The Conspiratainment Complex and Why I Don’t Find Conspiracy Theory Funny Anymore

Glenn Beck chalkboard

Justin Boland is back and updating Brainsturbator and Skilluminati again.

The signal always gets distorted, degraded…and more popular every time. Dumb is accessible, people like dumb. They like aliens, they like Satanist bad guys, and they like to buy products that signify their secret knowledge. It’s hard to exaggerate how hollowed out the Conspiratainment Complex has become in 2010. Conspiracy Theory is literally being taught to Americans on a chalkboard now. Remote Viewing has gone from a classified project to a mini-industry of competing DVD training packages. Even Tila Tequila is tracking the Illuminati’s every move these days. This is an emerging demographic and it’s going to be extremely important in the next decade. [...]

Today, these competing meta-narratives are blending into a Conspiratainment mainstream, where the largest possible audience meets the lowest common denominator. Roswell is an article of faith, JFK is holy scripture, and 9/11 is the wedge issue and the litmus test. The Apollo 11 mission exists in a Schroedinger-style quantum state where it simultaneously did and did not land on the moon, although the priesthood agrees there was a cover-up, either way.

Skilluminati: The Conspiratainment Complex

A few years ago, I wrote an article about contemporary subcultures and made the case that the 9/11 Truth movement was a legitimate subculture. Although it was already being productized in the form of DVDs, books and merchandise, I didn’t think it was something that would be appropriated by the mainstream. And though 9/11 still hasn’t been appropriated by the mainstream, thanks to the likes of Glenn Beck and the Tea Party, conspiracy theory is more mainstream than ever.

Tangent:

This reminds me of a quote Justin posted on Facebook a while back. I can’t find the specific entry, but I think it was from a 9/11 Truther. It went something like this “Conspiracy theory has never hurt anyone, but the Obama administration has.”

Don’t think for a second I’m letting Obama and company off the hook for their targeted assassinations, Afghan war escalation, etc. But I’m calling bullshit on the “conspiracy theory never hurt anyone” line.

It would be disingenuous to say The Protocols of the Elders of Zion caused the Holocaust, but it did contribute to the antisemitism and paranoia during the first half of the 20th century that enabled WWI and the holocaust. That’s a pretty serious amount of blood on the hands of a conspiracy theory.

And to take a more recent example that didn’t lead to deaths, take a look at the Satanic Panic that resulted in the incarceration of many innocent people – including The West Memphis Three, who remain in prison to this day.

It’s these very issues that lead me to begin distancing myself from conspiracy theory after the second EsoZone. Once I’d hoped that conspiracy theory could enlightening, a way to break down rigid thinking and foster skepticism and critical thinking (as Robert Anton Wilsons’s writings on conspiracy theory had done for me). These days I’m cynical about that prospect (see here and here) of conspiracy theory opening people’s minds. Instead of breaking down “consensus reality,” conspiracy theory has been entrenching many people deeper into their own “reality tunnels.” Before I thought, at the very least, conspiracy theory could be entertaining. It just doesn’t seem funny to me any more.

Meanwhile, as Justin writes:

Conspiracy theory tends towards monolithic explanations, attributing far too much power to far too few people. Political Science assumes the existence of hundreds of co-existing and conflicting conspiracies in any group of over thousand people.

Most real, successful conspiracies are mundane and barely covert: consider the Council for National Policy, an invitation-only Evangelical Conservative influence network with a membership list so powerful it defies belief. What happens when you get Pat Robertson and John Ashcroft into the same room? Throw in Oliver North, Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, Jesse “33°” Helms, James Dobson, and big money sponsors like Richard DeVos, Holland Coors, Richard Mellon Scaife and Nelson Baker Hunt.

Another interesting example is the Family, a Christian theocratic conspiracy, which I’ve covered quite a bit here. The Family tries to keep a low profile, but not exactly a secret. Yet, I could find only one reference to the Family on Alex Jones’s InfoWars – naturally, an article about the possibility that the Family may have helped finance 9/11. Here is a real and well-documented modern conspiracy. Where’s the outrage from conspiracy circles? (To his credit, Jones did have Jeff Sharlet on his show.) I could find no references to the Council for National Policy on InfoWars.

That, I’m afraid, is the sad state of conspiracy theory. Real conspiracies play out before our very eyes, while too many very smart people clutch at straws.

