Back in March, Rachel Maddow was on the Daily Show and said something about conspiracy theories that I think is quite profound:
CONSPIRACY IS EASIER TO UNDERSTAND THAN COMPLEXITY.
Thought of this way, a conspiracy theory is simply another way to avoid the hard work of grappling with an issue’s complexity, its true field of connections. A conspiracy theory is a form of pseudo-complexity.
And conspiracy literally means “to breath together,” suggesting the action, not of a material field, but of a spiritual field—a field of autonomous actors moving the world.
This strikes me as hinting at a link between conspiracy and too-simplistic notions of the self. There are groups of people—theologians and devotees of Ayn Rand are among them—who treat the self as a straightforward and purposeful actor, autonomous and free, and capable of contra-causal actions on matter. In doing this, they tend to simply ignore the…
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