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!