If one wants to make an argument to black people in Jamaica, and apparently America also, one must be very charismatic. And by charismatic, I mean something akin to Hitler at the Nuremburg rally giving away free swastika shaped candies made of cocaine. You may invoke Godwin’s Law, but am I really being that harsh? How much different would that be from Tony Matterhorn using call and response to woo partygoers at a dancehall session? Or Portia Simpson at the annual PNP conferencing, courting the crowd with talk of victory, jobs and another 5 years for the PNP (but never policy)? Or the preacher at his megachurch, seducing the congregation with tales of prosperity, the promise of rights without responsibilities, and a heaven on earth, all for the low, low price of $1999.99 every Sunday?
It is true that many of the most influential and effective leaders have used emotional appeals and evocative imagery, but consider this – do you know the actual ideology that was espoused by those leaders? What were the economic and social policies that Martin Luther King Jr. espoused? How about the political philosophy of Malcolm X? Or Albert Einstein’s views on socialism, quantum mechanics, the photoelectric effect or the mass-energy equivalence? Chances are, even if you do know, the first thing that comes to mind is a famous image of the person in question, or an oft replayed soundbite from a very long speech.
The conspiracist plays on the fact that we live in an image based society. Like the lying politician, the sound system operator and the money-grubbing pastor, he plays upon emotion instead of reason. Unlike the social activist, the community leader, or the scientist, he does not have a positive program of knowledge or action, but only asserts a negative ideology that questions and criticizes existing structures. Naturally, he joins the long list of charlatans to plague the black community in the U.S., and Jamaica as well. He applies the same image based rhetoric, ignoring rationality, and appealing to emotions. Much of what they say is self-contradictory, easily refuted and just plain silly. Their theories fail to accurately predict future events, fail to address present issues, and do not explain the past in a way that is not better explained by the usual institutional analysis. They play upon the fears of black and brown people, but they do nothing to alleviate these fears, or to ‘fight the power’ so to speak.
But that is not the true danger of believing the black conspiracy theorists. On a bad day, their theories are a mere nuisance to everyday people. On the other 29 days of the month, they create an alternate reality that has serious health implications for black communities, from vaccinations-as-Trojan-horse theories to avoiding anti-retroviral medications:
In 2004, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control staked out gay pride events in Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, and San Francisco. They asked more than a thousand men their thoughts about AIDS and HIV. What did the men believe was the cause of AIDS? How dangerous did they think the disease was? What the researchers found is almost hard to stomach: Among minorities, conspiracy beliefs were ascendant. More than half of the African American men surveyed did not believe HIV causes AIDS. Forty-eight percent of the Hispanic men and more than a quarter of the white men also questioned the link. Another survey conducted that year by the RAND Corporation and researchers at Oregon State University found that black men who espoused such theories were far less likely than people who did subscribe to the HIV theory to regularly use condoms.
I can find several more cases like that which I have posted above. But, one is more than enough to prove that, unlike bitchism, the conspiracy theory can have actual real life implications in both our personal and social lives.
But what is the appeal of the conspiracy theory to black people? Yes, there is good reason to be skeptical about what you hear or see in the media, but the conspiracist takes this to a whole new level. So why does anyone take him seriously? And why so much more in black communities, compared to other communities?
The appeal of the conspiracy theory to black people is that it seems to give an all-encompassing explanation for all historical events and economic crises post-slavery. It allows the conspiracist and his followers to ignore complex forces and systems of control that require explanation and study, instead attributing all such forces to a single, omniscient, omnipotent nefarious group. So they created a secular devil in the form of an Omniscient Council of Vagueness –but who is their secular God? Unfortunately for them, they have none. They would rather stand on their soapboxes and preach, because just like all the other charlatans and hucksters, they seek self-aggrandizement and deep down, self-pity. Thus, they pride themselves on devouring vast amounts of useless trivia with which to enlighten us poor ‘sheeple’, but what about actually liberating said sheeple?
Let’s take a case study. One trope among conspiracists is the use of ‘microchips’ to track and enslave people in developed country, usually in accordance with the Mark of the Beast prophecy in Revelation 13. Now, I’ve been hearing this sort of stuff since my Father was debating these loons at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church over at Maxfield Avenue, so would several questions regarding this, such as:
- How are their transponders constructed
- As devices that use inductive coupling what are their limitations, in terms of power requirements and range
- What are the frequency ranges for RFIDs in the United States, Europe and Japan
- What are the security vulnerabilities of RFID (Wi-Fi, man in the middle, spoofing, insert, replay, )
- What type of cryptography is used by the various types of RFIDs
- What kind of shielding can the RFID signal penetrate (high frequency and low frequency)
If any of you are able to get an answer from any conspiracist regarding these questions, then you are lying. The conspiracist, by definition, is uninterested in the technical details of the technologies and techniques that he claims will enslave us. His view is fatalist, so he ignores the masses by escaping the ‘Coming Apocalypse’, by going off to the hills to watch the world burn. Unfortunately, there is no one to strike the match. So they stay on the ground with the rest of us, enthralled by simple devices such as RFIDs, like the savages worshipping Coca-Cola bottles as if it were God.
And what is exactly the track record of conspiracy theorists. What have they anticipated? Nothing, actually. They did not anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union, the dot-com boom, the 9/11 false flag operation terrorist attacks, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the Great Recession, the collapse of the Jamaican mid-90s financial sector collapse, various PNP scandals, and so forth. And they will never, because the point of conspiracism is not to explain reality so that we may make a better life for ourselves and our children, but to replace it with fantasies and an easy to follow Manichean worldview.
There is a way out of this. We can develop our own secular theories to explain our experiences on our behalf, rather than the half-baked nonsense spewed by the conspiracists. Much of the groundwork has been laid for us already, through the work of cultural observers, social scientists, and philosophers that offer explanations for us that do not lock us into useless distinctions of left and right. People such as, Oliver C. Cox, Christopher Lasch, David Noble, Neil Postman, Jane Jacobs, Michael Eric Dyson, Frederick Cooper, Peter Abrahams, Barry Chevannes, Errol Miller, and so on. Of course, our black conspiracist will say that because some of our theorists are white, we should be thought of as Uncle Toms and ‘brainwashed sheeple.’ Of course, this does not apply to them when they are watching Loose Change, Zeitgeist, listening to William Cooper, or reading Henry Makow. Unlike them, we are not hypocrites. I’d rather be a ‘Good’ Black Man, or a ‘Good’ Black Woman, any day of the week, than be a conspiracist.
So here we are, in the year 2012 A.D. , with what seems like an Eternal Recession, an ongoing failure of leadership, and a generation that Is for the most part locked in a cycle of ennui and anomie, if not outright despair. So as young black people, we can make a choice – the dead ideologies of the last century that have failed us time and time again, or a new master narrative that uses the best elements of the past to help us in the present, and prepare us for the future.