Furthest Right

A Guide to the Symbolism of Conspiracy Theory

It has long been apparent that conspiracy theories come true sometimes, and that even the most paranoid ravings can accurately depict the lust for power of human beings. It is not paranoia if “they” are actually out to suppress you, use you, and discard you in the pursuit of might.

Taking a broader view, however, it seems that conspiracy theories are best taken as metaphor: simple visual examples to illustrate what is otherwise complex, messy, and invisible. Very few us of can access the information and tie it together to make sense, but a symbolic small story works better for most.

Let us look at a few recent examples:

  • Epstein Island: in reality, Epstein was hauling wealthy people out there to party, make deals, and give him his cut. Teen prostitutes were made available as a means of gaining kompromat on these parties. The conspiracy theory translates this to pedophilia, which is a broader way of saying that our new meritocratic elites see everyone else as disposable idiots to be used in whatever way produces temporary and empty stimulation.
  • Chemtrails: in theory, everyday plane flights over the country are spraying some kind of mind-control chemicals upon us, but this masks the more mundane reality that industry in general is producing toxic products, chemical residues, and exhaust pollution that is harming us biologically, including our ability to think and reproduce.
  • Flat Earth: although the advocates for this theory make a strong case in some instances, more likely it symbolizes the complete failure of science, since it is based on cherry-picking adversarial studies rather than holistic analysis. As more of our published science turns out to be irreproducible and many of the classic studies are revealed to have giant holes, trust in science declines, so we might as well scream EARTH IS FLAT at the nearest scientist.
  • The Eternal Jew: having a theory that explains how a tiny group manipulates the world is more comforting than seeing how chaotic the system is, how much of it is based on precedent, and how group decisions affect us with the bourgeois logic of avoiding offense and striving for more material gain. In reality, we are becoming through middle class morals the same stereotype that is projected onto the Jews, and most Jew-fear reflects a logical fear of diversity and the motive of Other groups to conquer us.
  • 9/11: all of the theories about this event seem designed to deflect from the grim reality, which is that diversity meant that we could not police our borders, therefore bad guys wandered among us until we started spying on everyone with Patriot Act open warrants. The old America had died, and the nü-America is comprised of groups more interested in agitating for their special interests, industries, and racial self-interest than working together to make anything work. In addition, our Affirmative Action government seemed unable to do anything right.
  • Spirit Cooking: in appearance, an occult sadistic ritual for the sacrifice of children, but in reality, simply how bad and fetishistic modern art has become, although symbolic of our fear that we have inverted good. With egalitarianism, good is replaced by equality; the bad and good are treated equally, and the good are penalized in order to subsidize the bad. Very few can work themselves through that sentence so instead we get quasi-demonic images of cheesy freak novelty events.
  • PizzaGate: many wanted to believe that our leaders were in fact sponsoring pedophilia, but the more realistic explanation is that sexual liberation made every sex act so mundane that people went seeking new highs, and so now we have an explosion of pedophiles across the board, with many being highly placed in government, industry, and media.
  • QAnon: on paper this one looked like Trump and friends having military backing for taking back the American government, but in reality it was more of an informal coalition crossing agency boundaries who were trying to compile information on the theft of election 2020 and find a way to counteract it, despite complete silence from the courts, media, and government.
  • Satanic Panic: this one kicked in the 1980s because people had trouble believing that the 1960s with its sexual liberation, broken families, and permissive ethos had produced a new spate of serial killers, pedophiles, and kidnappers. They blamed Satanists in the day care centers, but more likely there were a lot of people pursuing “if it feels good, do it” to the logical extreme of enjoying sadism over others.
  • Lizard People: the image plays into decades of science fiction, where a hostile race of lizards as in the 1980s series V take over the planet but disguise themselves in human skinsuits. This one symbolizes the more complex truth that meritocracy rewards the obedient, and many of them have ulterior motives and behave like psychopaths, creating Tammany Hall style political machines that then manipulate us with deflections, distractions, and misdirects.

If we look beneath conspiracy theories, we find real fears turned into visual symbolism like might happen in a movie or popular book. You cannot show the decay of a society in a compelling visual form, so a small story that explains it in an interesting way goes further.

Michael Barkun, in A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, writes that conspiracy theories tend to have several distinct traits:

A conspiracist worldview implies a universe governed by design rather than by randomness. The emphasis on design manifests itself in three principles found in virtually every conspiracy theory:

  • Nothing happens by accident. Conspiracy implies a world based on intentionality, from which accident and coincidence have been removed. Anything that happens occurs because it has been willed. At its most extreme, the result is a “fantasy [world] . . . far more coherent than the real world.”
  • Nothing is as it seems. Appearances are deceptive, because conspirators wish to deceive in order to disguise their identities or their activities. Thus the appearance of innocence is deemed to be no guarantee that an individual or group is benign.
  • Everything is connected. Because the conspiracists’ world has no room for accident, pattern is believed to be everywhere, albeit hidden from plain view. Hence the conspiracy theorist must engage in a constant process of linkage and correlation in order to map the hidden connections.

In an odd way, the conspiracy theorist’s view is both frightening and reassuring. It is frightening because it magnifies the power of evil, leading in some cases to an outright dualism in which light and darkness struggle for cosmic supremacy. At the same time, however, it is reassuring, for it promises a world that is meaningful rather than arbitrary. Not only are events nonrandom, but the clear identification of evil gives the conspiracist a definable enemy against which to struggle, endowing life with purpose. (3)

He sees this as arising from a binary good/evil worldview in which evil and good are battling for control of the world:

Belief in conspiracies is central to millennialism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. That is scarcely surprising — millennialist worldviews have always predisposed their adherents to conspiracy be liefs. Such worldviews may be characterized as Manichaean, in the sense that they cast the world in terms of a struggle between light and darkness, good and evil, and hold that this polarization will persist until the end of history, when evil is finally, definitively defeated. (2)

In many ways, believing that evil is present and good must struggle against it is more comforting than the reality: democracy is a bidding war between lobbyists, special interests, industries, foreign powers, and billionaires for votes bought with free stuff from government.

What looks to be more real is this: people in government treat it as a job. The big goal is to avoid revolution. The next is to patch up what we have while advancing their own careers. That type of environment selects out anyone but the manipulative.

As Late Stage Democracy winds slowly to a close, most of what we are seeing is a system that has created too much internal complexity and adopted too many wrong assumptions to change course even as it fails to produce the intended results.

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