The president’s condition remains a mystery. There he is, waving at his fans from the backseat of a bulletproof Chevrolet Suburban. Now he’s back at the hospital, receiving steroids and experimental cocktails while headlines range from “improving” to “alarming.” Conspiracies dribble across my screen, not just from the sludge of the internet but otherwise sensible people I know. Theories run to extremes. Some say it’s a calculated ploy to reveal a miracle cure that will win the president a second term. Others wonder if he’s dead.

This year has made conspiracy theorists of so many of us to some degree. We hunt for patterns in senseless tragedy and bizarrely cruel behavior, trying to clear some kind of path through the daily onslaught of bullshit. Extreme voices. Extreme weather. Extreme wealth disparity. Extreme sports, flavors, and entertainment. Does a culture ever become more mild?