The phrase conspiracy theory is usually used to discredit the argument of someone who doesn’t hold mainstream views but lately people seem quite happy to claim there are conspiracies everywhere.
I want to go back to basics with this question; “is it likely that people would conspire to increase their wealth and/or power?” The answer is obviously yes. I would add however, that not everything is a conspiracy and we need to figure out how to tell the difference.
Mainstream news outlets are in a tizz right now about the growth of conspiracy theories on social media, but I suspect their tendency to uncritically publish the views of powerful people has a lot to do with people losing faith in their reporting.
One obvious example: We all know now that US claims about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction in the early 2000s were false. UN weapons inspectors were actually trying to tell us this at the time and while we reported it on Raglan Community Radio, mainstream media just went along with the US government line – with devastating results for the people of Iraq.
More recently our media’s tendency to trumpet our rock star economy while the divide between rich and poor has been steadily expanding hasn’t exactly helped their credibility either. I always thought this stuff would cause people to lose their trust in mainstream news but I’m kind of surprised about where they’ve chosen to put their faith instead.
I interviewed Billy Te Kahika a few weeks ago and while he is good at articulating how a lot of people feel I thought his theory about communists taking over the UN was pretty weak. It’s a conspiracy theory that has been around for decades but in a world awash in actual corporate conspiracies and utterly dominated by capitalism I’ve never found it very convincing.
I don’t do hard hitting interviews so I just let Billy have his say and mistakenly assumed that everyone else would interpret it the way I had. His description of how the UN would influence our local governments was completely lacking in concrete detail and his need to reference a youtube video in the middle of the discussion suggested a very shallow understanding.
Despite that, the general feeling he articulates, that “something is going on” is very real and quite valid, for the reasons I outlined above. I just don’t know why it has all blown up now.
There have been far more devious efforts to curb our freedoms by the previous National and Labour governments and to me our current leadership looks much more like a group of people who are barely coping with a rolling crisis. This is both because events have moved so quickly, and because of the chronic under-resourcing of the public service (something we should be angry about).
If people want to see how to prove a conspiracy to the point where it becomes accepted fact then they could read some of Nicky Hager’s books. If they want to know why it feels like things are stacked against them they could do what working class people used to do and read up on how class and power structures work. It’s way better than facebook memes, trust me.
Mostly though I reckon we should take some time away from all this. Even if the media we consume is 100% accurate, dwelling on that level of negativity distorts our view of the world and makes us feel powerless. There are way more uplifting things we could be doing.