24 Comments

  1. One of my list of theorems on conspiracy theory says:

    “I approve of conspiracy theory as an aesthetic representation of our relationship to power, but not as an accurate representation of how power is exercised.”

    I don’t much care for the aesthetic anymore either, though- burned out by RAW and too many discordians.

    I find that conspiracy theory is nearly always reactionary in its application. I also find that it’s pretty closely related to believing in god- “I can’t explain this, so it must have been done by god/my favorite cabal of evildoers.”

  2. Unfortunately, have to agree. Years ago, conspiracy theory was an approach to the underlaying reality, but it has become one more layer masking it. The cliches out there no longer challenge the status quo, they protect it.

  3. Alex Jones’ websites used to be relatively decent sources of information. Now they’re merely advertising riddled tabloids that harp on one or two issues, editorialize like mad, and waste time printing statements made by public figures.

    As for Glenn Beck, he basically invents conspiracies out of whole cloth, and with no use of evidence whatsoever, explains them in a semi-coherent mytho-poetic fashion, the better to brainwash the dumb idiots that watch his show AND take it seriously.

    These two case studies are examples of what is NOT legitimate conspiracy theory. Alex Jones diluted his message and got away from reporting facts and doing investigative research. Beck is a mere proto-fascist bullshit artist.

    Conspiracy theory, at least for me, has always been about the facts and official explanations not adding up.

    People may ridicule 9/11 truth, but that’s because the field is riddled with cranks, nuts, and government operatives funding said cranks and nuts to drown out the legitimate voices and questions.

    But to this day, nobody can explain how WTC 7 came down, nor do the media ever explain why they never give WTC 7 the airplay they gave the 2 towers. I guess since it was only a 50 story building it wasn’t important?

    And where are all the Pentagon videos? That whole area should be riddled with surveillance cameras. Why wasn’t the Pentagon eager to show the public videos of the plane hitting from fifty different angles?

    These are only a few of the more obvious questions.

    I could go on and on and on and on.

    And let’s not forget the declassified evidence that points to the US and other countries acting historically as organized crime families on a grander scale, plotting, assassinating, election-rigging, influence peddling, war-mongering etc. etc. etc.

    The reason the establishment indoctrinates against conspiracy theory is because the establishment is awash eyeballs deep in conspiracies. They don’t want people to start theorizing because that’s what the various law enforcement agencies do when they want to indict organized crime figures.

  4. Brainwash – “Everything that happens must be planned by someone,” yeah. The teleological drive.

    Snorky – I disagree. The establishment very much wants people to conspiracy theorize, because it leads people so far astray. There are blatant conspiracies and war crimes happening before our very eyes. But if people are busy putting together disparate puzzle pieces and making charts connecting George Soros to ancient orders, so much the better for the so-called “superclass.”

    I know, of course, about the historical evidence for actual conspiracies. I’m not sure how that’s relevant to the matter at hand.

  5. Snorky: regarding WTC 7, the relevant trade journal that looked into it suggested an investigation for shoddy building materials and workmanship. None of the conspiracists picked up on that because it didn’t fit their preconceived theories, but if they did their due diligence, they would have come across it.

    Conspiracy theory promotes lazy thinking.

  6. It’s worth looking at who’s funding the groups pushing any conspiracy. 911 Truth is a good example of a conspiracy movement with very shady and revealing funding. Conspiracies are often convenient umbrellas used to discredit legitimate investigation that happens to overlap parts of The Conspiracy. Conspiracies are also potent social engineering tools, as Klint has noted with G. Beck. Digging into most conspiracies tends to reveal that even the most explosive ones are in some way convenient to the ruling powers.

  7. Sir Karl Popper, A Vulgar Marxist Conspiracy Theory: “It is clear that the adoption of the conspiracy theory can hardly be avoided by those who believe that they know how to make heaven on earth. The only explanation for their failure to produce this heaven is the malevolence of the devil who has a vested interest in hell.”

    Sir Karl Popper, Towards a Rational Theory of Tradition: “I think that the people who approach the social sciences with a ready-made conspiracy theory [...] deny themselves the possibility of ever understanding what the task of the social sciences is, for they assume that we can explain practically everything in society by asking who wanted it, whereas the real task of the social sciences is to explain those things which nobody wants – such as, for example, a war, or a depression. (Lenin’s revolution, and especially Hitler’s revolution and Hitler’s war are, I think, exceptions. These were indeed conspiracies. But they were consequences of the fact that conspiracy theoreticians came to power – who, most significantly, failed to consummate their conspiracies.)”

