The worst, most diabolical and very baddest conspiracy theory of all is the one that says, “even if it’s real, it doesn’t matter.”
Everyone—that is, each of us—believes in conspiracies. What matters is whether or not the particular conspiracy matters to you. I have been veritably brined and pickled in conspiracies my whole life. John F. Kennedy was shot when I was 16, a very impressionable age. I can even remember the McCarthy hearings when I was still a child—they were on the TV constantly instead of cartoons and there were a lot fewer stations to choose from back then.
The Watergate affair absorbed more than just the year of 1973. Some 9/11 conspiracies were afoot the day it happened, and there have been more since. A casual list of conspiracies over my lifetime quickly numbers over a hundred, and that would be leaving out such fun as the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Princess Diana, whether Elvis is really dead, and the machinations of the lizard people.
One conspiracy I particularly enjoy is the one that says that the internet was designed to promote phony conspiracy theories so the real ones would go undetected. It’s a triple conceit! I love it. But in the end, I have long since developed an automatic sense of contra-conspiracy which reflexively dismisses most of these dark fantasies. I can only manage so much ire at a given time.
Being a child of my age, I have already given more time than I should to stories of flying saucers and other kitchen ware. I am not so interested in Big Foot or lake monsters. I have read hundreds of books only in part—at least until I reach that paragraph early on where the author breathlessly first asks the reader to judge the evidence. That judgment is the very thing I am looking for the author’s expertise to supply. However, at least since the salad days of Erich von Däniken, I have understood hucksters make good use of the reader’s own lack of knowledge, depending on it, even, to fill in the gaps for specious theorizing.
For instance, 160 years later we know the conspiracy to kill Abraham Lincoln was real because it finally succeeded—at least in part, and some of the principals were caught and hanged. But we still don’t know who financed the thing nor the identities of many of those who aided and abetted the conspirators.
The election fraud of 2020 involves dozens of conspiracies—one for each state involved, and more on the part of legislatures and news organizations which have ignored evidence and refused to investigate. In the current political environment, there is little reasonable hope of determining what actually happened. Yet, unless that is in fact done, it will certainly happen again.
Jeffrey Epstein was murdered and whatever he knew about his powerful pedophile clients is likely hidden. There is no political will, much less determination on the part of legal authorities to find out “who done it.” This not only establishes the level of corruption involved but also informs anyone foolish enough to come forward that they will not be safe.
But the one that has put an end to my own interest in conspiracies is the not unexpected discovery that Hillary Clinton was provably the source of the Russian collusion hoax. This otherwise incredible fact has been met with the rhetorical, “Who cares?” which obviously says to one and all, that there are at least two types of law in the United States: laws meant to punish Republicans and laws meant to protect Democrats. Not that anyone has noticed.
There is a large crossover of various conspiracy theories and established syndromes of guilt. If you are only aware of the cruel use of slavery in the Americas, you might be open to believing the tripe of the “1619 Project.” Never mind the use of slavery and subjugation by Africans of other Africans, or Native Americans by other Native Americans, much less the Muslim slave trade that continues to this day, or the Chinese use of slave labor to make the wind turbines and solar panels that the government subsidizes us to use. This is an American sin. It is your guilt that must be expiated.
One truly strange phenomenon to be found in such foolishness is “The mystery of the pyramids,” a conceit that insists those marvels were built by space aliens or a lost race, instead of the hardworking crews who proudly signed their names to the stones in much the same spirit as the steelworkers who signed the girders of the Empire State building. Not believing physical evidence but accepting anything else, no matter how implausible, has psychological roots.
In our internet age, any concept involving nefarious business captains and politicians who gather for the private Bilderberg meetings becomes more difficult to maintain; however, the annual and very public meeting of bigwigs at Davos in Switzerland does an excellent imitation of the language and the style of world domination by a self-appointed elite. The problem is, after many decades, the blatant stupidity and wrongheadedness becomes too obvious for even the waiters and busboys to swallow.
Listening to the blather of a Henry Kissinger or John Kerry must be excruciating to the help while trying to set a bowl of hot soup down between a drowsing chancellor and a flirting prime minister, amidst a tech billionaire’s gesticulations to purchase yesterday’s big idea as well as a liaison for the evening.
The serving staff could not have gleaned from the posturing of Metternich and Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, as they plotted to divide up Poland like so much pie, that the not quite finished Napoleon, even by failing, had succeeded in gutting them all, or that the 19th century would be enlightened instead by a pax-Britannia, while the old order argued over the quickly diminishing spoils of medieval civilizations.
The Nazis may well have been behind the Reichstag fire, but the incompetence of the Weimar government is the culprit for the rise of Hitler, not a conspiracy, nor a hapless Dutch communist named Van der Lubbe. The fire was in the aftermath of years of ineptitude that caused the most advanced nation in Europe to collapse into a toilet of its own worse philosophical ideas. The lesson there is obvious.
Heinlein’s Razor still applies: Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity. (That applies as well to those who have misattributed this bit of wisdom to someone named Hanlon on the often-unreliable Wikipedia.) Most conspiracies originate in mistakes which are inexplicable or for which no one wants to take responsibility.
Many conspiracy theories exist as the sort of mini-religions that crop up in a culture that has lost its way. As others have postulated, when people stop believing in God, they are ripe for believing in anything. The fever of barroom conversation over the “magic bullet” in the Kennedy assassination and the escape of Saudi nationals immediately after 9/11 has drawn more blood than beer. Why people argue over details they have heard from questionable sources is, in truth, a matter of greater concern to the stability of society.
It is not enough that you have lost your job because of demonstrably poor economic decisions, political ineptitude, and ignorance, without blaming it on someone or something else. If all else fails, don’t examine your own decisions and effort—blame it on climate change, sexism, or racism. In our age of self-identifying, you too can be a victim of a conspiracy.