National Newswatch
National Opinion Centre

Back in the good old days of conspiratorial fantasy, when lies had to be propagated via slow mail, books and magazine articles, the angry man imagining government plots and secret societies was a solitary, lonely fellow. He, because back then conspiracy peddlers were almost all men, was a figure of curiosity and scorn, the weirdo who yelled at the neighbour kids and besieged the local newspaper with bombastic tracts on pet conspiratorial subjects.

These alienated loners would devour information about, say, the Kennedy assassination. They would ponder the significance of a puff of smoke on the “grassy knoll” and marvel at the supposedly impossible trajectory of the “magic bullet” that killed the young president. But they would fulminate in private, only occasionally encountering a fellow traveller and had no way to stimulate mass interest in their fringe topics.

These people developed what they fancied to be “theories” explaining phenomena they otherwise could not explain or facts they refused to believe. They used the term to dignify their claims and confer credibility that their ideas did not deserve. They did slipshod “research” on their topics, with blatant disregard for scientific rigor or even basic common sense. They didn’t need facts, they simply made claims: astronauts didn’t walk on the moon, Elvis didn’t die, aliens built the Great Pyramids. Thousands believed these myths, but they were spread thinly and made no impact on society.

The Internet changed all that, making communication among everyone, including conspiracy advocates, cheap, easy and seemingly consequence-free. Now, the angry loners could find company and validation among the like-minded. They weren’t alone, there was safety in numbers. He, or lately more frequently, she, could sit at a computer and exchange ideas on how “9-11 was an inside job,” how Satanists controlled the government or how white people suffered racial discrimination.

The Internet and especially social media, fostered extreme personalities like the notorious Alex Jones, who got rich peddling conspiracies on his Infowars website about “false flag” school shootings, the “New World Order” and the “Great Reset” myth, about Covid-19 vaccination poisoning or the cabal of leftists who kidnap children to harvest their blood. Now, finally, Jones’ antics have been exposed and his media empire is imploding over his lies about the children murdered at Sandy Hook School in 2012 and the harassment of the grieving parents that he encouraged.

Jones claimed that the Sandy Hook shootings of 20 first-graders and six staff members were a hoax perpetrated by unknown conspirators to spur calls for gun control. The grieving parents, he alleged, were “crisis actors” hired for the occasion whose kids never existed. Many of those parents endured years of harassment from Infowars devotees, including repeated death threats and even shots fired at their homes. Some have been forced to move multiple times.

Now, in a Texas courtroom, Jones has been revealed as an opportunistic liar and his “theories” debunked as nothing more than the perfervid rants of a disturbed crank. But society shouldn’t stop with the odious Mr. Jones. Reality is overdue for a comeback.

In the real world, theories are based on rational thinking and logic, tested against verifiable evidence. Conspiracy theories aren’t based on anything rational and mock the very idea of truth. So let’s stop dignifying these folk tales with the term “theory” and call them what they are, fabrications created to terrify the gullible and part them from their money, as Jones has done in the tens of millions of dollars. Let’s scorn these absurd concoctions for what they are.

In western democracies, free speech is a paramount right. Alex Jones and his Trump-worshipping ilk aren’t defending free speech, they are abusing it in the cause of attention-seeking and cold, hard cash. As citizens, we can defend free speech by treating truth and reason with respect and denouncing conspiracy frauds for what they are.

 

Dan Leger is a journalist and author of the forthcoming “Stephen McNeil: Principle and Power,” from Nimbus Publishing.

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on National Newswatch are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.
Click here for more political news headlines