Conspiracy Theories And Returning To Normal

When a bridge collapses in Baltimore, the Left makes the claim it has something to do with dirty fuel and the Right makes the claim it has something to do with DEI.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MARCH 27: Workers continue to investigate and search for victims after the cargo ship Dali collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse yesterday, on March 27, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. Two survivors were pulled from the Patapsco River and six missing people are presumed dead after the Coast Guard called off rescue efforts. A work crew was fixing potholes on the bridge, which is used by roughly 30,000 people each day, when the ship struck at around 1:30am on Tuesday morning. The accident has temporarily closed the Port of Baltimore, one of the largest and busiest on the East Coast of the U.S. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images

When you cater to crazy people, you end up with a crazier country.

And you deserve to lose if you decide to cater to the crazy. That’s true on every side of the political aisle. All the American people want is some semblance of normalcy. That’s all they want. They’re begging for it. Some semblance of just being an adult with a normal set of values would be amazing from anyone.

But, instead, we’ve decided we’re going to elevate crazy on pretty much every side of the political aisle. It’s totally wild and insane. We’re tearing ourselves apart by elevating crazy.

I think there’s a reason why we are elevating crazy to this extent. And I think the real reason why we’re elevating crazy across the aisle is because we don‘t have a centralizing set of values.

It used to be that the older generation would say to the younger generation, “Guys, you’re morons. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Let me give you some time-tested wisdom,” as Thomas Sowell has talked about in the realm of economics.

It’s true across all branches of knowledge. There are a few ways to gather data; controlled studies is one way, but even controlled studies are not going to be as good as time-tested wisdom used over the course of centuries.

This is why it is very important to transmit culture, rules, and values to your children. This is why religion has traditionally been an extremely useful preserve of actually maintaining cultural and systemic health.

When I teach my kids the rules and I say, “God says you should do X, Y, and Z,” I’m not just saying, “God says you should do X, Y, and Z because I read the Bible this morning.” I’m saying that God says, “Do X, Y, and Z because I have a transmitted history of cultural utility that is thousands of years long, and these rules have worked over the course of thousands of years, and I’m transmitting them to you.”

The proof of the godliness of the rules on a utilitarian level is that they work. The rules are useful; thus, it’s good proof that if God said them, He was right. And even on a utilitarian level, even if God didn’t say them, they would still be right.

But as religion has declined, as people are afraid, as parents fear inculcating values in their kids, a problem arises.

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There are some critiques that are made of classical liberalism along these lines, and those critiques are somewhat well-founded. There are conservatives who say the problem with classical liberalism — which suggests freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and so on — is that they can quickly lead to moral relativism if there is no centralizing, coherent set of values we all share.

That’s true. Liberalism can lead to moral relativism. The idea to “let a thousand flowers bloom” is fine as long as the flowers are within a certain set of parameters. To say all views are equivalent and thus liberalism is important, is wrong. Not all views are the same, and not all views are good. There are certainly very many bad views.

The rationale for liberalism is to restrict tyrants. Liberalism is a response to people who would shut down valuable speech.

But the roots of classical liberalism lie in a shared tradition of virtue. That’s true for any set of freedoms. Any set of freedoms has to exist within a set of broader rules.

Think about any game that you play. If you’re playing chess, you have the freedom to make any move that is within the rules on the board. If you just upturn the chessboard, that is no longer liberalism; you have taken the freedoms and extended them into a realm that defeats and destroys the freedoms.

There should be a shared set of rules and parameters in order for any of this to be upheld. What has happened in our culture is that religion and religious values, Judeo-Christian biblical values, used to be the shared basis for our culture, and then we could share a lot of freedom within those broad parameters. But as people have changed Judeo-Christian values, as fewer people go to a church or synagogue that actually teaches the Bible — some synagogues and churches are teaching the church of Karl Marx or the Church of John Dewey or the Church of FDR or the Church of Barack Obama or the Church of Joe Biden — religion has declined. As that happens, you let in the crazies, because once there’s no shared set of parameters, then any conspiracy theory at all gets through the door.

The only reason conspiracy theories end up getting a lot of traction is due to institutional distrust. Such institutional distrust has certainly been earned by, for example, the legacy media or the scientific community, which promote absolute lies on a fairly regular basis because they have a set of values and narratives that override the facts, such as the entire scientific community declaring that boys can be girls and girls can be boys. As this occurs, obviously institutional distrust is going to set in.

The converse of that is people who aren’t going to trust anything the government has to say when it is incompetent at so many tasks and also involves itself in your life in a myriad of ways. They have institutional distrust for the government and anything the government says they are not going to believe.

The major check on this used to be godly values. It used to be church. It used to be going out and touching grass, being with some real people, and discussing what’s rational and true. But as sources of truth and values decline, what fills the gap is a necessity to explain the world around you.

