Wednesday, August 15, 2018
I recently got the chance to talk about the classic 1974 conspiracy thriller "The Parallax View" on The Projection Booth podcast. You can check it out here. The entire show is a fantastic series of discussions about the film - and it includes an interview with William Daniels, one of the stars of the film - but my segment starts at 1:46:00.
The film really is one of the best examples of the political conspiracy theory genre, very tense and unnerving because it is plausible. The film is a product of a time, after all, when conspiracy theories themselves were plausible, well before they spun off into the realm of the false flag, crisis actor, flat Earth and chemtrail absurdity that's putting piles of money into the coffers of all the Alex Joneses out there.
We discuss the impact of the film on the genre and the evolution of "real" conspiracy theories themselves, the way these theories always need to grow, to top themselves, to make claims that are more outrageous and outlandish than before.
I also got to talk about my new novel, CONFIRMATION: INVESTIGATIONS OF THE UNEXPLAINED, and how conspiracy theorists should seldom be seen as heroes these days. Conspiracy theories have mutated from critical warnings about how power can be abused, turning instead into a demented, social-constructionist fantasy world where anyone can claim belief in anything and the lack of any evidence to back up their beliefs can always be blamed on the machinations of a big, evil, shadowy conspiracy.
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
So I finally got through perusing parts of - probably just a small part of - all the information cropping up in the media about the Qanon conspiracy theory. After several days of this enterprise, I just got tired of the whole thing and more than a bit irritated by the amount of stupid that exists in the world. However, I was also fascinated by the larger social phenomenon of it all, the confirmation of a number of venerable media theories that have been arguing for decades that people are quite active and facile when it comes to protecting their own belief systems, in interpreting and twisting information in the world all around them in such a way as to confirm their own preconceived notions and biases...
...You see as an eggheaded academic who tries to corrupt and brainwash America's youth by teaching them how to debunk conspiracy theories about the New World Order, to embrace the status quo and to appreciate the subversive, Satanic fun of the "Lucifer" TV series, I need to frame everything in terms of high-flown theories...
But anyway, the Qanon conspiracy theory! For those who have not kept up with this, it basically started with a series of postings on the 4chan and 8chan social media sites by someone (or maybe some parties) calling himself "Q" and claiming to be a high-level government operative with inside information that can best be described as depressingly bonkers. And I mean so bonkers that if the producers of The X-Files would ever craft an episode around it, they would make it one of their comical self-parody episodes. But the main points of the theory claim that Donald Trump had been "installed" in the presidency by a secret cabal of military brass to work together with Robert Mueller to expose and smash a world-wide Satanic pedophile ring run by Hilary Clinton, the Democratic party, and numerous A-list Hollywood celebrities. So, yup, Mueller's Russia investigation is just a ruse, a smoke-screen for the real work of taking down the global Satanic child-sex trafficking ring.
And because high-ranking government whistle-blowers would try and blow their whistles by going to disreputable online forums instead of respected media outlets...
Oh, yeah, the so-called "respectable mainstream media" are all infiltrated by sex-trafficking Satanists too. Sorry, forgot about that!
So anyway, there's no point in beating a dead horse here and repeating what so much of the news stories about Qanon have already talked about, namely how absurd all of this is and how there is no evidence to prove any of this silliness. Yes, it's all completely unbelievable and it's all stupid. And no, there is no credible evidence to prove any of these claims. Furthermore, it stretches the imagination beyond all breaking points to suggest that such a far-reaching conspiracy that would include thousands of people from the mass media, law enforcement, and politics could ever pull off a plot like this...
So let's just repeat after me, kids: 9/11 was not an inside job, JFK was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, we landed on the Moon, mass shootings in Colorado, Sandy Hook, and Florida were not false flag operations and there are no such things as "crisis actors." Thousands of people can NOT work together on such ridiculously convoluted plots without slipping up, spilling the beans, or turning on one another. Yes, if you disagree with me, you fail the class!
What is more interesting here, however, is how the Qanon phenomenon gives evidence to how fragmented our society has become to the point of the disappearance of a consensus reality for such a large sectors of the American population. People - again, as decades worth of research on how individuals process information and how personal beliefs and desires intersect with external sources of information coming from mass media sources has demonstrated - will selectively expose themselves to information that confirms their inherent biases. We believe what we want to believe and we will aggressively ignore or reinterpret information that contradicts our beliefs. Cognitive Dissonance is the phenomenon that explains how unpleasant and how downright painful it is to be proven wrong, to hear points of view that disagree with us, and have our beliefs challenged. It so unpleasant that people will go to extraordinary lengths to escape such feelings. The easiest way to escape dissonance today is by way of the conspiracy theory. Scientific studies have disproven the vaccine-autism link you've come to believe? Well, the scientists that authored those studies are in on the conspiracy!
