For the following paragraphs, I’m going to use the word “he” or “that guy” when referring to the conspiracy theorist friend you have who scoffs at you every time you advocate for your democratic government. Because – let’s be clear – that friend is almost always a “he”. This “he” is also usually a white guy from an upper/middle class family – probably one that always told him how smart and special he was. And because he’s smart and special (in reality, lucky), he’s never needed government for anything, and so has nothing to lose by sitting on the sidelines of politics and remaining ideologically “pure”. He’s the guy who loves to mock the people who are actually trying to make progress because it makes him feel like the sharpest tool in the shed.
And, when it comes to politics, he’s most certainly a tool. That’s not to say it’s all his fault though. In college, he probably listened to Alex Jones (or someone like him) and started believing he knew the “real truth” about government – that 9/11 was an inside job, that mass shootings are staged events called “false flags”, and that any government issue is open to the kind of fact-free, speculative bullshit that Jones spouts on the daily. This guy is probably really into libertarianism and free market principles too, because just like the privilege of his upbringing allows him to say government is useless, his privilege of living in a liberal democracy has made him unaware of how much worse these other forms of government would actually be.
If my disdain isn’t coming through in my description – let me be clear – I can’t fucking stand this guy. Which is unfortunate because I’m friends and acquaintances with many of them. I generally like them as people, but their politics reek of self-absorption and little else.
So, imagine my glee when I learned that a lot of the ideas coming from this conspiratorial wing can be rooted in Russian disinformation campaigns that have been going on for years!
I always thought that believing in conspiracy theories might be the real conspiracy – and now it turns out it’s actually true. They’re a tale as old as time – and just in time for the new Beauty and the Beast movie!
(Two quick questions on this new version…
- Does anyone think this story is a lot creepier now that Beast looks like a real animal?
- Who the hell is making his dope-ass suits??? Props to his tailor – I’ve heard the seam work on animal haunches is nearly impossible.)
Here’s something else that might be impossible… Allowing these conspiracy theories to go on unchallenged. What used to be a fun thing to laugh at has become a corrosive force in American politics – their laughable ideas are starting to harm the country in some very serious ways.
The point is this: the problem with our government has always been the same. It’s not that it’s being run by Machiavellian masterminds who control our thoughts with elaborately plotted, catastrophic events. (It’s hard to believe 9/11 was an inside job, when I can’t even get 4 people to go the movies with me.) The problem is that people don’t care about our government, they don’t know how it actually works, and they don’t participate in any way. (Voter fraud? Yeah, right. We can’t even get people to vote.)
Sadly, Russia seems to be more aware of this reality than our own citizens. And that’s troubling because it’s causing our citizens to no longer believe in reality. The real truth is, encouraging people not to care has always been a lot more achievable and a lot more believable than any of the lies they spread to do it.
So, I’m not going to sit here and do the same thing conspiracy theorists do by acting like every conspiracy theory is a Russian plant. But, I’m also willing float the idea that I wouldn’t be surprised if they paid Alex Jones to do his radio show. (How’s that for some fact-free speculation?)
I’m all for a conversation about the factual ideas dancing around conspiracy theories – that the corporate news media has largely failed us, and that the US Government is way more Beast than Belle. But, I’d also like to, you know, have those conversations in a way that incorporates reality. And that means having them while still recognizing the value of our democracy and the ideals our institutions were established to uphold even if they’re not always doing so. Most importantly – and this is a big one – it means using facts.
So, let’s try it – here’s one last truth that might shock you:
It turns out that your conspiratorial friend who was always saying “you don’t get it” was right. You never got “it” – it being a case of Russian Dezinformatsiya.