the surprising truth behind a conspiracy cruise
If you haven’t already read Anna Merlan’s longform account of the Conspira Sea cruise, really, do yourself a favor and check it out. Like all reporters interested in off-beat stories, she jumped at the chance to see what conspiracy theorists talk about when their primary audience is other theorists, and voluntarily trapped herself aboard a yacht with them. Aside from witnessing how popular anti-vax activists have become on the conspiracy circuit and documenting the sliminess of self-pitying wannabe-martyr Andrew Wakefield, Merlan highlighted some interesting common themes about the cruise’s participants and presenters. One would expect the whole affair to be an almost church-like experience where conspiracy theorists can indulge in their favorite hobby horses without being bothered by skeptics, but as it so turns out, it’s not the case at all. In fact, the entire cruise appears to be an excuse to present days worth of what are basically just thinly veiled infomercials for documentaries, books, supplements, and judicially suicidal financial and legal advice for would-be sovereign citizens trying to get out of debt or trouble in the courts.
Aside from the amount of time devoted to anti-vaxers swearing that autism comes from needles when we have ample proof that it’s actually genetic, repeating the same old, debunked canards they’ve been chanting for years, and comparing requirements to get vaccinated to the eugenics programs of Nazi Germany, despite studies funded and designed by them finding no evidence for their own claims, what really surprised me in Merlan’s account is just how much legal, fiscal, and radical libertarian New World Order-related crackpottery dominated the discussions. Much of the advice people received from self-proclaimed experts has been massacred by the courts over countless cases as legal-sounding nonsense, and self-issued “bonds” used to pay a hefty fine for tax evasion only make the IRS and the SEC livid, something Merlan goes to very great lengths to point out for readers who may be curious about their odds of declaring themselves a citizen exempt from U.S. law. Yet on the Conspira Sea cruise, plenty of attendees seem happy, ready, and willing to buy into the libertarian version of the Prosperity Gospel to erase their debt and tap into mysterious shadow money the government has in their name from their birth.
So if you’re interested in attending a conspiracy cruise, it seems that you’ll get a few of the hits and classics with which you’re familiar in small portions, but mostly, you’re going to be pitched quack supplements made who-knows-where by who-knows-who, and given not-quite-legal tips and tricks to beating the U.S. government by an “attorney in law,” which you’re right, isn’t a real thing that exists in the legal profession, and will get you arrested, with an IRS lien against every asset you own, or both. And considering that you’re paying once to attend and then again to be scammed by a presenter who just might accost you for being an unwitting CIA plant if you show too much doubt for his or her liking, it’s kind of like a chicken paying a fox to eat it. In a way, it’s actually worse than I thought. If people gathered to kibitz about which sub-species of gray alien or tame cryptid really shot JFK or brought down the World Trade Center in international waters, then so be it. But people are getting financially and legally ruinous advice along with potentially dangerous pills, potions, and lotions. It’s one thing to be open-minded, it’s something very, very different to be so open-minded anyone can play with your mind for their selfish gain…