The comfort of conspiracies
A conspiracy is when people get together and plot to do something, usually on the quiet. Like when Shorten and Gillard fixed Rudd, or Coles and Woollies fix prices, or you have the vet fix your dog. When you suspect a secret conspiracy caused something -- like 911 or why you can’t find your iPhone -- AND you can’t prove whodunit, that turns your suspicion into a conspiracy theory (CT).
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with a conspiracy – kids in grade 4 get together to grind Laxettes in the bully’s cocoa – or with a theory, or with a conspiracy theory, except when there’s too many of them and/or they’re too weird. Then they breed frustration among citizens who care about the subject, and that frustration gives conspiracy theories a bad name. This allows people being accused of participating in a conspiracy to get off the hook just by yelling “that’s just a crazy conspiracy theory and you’re a nutbar.”
The world today is awash in CTs about what’s happening in politics, society, culture, religion, and the economy, partly because the rich and powerful can’t explain what’s up without indicting themselves for grand larceny and mass murder. Meanwhile, the www provides a vast supply of new explanations -- with tiny nuggets of truth buried in an ocean of unicorn shit.
One such truth is that the average American has suffered shrinking income and declining government support, going steadily downhill since 1976 -- and along the way they’ve heard politicians promise various things to make life better, most of it unicorn shit.
Then, over the past 12 months of electioneering, Americans heard Senator Sanders and Donald Trump explaining why life sucks, and proposing radical ways to make things better. Essentially, Sanders said “You think it’s crazy that we spend more on war and weapons than we do on schools, hospitals, roads, science, bridges , the environment, and parks, all together? You’re right.” Then Bernie told them how he would re-allocate federal spending to reverse all those sick situations. In the Democratic primaries, over 80% of under-30 voters voted for Bernie instead of Hillary because she promised the same stuff her husband and other pollies have peddled for decades. People born since 1985 could follow Sanders’ logic clearly, whereas their parents saw it as part of the communist/socialist conspiracy – which was what rich and powerful people in their day told them social programs were – so they voted for Hillary.
Or they voted for Donald Trump. Now, sometimes Trump makes some sense: Get rid of Social Security? “Not fair to the people that have been paying in for years.” The Iraq invasion? “It is a disgrace. To lose all of those thousands and thousands of people, on our side and their side…All for no reason.” But mostly Trump doesn’t explain so much as declaim: Why are you older guys out of work? Because Mexicans. Why are we suffering indignities like having to listen to uppity women? Because feminism…etc.
Meanwhile here in Byron, when I moderated a “Meet the candidates” last month, candidate Neil Smith of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party claimed that “all our politicians seem concerned about, is sending billions of dollars to overseas aid. It has to stop!" I asked Smith how many billions we spend on aid and he answered, “I wouldn’t have a clue.”
Our budget is one of those huge but important things that’s very hard to get your head around, but you can look it up online. The answer is that overseas aid gets less than a quarter of one percent of our total budget, which boils down to $137.43 per person per year. About half of our aid goes to private companies.
And, for years now, as we’ve all tried to cope with crises too many to mention, the Coalition’s mantra has been “too many taxes on big business” or “not enough free trade”.
It’s no surprise that some folks hear Trump or Hanson shooting their mouths off and think “that’s the most sense about politics I’ve heard in my whole life.”
Trump himself loves several of America’s top 10 CTs, like that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the USA, and chemtrails, and vaccines. Hanson is in the Senate for pushing our biggest CT: all the bad stuff is because of people whose skin is unlike hers. (By the way, have you looked at their hair side by side – Trump’s and Pauline’s? Just saying.)
This raises the question why don’t people hunt out the proven facts, study the hard science, and then decide? Answer: because reading the science of, say, how burning fossil fuels or grazing cattle heats up the planet is a lot more work (though probably more fun) than listening to Pauline Hanson or Cardinal Pell saying they know better than 99% of people whose lives are dedicated to studying these things.
And, the bigger the theory we embrace the more comforted we are that we understand all the world’s vast and unpleasant puzzles. A wonderful woman at the Mullum Market recently urged me to read an “incredible” book about how the Rothschilds and other (mostly Jewish) bankers have controlled all the big stuff in the world for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years, driven by unbridled greed etc. This conspiracy theory wraps up all the wars we know anything about, plus immigration and asylum seeking, and financial meltdowns, interspersing it all with factoids such as who married whom and when, to give it a biblical-style gravitas. Underneath it all lies a tale that is indeed incredible – meaning almost entirely not credible. Yes by 1900 the extended family of Rothschilds were distributed widely among the boards of bankers in Europe and its colonies, but as Brian Dunning puts it on his pretty good science-based website skeptoid.com: “Rothschilds … is now a relatively small fish in the sea of world financial institutions [led by] Deutsche Bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, HSBC, BNP Paribas, Japan Post Bank, Crédit Agricole, Barclays PLC, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, Royal Bank of Scotland, and JP Morgan Chase & Co.” To say that Rothschilds are "controlling world banks” says Dunning, is a ”little factoid about 100 years out of date.”
Let’s share the OMG stuff, but let’s help each other sift the nuggets from the unicorn shit.