I’m not really going to flesh this out, more an observation than anything but . . .
I’m interested in conspiracy theories. It’s a good time to have this interest — there certainly seems to no shortage of them. But my interest isn’t in agreeing or disagreeing with them. I’m not interested in proof of their validity. A lot of people are. I’m not.
These theories usually get written off as just being nonsense or talked about in terms of facts. People talk about ‘the post-truth world’ and some of these people, often in media, seem to believe that The Hallucination Regime can be cured with fact checking and critical thinking. These people discuss these theories in terms of being right or wrong. They bring information to the table. Evidence. Common sense. That sort of thing.
I don’t think that’s the right way to think about these theories. (I also think we’re more post-fact than post-truth.) There’s a different way to to think about these theories. One, I think, is a bit more instructive than agreeing or disagreeing.
Like, look at this whole phenomenon:
This week, the internet is going crazy with talk of a mass People’s Invasion of Area 51. More than one million people have signed up on Facebook to breach the gates of the most famous top secret government facility in the world. The event, which sprang to life as a joke started by social media shitposters, has now racked up an enormous amount of publicity worldwide, with media outlets taking it utterly seriously and others as the joke it always was. Unless you want to do it for real.
People are talking –maybe joking, though some are probably serious– about storming Area 51 to get a look at the aliens. That certainly seems bizarre. But over the past couple of weeks a lot of revelations have come out about the concentration camps on the border where migrants and children are being held. Now, people want to storm a secretive government facility where innocent aliens, who, with their big heads, large eyes, and small bodies, bear a striking and often noted resemblance to children, are being unjustly held prisoner while military value is forcibly extracted from them?
It’s odd but is it wrong? Rather, is it just wrong?
It just seems to me that a lot of these conspiracy theories have a strange sort of truth to them. They seem to express things that are, maybe, too horrible for some people to directly face. They’re a type of outlet for terror. They’re a sort of strange method people use to get at the truth. A sort of adult play — a conspiracy theory is safe area to think about dangerous things. Facts won’t fix these delusions. Only dealing with the underlying causes of stress stands a chance and, even then, it will probably only modify the delusions. There will always be stresses and delusions. Making society itself a safer place to confront terrible things may reduce the necessity of these conspiracy theories.
A society’s irrational beliefs say a lot more about its culture than its rational beliefs. Any dummy can believe two plus two equals four. But, if you believe two plus two equals a fish, you’ve said something different and revealing about yourself.
I suppose, I think, this whole Area 51 thing is America saying something about itself. Fucked if I know exactly what it is though.