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THE LONDON REVIEW of Books continues to illuminate and entertain me with its erudite articles. Its October 22, 2020, issue has “Red Pill, Blue Pill,” subtitled “James Meek on the conspiracist mind.” Meek is a British novelist, journalist, and Contributing Editor at the London Review of Books. In 2015, his “Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else” earned him the Orwell Prize for political writing.
Here are tidbits gleaned from his analysis of conspiracies, some of which were real, many of which seem to attract wackos.
Origin of the Term. Meek writes, “Karl Popper coined the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ in 1952, in his book The Open Society and Its Enemies. He framed it as something that would always be singular, like game theory or chaos theory: It was only later that people started talking about ‘conspiracy theories.…’ ”
Popper, 1902–1994, was an Austrian-British academic and social commentator, considered one of the 20th century’s most influential philosophers of science.
“Popper saw conspiracy theory as something very old connected to the religious impulse,” Meek writes. For example, Popper wrote how conspiracies among the Homeric gods of ancient Greece explain the history of the Trojan War. In modern times, these gods are replaced by sinister groups responsible for monopolism, imperialism, capitalism, or whatever particular evil one wishes to contest.
Modern Times. “To some,” Meek says, “this will sound like what Trump is doing now, leading a more or less open Republican conspiracy to hamper the Democrat vote in November, using as his excuse a baseless conspiracy theory about ‘vote rigging.’ The darker example is the rise of the Nazis, a movement that transmitted its conspiracism to the majority of the German population, then carried through the most hideous and complex real conspiracy in history, the murder of millions of Jews.”
5G and Covid-19. Meek cites those who maintain 5G cellphone technology “was the real cause of the pandemic. They imagined a worldwide conspiracy: Either the unexpectedly genocidal effects of the 5G rollout were being covered up by faking a pandemic, or 5G was being used deliberately to kill huge numbers of people and help enslave whoever was left.”
“In the actual world,” Meek notes, “5G’s feeble radio waves aren’t capable of any of this – you’d get more radiation standing near a baby monitor – but the fire-setters are unheedful of that world.”
The Number of Wackos. Meek cites, “A large survey in May conducted by researchers in Oxford found that only about half of English adults were free of what they termed ‘conspiracy thinking.’ Three-quarters of the population have doubts about the official explanations of the cause of the pandemic; most people think there’s at least a chance it was man-made. Almost half think it may have been deliberately engineered by China against ‘the West.’ ”
Even more distressing, Meek says, “Between a fifth and a quarter are ready to blame Jews, Muslims or Bill Gates, or to give credence to the idea that ‘the elite have created the virus in order to establish a one-world government’; 21 percent believe – a little, moderately, a lot or definitely – that 5G is to blame, about the same number who think it is ‘an alien weapon to destroy humanity.’ ”
And Then There’s QAnon. Meek writes, “Some have described QAnon as more like a religion than a conspiracy theory, and it does stand out from the others in that it imagines two duelling conspiracies – an evil conspiracy, with Hillary Clinton, Hollywood celebs and a pack of evil Democrats running a gigantic operation to kidnap hundreds of thousands of children, keep them prisoner in underground tunnels, torture them, rape them, drink their blood and use them in satanic rituals; and a good conspiracy, led by Trump and a team of loyal heroes in the U.S. military, whose members are preparing to burst out, break up the paedophile Satanist ring and save the children.”
“In QAnon,” Meek says, “Trump is portrayed as a cross between Jack Ryan, the tough, smart, patriotic family man played by Harrison Ford in the movies based on the Tom Clancy novels, and the archangel Michael.”
Countering Wackos? Meek describes a BBC journalist’s encounter with an anti-5G guy. The latter “began talking about the dangers of 5G and claimed that ‘every time a new kind of electromagnetic energy is invented, it causes a new kind of disease, like the invention of radar caused Spanish flu.’ ”
The BBC journalist said, “But Spanish flu happened in 1918, and radar wasn’t invented till the 1930s.”
“You would say that, wouldn’t you?” said the other. “Without a trace of a smile,” Meek relates.
My Own Encounter. Years ago, I got involved in a discussion about fluoridation of water. My adversary claimed it was part of a Communist plot to diminish our resistance to their ideology.
“But I’ve been drinking fluoridated water for years,” I said.
“See,” the other guy responded, “you’re no longer resisting.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020