Although I’m very liberal in nearly every sense of the word, I confess that I’m a sucker for conspiracy theories. I can’t resist considering, at least momentarily, even the craziest of ideas – reptillian overlords, the moon landing hoax, a Paul McCartney impostor, etc. If it’s a conspiracy, I want to know why people believe it.
Now, you might say, “It’s just because they’re crazy. It’s a crazy idea. People are crazy.” And you might be right. Actually, you’d probably be right in a lot of cases. Still, I’m hooked on the possible intrigue, the possible mystery, and the possibility that the world might be way more exciting then we know. To be honest, some of my curiosity is probably just wishful thinking. I mean, if aliens lived among us, how fascinating would that be! Super fucking fascinating, that’s how.
But in general, people have a habit of choosing sides. And identifying as a conspiracy theorist, even with caveats, doesn’t usually go over very well with the left-learning crowd. It’s like everything else, really. It’s Us vs. Them. Liberals vs. Conservatives. Republicans vs. Democrats. Christians vs. Muslims. The North vs. the South. East Coast vs. West Coast. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Liberals don’t really tend to side with conspiracy theorists, for the most part. Which oftentimes leaves me talking to myself in the corner again, probably looking every bit as crazy as whatever idea it is that I’m actively considering at the moment.
But in my defense, one result that can come from blindly choosing sides is the Orwellian concept of groupthink, which incidentally, plays a very strong role in identity politics. While similar forms of tribalism have been found throughout human history in varying degrees, it becomes a problem when party ideas are habitually used as a crutch in place of critical thought.
An educated population, when confronted with a concept or idea, can evaluate it within a given context, regardless of the idea’s origins. Unfortunately, in light of the disaster that is the Donald Trump campaign, I’m really not sure that anyone would argue this is a educated society. And hell, I’ll even admit that I don’t always evaluate ideas on merit alone. For example, my knee-jerk reaction whenever Ted Cruz opens his mouth is to disagree with him. Granted, I haven’t been wrong so far, but that’s besides the point. The point is that technically it’s possible that someday Ted Cruz will say something that is not entirely false/despicable. And when that day comes, I should refrain from heckling him on that particular issue. However, in order to recognize the non-despicable, at-least-partially-true words when/if they fall from his mouth, I have to consistently evaluate whether I’m rejecting a particular idea, the source, or both. I think there’s an old saying about broken clocks being right twice a day which is applicable here.
Now, while it might seem far less time consuming to just toss broken clocks on the trash heap, we can’t really use that logic when it comes to popular opinion. (Although, since we’re on the subject, let me just say that we should also really attempt to fix broken clocks before just tossing them out. And if they can’t be fixed, we should maybe try to upcycle them into a sweet hat or something. Yes, I’m serious. The last thing our environment needs is more garbage. Have you even seen the Pacific Trash Island yet??? No? Well, don’t worry, it’ll probably be visible from your bedroom window any minute now if you keep mindlessly throwing all those clocks away!)
Whew, anyway, that went a little off the rails, I’ll admit, but my point stands. Ideally, we would all have the time and knowledge to consider an idea from multiple perspectives regardless of the source. Take, for example, the image that recently circulated claiming to show the same woman grieving after several, different mass shootings. Was it actually the same woman in all the photos? I don’t know, people who share even a few characteristics all kinda look the same to me, but let’s be real, it probably wasn’t. However, as I wandered about the internet, the outrage against conspiracy theorists in the comment sections of liberal websites was as predictable as the “false flag” and “crisis actor” cries coming from the more conservative commentators.
It seemed that because some conservatives, lead by Alex Jones & Co (who is an utter moron, to be fair) have latched onto the term “conspiracy theory”, many liberals have a knee-jerk reaction against anything labeled as such. This left-wing confidence in our leaders usually doesn’t hold true in other situations, however. For example, liberals are able to easily question the official stories given out by police departments in cases where young, unarmed, black men have been shot, and rightly so. In many of these cases, the authorities have covered up internal crimes and falsified information. And oddly enough, many conservatives lose their ability to question the official report in cases like this.
However, what if in some cases, both sides have missed the mark. What if an issue wasn’t as black and white as it seemed? What if there was a conspiracy, but the culprits weren’t the so-called, liberal government. What if the culprits were actually a private business widely supported by right-wing politics? What if controversies like these relied on the ability to easily divide and conquer the American people?
So in the particular case mentioned above, the prevailing theory involved the government flying a woman around from one fake tragedy to another, where she would pretend to mourn at each of these supposedly false flag events. Which, yes, is a pretty unbelievable idea that makes absolutely no sense. Why would anyone do that? Why not at least hire different actors/actresses? Also, it’s pretty awful to suggest that the victims of these tragedies never even existed. So there’s that.
However, like I hinted at earlier, what if the guilty party wasn’t the government. Well, not directly anyway. And what if I pointed out that questioning the official report of these events doesn’t mean that the tragedy didn’t take place. For example, let’s look at who profits after a school shooting. Any ideas? Yes, that’s right, the gun manufacturers. And the profit/spike in sales is both huge and predictable.
Now, given what we already know about both the NRA and the absurd amount of money in politics, is it really that unbelievable that the real monsters here might be obscenely wealthy men in positions of power? Men who have already shown that they don’t give a damn about the rest of us? Men who don’t think twice before killing thousands of people overseas? Men like Wayne LaPierre, the President of the NRA, who regularly uses blatant fear mongering in interviews and at annual conferences to sell the very product that allows these tragedies to keep happening.
Ok, so maybe it’s a bit of an over-reach to insinuate that obscenely wealthy men with insatiable greed, who obviously lack any sense of morality, would go so far as to hire hit men to murder children/movie-goers/college students, all for several billion dollars in profit. However, sometimes when things don’t add up, following the money can square up the math.
But on the other hand, maybe each of these events happened exactly as was reported. Maybe it’s nothing more than multiple cases where evil villains, almost all socially-awkward young men (generally described as shy loners who had trouble functioning in society), for reasons mostly unknown, planned and carried out attacks on random strangers, and got exactly what they deserved in the end. Maybe justice has already been served, and these conspiracy theories rightly deserve to be immediately labeled as nonsense. Maybe, maybe not. But let’s not be too quick in either jumping to conclusions or dismissing an idea without first thinking critically about why we’re doing so. After all, ensuring that those who are responsible are held accountable is the best way to prevent the same thing from happening again.
To conclude, I’ll just leave this quote from John F. Kennedy’s 1961 American Newspaper Publishers Association Address here, in case you’re interested.
For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence, on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. It’s mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding, and from that understanding comes support or opposition, and both are necessary.