I’m sure you have heard this, but a number of people think there is a widespread goal of one or another “elite” to put microchips in our brains. Oh sure, sure, people are saying this — have been saying this — since the dawn of the not-so-much computer age, but since the internet became our chief tool for communication and partisan understanding.
Yet I have to wonder: does anyone really care what we’re thinking? Is there an actual motive to control what we believe?
Now sure, we can imagine totalitarian scenarios far too readily because such horrific realities have descended upon civilization since the earliest days of time, and age cracks open, and we can see the very first ideas of God. “God,” for whatever It is worth, is an unknowable concept, a variant structure that can mean anything from a bursting universal center to nothing at all. The overarching idea of a Creator, of something larger than we can ever be, does not need to be scriptural (and yet here I write a version of scripture), but is ultimately an uncontested fact, our small, ant-like speck of dust in the face of universal reality merely the arrogance of mankind attempting to glorify itself.
The idea of an all-knowing absolute, most of us any longer realize, is an absurdity. It is a ridiculous, selfish notion that something, somewhere, outside of us, really cares or wants to know what we think.
For many years — frankly for more than two thirds of my life (I am 49 as I write this), conspiratorial thinking has been my fascination. I do not say “one of my,” because that would be unfair to my wider studies of motivation and obsession. And of course many conspiracies are true — there are plenty, plenty of horrible gang plots to reflect upon and see just how horrible we, as people, as civilizations, can be to each other. I got my start at the end of my sophomore year in high school reading Robert Groden and Harrison Livingstone’s High Treason (https://www.betterworldbooks.com/product/detail/High-Treason--The-Assassination-of-President-John-F--Kennedy--What-Really-Happened-9780941401029), an ultimately ludicrious mishmosh of rational and crazy ideas about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
In those days the JFK murder was the mainstay, the big conspiracy that told us everything about the pettiness and greed of man; about partisan governmental corruption. I consumed these books, from the gibbering to the probable, absorbing the numerous ideas and thinking on a terrible political murder, a coup attempt, that changed the entire world.
No doubt there was a conspiracy involving the death of JFK. But there is a problem here, the study of this event becoming a pop culture phenomenon, something which spawned a literary movement. There are so many theories, from radical Communists to right-wing monsters to sinister homosexuals and all the way through and beyond aliens, the Illuminati and the not-yet-named “Deep State” scurrying around and attempting to take over the world. Of course numerous people were involved. Lee Harvey Oswald, a sinister person in his own right who, even if he pulled off the miracle of shooting, was still the “patsy” he declared himself to be, was merely the paid gunman in a much larger plot.
The trouble here is that the conspiracy theory industry that exploded from this (once reserved for fringe right-wing John Birch society creeps and far left pure Communists flaccidly plotting overthrow in jazz/coffee house/reefer arguments), has overwhelmed the very idea of truth. When four hundred different absolutist theories come into the mainstream, the truth itself — let us say the actual truth of what really happened — this becomes yet another theory, one grounded in doubt, overwhelmed by the chipping away and smug doubt that leaves everything anyone believes a partial lie.
We can discuss many theories since JFK, from the moon landing and Watergate and the death of Elvis or John Lennon, all the way into Iran-Contra and The Panama Deception (http://www.democracynow.org/2003/6/13/the_panama_deception_the_untold_story — a wonderful documentary, perhaps the truth, worth seeing), and ultimately through 9/11.
A number of years ago I worked at a very expensive overnight summer camp as the “golf instructor.” (As I told my new friends while working there, to braying laughter, “I don’t play golf.” I got the job because I was at the time a high school teacher and a convincing, charming enough liar.) One of the individuals working at the camp, the, I don’t know, the archery or camp radio show counselor, this guy, wow, he was a conspiracy nut, one of those unstable people who believed in everything, from far left to far right. He joked seriously about tin foil hats. He could make no political distinctions. Everything was false. Everything anybody said other than what momentarily swirled in his fractured mind was a lie.
He and I got friendly, got to talking. I knew a lot about this shit, right? I was working there because my children got to go for free, a place costing in the high thousands of dollars for eight weeks, an international location where the servants of Spanish zillionaires dropped children off in helicopters on actual rooftop helipads. The place was magnificent. The children of well-known celebrities spent their summers there.
