It is very hard to write about “oddball” topics when our current reality has become one big oddball topic.
For example, if I try to write about “weird science”—there is quickly becoming no weird science, it is all just mainstream science (no matter how shocking certain things may sound to our virgin ears). The biggest conspiratorial intrigues I could muster to write about—Nixon, Manson, batshit crazy secret cabals, etc.—seem to pale when compared to the current situation (the depths of which, once fully known, I think will go far deeper than anything else we could currently imagine).
I became an adult in the early 1990s, when a whole explosion of what could be called “fringe” or “conspiracy culture” was in full bloom. It was a collision of New Agey esoteric teachings, far-Left “hippie culture,” far-Right “paranoia culture,” UFOlogy, wacky Biblical prophecies, cyberpunk, ironic-hip “parody religions,” chaos magick, and so on. If you are not old enough to remember this time—well, I liked it. It was wild, ideas were flying and colliding into each other and mutating, and there probably won’t be another era like it.
Iconic television shows like Twin Peaks and The X-Files were born from that culture. And soon, it infiltrated the mainstream. “Conspiracy Culture”-lite, “alien chic,” etc.
But there was a darker thread that ran parallel to all this—a thread whose collective heart paradoxically leapt at the idea of the approaching new Millennium, Y2K, possible Armageddon. And when Doomsday didn’t happen, but 9/11 did…a whole new phase of “Conspiracy Culture” was born.
At first, this significantly “heightened” subculture—assisted by the rise of the Internet—seemed somewhat bipartisan ideologically. So many people felt shellshocked by 9/11, and the questionable wars that followed. It gets lost in all the daily Trump insanity now, but back then George W. Bush was constantly in the news for doing and saying dumb stuff. Again: a significant percentage of the people who spoke out against Bush back then were of both ends of the ideological spectrum.
But after Barack Obama was elected, things changed dramatically in “Conspiracy Culture.” And what once was a focus on things like corrupt corporations, the robbing of personal freedoms in the wake of 9/11, and the Deep State (the most significant of the essays on this topic, “Anatomy of the Deep State,” coming not from a right-wing website but rather liberal icon Bill Moyers)—now became a focus on race, sex, religion, culture. “Fringe” topics like UFOs, the Kennedy Assassination, cryptids, and so on were on the wane, replaced with obsessions with Obama, Hillary Clinton, “SJWs,” and on and on.
Here is where things started to turn to shit in “Conspiracy Culture.”
There were also many cases where fringe topics like UFOlogy would get “hijacked” or “hybridized” with this new focus on race & culture. And heck, if we look at the esoteric origins of some of the early UFO “lore”—as opposed to the witness and research stuff being done from the 1950s onward—well, we end up finding fucked-up theories about racial superiority anyway. That’s not to discount the hard work of UFOlogists who want nothing to do with that stuff, but it’s the truth. The Nazis based a lot of their folklore/mythology on these early books that mixed visitors from other planets, Eastern philosophy, and theories of “superior races”; there are even theories that they developed technology that resembled (and might have been mistaken for) UFOs.
Anyway, so we had this radical “split” in “Conspiracy Culture” during the Obama administration, though it only seemed to get really bad by around 2012 or so. A number of the prominent right-wing conspiracy theorists decided to just take the plunge and go “all in” on the race/culture stuff; and a bunch of the older conspiracy writers/theorists who were more left-wing got massively weirded out by the sea-change in their genre and kinda “dropped out” of the main scene.
Around this time, I believe, at least one or more “outside interests” decided to get involved with the shift in this subculture, accelerate it, and use it for their own ends. I believe that culminated in the election of Donald Trump and what we have right now.
And what we have right now is the “death” of that earlier “Conspiracy Culture.”
You can’t operate on a “platform” of wanting to get to the Truth, of speaking “Truth To Power,” of restoring power to the People, and then look at the sum total of Trump and seriously say: “that’s the person who is going to make it all better again.” You can’t pontificate long and hard on the evils of the Deep State and then conclude at the end that a narcissistic millionaire who surrounds himself with the political equivalent of the Dick Tracy rogues gallery is the Savior.
