Conspiri-Speak, Translated.

A few years back, I wrote at some length about spiritual bypassing in new-age spirituality and alternative wellness communities. I had no idea back then that some folks in those communities would soon be promoting Trump as their divine savior from a truly outlandish world domination plot. It makes the garden variety bypassing I wrote about before seem almost quaint. As much as I thought I had my eyes wide open about the horrific possibilities of the Trump administration, never would I have dreamed that a subset of the “love and light” crowd would be cheering on an armed white supremacist mob insurrection against our nation’s Capitol.

If it wasn’t already, after January 6, it’s crystal clear what a danger conspiracy theories and their devotees present to public safety and our democracy. Will QAnon, the most outlandish and dangerous conspiracy theory, lose some steam now that inauguration day came and went and “The Storm” that was supposedly coming failed to materialize? Maybe, but some QAnon devotees are still holding on. Meanwhile, we have the adjacent conspiracy theory that COVID is ether a hoax, or at minimum is being used as a social control tool by opportunist evil forces. That one is likely to stay with us and prolong the pandemic at the untold cost of human life and suffering, as so many still eschew basic precautions. Some are willing to literally take their denial to their graves.

Conspiracy theorists use a lot of catchphrases that imply theirs are free-thinking ideologies. These soundbites are proving to be attractive to all sorts of folks who tend toward counter-culturalism and (often healthy) questioning of authority, e.g., alternative health enthusiasts, homeschoolers, and solo entrepreneurs, to name a few. There have been times in my life when their talking points might have been intriguing to me at first glance, appealing to my rebellious, march-to-a-different-drum nature. A closer look reveals that, outlandishness aside, contradictions and hypocrisy abound.  

For a disturbing yet fascinating deep-dive exploration into the place where conspiracy theorism, new-age spirituality, the alternative wellness industry, and far right extremism are all converging, check out the Conspirituality Podcast. Meanwhile, here’s my attempt to translate some of the common justifications and invitations to conspiracy theorism.

Talking point: “Be a critical thinker. Don’t accept the mainstream narrative.”  

Translation: “Automatically reject anything that could be described as ‘mainstream’ on that basis, regardless of logic or evidence. Knee-jerk adolescent rebellion is more fun than boring stuff like facts and discernment. And make sure to use the word ‘narrative’ as often as possible. That will prove all by itself that you’re a critical thinker!” 

Talking point: “Do your research. Think for yourself!” 

Translation: “Take these conspiracy theories which are fully formed by other people without evidence, and which you have found by ‘researching’ select discredited ‘news’ sources and message boards and swallow them whole. Latch on to these theories for dear life, and then regurgitate them verbatim to anyone who will listen. This will make you the freest of all thinkers.”

Variation: “I’ve done my research.”

Translation: “I stayed up all night going down every rabbit hole in the dark corners of the internet. I now understand more about this scientific or complex political topic than people with actual credentials who have studied it extensively as their life’s work. I’m that smart.” 

Talking point: “Don’t let anyone talk you out of what you just know. Trust your gut”

Translation: “Actually…all that stuff I said about ‘research?’ I mean, I do it, but it’s not really necessary, because I just kinda know things, you know? And when I am ‘doing my research,’ I don’t need to vet the source, because I can psychically determine whether it’s credible. Like, I can feel it. My truth is the truth. I’m that smart.” 

Talking point: “Whatever happened, it was Antifa.”

Translation: “Forget about what we said when we were bragging about doing it. Just kidding!”

Talking point: “It’s been proven. The information is everywhere.” 

Translation: “My ‘sources’ are iron-clad, automatically and without question. And, I have a built-in, convenient way to discredit any and all evidence that debunks my theory. There’s no need to ‘think critically’ about it. All I have to say is, ‘Of course they’re saying that, they’re from the ‘mainstream’ (fill in the blank). They’re all in on it, too!’ Done! So quick, easy and bulletproof!”

Talking point: “Look at all the Sheeple! They love being controlled!” 

Translation: “Unlike myself, who will faithfully follow my leader NO MATTER WHAT.”

Talking point: “Wake up! Open your eyes!” 

Translation: “Like, HOW can you be so blind and dumb? I mean, isn’t it SELF-EVIDENT that the biggest problem facing humanity right now is a Satan-worshiping, pedophilic, BLOOD DRINKING cabal of secret world dominators? I mean, how can you not see what is so bloody (so to speak) obvious, right in front of you? Instead, you insist on seeing the actual atrocities against children at the border. I mean, WTF? Get a grip.”

