Peter Rhodes on a confusion of Tsars, nasal-spray news and how to organise your own conspiracy

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Victim of a conspiracy?
Victim of a conspiracy?

I was not the only one confused between Peter III and Peter the Great in the Channel 4 historical sex romp, The Great. The latest episode begins with Catherine (the Great) enduring a particularly dismal bout of sex with her husband Peter (the III) and remarking: “You're not great, are you?” Now, that's how to teach history.

Moving swiftly on, as I reported recently, nasal sprays may be the next low-tech, zero-drama weapon in the war against Covid-19. A number are being tested by scientists with the makers promising these sprays can trap and destroy the virus before it gets beyond your nostrils. It's not a cure, just another line of defence. Another promise is that, compared with developing a new vaccine, these spray are as cheap as chips. You think?

“Just £5.99” was the sales pitch on one make of nasal spray a couple of months ago. By the time I spotted it, the price had risen to £6.99. And by the time I got around to buying one a few days ago, the online price being asked by enterprising suppliers was anything up to £14. I shudder to think how much it will cost if it is scientifically proven to work. Nothing to sniff at, I bet.

Not that a life-saving nasal spray would improve the chances for everybody. After weeks of instruction, some idiots still seem to think it's fine to wear a face mask below your nose, with both nostrils exposed. God knows where they'd squirt a nasal spray.

Meanwhile, a religious service on the radio invited us to “thank the Lord for the vaccines.” But if the Lord gave us the vaccines, who gave us the virus? After 2,000 years they still haven't come up with some convincing answers.

Some of the borderline-bonkers conspiracy theorists supporting Donald Trump would benefit from a chat with an old colleague of mine who was a lecturer in journalism. From time to time his students would raise the issue of conspiracies and he would offer them this simple challenge. Organise a conspiracy of your own. Keep it simple. Just arrange to meet a few friends at a landmark in London, at a given time. It simply won't happen. Someone will miss the train, or a bus won't be running. Or they'll go to the wrong landmark. Why? Because that's how real life is. If something can go wrong, it will and if there is a golden rule of life it is that cock-ups are commoner than conspiracies. And while it may be theoretically possible that a brilliantly organised global liberal conspiracy has manufactured, by vote-rigging and deepfakery, the impression that Trump is unprincipled, unhinged and unfit for office, there is a much simpler explanation.

Still troubled by the confusion of Peters in The Great, I find myself pondering another historical conundrum: what have Henry the Eighth and Winnie the Pooh got in common? Same middle name.

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