2022: The Year the Conspiracy Theory Became Conspiracy Fact
Or, How to Be Comfortable as a Conspiracy Theorist
This was the year conspiracy theory became conspiracy fact, the year it didn’t take tinfoil hats to believe powerful elites were pulling off crimes of global proportions. It was the year theory became documentary, and the documentaries had real evidence backing them. And I’m here today to help you be comfortable as a conspiracy theorist. Or make you uncomfortable if you think that’s impossible. Maybe in years past it was hard to pull it off. Now it’s as easy as getting booted from YouTube.
Fact: Last year, “election fraud” was for disappointed Trump voters. This year Dinesh D’Souza released 2,000 Mules, the documentary that demonstrated massive ballot-boxes stuffing across the country, and 73% of Democrats who saw the film said they would recommend it.
Fact: Last year conservatives said the FBI was corrupt. This year we have the documents, from Twitter and elsewhere.
Fact: Last year we knew social media was suppressing free speech. This year we not only have the records to prove it, we have the actual messages from Washington, D.C. liberal leadership pressuring them to do it. And we know they complied. Elon Musk sums it up: “To be totally frank, almost every conspiracy theory that people had about Twitter turned out to be true.”
Fact: Last year COVID-19’s Wuhan lab connection made good sense to people who gave it half a moment’s thought. This year, people who won’t bother thinking don’t have to. We have the evidence. Same with the COVID-19 “vaccines.”
Fact?: Last year the Warren Commission’s report on JFK’s assassination still made good sense, and only nutcases believed the CIA might have been involved. Late this year new facts came out, and another answer started developing. It remains to be established as fact, but it has lifted the CIA connection — and possibly even Lyndon Baines Johnson’s involvement — well out of the tinfoil hat domain.
“Conspiracy” Theory Doesn’t Equal “Crackpot Theory”
The problem is, these are still conspiracy theories. That puts them in horrible company — even if they’re true. Someone (I don’t care if it was a conspiracy or not) did a number on us, and got us all thinking “conspiracy theory” equals “tinfoil hat/nutcase/”We’ve all been assimilated by aliens!” idiocy.
Granted, some conspiracy theories are crazy. But if you believed in 1917 that a gang of Bolsheviks was conspiring to take over the world, you would have been right. If you’d said there was a conspiracy inside the Nixon administration to cover up Watergate, you’d have been right then, too.
The Nifty Skill of Proving They’re Right Without Bothering With Evidence
It was actually the Warren Commission that was responsible for the PR campaign that made “conspiracy theory” equivalent to “crank theory.” Since then, it hasn’t mattered how much proof you had for your theory. You’re gullible, period. Easily influenced. Quite possibly by strange voices in your head. If you’ve got evidence, it’s “fruitcake evidence.” You’re a crackpot.
Let’s do a logic test on that, though, and see how it works. This isn’t conspiracy theorizing, it’s just a thought experiment. Let’s imagine some group in the world that’s running a conspiracy. Let’s give this group the most neutral label we can think of: Group A. Conspiracies by definition want to remain unknown and unsuspected, so Group A will try to hide what it’s doing. Suppose, however Group B finds evidence — real evidence — of what they’re up to. Group A can call it a “conspiracy theory,” and Group B’s evidence goes down the toilet.
Now ask yourself, how much evidence did Group A have to show in order to prove Group B was wrong? Not one bit. They’ve effectively disproved the truth, without producing one single shred of evidence. If you think that’s conspiracy theorizing, do me a favor and re-read the last two paragraphs. Then ask yourself how hard it is to imagine that happening in reality. If you’re still not sure, you need to get out more.
How to Show You’re Not So Crazy After All
So what do you do when you try telling someone about these conspiracies? I say you still bring evidence. You come in with clear talking points, and you tell them how you know it’s true.
That’s not easy these days. 2022 was the year one conspiracy theory after another became conspiracy fact. So many, it’s hard to keep up with them all. I sympathize. Someone tells me the COVID vaccine saves lives, and anti-vaxxers are walking death machines. I’ve read a hundred articles showing that’s not true, but can I pull the facts out right there on the spot? With documentation?
I guarantee you, they’ve got “documentation.” Some paper they’ll email you. Some “study” someone has done somewhere. You’ve only got one good defense against that, and that’s documentation of your own. Where do you find it?
I’ve been in that situation so often, I’ve decided to answer that question for myself and for others. It’s coming down the pike: I’ll have articles with top talking points on all the major conspiracies of 2022, and documentation to support it.
Go on Offense, Not Defense
In the meantime, it doesn’t matter which conspiracy it is or what facts you have. You can always count on them smirking: “That’s just a crazy conspiracy theory! Are you always this gullible?”
First advice: Make sure your conspiracy theory isn’t crazy. Some of them still are.
Once you’ve got that straight, ask them straight up, “Seems like you think there’s something automatically wrong with anyone who believes conspiracies are possible. How could you ever think something as strange as that?”
I’m not exactly recommending you go on the defensive here, if you hadn’t noticed.
If they retreat to saying, “Okay, but it’s just a theory,” ask them if they know what “theory” means. I bet they won’t. It doesn’t mean “unproved belief.” Rather it means a broad set of principles, beliefs, and or reasons that together help explain some facet of reality. Einstein’s Relativity Theories have been supported by one scientific finding after another, for example, yet we still (rightly) call them theories.
(Dictionaries tend to define “theory” strictly in scientific terms. That’s okay. We’re not the ones who borrowed the word from science, they are. It’s not our fault if they’ve chosen such a positive word to describe something they consider so negative.)
How to Be Comfortable as a Conspiracy Theorist
If they say, “Only loonies believe in conspiracies,” ask them if they think anyone tried to cover up Watergate. Or start the Communist Revolution. Or that evangelicalism is a movement to take over the country for White Christians. (That last one really is loony, but if they believe it, you’ve made your point anyway.)
Here’s where you’re heading with this. They just tried using “conspiracy theorist!” rhetoric to rock you back on your heels. You’re just returning the favor, but with evidence, not rhetoric. Be comfortable in it. Do you seem them teetering, feeling uncomfortable? Good. You’re not guilty of a thing. They already were off balance, they just didn’t know it.
That’s when you tell them it’s time to quit the name-calling and look at real evidence instead. There’s plenty out there.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.