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But those arguments about secret authorship are also artifacts of the present and recent past, since until quite recently (and excepting real outlier cases like Shakespeare), it simply wasn’t the case that debates about artistic credit became matters of genuine paranoia (as opposed to just, well, debates about credit).

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Music, film, literature, TV, and anything else a celebrity might touch are organized by “genre” (do you like reading about zombie pop stars or Illuminati Svengalis or secret authors of famous books?

) and presented pure — that is, not as investigative claims but conspiracy theories.

There are also clues buried in the band’s songs, including Lennon saying “I buried Paul” at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” (he’s actually saying “cranberry sauce”) and the line “He blew his mind out in a car” in “A Day in the Life.” Play the songs in reverse and you get even more evidence, like the nonsensical phrase “Turn me on, dead man,” which you can hear, if you strain, while listening to “Revolution N. This, at least, is what the some hard-core Avril Rangers think.

When Lavigne succumbed to depression in 2003 and killed herself, her record label couldn’t accept the loss of a cash cow, so it did what anyone would do and replaced Lavigne with Vandella, who will now be known as New Avril.

But pop culture is confused these days about authorship, wanting to elevate “geniuses” but also litigate credit (which often amounts to royalty payments) and apportion responsibility between, say, the eight or ten producers who worked on a particular pop song, or the six screenwriters who labored over versions of a script, or between the showrunners whose names appear below television shows almost like bylines and the writers’ rooms responsible for the words their characters actually speak.

In that kind of environment, second-guessing official stories isn’t just natural, it’s inevitable.

And as a sort of “review of the literature,” the “data” below do contain some lessons and insights. First, that when viewed from a certain perspective, pop-culture conspiracy theory is the phenomenon in its purest form — paranoia without ideology, or anyway without partisanship.

And what you get when you peel back the partisanship, it turns out, are pure theories of power.

(Consider, for instance, “Paul is dead.”) This subcategory of conspiracy theory suggested a particular worldview: Stars were special people with special skills who had won special attention from the public that could nevertheless be maintained by special post-death stagecraft.

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