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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Conspiracy

Even in the best of times there are individuals that find dark conspiracies around every corner. But in times of crisis such as we are now experiencing it seems as if each day brings a fresh crop of bizarre assertions. Some rumors are undoubtedly created by genuinely disturbed or malicious people. Others are part of intentional disinformation campaigns designed to sow political discord and polarization. Fear, doubt, and calculated pathology account for much of this behavior but it is surprising when seemingly sensible people suddenly espouse the most bizarre views without once questioning the information on which they are based. It takes only a little investigation and clear thinking –something easily done in the age we live-- to discount the vast majority of these tales.

Take for instance the statement touted by a handful of celebrities and fueled by social media tweets and posts, that the virus which has sickening and killed so many around the world is caused by the 5G wireless spectrum. There is of course no substance to this claim—and none of the avid conspiracy advocates bothers to explain how this is possible considering that the technology ostensibly responsible for this secret world domination plan has only been deployed in a few parts of the world while the virus is everywhere. Neither facts nor science play a part in conspiracy thinking—in fact they are rejected as lies or fake information, unless of course it is made up science that foolish believers do not question even as they dismiss science itself.

It is as if we have been suddenly plunged back to the dark ages—when a solar eclipse was evidence of the displeasure of the gods or a giant beast eating the sun. And there is a reason why this so closely resembles a period when science, logic and critical thinking were uncommon. The world, and life itself is chaotic, full of dark surprises that we must guard against, and we feel threatened, not without reason. Some wearing the cloak of ministry cite scripture to invoke a special understanding and power over disease. They assure their followers that common sense is without reason. The world has seen this before when those deemed unbelievers were burned at a stake for their heresy and witchcraft.

The conspirators—who may be nameless or easily identified by some sign known only to the awakened shamans are part of a cabal, a dark state, evildoers set to undermine all that is right and good. Are there such things? Of course, there is evil and insanity and mental disturbance--and they are at the heart of most conspiracies in one form or another. Our human need to make some sense of the surreal and dangerous world in which we live is limitless. But the sense we make of it is all too often nonsense—that is no sense at all but free ranging angst, anxiety, and magical thinking.

Many years ago, while working in a NYC bookstore while studying for my undergraduate degree, I had several repeat customers who were benign examples of those who find life’s meaning in conspiracy. One woman who dressed in a dark brown outfit complete with opera length gloves, hat and veil, even in the summer heat, sidled up to me one day and in a theatrical whisper asked if we had received the latest book about a secret international government conspiracy. I had not the foggiest notion what conspiracy she was referencing but went through the motions of looking. After a few minutes I reported back that, no, we had not yet received any book that met her description. With a sigh of resignation she departed but would periodically appear with the same request.

Another frequent customer claimed to be a Martian in disguise undertaking secret intelligence before the coming invasion. Another believed the antichrist was an obscure Serbian mystic. They were all relatively harmless except perhaps to themselves, charming in a way but no less misguided. Sadly, in the midst of our current trials today’s conspiracists are all too often those who hold some celebrity, secular or religious authority. Their conspiracies serve an entirely different purpose—to bind true believers to their own views, to turn people against each other so that they may claim authority in the midst of the ensuing chaos, or simply to achieve their own ends—be it money or power or both.

The only remedy I know to the charlatans who espouse this dimwitted nonsense is to ignore them. To paraphrase Mark Twain, never enter into a fight with an idiot, they’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with their experience.

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