(image by Keith Farnish)
First, definitions: a conspiracy is something that has been arranged between two or more parties without the knowledge of any other party -- it's as simple as that. A conspiracy theory is thus anything that addresses a possible, as yet unproven, conspiracy. A conspiracy theorist is someone who specialises in conspiracy theories. All nice and simple so far. Now, a Conspiracy Theory* (note the initial caps) is any conspiracy theory that is clearly bonkers; the capitals idea is mine, and it's the only way I can distinguish between a valid conspiracy theory ("The government are recording everything we do on the Internet", "Rail closures are the direct result of motor industry lobbying") and a totally bonkers Conspiracy Theory. It is the latter that I want to spend a bit of time describing, because you really need to know what they look like, and how to recognise them.
Bonkers Conspiracy #1: Global Warming is a Government Plot
There is not enough time in the day, or even in a complete lifetime, to try and convince a Climate Change Sceptic that Civilized (a.k.a. Anthropogenic) Global Warming is the fault of the industrial system and that it is going to do for the global ecology pretty much before the century is out. In fact it may well have already done for the global ecology, such is the energy encapsulated in the atmospheric-oceanic system, but there I go trying to explain things rationally, which simply will not do when faced with someone who is totally convinced that CGW is a plot by governments to get us to pay more taxes, enjoy the consumer culture less freely and become servants of the Global Elite. Ok, maybe that last one has some semblance of reality, but combine it with making us less virulent consumers and you start to see cracks in the argument. Here's what I said in a previous essay, which pretty much blows the Conspiracy out of the water:
A lot of denial -- now that even the most corporate-minded politicians and dirtiest companies at least say humans are causing the climate to change -- is now related to the amount of financial benefit it is claimed politicians, scientists, "green" companies and (get this) those campaigning simply to protect nature, will gain from a populace that believes humans are causing the climate to change. I make no bones about my condemnation of the huge amount of money that is being made off the back of people's concerns to protect the planet; from the small company selling low(er) energy gadgets, to the professional consultancy advising businesses how to be more environmental friendly (or at least appear to be), right up to the aforementioned corporations that need us to keep spending as usual to keep the economy growing.
It is worth pointing out the inescapable irony of such an accusation; given the incontrovertible history of lobbying and subsequent financial and power gain that the CCDs have been a party to. I admit that turning such an accusation on its head may seem to be playing into the hands of the deniers, but the accusation itself seems to assume that it is possible to play the same trick on both sides of the fence. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Put simply, if governments and corporations were really keen to make us believe that CGW was really happening, the cause was industrial civilization, and the solution was to emit radically fewer greenhouse gases, then the industrial system would effectively be pointing a gun at its own head. The reason CGW is a political and corporate football is because politicians and corporations need to control the facts in order to prevent concerned people from bringing down the system that is the cause of increasingly uncontrolled climate change. If they can convince the populace, including the Conspiracy Theorists, that things just need to be tweaked within the bubble of civilized behaviour, and everything will be fine, then the facts of runaway climate change need never come out. We remain comfortable, controlled consumers. The real conspiracy is the way we are kept from radically changing human behaviour; the bonkers Conspiracy Theory is exactly what the industrial world wants people to believe.
Bonkers Conspiracy #2: Chemtrails
This is a classic because it has so many strands, mutates so quickly and causes so much subtle damage to our way of thinking. The last sentence is almost precisely what Conspiracy Theorists think Chemtrails do; the fact is they do nothing of the sort, but the Conspiracy certainly does.
Chemtrails are not contrails -- that much is true. A Chemtrail is supposedly a sign, or signature, of an act having been committed, whereas a contrail is"well again you see how easy it is to get confused. Let's start from basics: a contrail is an expression of the condensed gases emitted by an aircraft under stable, high humidity atmospheric conditions. Mainly water vapour, but also including a range of other, more toxic gases, a contrail indicates that an aircraft has passed by, polluting as it goes, and leaving behind something rather like a hyper-extended equals sign. Sometimes, especially near to airports, multiple contrails are left, with patterns being created as the contrails cross and combine. Look above the cooling towers of a power plant and you'll see something similar; they are seed clouds, in effect.
A Chemtrail is a mind control device; or maybe it's a way of weakening or killing off the population; or maybe it's a way of altering the climate or weather for competitive advantage; or maybe it's all of these together. As with climate change scepticism, there is a grain of truth, but also a bale of bullshit. How, for instance, can something injected into the air at 30,000 feet have any tangible impact, however broadly, on the ground-level population, the soil or the water? Perhaps the constituency of the atmosphere could be changed at minute levels (far less than, for instance, Sarin requires to be toxic) but there is no precision -- we are talking homeopathy for the masses here! More to the point, why would a government intent on controlling, weakening or killing off the population want to broadcast this fact across the skies, just in case you didn't notice why your heart started fluttering and you were off your food?
Now enough of this nonsense. Choose your own bonkers Conspiracy Theory and have fun taking it apart -- it's far easier than you could imagine once you start asking for facts. Once you've done that then take the smile off your face, because here it starts to get more serious. Conspiracy Theories may be fatuous nonsense, but they are also very dangerous.
A Danger to Us All
Conspiracy Theories are a big problem because, like most (other) messages put out to keep us living in a particular way, they stop us seeing what is really going on. Why would it matter which religion controls the world's money markets if you knew that the world's money markets exist to control you, regardless of who controlled them? Why would it matter whether President X was a reptile if you knew that, regardless of species, the US President was just a figurehead for the all-destructive industrial system? Why would it matter whether Chemtrails or HAARP were trying to kill us off to manageable levels when we already know Industrial Civilization is the biggest killing machine in human history?
Some very clever people indeed have become addicted to Conspiracy Theories and, indeed, some people who talk about Conspiracy Theories also speak a lot of sense -- watch any video by David Ike, for instance, and you will see quite a lot of sense, followed by a lot of lizards. These people could be excellent Underminers, as could the people they are influencing, so we have to do what we can to show up Conspiracy Theories as nonsense. What we see is just another Veil of Ignorance in operation, keeping us disconnected from the real world, tied into the trivial games civilization likes to keep us playing. But if you are ready for a proper, intense battle of minds then this could be one battle that results in a lot of freed minds, ready themselves to battle against an even bigger target.
This is an expanded version of a short essay from Underminers: A Guide to Subverting The Machine by Keith Farnish. Available free to read online, or to buy.
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