Thanks to the unintended implication of the name, I must now and again remind people what I mean by the expression “conspiracy theory.” I will begin by reminding them of what I don’t mean. Yes, I’ve heard of a conspiracy called Watergate and yes, I’m aware that there are legitimate theories about that. And yes, I’m aware of the theories about the January 6th insurrection conspiracy that are not only legitimate they are being proven daily by the January 6 Committee and in courts of law. I hope it’s obvious that I have never said nor implied that conspiracies don’t exist.
When I use the term “conspiracy theory” I’m talking about a particular species of unsubstantiated claims supported by nothing more than innuendo sloppily glued together by coincidences and, above all (drumroll please), endlessly parroted entirely without evidence.
It is unfortunate that we don’t have a less legitimate-sounding term to describe this mental pandemic. That it leads to confusion and — let’s face it — people pretending to be confused so they can score a cheap political point, is unfortunate but not my fault.
Now that we’ve cleared that up let’s talk about the next conspiracy theory, this year’s Big Lie. No, I don’t mean the one Trump trumpeted as usual at his rally in Arizona last Saturday. I’m talking about the Big Lie 2.0. I’m talking about what they’re going to say if the 2022 midterm should turn out to be a success for Democrats.
If you think they’re going to try to legitimately spin it as a win, e.g., by claiming such things as Democrats may have retained the majority in the House but lost seats overall, and so on, think again. What they’re going to say instead is that the 2022 election was stolen just like the 2020 election was stolen. Any outcome other than a complete success for Republicans is going to be touted as a theft, and we’d better get ready for that.
This is going to be the new normal for Republicans. It’s going to be that way because it’s proven to work. It doesn’t matter how many times the mainstream media calls it the Big Lie because Americans who believe such rubbish don’t watch the mainstream media. They watch Fox News. And if Fox News doesn’t tell them what they want to hear they’ll go and watch OAN. And if OAN doesn’t tell them what they want to hear they’ll go and watch Newsmax.
But don’t worry, for the most part those networks are going to tell viewers what they want to hear and damn the consequences. It’s why these days they’re telling their viewers that white people are being sent to the back of the lines in vaccination centers. They like to shake the bug jar and watch the black ants and the red ants fight. It’s all about bucks and ethics be damned. And there are a lot of bucks in fear, conflict and artificially manufactured outrage.
This is how the human race chokes to death on ignorance. Conspiracy theories are deadly dangerous. They fuel the ignorance which leads to such things as climate science denialism, vaccine hesitancy and a complete loss of faith in America’s election system.
So get ready for the Big Lie 2.0 and many more versions in the future. The war against ignorance continues, but we have no choice but to continue fighting. The alternative is that it will all end, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a conspiracy theory. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.