For the longest portion of my life, I have been what is commonly referred to as a conspiracy theorist. At one point in my life, I could have made Alex Jones himself blush The term and practice of conspiracy theory has an interesting and colorful history, but that's a different story for a later time. Today, I want to explore the nature and role of conspiracy theory in the life of a liberty-minded individual. I believed in alien/government conspiracies of control and technology, worldwide economic planning conspiracies, international government conspiracies, class warfare conspiracies, and more. Smaller in scope, the events around September eleventh, 2001 had led me to strongly distrust the official story which emerges in real time when varying types of crises arise.
Looking at myself, making use of the Hobbesian fallacy of introspection, I think I can identify two causes for one to become a conspiracy theorist. If one has a skeptical disposition but is indoctrinated to believe in “higher powers” without rational justification for that belief, one is forced to either eschew or modify ad-hoc their beliefs when faced with rational criticism. In the case of conspiracy theories, lack of evidence is often considered to be proof of conspiracy, implementing the same rationale as a witch hunt, the internment of Japanese Americans, or McCarthy-style paranoia. It's easy for an irrational belief in celestial parent figure who constantly messes with your life to become a belief that extends to “capitalists” or “all males” or “space aliens”. There may actually be a God, and there may actually be conspiracies, but irrational beliefs in them are just that, irrational. Once one can rationally prove or make a compelling case for such things, it becomes less a theory and more a justified true belief, AKA knowledge.
The second, and likely common, cause for one to become a conspiracy theorist is one of... well... immaturity. If one finds themselves frequently at a disadvantage and lacks the means to overcoming said disadvantage, one can easily fall into what Nietzsche calls “Bad Conscience”. We don't have time here to really explore Nietzsche (If you, the reader would like me talk more about Nietzsche, let me know. I would love to make at least a full Nietzsche post.), but a super-high-altitude description of “bad conscience” is in order. Bad conscience is basically embracing and fetishizing one's own weaknesses while demonizing powerful traits and those that one feels disadvantaged against. Whether or not the perceived disadvantage one faces is real or not, it is a natural behavior to pin advantage and blame on someone else. Just because it's natural doesn't mean it is beneficial or righteous, though. Ultimately, as with every other instance of adversity, one must overcome or circumvent one's disadvantage or consign themselves to death.
How does the externalization of adversity demonstrate immaturity? In itself, it doesn't. However, if that externalization takes the form of “the Jews”, “the patriarchy” “gun grabbers”, “those Christians”, “Satan”, or whatever other shape-shifting omnipotent boogeyman one can cook up, it demonstrates an unwillingness or inability to educate oneself as to the actual circumstances and how one might overcome them. Again, it very well may be the case that Satan sits on the masonic throne and tells the Jews to go out and impoverish the world for their lizard overlords... but that isn't the immediate issue one faces in day-to-day life. If you can't get a job, it could be more because you've demonstrated irresponsible tendencies by getting a women's studies degree on a credit card and a little less because of the patriarchy. In either case, whether or not the conspiracy exists, it is at least intellectual immaturity and could be emotional or social immaturity as well. Here it is, people, an admission that I was once immature. Hell, I still don't believe the official story of 9/11 and I think the Titanic was sunk intentionally, make of that what you will. Why is it immature? Because, if one is at a disadvantage, one must be able to diagnose and overcome that disadvantage; going “Oh, well, it's not my fault... it's impossible to overcome the Bilderberg conspiracy,” renders one unable to grow and overcome adversity. If one is not actually at a disadvantage, yet they see a conspiracy of boogeymen, they develop a learned helplessness and cannot flourish.
Also of note is the manner in which these conspiracy theories influence society once enough people agree that it is the truth. “The Jews” ruined the 20th century German economy, “the Capitalists” oppressed the Russian proletariat, “Islam” blew up the world trade center, “the patriarchy” raped everyone ever all the time, “Satan” made everyone in Africa black and consorts with witches in Salem, “the speculators” caused famines, “the Church”intentionally slowed scientific progress, “Americans of Japanese descent” were plotting to overthrow wartime America's empire... do we need more examples? The problem with conspiracy theories and mobs of immature, angry people is the way that it collectivizes “the other” and justifies the oppression and slaughter of innocent human beings. Conspiracy theorists feed state violence.
More important than what happens when conspiracy theories become popular, more important, even, than the way immature people will be kept from flourishing, is the way that they distract from more real and actionable issues. The reason I took so long to realize that any organization predicated on coercion, murder, or theft is intrinsically unjust and misanthropic and any job which requires such is unjust and misanthropic, and that I have a responsibility to avoid such practices is because I was distracted from such things by “the evil globalist capitalist cabal”, “secret government/alien alliances”, and a handful of other conspiracies. I see so many people seeing systematic oppression by laws and law enforcement in Ferguson and Baltimore but being distracted from their oppressors by the spectre of “racism”. Conversely, I see people witnessing oppression by federal edict in southern Nevada but being distracted by the spectre of “socialism” (the Republican caricature of it, not the intrinsic nature of statism).
When people are so terrified that ISIS, Mexicans, or Chinese entrepreneurs are going to invade the country and behead Christians, steal their jobs, and give them more government, they forget that the laws passed, armies sent, and crimes committed in the name of defending against these boogeymen will eventually be turned against themselves. When people are bogged down in looking for a specific imperial agendas, like “the war on local government/guns/cash/women/minorities/gays/Christians/the environment/etc.”, they are distracted from the root issue that is empire itself. Even in libertarian circles, many are prone to forgetting that the enemy is the state itself as opposed to just the Federal government, the patriarchy/racists/sexists, neighboring governments, the Fed, lizard Jews, chemtrails, vaccination programs, or any other lesser, symptomatic, nebulous enemy.
If a man were to approach you, brandishing a gun and demanding your money and your obeisance, what is a more pressing matter: the mugger standing before you or a cabal of 1%ers sitting on a private island thousands of miles away? If your livelihood were contingent upon the whims of a sociopath living down the street, what would be more of an existential threat: your unruly neighbor or a guy who really hates white people, humps goats, and prays to the devil on the literal opposite side of the planet? If your king declares that you have no right to raise your own children, own land, or avoid being conscripted, wouldn't that be more concerning than which patch of dirt he happened to be born on? What I mean to ask is that if there were a demonstrable and immediate existential threat, why would one concern themselves with a merely possible and nigh-unstoppable future crisis?
Besides, the burden of proof rests heavily on conspiracy theorists. One need only to say:
Taxation is theft
∴ Taxation is unjust
Of course, some conspiracies are real. Some are incredibly high profile and far-reaching.Pop culture sites, wikipedia, and even history textbooks will occasionally feature conspiracies so convoluted and successful that no one would believe a movie that had the same plot. These conspiracies serve as easy examples as to why the state is the enemy, but they are not required in order to make a compelling case. For example, mandatory vaccination programs are categorically unjust as they deprive people of their bodily autonomy and self-ownership. It doesn't hurt, though, to point to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and ask how one can know that they will only be injected with what they are told they are receiving (or that it is safe, for that matter).
TL;DR: Conspiracy theories typically distract from more pressing and manageable crises. Those who engage in conspiracy theory also tend to demonstrate an unwillingness to improve themselves, instead choosing to allow themselves to be a helpless victim to an omnipotent boogeyman. In the case that conspiracy theory influences state policy, millions are subjugated and killed. One must remember that politicians and cops are the enemy, not because they are gun grabbers or racists, but because they are politicians and cops. In a free world, “the patriarchy” and Islam would have no ability to conspire in any manner that would affect you or me. It is only the violence of the state which allows for conspiracies to harm the human race.