    A mutual friend, now living in another state, one wisely said to me that 9/11 truthers didn’t like the conspiracy that caused that day to unfold so they made a bigger conspiracy to explain it.

    Conspiracy theory puts one in a position of great power (knowing The Super Secret) and no responsibility (inability to fight the Super Secret Team, because of their Super Secret Team abilities). Power without responsibility is usually a counterproductive mix.

  8. Conspiracy theory as an aesthetic has been cheapened and centralized, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s completely bankrupt. For everything that has been defined, there’s somebody willing to try to cash in on it, and conspiracy theory has been defined (unfortunately, within particular borders that are difficult now to break down). That conspiracy theory is, like religion, a result of the teleological drive is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to using it as a self-mindfuck (and neither is the fact that the most visible manifestations of both are full of power-hungry cranks); that it has become a legitimate economic engine capable of being mainstreamed is what’s a little more problematic, for reasons similar to that of the anarchist having a bit of trouble trying to explain that he doesn’t want to throw bombs at people — as soon as a given conception of a thing becomes marketable, it becomes marketed, and thereby replaces less marketable variants of the same idea more or less completely. Currently, conspiracy theory is considered mostly the domain of the far-right, and especially the cultural conservatives; they are easier to market it to at the moment, and are mostly blind to those very aspects of conspiracy theory that make it useful for neophiles.

    Conspiracy theory can be thought of as an organically growing structure. It’s a syncretism with mutually contradictory parts. Those who construct it without knowing what they are constructing tend to bind together nearby parts and tend not to travel too far; if your favourite bugaboo is Obama, you don’t really want to find out about jesuit reptillians from betelgeuse and how they are sucking the blood of the proletariat. A neophile is likely to spend most of his time walking through the structure and learning its secrets — including the cognitive dissonance inducing parts that the neophobe hides away from. The interesting aspects of the structure of conspiracy theory are caused by the shortsightedness of those who spend most of their time there. That there are a few publicized warrens is unfortunate since it retards this kind of organic growth, but it neither subverts the purpose of the neophile nor makes it significantly more problematic. And, yes, there are plenty of scary paranoid types in the world of conspiracy theory; there always have been. It’s their native land. The tourists should be aware of this, but it shouldn’t keep them from gazing at the landscape.

  9. Snorky and Brainwash – I think there’s a big difference between asking questions (“why has there been so little media coverage on WTC7?”) and drawing conclusions (“9/1 was an inside job”).

    And before I dig myself into a hole re: establishment support for conspiracy theory, let me expand and clarify: it’s probably not any more productive to talk about “THE establishment” any more than it is to talk about “THE conspiracy.” There’s at least one establishment with a vested interest in quelling conspiracy theory: the Obama administration. And it was reported a while back they are planning on doing something about it: http://technoccult.net/archives/2010/01/15/obama-advisor-suggests-cognitive-infiltration/

    Meanwhile, there are a great number of other “establishments,” notably Fox News and the Republican Party (and their backers) who are quite happy to spout conspiracy theories and disinformation.

  10. Good post and good comments :)

    Anyone checked up on the Zeitgeist folks lately? There is a third installment coming in January.

  11. The roots of the word “conspiracy” mean “to breathe together.” Really, most human activities are conspiracies, but we generally use the term to refer to supposedly hidden activities we don’t like. The plain fact is, the world is awash with conspiracies and, occasionally, some of them accomplish something. I think much of what drives conspiracy theory is that it is less terrifying than the idea that our problems are deeply systemic and that, when it comes right down to it, there is no one at the wheel.

  12. It cannot be mere coincidence this post appears on the exact anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

  13. @ Trevor Blake:

    “[W]hereas the real task of the social sciences is to explain those things which nobody wants – such as, for example, a war, or a depression.”

    Nobody wants war? Really? Not even the military? Not even the intelligence agencies? How about the weapons manufacturers? How about, for example, Basil Zaharoff? Did he want war?

    What about the drug cartels? Do they want drug addiction? Do the lawmakers want to put people of color in jail?

