… can beat up your conspiracy theory. Such seems to be a motif of our time. And the subject, to some extent, of my last post.
The problem, however, may not reside in any one discrete conspiracy theory. I mean, I happen to believe in a few of those myself. For instance: the metric system.
This review suggests that the problem is better described by the larger term conspiratorial thinking and, even larger, conspiratorial culture. He says:
Conspiratorial thinking gives meaning to otherwise strange events; it offers a sense of coherence and unity to otherwise disparate and unconnected happenings. The normalisation of this kind of thought is one of the most disturbing developments in twenty-first century public life.
Today, conspiratorial thinking has become respectable; many of its most vociferous supporters are to be found in radical protest movements or within the cultural left. When, a few years ago, Hillary Clinton warned of a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ against her husband, then president Bill, it became clear that the politics of the hidden agenda had become part of everyday public life. Today, the anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation movement is as wedded to conspiratorial thinking as are its opponents on the far right.
Conspiratorial culture communicates the idea that nothing just happens by accident: somebody is at fault. Fantasies about international terrorist networks, paedophile rings, corporate conspiracies to fool people about an impending environmental disaster and neo-conservative cabals compete with one another to gain public attention. Virtually every misdeed, it seems, is the outcome of a carefully worked-out plot. Conspiratorial culture helps fuel suspicion and mistrust towards public life. It displaces critical engagement with society in favour of a destructive search for the hidden agenda. It distracts from any clarification of genuine differences and helps turn public life into a continuous crusade to unmask the perpetrators of malevolent deeds. The media fuel this attitude by frequently arguing that what is important is not what public figures say but what their real agenda is. The media incite the public to look for hidden motives; that normalisation of suspicion and mistrust is the key accomplishment of today’s conspiratorial culture.
Suspicion and mistrust being normalized, it’s not easy for any real listening (I keep coming back to this, don’t I?) to actually take place.
Probably take a lot of beer.
Fortunately, this is America. We can still make as much beer as we want to.
Unless, of course…