Dear Conspiracy Person, Whom I Love
Thoughts on trust and distrust
I know the term “conspiracy theory” is triggering and loaded, but I don’t mean to use the term in a mocking or loaded way, and so I’ll define it for my purposes here as neutrally as I can: A conspiracy theory is a narrative endorsed by a minority and considered to be outside of the mainstream, which seeks to explain an event or set of events. Importantly, this does not mean the narrative/explanation is false. There have been many instances throughout history where a conspiracy theory, as I have just defined it, proved to be correct.
You, the person I’m addressing here believes or endorses any (actually many, I think) of the following:
9/11 was an inside job
Chemtrails are a real thing
Democrats / celebrities / elite engage in coordinated pedophilia and child sex trafficking
The Rothschild family controls the world's wealth and financial institutions, has encouraged or engineered wars between governments, etc.
Elites are secretly working to bring about an authoritarian one-world government, a “New World Order” (also see: Agenda 21, The Great Reset, etc)
Vaccines cause autism
COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe, killing or maiming tens of thousands of people
COVID-19 vaccines don’t work / don’t protect you / don’t limit spread
COVID-19 vaccines carry microchips / make you magnetic
COVID-19 is a hoax / a man-made bioweapon, deployed intentionally / no worse than the flu
COVID-19 lockdowns etc are a coordinated drill, a global test of compliance measures that will be refined and perfected
Wearing a mask is very bad for your own health
Wearing a mask makes no difference in the spreading of a virus like SARS-CoV-2
Viruses don’t actually exist
It’s true that I’m extremely skeptical about every one of those propositions, to put it mildly. But I am not completely closed off to the possibility that some of them are true. I try to avoid thinking in terms of beliefs and instead think in terms of probabilities. I ask, what is the likelihood that a given proposition is true? I try to imagine the possible scenarios, the set of variables and circumstances necessary for it to be true, I consider any evidence I encounter, and then I adjust my sense of the probability. I will admit that if I find obvious mistakes, lies, or logical fallacies in the first bits of evidence I see for a given claim, then I instantly become less open to that claim and less willing to invest my time considering more evidence. That has been my experience with virtually all of the claims above relating to COVID-19, when there was any evidence offered at all.
I don’t know how to talk to someone like you who strongly believes many of claims listed above. I do understand how urgent and important they must feel to someone who believes them. When it comes to my own beliefs that I consider to have life or death importance, I want allies who already understand what I understand, who believe what I believe. I don’t want to have to convince other people that I’m right. I imagine that’s how you feel too. And it’s not easy to simply steer clear of these things, because they feel like life or death issues to you.
So we are at an impasse where I don’t believe the things that feel like life or death issues to you. We can’t talk about them, and we can’t talk around them. I understand you probably feel that I’m not your ally.
I do think we may agree on one thing. When I look at all of the propositions listed above, one common thread is that they are based on distrust of the system – of government, of industry, of the wealthy elite, of experts and authority in general. That is totally understandable, because all those entities have earned an amount of distrust. I think we can agree on that.
However, when I look at the problems caused by those entities, I see the effects of incompetence and corruption – some of it isolated, some of it structural – where death and destruction are side-effects, not actual objectives. I see too many powerful people who rationalize or frankly don’t care (or, charitably, don’t see) when their actions harm others. I see tragedies of the commons, a widespread smash-and-grab mentality, zero-sum thinking (more for you means less for me). And I see too many “regular” people unwilling to look very hard at inconvenient truths. I don’t know exactly what you see when you look at the same problems, but I think it’s something more coordinated.
We both harbor a distrust of the system. But you have adopted a particular brand of distrust as your religion.
When I see your posts on social media, I can’t tell for certain who you’re aiming to reach. Maybe you’re just expressing yourself, or maybe you’re looking to get likes from friends who share your worldview. I don’t believe you’re actively working to persuade or convince people like me, though I could be wrong. It seems like you would be happy though if your posts help sew more distrust.
That’s what all of the propositions above really boil down to – trust vs. distrust. Just to pick a random example, you can’t personally prove that 9/11 was an inside job, and that the World Trade Center collapse was a result of controlled demolition. It’s probably theoretically provable one way or another, but you personally have neither the expertise nor the resources to conduct the kind of work that would be required, so you rely on the work of others. And you believe what you believe primarily because you distrust the institutions who endorse the official story, not because you have personally conducted a rigorous investigation and come to a different conclusion independently. Importantly, you felt some alignment or affinity with certain sources. That affinity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You are drawn to trust certain sources precisely because of your distrust in other ones. You have joined a tribe that is organized around a shared gospel of distrust.
For exactly the same reasons that you can’t prove 9/11 was an inside job, I cannot personally prove that it happened as per the official story. I don’t necessarily believe one narrative or another though. Again, I think about it in terms of probabilities. With 9/11 (as with virtually any of the claims listed above), I should say I’m aware of the limitations of what you or I can prove at all. We both rely on the work of others, and although I don’t fully trust the government to tell the truth, I also think the probabilities are overwhelmingly on the side of the consensus narrative for 9/11. The gist of it anyway (I’m sure there are discrepancies and even lies down in the details, because my acceptance of the basic mainstream narrative for 9/11 does not preclude some amount of corruption and incompetence, and coverups thereof).
Again, I’m just using 9/11 as an example. On balance, I trust that most people operate in good faith, and so I think the mainstream consensus exists for very basic, valid reasons.
So maybe that’s it. Maybe we just continue along in our separate bubbles. It’s an unsatisfying and sad place to be with the people in my life, but maybe that’s where we leave it. Are we allies? That’s a tricky question. Your wellbeing is important to me. My love for you persists below and above our differences, but our differences are painful obstacles to normal coexistence.