Wherein by the end I've turned you all into """conspiracy theorists"""
Unmasking ‘Conspiracy Theorist’
Zohar recently wrote a great thread on Heidegger. Sadly, he followed it up with a substack where he uncritically used the concept of ‘conspiracy theorist’. I scolded him: this kind of concept is not to be used, just unmasked. He replied by asking what I mean with “unmasking” and… I hope you enjoy the next 11 pages.
‘Conspiracy Theorist’ and Fake Concepts
My claim is two-fold:
“Conspiracy theorist” is a fake concept
Fake concepts ought to be unmasked, not used.
By a “fake concept” I mean a concept that exists for a reason other than because it usefully picks out a thing or relationship in reality.
Note that I’m not saying “false”. A proposition (as in, a relation between concepts) can be true or false. Concepts cannot. I am however distinguishing between concepts that arose because there was a legitimate need to coin a name for something out there (like “blue”) versus concepts that came to being for other reasons.
I’m calling the former, concepts that arose because of something, “genuine concepts” and the latter, concepts that arose for something, “fake concepts”.
The latter are concepts that were created by someone, for some purpose. They aren’t ‘naturally occurring’. Let’s think of “blue” again. It’s plausible that many societies would invent blue, over and over, separately. A convergent conceptual evolution, of sorts. There are concepts, however, for which this does not at all, seem to be the case.
This is the trickiest part of the essay: the function that these concepts fulfill precisely masks what it is that they are, else they wouldn’t fulfill their function. Because of that it is hard to transmit information about them, to give you epistemé. The most I can do is gesture and give you an example so that you might develop techné. You just have to develop a nose for concepts that just sound fake.
Look at the pattern. It comes out of nowhere, is deployed insanely, and then forever forgotten. Why? Because it didn’t genuinely pick out a real relationship.
Compare and contrast:
Steady usefulness picking out a real pattern over time.
Now that I’ve established the difference between genuine and fake concepts I want to show you that ‘conspiracy theorist’ if of the latter kind.
I hope to prove this, extensively, by pointing at your own reaction to the term and claiming that that, not picking out a thing or relationship in reality, is its function.
The first thing to note, whenever one talks about conspiracies, is that Caesar was, indeed, brutally murdered. That is, we do know that at least one conspiracy has occurred and succeeded in the past.
It would be really surprising if there was literally one conspiracy ever and that it was successful. You’d expect that if you’ve seen one that was successful there are a host of unsuccessful ones (conspiracies aren’t easy to pull off) and successful ones that never became visible.
While keeping the above in mind pay attention to your experience as you read over the following:
Scientology control of the US government
9/11 was an inside job
False flag attacks
Cabals controlling presidents
Did you notice it? The internal recoil? The urge to shout ‘THAT’S JUST A CONSPIRACY THEORY’? The absolute impossibility of extending any charity to any of these cases? Like the dog that has suffered classical conditioning we can’t help but salivate at the sound of the bell.
Notice what the sensation causes: we want to shout, up and away from these topics, withou tever raising them to consideration.
Read that again.
We want to shout, up and away from these topics, without ever raising them to consideration.
My claim is that this is what the ‘conspiracy theorist’ concept is for. ‘You will know them by their fruits’: you will know the concept, it’s genuineness or lack thereof, by analysing its function.
And the function of ‘conspiracy theorist’ is to let you know, at a pre-conscious levels, what topics are absolutely behind the pale, thrown away far and beyond the overton window, those that no respectable member of society would ever believe.
But why oh why would anyone ever create a concept to prevent you from thinking about certain things? Well, wouldn’t you just go and think about them immediately as soon as you saw the prohibition on thinking about them? Which is why it must work on a pre-conscious level. And why would anyone want to prevent you from thinking certain thoughts?
Well, if you invert the famous dictum you get: social reality is that which refuses to go away, precisely because you don’t stop believing in it.
Or, more simply: the king has power in virtue of being believed to have power by the relevant people. That is, the source of the king’s power is belief. If you stop believing the king has power just as everyone else does, then no problemo. If you stop believing it and you’re the only one who did, then your head is now on a pike.
You see, power follows social reality. Thus, those that have and desire power care about influencing it. Insofar as part of it is determined by what people think -- and in democracy power follows votes and people vote with their consciences -- then there will be powerful interests invested in changing consciences. Including yours.
And thus there are thoughts that you are encouraged to think and thoughts you are discouraged from thinking.
In summary: you may not be invested into social reality, but social reality is invested into you.
And don’t think for a moment I’m disassociating from you, my fellow dog. I found myself dismissing Alex Jones before ever hearing him speak. Perhaps you’ve done the same. Something something gay frogs something something lots of shouting.
But wasn’t that weird, on my part? And isn’t that weird, on yours? Why would I dismiss him before literally hearing anything he said?
So I randomly heard his podcast with Joe Rogan on Spotify. Spotify people had their panties in a twist due to hosting a ‘conspiracy theorist’ (see how the concept is doing work? And doing precisely the work it is intended to? Shutting someone up before his case can be taken up by deplatforming him both from actual platforms and from the mental platform of your consideration?)
