A few days ago, I decided to go to a McDonald’s for a soft serve vanilla cone. As I sat there licking around the edges of the cone in order to prevent the ice cream from dripping on my shirt, I overheard a few people at the next table talking politics. Being a person who loves to get into an interesting political discussion every now and then, I went over to the people holding the conversation and introduced myself. It turns out that one of the people there was dominating the conversation, focusing on many of the conspiracies that supposedly had influenced the course of American politics. The conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the massacres of 9/11, and the QAnon conspiracy theories among others. Theories like these can lay the foundation for political, social and even religious movements. And, needless to say, they are perfect vehicles for pulling a person out of an experiential vacuum. Even just talking about these conspiracies (from the outside, of course) helps to pull a person out of a state of numbness. Such conversations can be so refreshingly abrasive to people immersed in numbness. My new acquaintance at McDonald’s is a perfect example. As he sits there with his cup of coffee, spouting off about all these different conspiracies in modern American political history, all these other McDonald loners are attracted to him and to all the exciting abrasive conspiracy stories he loves to recount. It is as if he was forming a transitory cult by conversation, holding the attention of his listeners, pontificating on the dangers Americans still face as a result of a lack of real resolution of these supposedly unsolved mysteries. Unsolved, because the real perpetrators of these criminal conspiracies are supposedly still out free, not in jail (although they should be according to him). As I was getting a little tired of listening to these discussions of conspiracies, I excused myself after a short period of time and went home.
The next day, as my craving for soft-serve ice cream had not been satiated, I returned to McDonalds for another soft serve vanilla cone. The man on his conspiracy soapbox was still there and he waved to me as I walked in, inviting me to come join him and his acolytes. I graciously declined. I bought my ice cream cone and sat by myself, trying to slurp up the melting ice cream before it got all over me. There was a metaphor in the notion of slurping melting ice cream, sitting by myself to avoid listening to conspiracy theories, and all I had to do was figure it out. And then it came to me. By slurping melting ice cream by myself, I was slurping away all these crazy conspiracy theories that were obfuscating, covering up the real truths that were underlying the actual events around which these conspiracy theories were built. I came to the conclusion that it was my duty to have a soft serve vanilla cone every day from now on to clear away the cobwebs (mixing metaphors, I know) and let the truth shine through once and for all.
Perhaps at this time, it would be appropriate to discuss how I perceive the real function of conspiracy theories to be. Conspiracy theories are a way of planting an underlying grounding to public life events and, in so doing, to provide, by extension, an underlying grounding to one’s own life events. The alternative is perceiving public events occurring in a more random manner and, by extension, the events in one’s own life. But, of course, in today’s world, for many people, there is so much randomness in public events, that they are able to find a security in the temporal grounding that is provided by conspiracies. There is something so reassuring about the notion that events that seem to have had no rhyme nor reason actually were under control by certain people and were actually being manipulated by them. It means that indeed there is order in the universe and that things happening that look like arbitrary marks by random impersonal forces are, in fact, the imprints that are being made and preserved by humans just like you and me. Believing in conspiracies can create a certain anxiety in that, if conspiracies are everywhere, one never knows when the conspiracies are going to be directed against oneself. On the other hand, conspiracies mean the causes of fortune and misfortune are defined discrete figures, namely other humans, against whom one can defend oneself. This is so much better for believers in terms of personal control than the random entropic movements of processes and life narratives found in an experiential vacuum. And this is why as life becomes more vacuumized with the introduction of more and more modern technology to daily life, there are going to be more and more conspiracies to bring a kind of magical order to the world.