“Superstitions like bats fly most at twilight”
(attributed to Sir Francis Bacon)
“We are all Deconstructionists now, whether we ever heard the word before or not.”
– Robert Anton Wilson, Everything Is Under Control (EIUC)
Wilson’s introduction to EIUC – imagine a shorter version of it going viral – would, to my mind, provide a badly needed antidote to some of the more dangerous, paranoid – and disconcertingly popular – conspiriological thinking going around at the moment…
Among the crucial points Bob makes:-
1. The nefarious groups cited in Conspiracy Theory “almost always appear as fungible or homogeneous”. (‘Fungible’ refers to interchangeability and indistinguishability of members of a group).
But, the fungible groups dreaded by conspiriologists “cannot, of course, exist in reality, because all groups consist of individuals, each of whom differs in some respects from all others.” Conspiracy theories tend to move towards viewing the demon-group as fungible, because of, a) the “paranoid style”, and, b) “the structure of our language” – in which (for example) generalisation seems to imply group uniformity:
‘[O]ur language tends to promote neo-Platonism by populating the world with grammatical abstractions … In other words, because we can say “the Jews” or “the New World Order” or “the Patriarchy,” we can believe, or almost believe, that these grammatical abstractions have the same kind of reality as basketballs, barking dogs, and baked beans.’
– Robert Anton Wilson, EIUC (intro)
2. Nobody can totally refute theories of crazy Big Conspiracies, because they “have a Strange Loop in their construction. Any evidence against them also functions as evidence to support them” (since the theorised groups have unlimited power to conceal their actions and/or existence. Thus, if investigating agencies – eg the FBI – find no hard evidence of these conspiracies, it’s because the agencies themselves “are part of the cover-up”. I’ll try not to mention the Tangerine Tyrant at this point…)
“Thus, like its cousin, theology, the pop demonology of conspiracy theory survives any and all criticisms.” – Robert Anton Wilson, EIUC (intro)
3. Perhaps most obvious, but worth repeating: “batty conspiracy theories and modern folklore in general thrive best in an environment of uncertainty and anxiety” – because they provide relatively simple, coherent narratives and explanations of events “that otherwise seem chaotic and beyond human comprehension”.
Bob noted that people wrote to him thinking that because he satirised Big Conspiracies (in Illuminatus!), it followed he didn’t believe any of them and was “therefore a sly defender of the Establishment”. (You can observe a lot of this kind of thinking at the moment – for example, if you dismiss certain anti-establishment conspiracy theories, you risk being viewed by some as an apologist of, say, “The Deep State” – especially if you’re a journalist).
Of course, RAW didn’t dismiss all big conspiracy theories – he reframed the question from one of binary belief vs dismissal (either/or) to multi-valued scale of likelihood or probability-rating (based on evaluation of evidence, etc). He cites deception by the tobacco industry, and the P2 scandal in Italy, etc, as examples involving evidence that supported claims of significant conspiracies. Everything is Under Control strikes me as a model of ‘enlightened’ Pyrrhonian scepticism (not rushing to believe or disbelieve).
Russia / R.U. Sirius / Rushkoff
Covert interference by states (or powerful state-affiliated actors) in the democratic processes of other states (whether, or not, it involves “collusion” by leaders of the latter) would certainly count as fairly major conspiracy. So perhaps it helps to apply the above RAW-sourced points to this also? (For what it’s worth, based on all the evidence available from multiple sources, I would rate such interference in the 2016 US election as of high probability).
I’ll leave you with a quote from R.U. Sirius, in conversation with Douglas Rushkoff (I found it at Mondo 2000):
“If you follow some of the ideological discourse from people who are really influential in Russia, it’s postmodernism and Operation Mindfuck in the service of amoral raw power and political strategy. I know secondhand that there are people in Putin’s mindtrust who have read their Leary and their Discordianism and so forth and they are following a chaos strategy for disrupting the American consensus… or however you want to phrase the collapsing neoliberal order. And not collapsing towards a good end.”
– R.U. Sirius, in conversation with Douglas Rushkoff
See also: Conspiriologic! (#1)