By Paul Collits
The charge of being a conspiracy theorist is now poison. A conversation killer. Unfortunately, many dissenters from the State’s line on many issues, not just Covid, are cowed by the charge. It is a trick.
The charge of “conspiracy theory” has been a brilliant and successful marketing strategy to label, compartmentalise and silence arguments with which one disagrees. To park an opponent in the conspiracy theory camp is to have won the argument. It is even worse than being called a “climate denier”. Remember that one? Or alt-right. Or extremist. Or racist. Or for those of us defending an innocent cardinal, a defender of paedos.
It is the latest equivalent of Godwin’s Law. Simply call your opponent a Nazi and the debate is ended.
The conspiracy theory label is the piece de resistance. The insult du jour. It is code for “nutter”. And it works. It is also a classic nudging exercise, as understood by the behavioural economist Richard Thaler.
On one account, the term “conspiracy theory” was invented by the CIA after the Kennedy assassination to ridicule any idea that Kennedy’s demise was more complex than the narrative which the CIA wished to fix in the public consciousness. Whether the CIA invented the term or not, they certainly used it to embed a particular narrative about Kennedy’s death. This was a brilliant move.
(Of course there are those who claim that believing that the CIA invented the term “conspiracy theory” is itself believing in a conspiracy theory)!
Since the emergence of the term, its use as an ideological weapon has boomed. It has now reached the point where merely using the term is enough to cause apoplexy. To end arguments, yes, but worse. It is intended, not only to shut one’s opponents down, but also to change their behaviour.
Once parked in the conspiracy theory camp, one often to wave one’s hand in the air and to say, “we surrender”, we have no conspiracy theorists in our group. Then to say to your own – if you are a conspiracy theorist, you are not welcome here. We don’t want to be no-platformed by Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg or Susan Wojcicki, the “censorship cartel” as Tucker Carlson calls them. We do not want to thought to be spreading “disinformation”.
It is one of the cleverest ideological ploys of the modern age. It never fails!
It is enough to cause sensible sceptics of any colour to go scurrying for the keyboard, to silence any suggestion that they might be in any way linked to the dreaded charge of conspiracy theory. It is seen as the kiss of death for slightly (or even not slightly) right-of-centre or dissenting types who wish to project their rationalist credentials and so maintain a position of intellectual respectability. Many are simply scared witless of being tarred with the CT brush.
So don’t ever, ever refer to George Soros, or the great reset, or Davos, or the Bilderberg Group around here. We are not nutters. We tiptoe around the place so as not to displease those awful big tech censors. We might be fact checked! Shut down. For some reason, mentioning George Soros is especially verboten. If you do, it is a dead giveaway that you are a dreaded conspiracy theorist.
The very favourite expression of Non Conspiracy Theory Sceptical Man is “I am not a conspiracy theorist, but …” Starting a sentence thus is regarded as the key to opening the door into a rational conversation. It allows you to continue, and is its own form of centre-right virtue signalling, though those who deploy this defence would be loath to admit that. Not to do so is to risk the audience or the opponent raising the metaphorical eyebrow preparatory to taking you down with his ace card.
The Covid drama is a classic example of the strategy.
Lockdown sceptics are paranoid about being linked with David Icke or Piers Corbyn. Utterly paranoid. Don’t ever call me an anti-vaxxer! Don’t call me “alt-right”. I am not an extremist. Rational people are running scared, and obsessing over what is, essentially, product placement. I am convinced that possibly thousands of freedom loving anti-lockdowners have stayed away from protests that might have sent far stronger messages about messing with freedom to No 10, Spring Street and so on, had they rolled up. They stayed away because David Icke was there, either in person or in spirit.
Fear is ceding territory to the real enemy.
With the emergence of various vaccines now, we are coming to the pointy end of the Covid freedom versus public health safetyism debate. Those opposing mandating vaccines will be labelled anti- vaxxer, the very lowest form of conspiracy theorist, a covidiot, someone to be despised, a danger to society, someone who keeps smallpox and measles alive and kicking. (The small category error of smallpox not being Covid, I will pass on, for now).
Our global leaders want vaccines to be mandatory.
“President Elect” Biden, as he is prematurely termed, is all for nudging governors to impose mandated vaccinations for Covid. The British Health Minister Matt Hancock, a leftist from central casting, is itching to as well, but daren’t yet say so.
“Honestly, I’ve learnt not to rule things out during this pandemic because you have to watch what happens and you have to make judgements accordingly,” he said.
No thumping defence of freedom there. Just keep the fear card in play.
