The Conspiracy Theory Community Are Dangerous Enemies to Make
It was a clear day in New York when the poster-boy of British conspiracy theory made a shocking announcement. Times Square buzzed behind Charlie Veitch as he stood there, training a camera on himself and declared something so unthinkable, so upsetting, insulting, ignorant and evil, that it changed his life. To paraphrase, he said: I don’t believe the American government blew up the World Trade Center. He uploaded the video to his YouTube account and then everything went bananas. You see, the conspiracy world, of which Charlie was a central part, doesn’t like it when you question their accepted truths. Charlie’s revelation cut deep. Their champion was about to become their most hated pariah.
Conspiracy theories really depress me. Hours after the bombs went off in Boston, Buzzfeed were able to publish a post called "6 Mind-Blowingly Ridiculous Conspiracy Theories Surrounding the Boston Bombing." Conspiracies are where the libertarian and the hippie meet, and today not a single event of note can pass without being fed through the paranoid grinder of the fantasists. But their stupidity is not the most miserable thing about them. No, the most depressing thing about them is the rate at which they’ve been taking over for the last decade.
In 2012, the philanthropic Leverhulme Trust, most notable for funding dreary desk-based research, offered a grant for academic investigation into conspiracies. “Conspiracy theories,” their announcement read, “have received remarkably little examination. Though they prompt almost obsessive attention in the public imagination, they have been largely ignored by academic research.” It’s true, encouraged by the internet, fuelled by the global economic crises, championed by popular culture (Dan Brown and The Matrix, specifically), the last ten years have seen a conspiracy boom. Perhaps, while extreme Islam has gained more press, and smug atheism is more sensible, it’s possible to argue that conspiracy theory has become the first dominant philosophy of the internet age. No-doubt, the Leverhulme Trust—with its connections to the multinational corporation Unilever—and its grant, inspired far more paranoia than academic insight.
Earlier this year Public Policy Polling conducted a survey about the public’s trust in some of the more established and outré conspiracy theories. The results are infuriating enough to drive rationalists up a tower with a rifle and start shooting. Apparently, 13 percent of respondents suspect that Barack Obama is the Antichrist, while 37 percent of Americans think that global warming is a hoax, and 28 percent of dickheads believe in a sinister global New World Order conspiracy. I’m told it’s supposed to be consoling that only four percent believed in David Icke’s lizard men, but the way I see it: FOUR PERCENT OF PEOPLE WITH A VOTE BELIEVE IN LIZARD MEN.