The mysterious and ignored epidemic of conspiracy theorists

Over the last three years there has been an unprecedented pandemic. But not of virus infections – they have happened regularly throughout history and COVID-19 is only unusual in the hype surrounding it. OK, and in its apparently being manufactured in a lab too, I suppose. And in the use of novel mRNA drugs, and the declaration of other long-established drugs, that seemed to help, as dangerous… No, the pandemic I’m thinking of is the alarming and unique proliferation of conspiracy theorists across the world.

This ongoing excess in adult conspiracism seems to have been largely ignored by our main stream media. Although these, like politicians and other reliable types, have been alert to label people as conspiracy theorists there seems to have been little or no effort to inquire into what is causing this epidemic during what are, to all right-thinking people, perfectly normal times. And if they’re not normal times, we can put it down to Putin, or perhaps Trump. Or to all those damned conspiracy theorists.

Now, the time was when conspiracy theories were easy to identify, and those who believed in them constituted a tiny minority, or even an uncommon psychological type. For example, it was a minority of people who took interplanetary UFOS seriously enough to think about them at all, and an even tinier minority who believed the conspiracy theory that the government was hiding evidence of their reality. Admittedly that now appears to have been true, as the Pentagon declassifies old videos and eye-witness reports, but you get my point.

There were vanishingly few people who believed in a hollow earth, or faked moon landings, or even the long-rumbling suspicions of Bilderbergers or Freemasons planning to turn the world into a single command and control state. And those who did believe such things tended to be nerdy teenagers, frustrated housewives or eccentric members of the House of Lords.

How different that has become now, especially since COVID hit. That seems to have been the destabilising trigger of mass insanity, although to offer full disclosure I had written on the link between conspiracy theories and increasing propaganda for some time before – an early victim of the disease, I suppose. COVID generated a whole gamut of conspiracy theories: lab leaks, fraud by Big Pharma and grift involving politicians, regulators and the medical profession, scandals over inappropriate testing, misleading statistics, the suppression of re-purposed drugs and their advocates, and many more. But coincidentally there came suspicions about quite separate things like the 2020 elections in America, and the non-implementation of Brexit here in the UK.

It didn’t help that one could simultaneously find the promise and even the blueprint of an imminent New World Order on the website of the WEF itself (remember when only those nutty “anti-globalist protestors” even knew where Davos was), or for universal digital identities on that of ID2020 (sponsored by some of the very people the old conspiracy theorists fantasized over). It didn’t help that the same kind of people simulated a Coronavirus pandemic the very month before the real one broke out. It didn’t help that politicians around the world all used the same “Great Reset” vocabulary of “Build Back Better” and so on. Leaders in Parliaments across the Western world rightly dismissed these as conspiracy theories (though they didn’t actually explain the official websites peddling them), but to no avail. The conspiracy disease spread.

For a new class of conspiracy theorist was not only arising from unexpected quarters, but it was increasingly not simply swallowing one particular eccentric theory, but combining them all into one network of beliefs that could be summed up, perhaps, as “Everything the government is telling us is a lie.”

The most alarming thing is how many of these idiots were, in fact, experts in the very fields in which they started swallowing the conspiracies. During COVID a whole bunch of doctors and medical scientists started “doubting the narrative” (as they put it), including leaders in clinical medicine, pioneers in screening methodology, medical statisticians, researchers behind technologies such as mRNA vaccines, and even Nobel Prizewinners. Not your average student nerd, or your normal bored housewife: the bug that once affected only the intellectually vulnerable began to hit the healthy. It’s hard to blame social media for that.

Worse still, those who succumbed to one conspiracy theory about COVID not only tended to succumb to them all, but to fall under the influence of the global suspicions about malevolent powers seeking to control every aspect of life. And, to boot, they began to suspect that they had been lied to about other pandemics and other vaccines in the past, and to dig into old research with a critical eye which they should simply have accepted. And while they were at it, many even began to look askance at other inviolable truths like anthropogenic climate change, transgenderism or Critical Race Theory.

COVID is now, to a large extent, in the rear-view mirror… though not completely, since when I gave my apologies for missing a meeting this morning because of a cold, I got the reply, “As long as you don’t test positive.” I didn’t have the heart to say that, during a long medical career, I only did lab tests if the result would affect management, rather than fallibly to identify one nondescript virus amongst the 200 or so that might be causing my sneezing.

But although, as I say, COVID is receding into the past, if anything the epidemic of conspiracy theorists is increasing rather than the reverse. Just think how many people there were – some of whom you perhaps even know – who believed that the unprecedented monkeypox pandemic currently ravaging us was just another attempt to keep the population afraid.

How many now blame the Ukraine War on the same shadowy powers responsible for the previous conspiracies, rather than on that mad dictator Putin? As a result they find it hard to believe that Russia would shell its own power station, or would explode a dirty bomb as a false flag after cunningly asking for a UN inspection first. They even look at the regime changes, or attempted regime changes, or threatened regime changes, in Pakistan or Nicaragua or Saudi Arabia as part of the same overall plot. Likewise the US occupations of Somalia and Haiti, or the newly escalated conflicts in Armenia or Ethiopia. And that doesn’t even begin to encompass their crazy idea that energy sanctions predictably hurt us more than they hurt Moscow.

The trouble is, you see, that once these conspiracy theories take hold of what now seems to be a good 10% or more of the population of the West, then trust in the trusted purveyors of reliable information collapses, and the control cohesion of society becomes harder to maintain. Too many misguided people no longer believe the inspiring words of Jacinda Ardern that “We (the government) remain your sole source of truth.” And what evils must arise if people no longer believe that their governments are the sole source of truth? Why, rampant disinformation and the triumph of the conspiracy theorists, that’s what!

There ought to be a proper investigation into all this. After all surely there’s nothing worse than the insane people taking over the asylum.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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4 Responses to The mysterious and ignored epidemic of conspiracy theorists

  1. Levi says:

    Unfortunately there aren’t even enough conspiracy theorists for all the new conspiracy theories!

    The satirical tone is the most noble for these times, which are alike to those of Horace and Juvenal, Pope and Swift.

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