The Cocktail Party Contrarian: In Defense of Conspiracy Theorists

Today’s default should be ‘conspiracy curious,’ as ‘conspiracy theorist’ sounds a lot like a synonym for responsible citizen — someone who is paying attention and has earned the right to question everything.

Via pexels.com
Up there with 'racist,' 'conspiracy theorist' is among the labels most feared in America today. Via pexels.com

When a Danish drug maker, Novo Nordisk, announced recently that its weight loss drug, Wegovy, was demonstrated to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 20 percent, my first reaction was deep skepticism. It seemed quite the coincidence that just as news of damage to the heart in 2.5 percent of those taking MRNA shots was finally reaching the public, news of another big pharma product that improves the health of the exact same organ was released. 

Both drugs have to be taken regularly to be effective, so if one ongoing income stream was going to be disrupted, I imagined it would be great to have another to take its place. I whispered this observation to friends at dinner tables in the half-joking way that everyone who can’t prove their suspicions of corruption does to prevent being called a full-blown “conspiracy theorist.” Up there with “racist,” “conspiracy theorist” is among the labels most feared in America today. 

According to the American Psychological Association’s website, conspiracy theorists are “prone to believe in conspiracy theories due to a combination of personality traits and motivations, including relying strongly on their intuition, feeling a sense of antagonism and superiority toward others, and perceiving threats in their environment.” When I read that, I thought: Shouldn’t everyone be a conspiracy theorist at this point?

Intuition is an important internal human signal. It seems like exactly the thing more of us need to rely upon as we grapple with the failures of the class of people we used to call “experts.” As for feeling antagonism and superiority toward others, if the “others” are pharma executives who lied about Covid, governors who locked seniors in old age homes and children out of playgrounds, climate activists who fly private, politicians who fabricated Russian dossiers, tech companies who censor Americans, and press figures who refused to talk about Hunter Biden’s laptop, then, yes, I feel both. 

Also, who doesn’t perceive threats in his or her environment? We live in a world where “misinformation” and “misgendering” get you fired, almost nothing gets you arrested, and unvetted migrants sleep on our streets. The environment is threatening.

“Conspiracy theorist” by this definition sounds a lot like a synonym for responsible citizen — someone who is simply paying attention and has earned the right to question everything. Being one may be the perfectly rational choice for those who just learned that President Biden had three aliases or those who realized six months ago that the Ukranians were not really winning the war. 

We should reclaim and reframe the idea of the “conspiracy theorist” in light of lived experience. X (formerly Twitter) users who wonder if indictments of a presidential candidate are timed to distract from news cycles about another president’s curious financial dealings aren’t rank conspiracy theorists deserving of scorn — they are seasoned human b.s. barometers whose suspicions of conspiratorial partnership between government and the media have already been validated. 

Mothers whose mask antennae are up in anticipation of the new school year know President Biden’s poll numbers are low and they have already watched politicians use a bad flu season to muzzle toddlers and control a compliant population.

In today’s America, the default should be “conspiracy curious.” While every conspiracy theory isn’t true, it turns out a lot of those that are most aggressively dismissed turn out to be. We all have to be open to possibilities that previously sounded laughable, precisely because the Twitter Files proved that the tragically laughable has already happened. 

My conspiracy theory about Novo Nordisk turned out to be half-baked. The company did make a Covid “vaccine,” but it didn’t take off in the marketplace and produce a vast revenue stream that Wegovy needed to replace. I am not ashamed to have had the thought, though. A quick Google search of “Novo Nordisk Controversy” yields results that justify my distrust. I think almost anything could be true when it comes to big pharma – and after everything Pfizer and Moderna have done during the past few years, why wouldn’t I?


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