We all have that one Facebook friend – that guy who has taken the red pill and now sees the truth. If it isn’t that the earth is flat or that Donald Trump is leading a heroic fight against an evil cabal of pedophilic, baby-blood drinking, celebrity reptilians operating from the basement of a restaurant; then it’s that Covid-19 is just an elaborate scheme by Bill Gates to microchip us all by forcing us to take the “vaccine”. Or maybe its all part of the same conspiracy theory. I can’t keep up.
I have such a Facebook friend. He doesn’t falter and he doesn’t grow weary; he tirelessly fights the good fight. It doesn’t matter whether it’s day or night; if I log into Facebook, I will see his relentless posts flooding my newsfeed.
And yes, I have asked myself why I don’t just unfollow him. If I have to be completely honest – I find it entertaining. In fact, I even catch myself looking out for his beautifully incoherent and misspelt posts. I can almost picture Facebook’s algorithm tossing his posts at me like little treats to keep me hooked. Damn you Facebook!
On a serious note though, outlandish conspiracy theories such as these can get dangerous and they can tear families and friends apart. And I can’t help but wonder, why do some people love to get sucked into these conspiracy theories?
Alan Moore has a really good answer to this question. Alan Moore is the guy who wrote V for Vendetta – a graphic novel that was later adapted into a film. V for Vendetta just so happens to include in its plot a “plandemic” orchestrated by a neo-fascist, authoritarian political party known as Norsefire. The Norsefire party uses the planned pandemic to come into power in Britain by promising safety and stability after the world is thrown into turmoil.
V for Vendetta also features as it’s protagonist the vigilante known as V, whose Guy Fawkes mask has become a well-known symbol of protest against authoritarian establishments. It’s as if Moore’s graphic novel was a foreshadowing of things to come and was preparing us. Maybe he knew all along. Maybe he is a conspiracy theorist himself.
Or maybe it’s just a story.
Here’s Moore’s take on conspiracy theories: “The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory, is that conspiracy theorists believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is actually chaotic. The truth is that it is not The Iluminati, or The Jewish Banking Conspiracy, or the Gray Alien Theory. The truth is far more frightening – Nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.”
We all struggle to a greater or lesser degree to come to terms with the chaotic nature of the world. And we all make up certain narratives that help us make more sense of things. Conspiracy theorists just take it to another extreme. If I know exactly who is pulling which strings, then the solutions to all of the world’s problems suddenly becomes a lot clearer. I know who is to blame and I know what needs to be done. Conspiracy theories give people comfort because it offers clear and simple answers to complex questions.
The notion that someone has ultimate control – even if that someone has a sinister agenda – is somehow more comforting than the notion that no one has ultimate control. But according to Moore, the world is rudderless and I share the same feeling. This doesn’t mean that governments and big corporations don’t have some control – it also doesn’t mean that they don’t have dodgy agendas a lot of the time – but no one has ultimate control. And even “they” are mostly winging it.
My personal sense of the world is that we have created a monster and it’s a monster that no one person, government or group of old men in black hoodies can tame. And I don’t mean to use the word “monster” in a derogatory sense, as if to say that the world is just some scary or evil thing. In some ways I guess it is, but what I mean is that this magnificent creation of ours has taken on a life of its own. It’s like a runaway train, and in the best cases those in power are doing their best to keep it from running off the rails. In the worst cases, they’re simply grabbing whatever power, wealth or sense of self-aggrandizement they can get out of it before the next guy takes the wheel.
Maybe the lesson we can take from conspiracy theorists is that our need for certainty can send us down all kinds of weird rabbit holes. Any one of us can be susceptible to skewed or biased, or even outright fake news. These narratives give us certainty and that in-turn provides a sense of comfort, which is why, in uncertain times such these, conspiracy theories thrive.