations against the Speaker are part of a sophisticated plot by the Liberal Party. Aside from the fact they are intensely convenient for the Liberal Party, I am aware of no evidence for that theory.
One suspects the judicial process will - as it is designed to do - test the accusations in light of all the evidence available, including the testimony of those best placed to comment.
But conspiracy theories - in general - are not what they once were. Remember when conspiracy theories were complex, secret affairs, subscription to which involved the purchasing of special literature, or at the very least the viewing of cult, unmissable documentaries that raised, for instance, ''shocking questions'' about the US government's involvement in the 9/11 attacks, or similar?
The titillation of suppression has always been the lifeblood of the conspiracy industry.
What more glamorous feeling is there than to be in possession of intelligence or insights that have evaded the rest of the human race?
What more ennobling comfort is there, for the midnight nerd, than to feel that one is a member of a shrewd and judicious band of incorruptibles who - unlike everyone else - has not fallen for the Big Lie that the president is an American citizen, or that Princess Diana was killed simply because her pissed chauffeur was going too fast?
''No one will tell you this stuff, because it's too devastating,'' is the hallmark whisper of the conspiracy theorist, who needs to believe his stuff is being suppressed, rather than entertain the alternative - that it's been assessed, and quickly found to be so whacked-out as to be worthy of no further comment.
But things have changed.
For one thing, suppression is virtually a thing of the past. This means ''No one will tell you this stuff'' is a thing of the past, too: if you're in doubt, just go online.
Everyone's telling you this stuff! Every Tom, Dick and his dog has a blog pontificating about this or that government stitch-up or plot.
The currency of exclusivity has gone from the world of conspiracy.
''Why isn't this being written about?'' writes the conspiracist blogger furiously, with all the self-awareness of an SUV driver complaining about the traffic jam in which he is marooned. (Dear God, Sir. You ARE the traffic.)
The truth is that in this digital world, there's no such thing as suppression any more.
Just ask the state government of Bavaria, which has decided to republish Adolf Hitler's 1925 work Mein Kampf before the book's copyright expires in 2015.
Rights to the book are owned by the Bavarian finance ministry, though publication of the work has been banned in Germany since 1945.
So why offer formal state publication to this book from which the German people, on the whole, have spent the last 67 years firmly distancing themselves?
Because the book is so widely available - you can find the whole thing with a few key strokes - that the only purpose currently being served by formal suppression is the conferment of an illicit thrill for those who track it down.
To publish the book in all its ugliness and stupidity and leaden prose, its fascinatingly silly perorations on racial purity - ''the titmouse seeks the titmouse'', intones the Fuhrer, at one point, in all seriousness - this is, in the present environment, the best way to strip the work permanently of its appeal to residual fans.
Deprived of its titillating suppression order, this banned book becomes … a book. A bad book at that, for all sorts of reasons, most of which become thuddingly clear upon cracking it open.
Similarly treated, a conspiracy theory becomes a theory, just like any other - nothing more.
■ Annabel Crabb writes for ABC Online's The Drum, at abc.net.au/thedrum. She tweets as @annabelcrabb.
Follow the National Times on Twitter: @NationalTimesAU