A Few Thoughts on ‘Conspiracy Theories’
In these days of government mandated lockdowns and proposed legally mandated vaccination, anyone who questions government policies, anyone who asks “what’s really going on here?”, anyone who disagrees or has different views than the government is likely to be labeled by the media, by pharmaceutical companies, by public health agencies, and maybe by your family and friends as a ‘conspiracy theorist’.
They label something a ‘conspiracy theory’ which then in turn absolves them from any possible responsibility to grapple with ideas, investigate claims, provide evidence and risk a dialogue.
As one friend of mine told me “Vaccines are safe and effective. And it is just a conspiracy theory that they aren’t.” I asked what evidence she had to back up her claim that vaccines are safe and effective. She hung up. And therein lies the tale.
So let’s take a closer look at this tired, worn-out, kneejerk cliché. First of all when someone labels something as a ‘conspiracy theory’, it is most often a ‘contempt prior to investigation’ situation. Which is to say the people using this term rarely, if ever, have actually done their own research into whatever it is they are dismissing as a “conspiracy”. They simply slap on the ‘conspiracy’ label and end of story.
It’s very obvious that they have done no research (and thus are happy to let others do their thinking for them) because all you have to do is ask, as I did with my friend, “What is your evidence that these claims are untrue?” On the other hand If a person has actually done their own research and has the capacity to think critically, they have no need to use such a lame label for the screamingly obvious reason that all they have to do is say “I think your theory or evidence is inaccurate here and here and here and here and this is why. Here is my evidence.” (And, by the way ‘because Bill Gates says so’ does not qualify as evidence.)
But that is rarely what happens. Instead with little to no real engagement with the topic they label something a ‘conspiracy theory’ which then in turn absolves them from any possible responsibility to grapple with ideas, investigate claims, provide evidence and risk a dialogue. Neat trick and about as lazy as it is possible to get.
Next off, the label of ‘conspiracy theory’ shows a kind of ethical stuntedness, as do all terms which attempt to dismiss, shame or silence people who think in ways other than those that the powerful in society believe are appropriate. It is the use of language to patrol the boundaries of what is approved thought.
Third, the label suggests a type of emotionally blunted response to the world. If something can be labeled a ‘conspiracy theory’ there is no need to acknowledge or attend to the suffering the label covers up. Thereby, one is absolved of moral responsibility. So, for example, the children who have sustained severe and irreparable harm from vaccines should just shut up because ‘vaccines are safe and effective’ and to think otherwise is a ‘conspiracy theory’.
Newsflash: no ‘conspiracy theory’ is necessary to explain much of what we see happening in the world today. All that is required is curiosity, a willingness to question, a moderate amount of intelligence, a basic knowledge of how systems work and power dynamics operate and an ability to connect the dots.
In short, if someone comes at you with the ‘conspiracy theory’ nonsense, do not fall for it, do not get hooked by their lazy labeling: demand their evidence, demand that they think for themselves. And don’t be surprised if they hang up the phone on you.
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