Notes on conspiracy theories

  • In general, if you’re into conspiracy theories, you think that the world is ordered and controlled. You think that those ordering and controlling the world are simultaneously intelligent and powerful enough to hide what they’re doing, but negligent enough that someone like you can suss it out.
  • You are probably vulnerable to fascist rhetoric.
  • Conspiracy theories are not an end to themselves. They are an immune system for something else.
  • Because they’re an immune system, attacking the theory won’t weaken your belief in it. You will broaden the theory to include the attack.
    • Take the idea of a “deep state”, the idea that all the forces of this unseen power are aligned against your politician. Every time someone opposes your politician, you toss them into the deep state bucket. You say something like “look how deep it goes”.
  • Your choice of conspiracy theory reveals something about what’s at the centre of what you consider “you”. It’s not always obvious what this is.
  • You need to be deprogrammed. You might drift out of the theory after a while, but you’re still primed to believe.
  • If you are raised in a culture or subculture where a fundamental tenet is a conspiracy theory, you are primed to believe more of them. This is disordered thinking, and requires deconstruction.
  • Conspiracy theories are incredibly prevalent on the internet for a bunch of reasons. The two big ones are:
    • Like finds like. The internet has enabled folks to gather together based on shared interests. Mostly, it’s mundane. People who like parrots in a group of folks who like parrots. However, all interest groups are vulnerable to extremism, since what is extremism but having a single axiom?
    • The web is a web. This one is a more of a medium-is-the-message sort of thing. The internet resembles a crazy board (one of those yarn-and-pushpin things you see when a movie is trying to tell you someone is crazy), structurally. This structure tempts you to think that stuff that links via hyperlinks is actually linked in some way. Browsing the web, looking up articles, seeing tweets, watching YouTube (they call this “research” in the conspiracy world) feels like putting pieces together. But this is of course an artifice of the web. Things aren’t connected because they’re, you know, connected.
  • Conspiracy theories are responsible for the Holocaust. There’s no real way around this one. Antisemitism is based on a conspiracy theory, based on scapegoating. And so very many conspiracy theories have explicitly antisemitic roots.
    • I shouldn’t have to say this: Antisemitism is wrong. It is evil. It is your duty to fight it wherever you find it.
  • And finally, if you’re into conspiracy theories, please seek help. Speak to a mental health professional. The world is a large, out of control place. There’s no one at the wheel. There’s no master plan. It’s too big and complicated to control. And you’re allowed to be scared by that without projecting it onto some shadowy cabal of baby-eating Hollywood whatever.

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