And yet this is exactly what has happened.
It’s just not “funny” anymore, guys. Not even the Discordian “fake religion” stuff from the Left is funny anymore; because it’s fucking already happened! And the tools for possible mind liberation and positive changes in human consciousness bequeathed to us by some of the most brilliant freethinking minds of the last 50 years have been hijacked and used for exactly the opposite of what they intended.
Part of what this all means is that serious discussion on the core issues of many in the “old” fringe community—freedom of speech, corporate control and influence, government corruption—is going to be publicly “shut down,” to an extent, as a sort of “triage” maneuver for the seriously divided situation we in the United States (and perhaps globally) have found ourselves in.
It’s hard to have a serious discussion on the application of free speech to that Google memo guy when Nazis are literally dancing in conga lines on national TV and calling for Jews to die. It is hard to have a serious discussion about the Deep State when the White Nationalist standing next to you is using the “Deep State” as synonymous for “people who are against White Nationalists.”
That is what I mean by “triage”—we are in a “triage” situation.
Now, once Trump is gone, even with a Republican in the presidential seat, there will be such a sense of “relief” within a portion of the public (the portion who will not be rioting in the streets calling for a secession from the Union) and the mainstream media/entertainment complex that any “radical” questioning or calls for change—whether on the Left or Right—will be shooed away.
The “fringe” media that is left on the mainstream web…well, a bunch of them will go back to the 90’s-era “safe” topics: UFOlogy, ghosts, Bigfoot, etc. Stuff like the JFK assassination is still OK, because enough time has passed. But contemporary political issues will be largely dropped.
(This is also why while the first season of The X-Files revival was ultra-political, paranoid, and focused on the “Deep State”…the second stuck mostly to “Monster-of-the-Week.” A post for another day.)
So where does that leave serious discussions about freedom of speech, corporate control and influence, government corruption? Well, those discussions are largely fucked. And you can thank the numerous assholes in the public eye who knowingly conflated/hybridized these topics with racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/fascist talking points for some of that.
One of my favorite movies is the original The Day The Earth Stood Still. At the end, the alien Klaatu gives a speech that is both inspiring…and terrifying. He explains how on his homeworld, things got so bad that robot “police” had to be installed to keep the peace. These robots were programmed with basic concepts of “right” and “wrong,” and would basically handle anybody who tried to disturb the peace by vaporizing them. His fellow citizens basically admitted that they could not be “trusted” to have things like free speech or any sort of conflict whatsoever.
Were the people on Klaatu’s planet wrong? If you would have asked me a few years ago, I would have given an unequivocal “yes.”
Now, it’s possible to consider—if one was a super-paranoid conspiracy theorist—that this entire thing with Trump was “meant,” on some level, as an excuse to install more controls against the masses. That by having a “cartoon villain” as President, emboldening Nazis to dance in the streets, a new situation was created that would fairly “beg” for tighter government and social controls as to reestablish peace and civility.
Sure, it’s possible. But here’s the thing. I’m beginning to not care anymore. (And I know that’s wrong, but I’m just being honest with you & expressing my exhaustion.)
I’m tired. I’ve observed “Conspiracy Culture” for over 20 years now, and “The Truth Is Out There” didn’t mean spray-painting swastikas on synagogues, or shouting racial slurs at passersby, or punching-down on the vulnerable minority demographic du jour.
The bottom line: many of the people who “led the charge” for getting to the “truth” of government, corporations, science, and etc. utterly betrayed what they had professed to believe in. If they ever truly believed in those things at all in the first place.
And if there is a grand Conspiracy out there, TPTB of said Conspiracy will most certainly use this sorry situation for their own advantage. It’s practically an X-Files episode in-and-of-itself.
POSTSCRIPT: I wrote the original version of this post a couple of years ago. Since then—especially recently—I’ve observed a trend in “fringe” circles where the prevailing ideology is becoming more leftist/socialist/anarchist. Basically: having more of a Reagan-era rebellion vibe. It’s beyond the scope of this particular article to tackle this development, but I will address it in future posts (maybe).