Richard Hall Online

A Methodist Minister Blogging like it’s 2006

What’s with all the conspiracy theories?

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it, but many of my internet feeds, especially YouTube, have been awash with (mostly) right-wing conspiracy theories lately. I say “right wing”, but perhaps “free market libertarian” would be a less contentious label. However you might give them a political label, there’s been a lot of them

The pandemic has obviously pushed a lot of people’s buttons, and for good reason. But honest skepticism towards the government and its motives has for some become something much darker and more pervasive. They have become convinced that we are living in a system so corrupted as to be beyond redemption, controlled by an unnamed elite, usually referred to as “Them” or “They”.

“They” want to control “our” lives, our thoughts and our movements. Pandemic lockdowns were a precursor to future restrictions, a sign of things to come. “15 minute cities” are not a fairly mild and sensible approach to town planning, but an attempt to confine individuals to tiny urban neighbours, possibly preventing access to the countryside at all. What benefit “They” get from this is very unclear.

In this worldview, “Climate Change” is obviously a scam being run by “Big Science” (whatever that may be), completely overlooking the very simple and well-understood physics of the greenhouse effect. There is no debate to be had. It is so blindingly obvious that only the brain-washed and wilfully ignorant don’t see it. Motor vehicle emissions aren’t pollution, they’re plant food. CO2 is only 0.04% of the atmosphere, so it can’t possibly be a problem. Speed limits aren’t a way of increasing safety, decreasing pollution and increasing road capacity. Their only purpose is the restriction of liberty. Don’t get them started on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and emission zones!

Out of this chaos, the notion of the sovereign individual emerges. This is someone who has recognised the system for what it is, awake to the realities of “the system”, in charge of their own destiny and not beholden to any state authority. Some have taken to issuing their own birth certificates and other documents. I discover that one can also train as a “Common Law Constable”, though I’m sure I can see what authority anyone would think they might have. For some reason, the belief that not paying council tax is a realistic option has taken root though I’m not convinced by the claims that are being made. I certainly hope it isn’t true that people are able to get away without paying.

What strikes me about all this is the very religious language that is used in this conversation. There are leaders who have uncovered hidden, secret knowledge and who share this knowledge with those who are waking up. Always there are stories of dark forces at work trying to supress this knowledge in order to keep people enslaved — no seems to see any irony that the certainty of this censorship is being openly and freely shared every day on social media.

I’m not at all sure how it comes to be that it is easier to believe that some bloke with a laptop is able to uncover secret, hidden truths about the law, science, medicine and a range of other subjects while those who spend years of their life in close disciplined study are shut in ignorance. It defies explanation.

I’m not convinced there would be any point in trying to engage in rational debate with proponents of this stuff, but it doesn’t seem right to ignore it. What do you think?



32 responses to “What’s with all the conspiracy theories?”

  1. Dave Warnock Avatar

    @richard good questions to ask!

  2. Jennifer C J Radtke Avatar

    @richard Have you come across Marianna Spring's work? She has been investigating disinformation and conspiracy theories.

    1. Richard Hall Avatar

      I have. That series is particularly poignant because the events it covers took place in Shrewsbury, the town where I live. She’s a good journalist

  3. Jenna105 Avatar

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