If your family is like mine, you have that one crazy uncle. And it seems like we all have at least one these days. You know, the one who believes every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard. And even some you haven’t heard yet. Of course, this year, his fevered brain is probably also working in overdrive. And you’re likely to hear about things like the Grand Solar Minimum or the moon landing hoax. But perhaps my favorite, which I was told in all seriousness recently, is that Zuckerberg’s extended forehead is from a brain transplant and if you look close enough, you can see the scars.
I wish I were joking about that last one but someone honestly tried to convince me of it.
You see, I was raised in a family where conspiracy theories were commonplace conversation. And because of that fact, I am outrageously skeptical of them and much more so than other people. But I also understand their appeal. Yet, there’s also nothing like hearing about secret lizard people controlling the government to make you wonder, as a little kid, whether your parents are playing with a full deck of cards or not.
Then again, we also have articles like this one from Time Magazine. From the piece, titled, “The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election”…
There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes, one that both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs. Both surprises were the result of an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans. The pact was formalized in a terse, little-noticed joint statement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO published on Election Day.
Excuse me? Did they just fucking bluntly admit to conspiring together to affect the last election?
Yes, yes, they actually did. And they don’t give a shit if you know it too. In fact, they even use the word “conspiracy” in the article, as you can see from the quote. And this, in an authoritative, corporate source like Time. It doesn’t get much more official than this right here. And only the most dense of normies can’t see the contradiction in how the ruling class has spent so much time insisting anyone who says there was a conspiracy is dangerous. But then they openly admit to coordinating a conspiracy.
Now, of course, most Republicans and dissidents are screaming, “SEE! THERE WAS A CONSPIRACY! THEY ADMITTED IT!” But anyone with half a brain can also tell you that when the article clearly admits to it. It even outlines in minute detail who was involved in coordinating it. You definitely might want to take a look at the timeline it lays out.
Still, at the same time, you might be tempted to compare the situation to the quintessential dystopian novel 1984. But it’s also too easy to draw parallels to that fictional work’s concept of doublethink, where believers in the authoritarian party assert two mutually contradictory things at the same time. Although that Time article isn’t as bad as the novel’s famous “2+2=5,” it does come remarkably close.
But I’d like to introduce a different way of looking at it.
Recently, people I know have asked me why I, being the highly reasonable and pragmatic man I am, one who prides himself on being informed and level-headed, seem so worried. In some of their explanations, they insist that I must be scared. Or that I’ve been sucked into the Qanon plots. (For the record, I always thought Qanon was little more than disinformation, at best).
But instead, what I’ve been doing is going hard-boiled to strip away the feel-good language from articles like those, and trying to get beyond the conspiracy theorizing to what we might be able to assert is really happening here. And what might be about to happen. After all, if we’re living in history, doesn’t it make sense to figure out our place in it? Or at the very least, to safeguard against its excesses?
If you answered “yes” to those two questions, then you’re in good company.
For me, that article and the context in which it’s born, suggests something about where we are in the US. And ruminating I turn to more rigorous historic frameworks like this one, introduced by a professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention. To give you a sample, I’ll quote you one of the 10 steps that often predict genocide.
6. POLARIZATION: Extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda. Motivations for targeting a group are indoctrinated through mass media. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction. Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating and silencing the center. Moderates from the perpetrators’ own group are most able to stop genocide, so are the first to be arrested and killed. Leaders in targeted groups are the next to be arrested and murdered. The dominant group passes emergency laws or decrees that grants them total power over the targeted group. The laws erode fundamental civil rights and liberties. Targeted groups are disarmed to make them incapable of self-defense, and to ensure that the dominant group has total control.
Sound vaguely familiar? If so, you might want to take a moment to read through the entire criteria. And then consider where we might fall on its timeline in the US today. While this exercise might feel somewhat “out there,” it goes beyond mere conspiracy theory or raw power plays to see if we can tell, through historically and political analysis, how events may play out.
Really, when you think about it, aside from its possible original roots as a term in government propaganda, conspiracy theories are simply poor analysis. Or they rely on grand secret plans with wildly improbable odds. They may also engage in “moving the goalpost” or vague interpretations. In a way, and I speak from experience here, they have their own weird logic.
That crazy uncle of yours might not like us so easily dismissing him. But let us mostly focus on how feasible different possibilities are.
And, while we should always be skeptical of the official story, reality is often much more mundane. And when it comes down to it, we don’t really need any wacky conspiracy theories. That’s because, throughout time, people have benefited, in one way or another and often in different ways, in taking advantage of or oppressing others. It can involve them looking away as it happens. Or rationalizing how the oppressed “deserve” what they’re getting. Sometimes this is taken to the point of extermination.
This should be an uncontroversial fact.
And to me, what is amazing about that Time article or much of what is happening around us today, isn’t that the elite are taking credit, right out in the open, for their coordination and conspiracy regarding the election. Or that they may label you as an extremist for suggesting it. After all, they want the recognition for their acts, so that they can also gain legitimacy from them. And they have their power to tell you what you can and cannot say.
No, what worries me more is much more fundamental.
And you can call it a conspiracy theory all you like but what I’m worried about submits to an investigation of the past and to the facts. That worry is that, from a historic perspective, much of what is happening, between the symbolism of masks and the incitement of mobs, often forecasts genocide.
And it’s clear few seem to care, as most people look away yet again.