Imagine you’re one of the leaders of a global conspiracy. Your tentacles spread worldwide, into banking and religion, media and medicine. You have access to information that people have died for, can order outrageous actions done with the snap of your fingers, have untold wealth. And what’s the first thing you do to signal to the world that you now have control over it? You commission a hip-hop video where a rapper does some hand gestures that a few people who’ve been smoking too much might think are connected with an 18th century offshoot of Freemasonry.
It sounds ridiculous because that’s just what it is. And there are countless thousands of people online devoted to feverishly charting such evidence of Illuminati activity on forums where it’s commonplace to assume that the moon landings were faked, JFK was killed by the Vatican, and Jewish bankers control the weather.
Just out of idle curiosity, I took a quick look at what conspiracy theorists make of the new Captain America film. Not in the hope of reading an interesting review, but to see what people made of a story which lays bare the conspiracists’ wet dream of One World Government being imposed by stealth, which is kinda the plot of the movie, with SHIELD turning out to be a front for dastardly HYDRA. Bear in mind, that there are a significant number of people who believe films of alien contact are engineered by film studios in league with the government to plant the idea that extraterrestrials are among us, readying us for the day when they can go public with the facts, which they’ve known since 1947 when a UFO crashed at Roswell.
Clearly, a big Hollywood movie featuring an American icon up against a nefarious espionage organisation was going to be fodder for people who like that kind of stuff, and that’s how it turned out. There was a similar furore at the Olympics opening ceremony staged by Danny Boyle, which had the internet ablaze with talk of occult symbolism and the shit-storm to come, details of which are so vague and all-encompassing that anything can be said to be evidence of it.
I’m open to many unconventional ideas, but there’s something tawdry about conspiratorial thinking. The general tone is of defeat, that They (however you define Them) have assumed control, and are mocking those who have the astute perceptions to see it with cryptic imagery in dogfood adverts, alien typography in corporate logos, ancient secrets in bad R&B tunes. I’m reminded of the skunk psychosis victim I knew a few years back, a once promising musician who’d led a talented band, wearing mascara and a beret as he howled at the covers of magazines in Sainsburys after he’d gotten into the prolific and baffling work of David Icke.
One of the sad aspects of all this is that the greatest writer on conspiracy – Robert Anton Wilson – treated the subject satirically. He found the whole thing ridiculous, evidence that you can believe whatever you persuade your mind to swallow. That was one of the points of the classic Illuminatus trilogy he co-wrote with Robert Shea, but sadly many people come across the books and fail to appreciate the sophistication of the games its authors were playing.
A mind is a terrible thing to lose, and a lot of people have lost theirs getting caught up in impossible-to-prove theories that justify their own impotence in life. Why even try to make a difference when The Man has already gotten things sewn up? You can get yourself in some pretty strange places if you think like that, like the video I saw of a woman convinced that something sinister is going on because she could see rainbow colours in the patterns water makes when sprayed outdoors. Never mind that such phenomena are a result of sunlight refracting through water, clearly an evil chemical company has to be responsible. And yes, there certainly are some dubious corporations out there, but tying your brain up in knots to boost your feelings of inadequacy is not the way to go about challenging them.
is geared to making people aware of how paranoia functions and choosing instead the opposite; to be pronoid – that is, to adopt the belief that the Universe is out to help you. If you haven’t already done so, give it a go. Even a few minutes a day will put you in a happier place than people who believe that a movie based on a Marvel comic proves that real world bad guys have won.