Conspiracy theories have pervaded discourse for decades, from the assassination of JFK to the 9/11 terror attacks being an inside job carried out by the Bush administration. Regardless of the facts and implications one can draw from history and events as they happen, new theories and ideas are added to the pile frequently, particularly with the advent of the internet. These ideas – much like the rhetoric of despotic figures like Donald Trump – are alluring because they offer explanations to those blindly searching for answers. While the questions that led to those answers might be genuine, reality often offers less “fantastic” answers that nonetheless have the benefit of truth.
For instance, JFK is a legend in modern discourse, whether that be because of the revised history surrounding his legacy or because of conspiratorial reasons for his death. Regarding the former, the myth of Camelot has been shown to be nothing more than that – a myth deifying a war hawk of American Empire. The latter takes this further, however, believing that he was the “last good President” who was on the verge of revealing and/or eradicating dark and mysterious forces. His assassination, therefore, was carried out by this cabal to prevent him from carrying out this heroic act.
One can draw similar (usually quite anti-Semitic) ties to modern day praise of Trump (which I’ll briefly discuss later).
Seeing as JFK was actually more invested in maintaining a presence in Vietnam than most, and his sabre rattling with the USSR over the Cuban Missile Crisis (the name of which neatly obscures America’s presence in Turkey at the time, painting the USSR as the sole aggressor), it is difficult to believe that there was any secret conspiracy to get rid of JFK. In fact, he carried out his job reasonably well, and so have the historians who rewrote history to glorify him and his actions. Combine that with the fact that in over half a century no grand conspiracy has broken out, it is safe to assume at this stage that a “Deep State” conspiracy is baseless.
In the case of 9/11 and the Bush administrations’ role in it, reality supplies us with an answer to that as well. Despite his many horrific crimes – which come alongside any Presidency – Bush was obviously not directly involved in planning 9/11. However, US foreign policy and international relations did lead to such an attack occurring, and his administration most certainly took advantage of the national shock to ram through their own domestic and foreign policy agendas. Masterminds they were not, but opportunists they were.
Osama bin Laden explained his motives and goals for 9/11, much of which involved provoking the US to react. Bush most certainly did, and the US has since spent themselves into oblivion entrenched in endless wars, pretty much exactly as bin Laden desired. Although the US supported bin Laden and other terror groups during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there is no loyalty in these things, and by the time of 9/11 he was very much an enemy of the US, not a co-conspirator.
The most recent widespread conspiracy is so absurd that it really does just originate from a meme gone wrong, and that is QAnon. I have written about this group before in relation to one of their member’s close relationship to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. QAnon was the spawn of 4Chan, the result of conspiracy theories being picked out that supposedly came from someone called “Q”, a military officer in the US who was releasing information about an extreme underground war being fought. It became viral, and since then Q has become a cult figure without an identity.
They pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy and believe there is a massive Satanic paedophile and cannibal ring out there, run primarily by the “elites” of places like Hollywood or the Democratic Party. Despite being proven false on many counts, and the fact that their messiah Donald Trump and numerous connections of his have been plagued by many credible accusations of sexual harassment, assault, and even paedophilia, these theories keep picking up traction.
On Facebook right now, I have friends sharing posts with the hashtag “saveourchildren”. Obviously, it is easy to back that message – no rational person would support the abuse of children. And some of the posts may be credible cases or arguments, although many are vague or misleading. QAnon is also never actually mentioned, but all the rhetoric is still there, an open door to ensnare more people. As I wrote last year, some of the messages from QAnon are extremely appealing, but it is wrapped up in extreme amounts of misinformation, contradictions, plain lies, and anti-Semitism.
It’s also centred, rather damningly, around religion. Jesus, a dark-skinned Jew from what is now the Middle East and that was arguably socialist in many respects, would probably not support QAnon, nor be welcome in it either, ironically.
What QAnon does do, however, is “answer” questions that have a genuine basis for being asked. The world is shit in innumerable ways, and trying to get a handle on how and why can be difficult. The beauty of Q is not only their answers to these questions, but that they are also a beacon of hope for the future – the Great Awakening that will bring an end to the suffering, again latching onto the Christian beliefs. Donald Trump is the fearless warrior waging an unseen war against the “Deep State”, and his failure – assassination, perhaps, JFK-style? – would herald defeat.
Scapegoats like the LGBT+ community, immigrants and refugees, Muslims and Jews, socialists (or just anything “left” of Trump’s Republican Party), movements like BLM – all of these things are seen as infiltrators, the public face of the opposition in this battle trying to remove Trump and take over. This is, of course, absurd, but there are those who may have legitimate reason to being drawn in by this kind of rhetoric. Many (mostly white) people who have been disenfranchised by the current system are drawn to those who offer them change, and after Obama’s disappointing leadership, Trump filled the vacuum.
So these people lapped up all the lies and conspiracies about why they are struggling and who was to blame – even though Trump is literally an elite paedophile born from the very system he claims to be against. All the spectacle of this growing conspiracy is extremely alluring to those wanting answers, wanting something to hold onto. The “left” failed them, and so they turn to Trump and perceive him as a saviour.
Reality paints a very different picture, one that is much grimmer, yet does not contain the more fantastic elements of something like QAnon, a manufactured narrative. In reality, you can trace the plight of the “ordinary American” back to the 1970’s and 80’s, with inequality between the rich and poor growing while opportunities for those at the bottom stagnate or collapse.
There are elites, but it isn’t confined to one evil Party, it’s an entire system built on an unrestrained capitalist system that encompasses most of US political thought (at least, before Bernie Sanders ran in 2016). There do appear to be powerful and connected people involved in paedophilia and sexual abuse, but it’s not Hillary Clinton running an operation out of a non-existent basement, it’s Trump who’s been tied to less extravagant theories. The average American is worse off, but it’s not “communist Democrats” or “illegals” that are to blame, it is the aforementioned capitalist system.
Narratives upon narratives are interwoven with propaganda and conspiracy to create the chaotic and warped worldview that QAnon believers excitedly look to. The truth can easily be dismissed as false, and any inconsistency can be explained away by some addition to the theory, creating an unverifiable yet undeniable “truth”. “Research” can be carried out, with affirming and self-congratulatory language used to convince people they have made grand revelations on their own, through their own “free thought”.
With such a self-fulfilling cycle, conspiracy theories can evolve unimpeded with as little or as much flair as one’s imagination can muster. Reality, on the other hand, even with the benefit of – well, reality – does not always align with one’s worldview, and therefore can be rejected. QAnon is just the latest of countless conspiracies, and like all conspiracies, we must attempt to break it down and reveal its fallacies.
In this case, it is quite dangerous not to.
Previous piece: The Contradiction of the Zero-Sum Game