Anyway, this guy exposed me to some of the deeper 9/11 theories, those about subterranean mind-control organizations made up of “Bill Gates and the other elites” (the word “the” in that phrase, implying this was normality as opposed to something revolutionary and in need of serious consideration, to this day remains with me). He would offer contradictory ideas every day at lunch, spouting what finally amounted to madness even if you believe in implosion and “tower number seven.” I could only listen in fascination. Any debate would shortly paint me as part of the plot, one of those evil soldiers seeking to control the truth because someone heroic like himself sought to expose it. By the end, my finally having had enough, my understanding of his mindset blandly professional, it became easy to convince this tragic innocent that I truly was an agent assigned to monitor him, to censor and suppress him. By this malicious time (it was a horrible, exhausting job, catering to snotty brats) it became my singular joy to feed his paranoia until even his wildest theories became for him the unquestioned truth. This is something I feel guilty for today, from back in those days of the mid 2010s. I wish this poor soldier well. I hope he hasn’t killed himself.
But to return to the present, to the current oppression of the post Trump years, to our moment after a legitimate conspiracy theorist was in the White House, promoting the real alongside insanity (whether he believed in anything or not yet another cynical question), we find ourselves questioning both the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the rapid emergence of a vaccine to abate potential death. (As an admission, I have received both doses of the Moderna vaccine. Can you trust me? Have these words been directed by those in the high castle?)
I know you have heard them, or read about them (maybe) online, on one of these grotesque social media sites this essay is promoted on, and I am unsure if you believe it, but there is a wave or movement of people who believe that that same Bill Gates the far left once assumed pulled off the 9/11 attacks in order to limit our freedoms, now sees the far right blaming the same multi-billionaire, apparently a man still continually worthy of contempt by the jealousy of those less successful, for developing a vaccine as some evil mind-control technology, the slave formula of someone smarter than ourselves that is not about a cure, but about controlling our instincts, about imposing some nebulous doubt about whatever we once believed to be true. What these people believe is that everyone is out to get them, are interested only in stealing their thoughts and imposing a “New World Order” where all people are their slaves, except whichever version of anathema the individual decides to impose upon reality.
Such arrogance has always baffled me, going all the way back to my earliest days considering these ideas (and don’t get me started, again, on the present tense silliness of QAnon. If interested there are a number of pieces on their nonsense elsewhere on this site.) I continue to wonder why all these vast conspiracies are somehow only about whomever it is proclaiming them.
We hear masturbatory gun owners shrieking about their presumption of second amendment rights (a work of art maybe those people should re-read), and they cannot believe in the awful tragedies that take so many other people’s lives. They call them “false flags.” They loudly proclaim them lies, large-scale government plots to control them and take away their hobbies, or their paranoid feelings of self-defense. They refuse to see the actual victims, the mournful survivors of the worst day of their lives, and presume to make terror only about themselves.
We can see politics, always a bitter, genuinely conspiratorial, sniping art, and we watch real people taking sides like lunatics at a college football game, painting their bodies blue or red or black or white. We see them take the home team far too seriously, drunken fights an inevitable outcome, and then we pull back and watch the highlights on TV (or read about it in nonsense memes, say, on Facebook)
(Lauren Boebert is the less mouthy QAnon monster elected to Congress in 2020 whose single vow was to walk into the capitol fully armed).
Or on the left . . . well, this sums up the shrieks on the left pretty well:
And so this stupidity, this rampaging selfishness on every side is a significant theme of the modern world, of this social media age where facts are easily manipulated to whatever we want to believe.
I have heard from serious people, from very intelligent people (or at least I once assumed them to be) that the Covid vaccine is a mind control serum.
They truly believe that a miniature, chemical microchip, something out of Blade Runner, or whichever paranoid science-fiction fantasy weaned them when they were young (Neuromancer by William Gibson is a fine one https://www.betterworldbooks.com/product/detail/Neuromancer-9780441000685), that such a non-entity to reality is out there trying to take something even they don’t understand (or possess) away from them. They live in a world of TV, of movies and comic books they like; of stories they wish were true. They see things they want to see and hear the voices of spirits telling them what to believe, those astrological entities of vision and nightmare that somehow replace the cynical news, or whatever it is that anybody else says which contradicts their hyper-sensitive personal religions. It is all a plot against them. It is the idea that
Not everything is about me or you or whichever doubts we have. Sometimes — often! — when we take our opinions based on bias and uncertainty and bitterness and frustration and doubt — when we consider only what we think and ignore the consciousness of the larger world around us, well, all we can see is