Anyways, here’s the point: they were interrupting to fact check him continuously and it was shocking to find out how many of the preposterous things he was saying could be verified with a quick internet search. Again, I can’t transmit the evidence about this directly, but you can just hear the podcast yourself. I know you won’t so let’s just do a google search on the topics that generated our earlier emotional reactions:
This was huge on the news. Would change the whole world. Then it got completely dropped from the news cycle and the journalist that brought it forward got car bombed. You never heard about it.
Scientology control the US government
The Church of Scientology effectively infiltrated the United States Government and settled on a tax-exempt deal.
911 was an inside job
A common counter-argument for years was of the impossibility of many people holding such a secret. We know that the Manhattan project employed 130 THOUSAND people. We also know that soviets had entire secret CITIES.
False flag attacks
We know that the DOD and the JCS were thinking of engaging in domestic terrorism to gain national fervor to invade Cuba.
We already know about Operation Prism () and NSA with its 30 THOUSAND employees.
Cabals controlling presidents
The former president of south korea was literally controlled by a cabal of witches
The point I’m making is not that these claims are true. The point is that, insofar as the intension of ‘conspiracy theorist’ is someone who believes that (1) conspiracies exist and (2) sometimes they succeed, then all of the above points to them being more right than wrong. That is, all else equal, one would do epistemically better to start life as a conspiracy theorist, instead of not.
(But note again the internal recoil coming up: ‘I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist. It’s icky. The concept does its work again, tainting by association. This is why you can only speak about any of the above obliquely. Straussianly. Speak too directly an you’ve invited a coordinated attack onto yourself by those taht want to reaffirm the norm against such beliefs. Speak obliquely and signal to potential collaborators that you share their opinion, whilst staying safe.)
To unmask is to do what we have done above. We didn’t presuppose the concept by using it. We, instead, determined the function that the concept exercises. We did not presume ‘conspiracy theorists’ to be a valid category, of people who are generally correct or incorrect, but, instead, we questioned what work is being done by the existence of the concept of ‘conspiracy theorists’ itself.
Kukla, A. (2001). Methods of theoretical psychology. MIT Press.
We’ve unmasked the concept of conspiracy theorist: we’ve investigated the function that the existence of the concept itself serves. We need not stop here however. We may ask, next, what would the world that needs to generate this kind of concept in the first place be like?
One where Conspiracy Theorism abounds. Let me explain.
‘Conspiracy Theorism’ is a coinage for the reverse-but-same sibling of Scientism.
Scientism, as you may well know, refers to the worship of Science in a post-death-of-god world, “I fucking love science!” and “Believe Science!” both being versions of the genre. Nevermind that science is a method that precisely foregoes belief or that the lack of the need for belief or faith in virtue of results being replicable via experiment is what makes something scientific. What matters is that it tells you who to believe (Scientists) and what to believe (Science, as in, what Scientists say.)
The ultimate inversion has been reached: the absence of faith itself is worshipped. One wonders if when Nietzsche said that ‘the problem is they’ll believe everything’ he anticipated that we’d most believe in not believing.
Scientism, a structure that tells you what is permissible and encouraged to believe only forms half the bounds of what is acceptable. It requires an inverse structure telling you not what is permissible but what is actively discouraged from being believed. You thus get conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists. One must believe Scientists and Science (what scientists say) and not Conspiracy theorists and Conspiracy Theories (What conspiracy theorists say).
Note how the function of the concept comes up again: it eliminates from sight not just a group of theories but a group of people: everything they say now tainted by their being ‘conspiracy theorists’.
The material causes of Conspiracy Theorism
We’ve began with one (fake) concept and derived truths about the society where we live by recursively asking what function the concept fulfills and what society would require that function. We can ask that again by asking what would be the world where the twin hydras of Scientism and Conspiracy Theorism would be necessary to begin with?
Once again we must use our techné: it’s very interesting that precisely as more and more evidence of successful and failed conspiracies becomes public there is more and more uptick in the use of the terms and their use as justification for coordinated and aggressive action. Almost as if it weren’t a coincidence.
Truth is, the 20th century was a historical anomaly. The king could, for the first time, directly talk to all of its subjects, right in their living room. The internet came and put an end to this. Yes you are facebook’s product but the model is even more brilliant: you are its hook. Hence, an EXPLOSION in content and an explosion in sources of content.
Once you have many-to-many distribution then the idea of one of those different sources of truth being wrong is pretty trivial.
Before Facebook; after Facebook
Remember back when there were just the news? And when the news were true and couldn’t not be and the concept of their not being was unthinkable? (Wink wink)
Now it’s not anymore, which is why we need the concept of ‘fake news’ to again show that some sources are fake whilst others aren’t.
And if that’s not enough we got fact-checkers for you. Fact-checkers tell you what the facts are. Not what truth is. That would be too much on the nose. ‘‘But how do I know it’s true?’ is much easier to ask than ‘how do i know whether this fact is a fact?’. The mind twists just thinking the thought.
There’s an arms race going on. On the one hand there are those that want to control what you can and can’t think so that you think whatever is most useful for their social reality goals. On the other there’s you trying to just go about your life thinking thoughts. This arms race causes the need for fake concept innovation. Once the old one stops working you just make a new one and hopefully it picks up.
How it started; How its going