Multiple Conspiracy Theories

MAY 6, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE


“Everyone loves a conspiracy.” – Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

“The trouble with conspiracies is that they rot internally.” – Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress



We Want To Believe: A conspiracy theory can be defined as a belief that a small group of people are working in secret against the common good, to create harm, to effect some negative change in society, to seize power for themselves, or to hide some deadly or consequential secret. Someone who revels in conspiracy theories lives in the White House and is the president of the United States. Since Donald Trump was elected, conspiracism has surged, not just because he believes in many of the theories, but because they’re effective motivators among his supporters. Trump had already won over some Americans for championing the racist ‘birther conspiracy theory’ that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Then throughout the 2016 campaign he continued spreading conspiracy theories, beginning with famously warning crowds to think of Mexicans as criminals invading the country. Trump’s campaign style spoke ‘truth’ to people who were already suspicious of a rigged system, a government working against them, and minorities. Plus, they loved the way he was able to label enemies with soundbites: the “lying media”, “crooked Hillary”, the bottomless abyss of the Washington “swamp”.

Historian Richard Hofstadter first explored the influence of conspiracy theory and “movements of suspicious discontent” throughout American history in a 1964 essay entitled “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” The term “conspiracism” was further popularized in the 1980s by academic Frank Mintz, who explained one way conspiracism serves the needs of diverse political and social groups is by identifying elites, blaming them for economic and social catastrophes, and assuming that things will be better once popular action can remove them from positions of power.

Conspiracy theories may be as old as the US itself, but in the Age of Trump, people who peddle lies and half-truths have come to prominence, fame, power, and wealth, as never before. 2016 was clearly the year that Alex Jones of InfoWars — along with other groups like anti-immigration extremists, anti-Muslim think tanks, and out and proud neo-Nazis and white supremacists — caught the wave of the Trump presidency and are surfing it to the mainstream shore.



The Stock Prices Go To Infinity For Beyond: The first plant-based meat-alternative company to go public is Beyond Meat. On its initial trading day May 2, the stock opened on Nasdaq at $25 a share. It closed the day at $65.75, a surge of 163 percent. The IPO’s success is good news for a growing industry of start-ups hoping to replace animal agriculture. Beyond Meat’s biggest rival is Impossible Foods, which teamed with Burger King to roll out a meatless version of the Whopper last month to great success. (NYT)

A Bomb For A Bomb: The latest conflict between Israel and Palestinians began May 3 when militants shot two Israeli soldiers. The attack prompted swift military retaliation and two militants were killed. An onslaught of mortars and rockets were then fired into southern Israel from within the Gaza Strip. On Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered “massive strikes” against the militant groups, and instructed military leaders to boost tank artillery and infantry forces around the Gaza Strip. Israel Defense Forces tweeted that the military has struck hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the coastal enclave. Egyptian mediators had been trying to negotiate a long term cease fire in exchange for Israel loosening restrictions on Gaza when the fighting broke out. Casualties are mounting on both sides, and it is shaping up to be one of the most serious conflicts in the region since the 2014 war, which lasted seven weeks and killed dozens of Israelis and more than 2000 Palestinians. (NPR)

Give Us Your Electricians, Your Carpenters, Your Huddled Plumbers:Germany has a vocational training apprenticeship system that is a fixture of the economy. But with the national unemployment rate at a 30-year-low, young Germans have lost their appetite for the trades and companies are facing a shortage of skilled workers. Now the program is helping tens of thousands of asylum seekers from war-torn countries, that Angela Merkel had welcomed nearly four years ago, to rebuild their lives. And it’s starting to help the economy. (WaPo) Additional read: Are the hyper-specialist shops of Berlin the future of retail? One shop sells nothing but buttons, another sells only liquorice, and another is ‘the world’s first textile butcher shop’. In the age of Amazon, it seems the way to thrive is to specialise(Guardian)

The Chinese Foreign Exchanges Student: The unnamed Chinese family caught up in March’s sweeping college admissions fraud investigation, wherein wealthy parents paid consultant William Singer loads of money to get their kids into prestigious colleges and universities, has been exposed. The family of Yusi Zhao reportedly paid $6.5 million in 2017 to secure entry for her to Stanford. Singer made a $500,000 payment to the Sanford sailing program, and created a false profile of Zhao’s sailing achievements so she would be recruited for the team. In April Stanford rescinded Zhao’s admission, and she is no longer a student there. Neither Zhao nor her parents, who live in Beijing, have been charged, and it is unclear if they are under investigation. (NYT)

Are Millenials Cheater Cheaters? Or Boomer Beaters?: Sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger has been studying infidelity. Americans have been asked “Have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or wife while you were married?” in every iteration since 1991 of the General Social Survey, a broad questionnaire about cultural attitudes. Survey said Americans older than 55 were more adulterous than people younger than 55, with people born between 1940 and 1959 — those currently between 60 and 79 years old — being the ones who reported the highest rates of extramarital sex.

Wolfinger’s analysis found that in the early 2000s, 18-to-55-year-olds were more likely to have extramarital affairs than older people. But right around 2004, the lines cross, and younger people became more chaste than their parents. Wolfinger takes this data to mean marriages in the future should be more monogamous. Other researchers say it’s not possible to know whether Millennials are actually going to have more faithful marriages than Boomers, and we’ll just have to wait until they get older to determine if they’re the faithful generation. (Atlantic)



Well, Shoot: In Garry Marshall’s 1990 rom-com Pretty Woman, Richard Gere’s character is a hard-nosed businessman who makes millions buying troubled companies, breaking them up, and selling off the parts. The movie has a happy ending because the Julia Roberts’ character convinces Gere’s character it’s not nice to destroy companies and put people out of work. Compare that to the real life story of how a secretive private equity firm bought America’s oldest gun maker, moved it to Alabama, bled it dry, loaded it up with debt, then bailed on it, fooling Huntsville’s pro-business mayor and dashing workers’ dreams of a living wage. Spoiler alert: It’s called “financial engineering.” People get degrees in it. (NYT) Additional trailer: Pretty Woman.



No Man, No Cry: Women invest a lot into their emotional well-being, whether it’s through developing relationships with supportive female friends, reading self-help books, listening to podcasts, or going to therapy. Men on the other hand have often been taught to be tough, to reject traits like gentleness and sensitivity, that “feelings” are for females and seeking therapy shows weakness. The result is a generation of men left without the tools to deal with internalized anger and frustration. They can suffer from symptoms like irritability, anger and aggressiveness because not only are they less likely than women to pursue mental health help, but once they do, they have a hard time expressing their emotions.

Unlike women, who are encouraged to foster deep platonic intimacy from a young age, American men grow up believing that they should not only behave like stoic robots in front of other men, but that women are the only people they are allowed to turn to for emotional support — if anyone at all. These men rely on their wives and girlfriends to play best friend, lover, career advisor, stylist, social secretary, emotional cheerleader, mom, and eventually, on-call therapist minus the $200/hour fee. It’s a form of emotional gold digging that’s not only detrimental to men, it’s exhausting an entire generation of women. (Harper’s Bazaar)


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