    @ Klint Finley

    For the record, I take no pleasure in drawing the conclusion that 9/11 probably happened with USA complicity, if not outright planning. I am well aware of my shady co-constituents and their funding. It is very well-documented that US does terrorism all over the world, why should the homeland be any different, if the prize is large enough? The killing of the Kennedys and the various civil rights leaders were probably acts of state terrorism directed at the public.

    There were so many things wrong with 9/11, EVEN without going on the Internet. I could smell it through the sudden change in televised discourse. But then again, such change is easy when the mass media ownership is concentrated into so few hands.

    @Johnny Brainwash: So a trade journal suggested an investigation that the building materials were shoddy. So what? It looked like a controlled demolition to me. I’ve seen them before and that’s what it looked like. But I guess we’ll never know for sure, because all the evidence is gone and there was no real investigation.

    @all: The mistake you are making is equating Alex Jones and Glenn Beck with conspiracy theory. They are really more about entertainment and making money.

    How about Karl Marx? How about anyone that writes about organized crime in various parts of the world: the Yakuza, the Triads, the Mafia, etc. How about business schools? How do businesses compete against each other without conspiring.

    Maybe people would be more comfortable with the term “plan” theory. How did you get that computer sitting in front of you? It didn’t just happen through impersonal forces. It happened because a bunch of humans got together and made plans to design computers.

  14. I should probably also concede that I had never heard of Council for National Policy before I read Justin’s article. So I’ll cut the Infowars people a little slack there, but c’mon – if you’re a conspiracy mongering site, shouldn’t you at least mention the non-speculative ones?

    Snorky – Please re-read the article and comments again and note that I acknowledge the existence of conspiracies.

    I think it would be helpful if we had a common definition of conspiracy theory, I probably should have started out with one.

    Here are three ways it seems to be used:

    1) Speculation about the existence of conspiracies, big and small [I don't have any problem with this, as it can be the first step towards investigative journalism, criminal investigations and historical inquiry]

    2) Speculation about a monolithic or near-monolithic conspiracy that controls or manipulates major events to further its own agenda. [This wouldn't be so bad, but this is also not the definition I would use]

    3) Essentially the same as definition # 2, but also considering speculation as truth. “9/11 COULD have been an inside” job becomes “9/11 WAS an inside job,” and “shapeshifting aliens COULD be running the world” becomes “shapeshifting aliens ARE running the world.”

    It’s that latter definition, that point that “could be” and “is” are confused, that’s so problematic. It becomes impossible to argue with conspiracy theorists because you’ve end up having to prove, say, that the American Society of Civil Engineers AREN’T part of the conspiracy. Conspiracy theorists put shift the burden of proof to their critics.

    I’m not that interested, at this point, in arguing about whether 9/11 was an inside job (I’m actually relatively sympathetic, at their best the 9/11 Truth movement asks good questions). I’m more concerned about the conspiracy theory mindset. Something about it can turn otherwise intelligent people into monomaniacal robots.

    Here are the definitions of conspiracy theory, from Wikipedia:

    “Conspiracy theory was originally a neutral descriptor for any claim of civil, criminal, or political conspiracy. However, it has become largely pejorative and used almost exclusively to refer to any fringe theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot by conspirators of almost superhuman power and cunning.”

    “The term ‘conspiracy theory’ may be a neutral descriptor for any legitimate or illegitimate claim of civil, criminal or political conspiracy. To conspire means ‘to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end.’ However, conspiracy theory is also used to indicate a narrative genre that includes a broad selection of (not necessarily related) arguments for the existence of grand conspiracies.
    The word ‘theory’ is, in this usage, sometimes considered to be more informal as in ‘speculation’ or ‘hypothesis’ rather than mainstream scientific theory. Also, the term conspiracy is typically used to indicate powerful figures, often of the Establishment, who are believed to be deceiving the population at large, as in political corruption. Although some conspiracies are not actually theories, they are often labeled as such by the general populace.”

  15. @Klint

    Billions of people believe in an invisible man who watches everything they do and judges them based on their sexual habits. They believe this, with the presentation of only the slimmest of dubious evidence, because of a grand, established conspiracy created by clergymen thousands of years ago and perpetuated until the present and into the future.

    But no, we must never take to theorizing that grand, thousand-year old conspiracies exist.

    You know what makes conspiracy theory so unbelievable for a lot of people is a failure of imagination. Average people are conditioned to have very tiny attention spans. They can barely plan their lives. So when you ask them to imagine people planning things over thousands of years, they balk.