The Churchillian Scott Morrison wants to have it both ways, as always – not compulsory but we just hope everyone has it. “Almost” mandatory. The limp Greg Hunt, his Minister, aka the climate change dill, will want to have it mandatory. Or just as bad, slither it through by making, say, overseas travel or even interstate border crossings contingent upon being vaccinated, and/or having tested negative. “Health passport” is the neat, benign sounding descriptor. That makes testing compulsory by the back door as well. Covid fascism taken to a whole new level, beyond mere expensive, compulsory quarantines, curfews and the rest.
Denmark went to the brink on mandatory vaccines, then pulled back, alarmed at the visible public opposition.
Make no mistake, one of the key weapons of the pro-vaxxers will be to label anyone who publicly opposes compulsory Covid vaccines an anti-vaxxer, a conspiracy theorist of the very worst kind. This is the awful “new normal”, where cowed populations who are ignorant of the actual real properties of the virus and of the risks it does not pose, think to themselves, “ah well, because the government says we must do it, well … You know … Do our bit … Do the right thing … ”
Many sane and knowledgeable people, like Sucharit Bakdi, one of the world’s leading microbiologists, have a range of reasons for not wishing to have a Covid vaccine. Bakdi believes you would be “mad” to take it.
Francis Foster (Triggernometry): Would you take the vaccine?
Sucharit Bakdi: Of course not. I’m not mad.
Some people fear the side effects of vaccines for coronaviruses. Others are concerned with the indecent speed with which Big Pharma has rolled out the experiments to test the vaccine. Many simply realise that vaccines against all coronaviruses are next to useless. At least some of us are (thankfully) aware that the vaccines under development will actually not prevent infections or deaths, and that most of us don’t need it anyway, certainly not to stop us dying. Many people possibly resent Big Covid and the Covid cult in all of their many manifestations, and refusing a vaccine is one way of pushing back in anger. And some of us don’t like Bill Gates, whose agenda on vaccines is regularly, openly and clearly stated.
You may or may not agree with him, but there is no point being a Bill Gates new world order denier.
There is probably a large overlap between those who (like me) will never have a Covid vaccine, those who oppose cultural maskism – both in principle and because there is no evidence masks work – and those who think that massive, useless, expensive testing is needed to “defeat the deadly virus”.
One hundred billion pounds worth, and counting, in the UK. That is not a Dr Evil type counting error. Not a misprint.
I suggest that, whatever the range of reasons for opposing these measures, one of the main ones is a refusal to play the “Covid game” of the new normal. Our lives, wealth, jobs, businesses, freedom to travel where we wish to go, family activities and mental health have all been snuffed out by government fiat. You are NOT going to make me wear a useless mask. You are NOT going to make me take a test. You are NOT going to Q code contact/trace me. I will NOT have the vaccine.
And yet, call lockdown opponents “anti-vaxxers” and many will cower in response. Cede the argument in the face of a clever political ploy. Have distracting internal debates. Eat our own in the cause of self-differentiation from our own fellow travellers, with whom we may disagree on various (admittedly important) matters of focus, emphasis or even core beliefs. The left almost never eats its own. They are much better than the right at many things, of course. Like duping people into fearing being called conspiracy theorists.
As we speak, the UK Labour Party is urging the Government to introduce draconian new laws forcing social media companies to block all (what they define as) anti-vaxxer material from their platforms. As if the censorship of Covid dissent, to use Toby Young’s term, isn’t already bad enough. Let’s make it compulsory to ban dissent. One British academic has advocated “China’s approach” to banning spreading “misinformation”. Her work has been peer reviewed by SAGE, Boris Johnson’s “expert” panel of Covid Tsars. Even the Royal Society has caved to the “let’s lock up dissenters” brigade who simply wish to criminalise opposition. Just like a few nutters on the fringes of climate alarmism wished to lock up climate sceptics.
James Delingpole asks, what is an “anti-vaxxer” anyway? Perhaps Covid will turn many people into what pro-vaxxers call anti-vaxxers, without the slightest acknowledgement that, like Christianity, views on vaccines assume multiple forms.
This is evil madness. It is classic leftist fascism from its playbook. It is a war that the left plans to win. Perhaps even using the term “culture war” is itself ripe for branding as a conspiracy theory. Just about everything else is. Will we cower on this too? What about the claim that cancel culture is a myth, in effect a conspiracy theory. Will we cave on that? We need to understand the tools that they use, and the weapons that are in play. Fine, if you wish to distinguish yourself from those that you regard as being on the fringes, or going too far, or whose views you abhor. But don’t do it to virtue signal. And do not do it in fear of reprisals from the trolling class.
