Americans’ conspiracy theories are blue pills

Why are Americans on the political Right so drawn to conspiracy theories, from the chemtrails lore and QAnon to the conviction that COVID-19 vaccines are harmful?

It’s hard to say anything with certainty about the causes of social trends, societies not being very amenable to the types of experiments that can settle such issues in other realms of science. But to me a plausible hypothesis is that all this conspiracy-theorizing is a conversion of complex, partly unconscious, and above all inadmissible knowledge concerning existential threats, into a form that the average person can openly express.

In other words, even if this conspiracy stuff seems ridiculous to most educated people, it is stuff that ordinary folks can understand and discuss, and even if the threats are in fact imaginary, they are in principle as salient and alarming as the real threats that are suppressed: Dire threats from the culture and media are converted into dire threats from the water and the air, even from medicines. Similarly, the implicit knowledge that America’s elite-driven culture corrupts young people is transformed, in the QAnon belief system, into a simpler narrative about a ring of elite pedophiles.

To put it yet another way: on the Right the collective unconscious knows that something has gone terribly wrong and is causing great harm, but it tends not to acknowledge this directly—it tends to acknowledge only imaginary wounds. Psychiatrists call such phenomena, when they occur in individuals, hysterical or somatoform or conversion disorders: For example, a woman’s husband has been cheating on her, but instead of acknowledging this, she develops an ailment with nonspecific and unverifiable symptoms.

Why can’t Americans openly acknowledge what has harmed them? Most obviously because the principal causes of harm over the past half-century are the very things that American cultural and political elites have held up as holy and beyond criticism—indeed, anyone criticizing them is, in the lexicon of America’s new, feminized, despiritualized Puritanism, a hater.

Consider the general reaction if one were to make, on social media or in person in polite company, any of the following assertions (which I regard as essentially true):

  • The permitting of mass immigration to the United States from 3rd World countries over the past several decades has been—in effect, from the perspective of legacy Americans—a fraudulent and treasonous ploy by the Democratic Party to pack the electorate in their favor.
  • To further this scheme, Democrats have depicted it as a compassionate, Christian policy that only “racists” would oppose—notwithstanding the fact that ethnically based nationhood is and always has been the norm worldwide.

  • Democratic Party coalition-building over the last half-century has also relied heavily on the stoking of anti-white feelings among American blacks, anti-male feelings among American women (especially single women who are inherently more susceptible to this message), and anti-heterosexual feelings among homosexuals.
  • To reward the members of its coalition and further divide them from legacy Americans, the Democratic Party has succeeded in establishing policies that significantly discriminate against legacy Americans and in favor of women and non-whites. Incredibly, these policies, including the euphemistically named “affirmative action,” favor even affluent non-white immigrants over legacy Americans. Again, to quash opposition or even debate, Democrats have depicted these discriminatory policies as compassionate and necessary measures that only evil people could oppose.

  • Major news media organizations, the advertising and entertainment industries, academia, Big Business, large segments of the legal profession, and of course most of the pseudo-opposition Republican Party, have for their own selfish reasons enabled and abetted these schemes.

woke capital

  • While these schemes have as their inevitable result the destruction of traditional American society and its replacement with a grouping that necessarily will be degraded, unstable, partly atomized, and riven with ethnic conflict, the “new America” in principle will be much easier for these cultural and political elites to control.
  • Although the Democrats’ latest power-seeking move—large-scale rigging of the presidential election, mostly through ballot-harvesting in key Democrat-controlled areas—has outraged many on the right, the Democrats’ much more harmful method of electorate-packing has been ongoing for decades.
  • Effectively the USA’s cultural and political elites have ruined a great country in their pursuit of greater power over it. Many of these elites may actually believe that their motives have been pure. Yet the gravity of their crime far exceeds anything that any traitor or indeed any foreign adversary has ever done to the United States.

Obviously, for the average American, stating any of these things openly and identifiably, beyond one’s circle of family and close friends, would risk immediate practical consequences such as social ostracism and job loss.

Less obviously, such a declaration would also have an important psychological consequence: To acknowledge awareness of this real and colossal crime while doing nothing about it—continuing one’s normal routines—would be embarrassing; it would amount to a confession of pathetic weakness and cowardice.

For most Americans, such a declaration could invite as well the recognition that for years, even decades, they have effectively collaborated in this crime, by voting for Democrats and Republicans who have furthered it, and perhaps even by participating in ritual denunciations of fellow Americans who have opposed it.

For all these reasons, I suspect, many Americans avert their eyes from the harshest truths about their situation, preferring to embrace fantasies that signal their distress without inviting the labels “racist” or “white supremacist” or being otherwise unmentionable. They call these fantasies “red pills,” but they are really only blue pills.

And perhaps the remarkable mass rallies for a president who was always evidently an inept narcissist, the MAGA-themed protests and other gatherings, and even the recent, brief mob occupation of the U.S. Capitol, should be seen in a similar light: as make-believe manifestations of a rage that dare not speak its name—manifestations that in the end are ways of losing, not ways of winning.