Inchoate Conspiracies

We really need to understand that the most individual conspiracies aren’t coherent on their own, but allow conspiracists to plug in their own ‘facts’ (boldface mine):

Instead, conspiracy theories are most effectively spread by a scattershot approach of supposition, question-begging, goalpost-moving, and other ad hoc guerilla tactics against the accepted mainstream narrative. Following any conspiracy theorist — be it Alex Jones or Alex Berenson — one comes up time and time again with not a tightly bound articulated system but incoherency and contradiction. Studies are seized upon as bombshells only to be discarded in days. Important dates of impending events are announced and then revised or forgotten entirely once those dates pass by. Individuals are named as malevolent actors and then re-cast as heroes and protectors the next day. The more contingent or pronounced any one supposition, the more likely the “theory” is to collapse

QAnon, a phenomenon of loosely related fears and conspiracies lumped under one heading, has spread far and wide precisely because it is not simply one theory; it is a constellation of different conspiracies, offering different levels of buy-in. It is successful because it’s ecumenical. QAnon and the Fire Fauci movement spread not because they are fully articulated and worked out, but because they’re the opposite: vague, contradictory, subject to constant revision. Increasingly, conspiracists are foregrounding incoherency as a feature, not a bug. A Q drop from November 9, 2017 warned that “Disinformation is real. Disinformation is necessary,” indicating to adherents that even their most trusted source would regularly be adding noise in with the signal, and that a devotee needed to “Learn to distinguish between relevant/non-relevant news.”

The culture of QAnon, mind you, is suffused with webs, connections, and tenuous linkages. Adherents spend their days sifting through a morass of meaningless ephemera, torturing meaning and theories out of them, connecting individuals and clues to spin ever more elaborate conclusions. When James Comey tweeted out his #FiveJobsI’veHad, a Q sleuth read the hashtag as an acronym for “Five JIHad,” and then took the initials of the five jobs in Comey’s list — G-V-C-S-F — as evidence that something terrible was about to happen at a fundraiser for the Grass Valley Charter School Foundation.

But such linkages and theories are forgotten almost as soon as they’re proposed. When nothing happened in Grass Valley, the theory was abandoned and the QAnon community moved on to the next conspiracy. Such webs of mystery may have momentary significance, but they never endure because they’re never the main point. They are always at best a provisional explanation that serves to briefly sustain the underlying concerns.

The end result is always the same: You don’t need to learn the catechism; you only have to want the Good News. All that’s required for buy-in is the final conclusion: the election was rigged, masks aren’t necessary, vaccines are poison. Ultimately, people who subscribe to the kinds of theories peddled by Alex Jones or Marjorie Taylor Greene are not looking for a causal, logical explanation for the state of the world we live in, but rather for permission to feel how they want to feel or embrace the behavior they’re looking to embrace. The less said, the better.

In terms of policy, we have to realize those that believe these conspiracies, as well as those who are ‘conspiracy-adjacent’ or ‘conspiracy-curious’, can’t be placated with policy suggestions because individual policies are typically not the concern–or at least the policies they are nominally discussing.

Whether or not this has any relevance to masking or vaccination requirements is left as an exercise for the reader.

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1 Response to Inchoate Conspiracies

  1. Art says:

    … “one comes up time and time again with not a tightly bound articulated system but incoherency and contradiction. ”

    … “suffused with webs, connections, and tenuous linkages. Adherents spend their days sifting through a morass of meaningless ephemera, torturing meaning and theories out of them, connecting individuals and clues to spin ever more elaborate conclusions.”

    So very much like most religions and both the Koran and the Bible. A holy text has to be long, complicated, often contradictory and both obtuse and occult enough to require legions of apologists and holy men to claim, but never deliver, on the claim to be inerrant. Effectively this is a massive exercise in Gaslighting.

    Reading holy texts without assuming it inerrant and unguided by acolytes and priests is one of the most direct paths to atheism.

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