is this the golden age of conspiracy theories?
Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before. The government is plotting to institute a New World Order and every war, terrorist act, and a case of the sniffles anywhere in the world is just a carefully planned step in their quest to rule this planet and use its people as a workforce, which is why they distract us with meaningless celebrity news and human interest stories in the media, to keep us from talking about their crimes and conquests and sinister plots. Oh you’ve heard that too? Really? Well no wonder. Today, thanks to the web, we’re living in what I could only describe as the golden age of conspiracy theories. We have hundreds of them customized for any political leaning, religious belief, spiritual mood, and national affiliation, just waiting to be discovered on some dark alley of the internet, being continually refined in more and more elaborate and wildly outlandish detail.
Now, to be fair, there are very real plots and cover-ups which were eventually exposed. Unfortunately for many conspiracy theorists, most of them were either somewhat simple and almost boring, involving bribes, public denial of alarming facts on the news, or hopelessly over-elaborate and destined to go off the rails if they ever got underway. In fact, the most sinister and successful conspiracies are of those by terrorist organizations so often ignored by New World Order enthusiasts, who take their cues from some version of the Taxil Hoax, and see them as nothing more than tools of evil governments, sinister reptilian overlords, or aliens who live on the dark side of the Moon, ready to launch an invasion. Some conspiracy theorists will quite literally see the signs of nefarious machinations in absolutely anything and everything for seemingly no reason. Just take a look at the SPLC’s list of today’s trendy conspiracy theories embraced by the far right and quite a few on the far left, albeit with their own partisan adjustments to the plot and the villains.
In the world of the ardent conspiracy theorist, government mistakes and corporate avarice are cast as shrewd and cunning moves by brilliant puppet masters in charge of anything everything, training their secret armies for the moment they’ll divide the world according to the agreements they’ve drawn up in secret meetings of the various lodges, think tanks, and conferences regularly held by secretive offshoots of their organization in posh hotels and Masonic temples. The most adamant proponents of bizarre conspiracies will even resort to what’s known as negative evidence, arguing that their inability to collect anything more than circumstantial concepts based on hearsay and trying to connect every dot even when those dots shouldn’t be connected, is actually a perfect demonstration of how good the cover ups are as well as how widespread the conspiracy really is. The notion that the news today focused on the superficial not because it’s being manipulated by the Illuminati or a government plot to distract its citizens from important events, but because their fellow citizens just don’t care, as disheartening as that is, never seems to enter their minds.
I can understand the desire to feel like a hero in a thriller, uncovering some complex international conspiracy, taking on The Man, and getting access to things marked off limits to many of us. But for every authorized and approved campaign to torture terrorist suspects in secret prisons, there are thousands of cover-ups of bribes for someone’s friend or campaign contributor, and for every secretive society which had any sway with anyone important or powerful, there are thousands of imposters. This fact alone should show that the vast majority of conspiracy theories out there simply wouldn’t work. They’d constantly interfere with each other in spectacularly disastrous ways and if there really is a secret society behind them all, we could ignore it as that of ambitious, but totally incompetent buffoons. Maybe, rather than connecting dots and looking for hidden meanings where we really don’t have to, we should default to greed or incompetence instead of picturing brilliant tacticians on the quest to carve up our planet and sell us all to the Grays of Zeta Riticuli as slaves.