Talking point: “I am a free and sovereign being. I refuse to live in fear of a virus.”

Translation: “Instead, I choose to live in fear of the various boogeymen living in my conspiratorial fantasies.” 

copyright Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama!

21 Days from the Old to the New Normal, Week 3: #StayingAtHome, Sitting with Paradox (and catching babies!)


Part 1 of this series can be found here. Part 2 is here.

The Weekend: March 14 and 15

Saturday morning, a friend suggested we meet up at a basketball court so the kids could play. I’m thinking, that’s OK, right? It’s just my younger son and one other kid. My husband Gurpreet says he thinks we should shy away from that, especially with contact sports, and in general we should keep everyone at home. Yet again, I’m thinking this is nuts, we’ve gone from no crowds to no school to no small gatherings to no get-togethers with even ONE kid? But he was spot-on about not going to India. That gave me pause, along with having just experienced an entire week of safety thresholds changing by the day.

Moments later, I got a message from another mom on a group text. Her son was already asking to have the usual small group of boys over—what did we think? I replied that our “family policy” was evolving in that moment. Continue reading

21 Days from the Old to the New Normal, Week 2: “Really? That seems crazy” to “Yes, obviously,” within days. (Over and over.)


Part 1 of this series is here

Saturday, March 7

This day was not quite three weeks ago, and it feels like forever. We were supposed to have arrived in India to spend three weeks with our family, but woke up at home in the U.S. after canceling at the last minute. Instead, we went to my older son’s basketball playoff game (they won!). My younger one had practice that night. We were grateful the kids could focus on being in the playoffs after all, to soften the blow of not being with their family in India. At that point, no one was questioning going to small sporting events or gathering kids and families outside of schools.

Moday, March 9

Governor Raimondo declared a State of Emergency. My kids went to school—there was no formal talk of school closures yet. Articles were coming out about New York, saying closing schools there would be a last resort because of all the children who would not eat if they were not at school. This and many other stories began to reveal what this pandemic tells us about ourselves—much of which activists have been screaming into the wind to no avail.

We were starting to see the ramifications for our pregnant patients. Visitor restrictions were applied—one support person only for labor and birth. We were successful in advocating for doulas to be recognized as part of the care team and not subject to visitor restrictions. But of course not everyone can afford a doula (hopefully this will change—see below!), nor is that the preferred support situation for every woman. We had our first patient sobbing and devastated at being forced to choose between having her partner or her mother at her birth.

At that time, most of the concerns we heard were related to the visitor restrictions. In the coming weeks, more and more of our prenatal visits would be dedicated to supporting women not just through crushing disappointments, but also through fears and very real grief over the burdens this pandemic has placed on their pregnancies. Continue reading

21 Days from the Old to the New Normal, Week 1, India: to go or not to go?

Saturday, February 29

We were all set to fly out in six days for a three-week trip to visit family in India. My husband says, maybe we should cancel the trip. Me—really??  I had been among those asking, early on, “Is this really that different from the flu?” I was beginning to realize it was more, but still–India was nowhere on CDC’s radar. He says, look into it, I’ve been reading and I’m worried this virus thing is going to blow up. I called the airline to check it out. We could change our tickets, but it would be cost-prohibitive—no advantage over abandoning our current reservation and having to pay full price for a new one later. We decided to wait it out and make a final decision as late as the night before.

Over the following days, the news reports ramped up and people were talking more about international travel restrictions, but there were no new countries added to the handful on the CDC’s no-no list. We talked about worst-case scenarios, which seemed to be a) we get stuck there and b) self-quarantine for a couple of weeks on return, if India got added to the warning list while we were gone. The former seemed highly unlikely (ha!), the latter more of a concern, but not the end of the world. We asked several trusted friends, some of them health care providers, what they would do. All agreed canceling seemed like overkill.

We decided we would go if it was still OK per CDC guidelines as of our departure time. A friend texted me, “Please send me a selfie of your expression following the 100th coronavirus joke/comment about your travel plans,” but really, no one was batting an eye. At that time, only some business travel was getting canceled—most people were carrying on with their personal trips.

Thursday, March 5

While packing at 10am, I was on the phone with a friend and my husband beeped in for the third time in 10 minutes, so I tell her I don’t know what he wants, but I better answer this. Continue reading