People have always wanted to explain the world around them, and they have historically had many tools to do so. One of those tools, the most important tool, was biblical religion in the West — the idea there is a God who stands above the creation of the universe, and there is a logic to His universe, and there is a set of moral rules that provide guidance for navigating through that universe. That is the basic religious principle of all biblical living.

But as that declines, people see a disconnected set of events so they immediately search for some sort of explanation for that disconnection.

This is why conspiracy theories thrive; when institutional trust declines and when biblical values — which offer an ultimate explanation for everything — decline, there’s nothing to fill the gap except for constant conspiratorialism.

That’s why there is this new push to explain everything through conspiracy. Everything is a conspiracy because the world’s a puzzling place and people need an explanation. And the easy explanation is to make one up in your own head about how there is a group of people in a back room somewhere who are manipulating all the systems.

It can’t just be that life is totally chaotic and that there are a lot of people who are morons out there doing stupid things. It can’t be that. It has to be that there is actually something deep and nefarious going on.

And it’s every single story.

When a bridge collapses in Baltimore, the Left makes the claim it has something to do with dirty fuel and the Right makes the claim it has something to do with DEI.

I don’t know because I don’t know the facts yet. The facts are still coming out. But when the facts come out, we’ll know exactly why that happened.

Then weird conspiracy theories about Princess Kate surface when she goes missing. Yet it’s fairly obvious when a rather prominent person goes missing, it’s probably a health problem. But instead, there are just tons of conspiracy theories on all sides of the aisle.

And then when Princess Kate says she is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, a new slate of conspiracy theories arises. According to the Washington Post, “Users on TikTok, X and Facebook shared videos pointing out alleged AI breadcrumbs, such as a ring disappearing and reappearing on Catherine’s hand. Others said her hair moves unnaturally, or that the bed of daffodils in the background is suspiciously still.”

The tendency of our society right now to buy into nearly every conspiracy theory and give them all a hearing without just saying, “Nope, that sounds stupid,” is a reflection of the complete decentralization of values — because now, you’ll be willing to hear pretty much anything.

“Is the CIA behind everything that you see and hear? Is it possible that the moon landing never happened?” These kinds of conspiracy theories are arising because of the vacuum of values. That vacuum of values is almost solely due to the decline of religion.

The decline of religious life in America is the single worst thing that’s happened to the United States since about 1950. It continues apace today. Yet all the secular institutions that were supposed to fill that gap have failed because, of course, they were always going to fail; no secular rationale can fill the explanation God plays in our lives.

So you end up with a bunch of fools running around suggesting their own supposedly plausible explanation for what is happening.

This is why the ultimate explanation, the most self-serving conspiracy theory of all and the one that has arisen on all sides of the political aisle, is a sense of victimization.

When you feel the world around you is chaotic and confused and discombobulated, when you feel like a victim, and then you look for an explanation as to why your failures are not your own fault, it must be because there’s someone who’s stopping you from succeeding.

And the hardest thing to understand in the world when you are failing is that perhaps it is your fault. Maybe you do need to change what you’re doing in your life. This is true for 90% of human problems, at least in a free West. There are certainly places in the world where tyranny abides, but that is not true in the United States of America.

Politicians always have a stake in engaging in a conspiracy theory because the beauty of being engaged in one is that the prophet is the person who promulgates it.

The person who promulgates the conspiracy theory is the person you’re supposed to listen to because they will guide you forward, they will help you, and they will alleviate all your problems. If you just give them enough power, they will fight it. They will destroy the Matrix. They will destroy all of what you’re seeing, and they will lead you free. It’ll be like Plato’s cave. They’ll come back from outside the cave, and they will lead you back toward the light.

But they never lead you toward the light because every failure can now be attributed to that same conspiracy. If they fail to lead you, if you buy into their conspiracy theory, and if you give them power and your life still does not get better, they just say it’s because the conspiracy is so damned powerful. There’s no way they can overcome it.

This is the danger of conspiratorial thinking, and it is filling up every cup that has been left empty by God, religion, and community. It’s filling up all the political cups right now.

It’s extremely dangerous.

The Left-wing brand is, of course, what Joe Biden is doing by suggesting that the system is rigged against a wide variety of people. But it’s also happening on the Right, where the suggestion is — without evidence in many cases — that the system is rigged.

Here’s the thing: There are situations in the United States where the system is rigged, but you can tell what they are — not because someone posited a conspiracy theory without any evidence whatsoever, just spitting out dumb conspiracy theories — but because people say it and they do it.

It is not a conspiracy theory, for example, to suggest that Asians are being discriminated against on college campuses. How do you know it? Because you can see it in the statistics, recruitment materials, documentation, and at all of the major colleges. That’s not a conspiracy theory.

What America needs to get back to normal is the same thing it always needed: church, community, and a fact-based, rational approach to politics. That’s all people need.

Maybe they don’t want it. Maybe it’s too easy in this day and age to jump immediately to some sort of narrative that explains why you’re a victim of the society in which you live in the freest, most prosperous society in the history of humanity.

But that’s not going to lead to a happy life.

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