    But what about the inter-generation transfer of wealth? Ever wonder why some wealthy people can trace their wealth back to the 12th century? Is it merely happenstance and coincidence? Or did each generation and plan for the next to plan for the next to plan for the next . . . etc. to keep the wealth in the family. And lets not forget all the intra-extended family marriages, to keep the greater wealth and influence all in the family. A lot of these people were proto-genetic determinists, and will probably continue to embrace race and blood theory even though epigenetics points to a more complicated explanation.

  16. Nick You Know Who

    November 23, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Chris23 is right on about who funds conspiracy theories. Follow the money… in the case of 9/11 Truth, Russian intel among others.

    Also, Chris, you should email me. We live in the same state now.

  17. @Chris – Foreign sources often have better information because they are less politically accountable than domestic sources. In the US, you speak out against the US, and you could lose your job, etc. Of course, if you want to know what goes on in a foreign country, the same principle applies. In the 20′s, this was referred to laundering domestic problems in the foreign press.

    In my personal opinion, the US government could easily play the 9/11 card to implicate some other country it doesn’t like. If 9/11 proves anything, it’s that the truth doesn’t matter. Explanations need only feel true enough, meaning they need only resonate with previously disseminated propaganda. The US could easily say, “Wait a minute, we figured it out, it was actually _________ (insert new enemy here) that was behind the attacks.

  18. I still take a short excursion into the rabbit hole once every few days, just to test my mental malleability.
    It might be refreshing to believe in reptilian overlords and underground bases and whatnot, for a while (at least i find it so), kind of like inmersion in an ARG.
    However, I refuse to assign any absolute credence to any of the many theories. I do, however, believe in greed, in shortsightedness, in stupidity, in megalomania. These causes account for false flag terror, economic collapses, pharma/GMO coverups, and many many more of the horrors the world currently undergoes.

    @Nick, do you say russian intel funds 9-11 truth because of the permanent coverage russian media gives AJ et al? Russian media (even in the soviet era) was quite friendly with UFOs, psychics ect, i did not think/perceive there had been a shift in their choice of subjects.

  19. If there is a concerted effort of any group of people to do in secret criminal things they are in conspiracy.

    I take it as empirically and tautologically proven to say that powerful people work to gain more power and frequently they work together. Although they may work in opposition to each other, they very rarely work for an interest that is not their own. There doesn’t need to be a vast overarching universal entity-name-organization to concentrate & protect wealth and the wealthy while amassing force and data and reducing rights and individual independence.

    Facts clearly bear this out. For example, there is an absolute mountain of evidence re 9/11 (structural, chemical, historical, accounting records, initial media reports, alive terrorists, planted evidence, destroyed evidence, etc.) and to accept the false history and its past ramifications and future effects is a tragedy.

    If our leaders killed thousands of US citizens, thousands of US soldiers, hundreds of thousands of foreigners and cost us of trillions of dollars based on lies and we don’t call them to account or even acknowledge that villiany, how can we escape it?
    btw – see former Joint Chief of Staff
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/10/iraq-fiasco-due-bushs-lies/
    This is just proof that against clear proof a repeated lie becomes “truth”. 3 demolition freefalls via nanothermite. No plane ever hit the Pentagon. Jesus didn’t die for your sins.

  20. that link didn’t work.

  21. eartbound mammal

    November 25, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Personally i like the explanation that people create conspiracy theories about secret control groups and black iron prisons because because its inconceivable/too scary that the world could just be outside the possibility of control. To me the situation looks like a chaotic mess.

    Also; why blame idiots on conspiracy theory?

  22. Wow, I am grateful to find so much excellent discussion here. Klint, I really cannot recall what that quote was — makes me wish Facebook had actual search. I know it came after I rewrote my rather acerbic article on the 9-11 movement.

    I received a lot of angry emails about my slandering of conspiracy theory with that article, which I’m okay with. I make pretty sentences once in awhile, but I still miscommunicate like a motherfucker most of the time. I only wanted to explore the gaping maw that turns good research into shitty products.

    I don’t mean to shit on real research and free inquiry. My own view is that conspiracy is ubiquitous & S.O.P. — or as ol’ Adam Smith puts it:

    “Most men of the same profession never gather together except to conspire against the general public.”

  23. Homework? How many Gentiles or Gentlepeople control US Senate Chairs, How many senators? Jew Watch follows the money and the buck always stops somewhere!

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