The Qanon phenomenon can best be viewed, I believe, through this framework of a toxic cultural fragmentation and dissonance. Some have come to despise those whose political positions they disagree with to such a pathological extreme that they are willing to embrace the head-spinning absurdity of the Qanon claims.
This article, as a matter of fact, posits that maybe the Qanon conspiracy theory was actually a creation of some leftist pranksters to make ultra-conservatives look bad. At some point, perhaps the pranksters will show themselves in public and yell "Psych! Fooled you!" Now such an anti-conspiracy conspiracy is quite unlikely, I think. However, if someone tried to pull such a grand-scale joke, it would, no doubt, work quite easily.
Now let me predict that the political opposite of such a prank would work as well. There are demented crackpots on the left as well, and not just on the right. The repellent, violent morons of the "Antifa" movement would be just as ready to swallow a conspiracy that would blame some grand, world-scale act of evil on a vast coalition of the military/industrial complex, corporations, George W. Bush, all in league with Big Oil, FOX news, Dick Cheney, and Rush Limbaugh.
Today, unfortunately, stupid has no exclusive party affiliation. And conspiracy theories are its favorite refuge.
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
The date is set! On August 20 my interview on the "One on One with Steve Adubato" show will air. Check out the program schedule right here.
We will be discussing my new novel, CONFIRMATION: INVESTIGATIONS OF THE UNEXPLAINED, along with the corrosive and downright sleazy impact of conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones on American society. Very timely, I think, especially with all the bizarre new headlines about the QAnon conspiracy theory and Jones getting the book off of social media sites like Facebook, Apple, and Spotify.
Monday, August 6, 2018
So tech giants Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify, as discussed in this article, have just banned Alex Jones' InfoWars website from their services. These services, of course, have every right to do so as private companies and this in no way constitutes any form of censorship. Only the government can censor. Private organizations and individuals have absolutely no legal obligation to give anyone a platform for their speech.
However, this is still not a good idea.
The only thing such a move can accomplish is to make a martyr out Jones. Removing his moronic conspiracy rants from these sites will now make him even more appealing as a "rebel" who dares to "speak out" and "expose the truth" that the big, evil, New World Order mainstream media tries to keep hidden. He, in fact, is already telling his readers and listeners that InfoWars is the most "censored" site on the Internet. It makes it sound really sexy and courageous, doesn't it? I bet his dimwit fans certainly think so. This move just might have been one of the biggest favors Facebook and these companies could have done for Jones.
Banning speech by organizations in the business of mass communication, even when legally allowed, is seldom a desirable - or even ethical - thing to do. Even if this speech is the sort of absurd and repugnant conspiracy theorizing that's Jones' stock in trade, offensive speech is best countered by more speech. The very philosophical foundation of democracy, after all, is the idea that individuals must be trusted. As vast a marketplace or ideas should be provided for individuals as possible because is such a marketplace, sensible, logical and decent expression by decent people will outweigh the garbage.
The best antidote to Alex Jones' garbage is not to martyr him but to expose it for what it is.
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
And CONFIRMATION has arrived! My first novel is now available in hardcover, paperback, and electronic versions. Whatever your preference, you can get the book from any of your favorite booksellers.
As Kirkus Reviews wrote, the book is “A captivating examination of humanity’s fear of the unknown, with hints of sci-fi and fantasy.” You can read their full excellent review right here!
Paul Levinson, Fordham University professor of communication and media studies, former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the author of such acclaimed science fiction novels as “The Plot to Save Socrates,” “The Silk Code,” and “The Consciousness Plague” calls the book “A media-savvy, X-Files-like, fast-paced story that’s just dying to be made into a Netflix or Amazon series.”
Monday, July 2, 2018
I had a fantastic time a couple of days ago being interviewed by Steve Adubato, Emmy-winning anchor and host of PBS's "One-on-One." We got to talk about my forthcoming novel, CONFIRMATION: INVESTIGATIONS OF THE UNEXPLAINED, and the dangerous, damaging impact of conspiracy theorizing on American culture. The episode should air near the end of July or early August. Keep an eye on this spot for the exact date!