Mainstream Conspiracy Theories

I’ve always found conspiracy theories somewhat entertaining. As a young teenager I remember reading long-form blog posts about 9/11 being an inside job by the US government, or that American astronauts didn’t really land on the moon in 1969. I think I’ve always been attracted to them because of their narrative nature. That’s not to say I believe any, because it takes an ungodly amount of evidence to convince me of something, but I can’t say they’re not interesting.

Conspiracy theories are obvious stories presented as absolute truths. There may be some elements of truth to them, just enough to attract a susceptible or vulnerable mind, but fragments of the truth do not equal absolute fact. Dinosaurs once existed, tropical islands are a thing and billionaires fund ridiculous personal projects — But that doesn’t mean Jurassic Park really happened.

My favourite popular conspiracy theory — and you will absolutely have heard of it — are the beliefs held by the Flat Earth Society.

They’re pretty self-explanatory, their core belief is right in their name. Even though they structure themselves like a pay-to-win religion, they don’t hide behind a mysterious word, as Scientology does. No, they’re out in the open — They believe the world is completely flat, and that governments across the globe have been lying to us for centuries.

Yes, they use the word “globe” in social media and blog posts.

It’s part of why I believe it to be a giant joke that a few people are playing on gullible celebrities and people with spare cash. The society we live in is built on the idea that we all need to find ways to take money from other people, and if you can do that by spouting some nonsense which goes against total scientific consensus, then more power to you.

I like the Flat Earth conspiracy, because there’s absolutely no logic to it. There’s no rhyme or reason to tell this particular story and yet some people are invested in it nonetheless.

The fake moon landing, for example, makes some sense. In that you can see why the American government would want to have a victory over Russia during the Cold War. Telling the world that you’ve been to the moon is a very quick cultural win with your own citizens, as well as people who belong to neutral countries.

I still don’t think it was fake, as the technology existed, and thousands of people worked on it. So in some ways it would’ve been more difficult to fake the whole thing than to actually go to the moon. But I can see why that conspiracy theory exists, because there’s motive enough for a story — And boy do we all love stories.

With the Flat Earth folk, there’s absolutely no motive. What purpose would it serve governments to convince citizens that the Earth is a completely different shape? There’s no compelling story there; No characters or plot for us to sink our teeth into.

Of course, that’s why I like it so much, because it’s an anti-story. It contains none of the elements of a traditional narrative and yet some people still manage to see something in it — a story worth believing. Flat Earthers are the avant-garde, deconstructionists of conspiracy theorists. Don’t tell them I said that.

It’s because of the lack of motive — the flimsy narrative and the laughable idea — that “A Flat Earth” isn’t a dangerous conspiracy theory. We shouldn’t be worried that the next generation will grow up believing that the world is flat, because the only people who will legitimately fall for it, are people with more money than sense.

flatearth.png

What’s dangerous about President Trump’s tweet this morning is that you can see the motive behind his conspiracy theory. Something huge is at stake here; The ideological leaning of the Supreme Court. You can see why people would want to interfere in the decision that will likely be made this weekend.

Trump asserts that the women protesting in senate buildings during this last week are paid professionals, with his only evidence being professionally made, identical signs. These conspiracy theories originated in all the usual places, like Breitbart and Neo-Nazi message-board and “publication” The Daily Stormer.

Just to quickly address the president’s concerns; Yes, a lot of people did have matching signs, but in the same way that there are lots of identical MAGA and Trump/Pence signs, there are websites that help you quickly make signs that represent your ideological beliefs and opinions.

Members of different groups were in attendance, but that’s how protests are organised. You only sign up to a Facebook group if you agree and hold-true to the opinions of the group. Well, except that pyramid scheme group your friend from school continues to add you to without your permission. Just because you’re trapped in a directionless relationship, Katie, it doesn’t mean you have to suck us all down your spiral of online scams.

Having been to a few protests and rallies, trust me, nobody is there unless they believe what they are fighting for or against. And if people were paid, well, I didn’t see a dime.

The “elevator screamers” are survivors of sexual assault who feel a deep connect to the testimony of Dr Ford, and feel as though her voice is being ignored, as I’m sure their’s have been in the past. You don’t have to believe them by rule of law, as their attackers aren’t the ones on trial. But their passion, their anger? That is real — fuelled by real experiences.

I know a handful of sexual assault survivors and I don’t even get out much, so perpetuating the idea that women (and men) in this country have not been assaulted, and are being paid to be angry about an issue they don’t really care about? That’s extremely dangerous.

The President of the United States is Tweeting-out a conspiracy theory that his die-hard supporters will lap-up as absolute truth. This president is normalising conspiracy, he’s making it mainstream, no wonder he was laughed out of the UN last week.

The “elevator screamers” aren’t there to make the senators look bad. They’re present to have their free, American voices heard as citizens, and to test senators for basic empathy.

Have Kavanaugh, have your supreme court justice if that’s the decision made in a democratic environment — Absolutely. But don’t you dare insult survivors of sexual assault by reducing them to a living conspiracy theory.


Today is Friday, October 5th and my morning anger has reduced me to tears.

I normally put a tip jar at the end of my post here, but it doesn’t feel appropriate after the week we’ve had. Be good to each other, and be kind to those who’ve fallen for this man.

https://donate.rainn.org/

2 thoughts on “Mainstream Conspiracy Theories

  1. When I was at university 40 years ago I was told by one of my professors (who had studied in Texas) that there was this group down there, about ten thousand members, called the Flat Earth Society. Interesting stuff, but just a curiosity at the time — not many outside of Texas had heard of them. The internet has changed that, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s kind of brilliant to know, in an insane sort of way.
      Oh definitely. Something I try to remind myself of often, is that a lot of the modern crazy has existed for decades, it’s just that the internet gives everyone a platform and a spotlight.

      Like

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