Who cares about anything? NSA spying on us all, who cares? Aliens in Area 51, nobody cares? Engineers blew up the World Trade Centre towers… see that’s when it started. That’s when conspiracy theory went too far and everyone switched off. Conspiracy theory was no longer fascinating, it was the haunting ground of the nutcase.
There was a time when conspiracy theory dabbled in pseudo-science and all us thickos who weren’t geologists and archeologists and historians looked at the Bermuda Triangle and the Nazca lines and pyramids built by aliens and thought ‘you know, this Erik von Daniken might have a point.’
During the Cold War years, provoked by films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, people shifted their attention away from ancient astronauts to an unfortunate few closer to home and housed at Area 51 and other secret bases. Pre-internet, we satisfied out greedy appetite for weirdness by reading the Fortean Times and watching the X-Files.
Occasionally, conspiracy theory wandered into politics. The assassination of Kennedy being the most high-profile case: the wandering bullets, the grassy knoll, and a line up of suspects as long as a fanboy queue outside an Apple store. But somehow political conspiracy always seemed to be contained within the pages of novels rather than seeping into public consciousness in the way little green men and disappearing supertankers managed to do.
But then it all changed. The day was Tuesday, the date September 11th, 2001. The World Trade Centre towers and the attacks that struck them were so audacious, so unmissable, so enormous it makes you wonder how the US military and US intelligence services didn’t see it coming. How could a major tactical strike on a modern superpower happen without anyone in a position of control or authority not know it was going to happen? No wonder George W Bush looked so surprised when he received the news.
It’s a big question, and the families of the three thousand victims deserve an honest answer. But what followed, in the days and weeks and months of the information vacuum, was an incredible outpouring of fantasy that covered the entire spectrum from plausible (the US government knew the attackers) to the deranged (the US government did it).
Since 9/11, every news story from a man falling in the street to the outbreak of Ebola in west Africa is now a conspiracy. Behind every unfortunate trip, murder, supernova, there’s a shadowy organisation with a silly name or a false flag department squirreling away, marshalling ‘crisis actors’ and Hollywood directors to stage manage artificial atrocities.
The result of all this tin foil madness is public disinterest. Years ago I asked a friend of mine what she thought would be the most shocking conspiracy theory turning out to be true. She said governments monitoring everything we do: watching us, listening to us, reading our text messages and emails. And lo, Edward Snowden revealed that very scenario to be true… and no one cares.
No one is listening, except GCHQ and the rest of the Five Eyes programme. And the reason no one cares is because we’ve heard it all before, a long heritage of mad boggle-eyed nonsense spewed up by one raving lunatic after another.
To dream up a hoax that fools a generation, such as the Prieuré de Sion and its Merovingian fraud, would be quite an achievement, but to find that hoax, a conspiracy theory that actually snags people’s attention is nigh on impossible. Conspiracy theory has been dragged down in a race to the bottom with each theorist in competition to become more extreme, more ridiculous, more unbelievable.
So, I’ll leave you to consider this thought. Could these conspiracy theorists actually be patsies working for the CIA, or perhaps some shadowy Russian spin-off from the KGB, or maybe as Umberto Eco suggested in The Prague Cemetery, it’s all the result of one man?
Maybe modern-day conspiracy theorists are part of a bigger conspiracy to distract people away from conspiracy theories. . . . Now who would be behind all that? Please write your answers in lemon juice on recycled paper and leave them in the bin marked dog crap.