I had an interesting and somewhat disheartening conversation with an old friend yesterday who has recently gone over the deep end of Fox News conspiracy mongering (and worse). As the talk lurched from one preposterous right-wing extreme to another (Bill Gates, Pizzagate, John Podesta’s art collection, ANTIFA and the putrid musings of Tucker Carlson), I found it harder and harder to keep a straight face. On returning home I found relief, as I often do, in committing my thoughts to paper. Here is that writing, an open letter to anyone who who has fallen down the rabbit hole:
On Tucker Carlson: Tucker attended St. George’s Academy — an elite private boarding school in Middletown. His BA is from Trinity College in Hartford. In my own college days, I encountered many examples of his type: white, wealthy, privileged, eager to argue, reactionary — the sort of frat boy Ivy League wannabe who writes incendiary ultra-conservative editorials for the school paper in response to all those “ultra-liberals” who, in his fevered conservative imagination, make up the rest of the school population. He may fancy himself an iconoclastic “free thinker” who marches to the beat of his own drum, but in truth, Carlson suffers from that most ironic of psychopathologies: the persecution complex of wealth and entitlement. His politics are the politics of deep-seated personal neuroses. He is a sick puppy; don’t believe a word he says.
On the subject of John Podesta’s supposedly controversial sculpture “Arch of Hysteria” (in case you missed it, the controversy is that the sculpture supposedly bears a resemblance to a victim of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer). The truth is that “Arch of Hysteria” simply is a modernist work by surrealist artist Louise Bourgeois, whose sculpture is often suffused with ominous Freudian overtones (as is the case with the work of many surrealists): nightmarish spiders, twisted humanoid forms, and other death-obsessed images. It may be dark, but it is ART with no overt connection to the demented crimes of Jeffrey Dahmer. In order to make so preposterous a connection, one must go down yet another mindless psychic vortex — the sort of mirrored funhouse parallel reality the internet will readily provide.
People will find whatever connections and correlations they want to find. There is an old saying: You see what you believe. What has changed is how the internet now provides “evidence” for whatever belief you may already have, regardless of how absurd it may be. Remember: ANYONE can and will post ANYTHING on the internet.
On Pizzagate. Let’s review: a former president (Bill Clinton), a former NY state senator (Hillary Clinton), their political advisor (John Podesta), another former president (Obama) and numerous others (all Democrats, of course) were either directly involved with or aware of a secret ring of cannibalistic pedophiles operating out of the basements of pizza parlors. Does this not sound crazy to you? Well … it should. Because it is crazy and it IS delusional and as you spend time and energy worrying about genuinely deranged theories coming straight from Trump’s base of support, he is busily fanning the flames of racial resentment, rolling back women’s reproductive rights, threatening European alliances, endangering the public’s health and rescinding hard-earned LGBQT civil liberties. This is the reality we should be concerned with: the psychopathic narcissist whose complete lack of humanity has brought on a wave of justified protest.
Bill Gates? Out to de-populate the world with tainted vaccines and microchips? This, too, is beneath rational discussion. Throughout history, anyone who has amassed wealth is often cast as the source for all the problems of the world (for the Nazis it was an international cabal of Jewish / Masonic industrialists). I have researched every point typically raised to support this lunatic fear-of-Gates: that he is being sued by India for genocide, that he has caused countless deaths, or that he wants to reduce world population through vaccine-based sterilization, and not one iota of it is true.
Given enough time and with nothing better to do (and the quarantine has certainly helped in that department), ANYONE can find evidence to support ANYTHING they want to believe. So ask yourself this: why would you WANT to believe such things? Personally, I want to believe in alien civilizations and UFOs because there is something hopeful and optimistic about extraterrestrial intelligence; we could certainly use some of that right now. But conversely, there is nothing but fear and paranoia in believing that “Black Lives Matter” is an evil conspiracy or that roving gangs of ANTIFA anarchists are plotting to take over the country. Such mindsets are classic cases of blaming the victims (in this case — the victims of lifelong discrimination, murder and abuse at the hands of police) for the “crime” of righteous resistance and protest.
The internet is an infinitely expanding network with millions of millions of web pages. Think of each website as a star which, together with all the other stars, make up a kind of universe. When you look up at the sky, you can see the Big Dipper. But do the stars that make up that constellation really look like a big dipper? Sure… if you want them to. But really, when you “see” the “Big Dipper” you are seeing a PATTERN that has become familiar to you. Truthfully, if you can see outside the habituated patterns of dippers (and horses and belts-of-Orion, etc.) you can rearrange the stars that make up the familiar constellations into any pattern you like. Such as it is with the internet. When you find yourself distinguishing patterns that fit neatly into false “truths” that others WANT you to swallow (racist, homophobic, misogynistic, lunatic) ask yourself: why are you willing to arrange the vast collection of information both credible and INcredible into such patterns? When you do so, you are projecting your own prejudices onto a map that can represent whatever you want it to. Gravitate toward the constructive, avoid the hateful and destructive, and remember: If something seems so bizarre it is hard to believe, maybe it’s because it just ain’t true.