What is required of those who cherish freedom in all its forms is firm, insistent, regular pushback against all this, and not whimpering before the clever nudging tricks of our opponents.
Another classic example of cowering in the face of being labelled is showing the tiniest sympathy or support for Donald Trump. Hence the emergence of the phenomenon of the Silent Trump voter (yes, silent is capitalised). There seems to be a genuine fear of being thought to be a Trump supporter, of whom there are, clearly, seventy odd million in the USA. Count the number of times you hear someone start a positive claim about Trump with “I don’t like the man, but…” or “Say what you like about him, but …” or “For all his faults …”
This is to concede the argument at the outset. It is the normal, hyper-defensive stance adopted by apologetic conservatives, by those determined to be respected and loved by leftist opponents or by those (especially journalists) wishing to be seen, above all else, as even-handed or objective. As all the while the left marches on, smashing opponents everywhere, and never remotely concerned about such niceties or about playing fair.
Running scared of being labelled a conspiracy theorist is a strategy designed to fail. It is a mug’s game. It cedes ground endlessly to the enemies of freedom, and is a classic fault of those who do not remotely understand the nature of ideology, or the way that soft culture wars are prosecuted.
One final point.
In one of THE massive ironies of the ideology wars, it was actually the old left that started the conspiracy theory thing and that remains the true home of conspiracy theory. They are the best at it. The left invented the ubiquitous phrase – “it is no coincidence that …” It has worked a treat for generations. The essence of a conspiracy theory is that someone unseen and offstage is organising things to turn out a certain way, in cahoots with others. For the left, there are never coincidences. “There is a Ruling Class, Virginia”. It is Murdoch. The media. Fox News. The corporate ruling class. The military industrial complex. Big oil, fossil fuels and climate change. Crony capitalism (about which the left actually is largely correct, sadly without knowing why).
Mark Steyn, as he so often does, has belled the feline. He has pointed out that when the left posits a conspiracy theory about, say, Russian interference in an election (2016), it must be true, on its face. When the right posits American shenanigans in an election (2020), it is – a conspiracy theory! Putin interferes – obvious, let’s impeach Trump. Suggest Soros, or Dominion – you are a whacko. When a “conspiracy” benefits Republicans, it is, well, a conspiracy. When a conspiracy benefits Democrats, it isn’t. It is uncovering the truth. Simple as.
What is a conspiracy theory other than the accusation that the other side is up to no good, is organised, is acting with intent, is hiding its activities, and is gaming the system to benefit its own agendas? Everyday politics, in other words. It is beyond time to call conspiracy theory accusations for what they are. They are all about creating and maintaining a narrative. About messaging. In this, it is, really, just Marketing 101. It is also, though, about limiting the capacity of an opponent to fight back. One side has managed to mainstream a form of abuse that shuts down debate and causes opponents to be intimidated and to focus in on themselves.
So, it befits those who wish to push back against leftist narratives about conspiracies to call time on the clever, false charge. It is merely a tactic of the enemy. Don’t play their game. Go on the front foot.
Identifying underlying causes, linkages, connections, plausible motives, and agendas, is the essential work of the historian, the social scientist, the activist, the partisan. Do not apologise for doing this. Do not fear being labelled a nutter for merely doing what investigative journalists and researchers used to do, routinely, but now do not, preferring in these times to auto-believe that which emanates from government and corporates.
Soros, Klaus Schwab and their globalist, great reset friends will be hoping, against hope, that you will keep on falling for their game. Like Baudelaire’s Satan, their greatest trick has been to convince too many people that they don’t exist. That their intentions are benign. That they have no global agendas fundamentally to change nations. That they are innocent of all charges.
Tucker Carlson has stated that “censorship leads to self-censorship”.
This is exactly right, and we are witnessing it now in the debates that are swirling around us. Those who stand for freedom of speech and for a right to dissent in the face of the attempted enforcement of government and other elites’ ideologies should not be falling for the two card trick. Don’t fear the name calling. Don’t censor yourself by accepting what is said about your views, thus limiting your own strike power. Keep asking questions. Keep looking beyond appearances, looking for patterns, looking at networks, including hidden networks. Don’t give the enemy any ground. Don’t cosy up. Don’t play by their rules. And don’t start name calling your allies.
The elites want control. They want us to be cowed. They have the tools to do it. There is much at stake.
Paul Collits is a freelance writer and independent researcher who lives in Australia. He has worked in government, industry and the university sector, and has taught at tertiary level in three different disciplines – politics, geography and planning and business studies.
A collection of his writing in A Sense of Place Magazine can be found here.