Conspiracy Theory Theory
By now you’ve no doubt heard about rapper B.o.B.’s, er, debate with Neil deGrasse Tyson concerning the shape of the Earth:
@bobatl Earth’s curve indeed blocks 150 (not 170) ft of Manhattan. But most buildings in midtown are waaay taller than that.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 25, 2016
Which resulted in B.o.B’s conspiracy theory-laden diss track, “Flatline” (warning: Contains the n-word and some other colorful language):
The track includes a host of conspiracies B.o.B. has managed to see through, including heliocentrism:
Indoctrinated in a cult called science
And graduated to a club full of liars
Heliocentrism, you were the sixth victim.
Free-masonry and something about the Department of the Defense:
Why is NASA part of the department of defense?
They divided up the seas into thirty-three degrees
Feeding kids masonry, bruh, be careful what you read
And blatant anti-Semitism with references to a Holocaust denier:
They nervous, but before you try to curve it
Do your research on David Irving
Stalin was way worse than Hitler
That’s why the POTUS gotta wear a Kippah
Making it impossible to see it as merely harmless entertainment at B.o.B.’s expense. But it does give me an excuse to link to this genuinely entertaining, and significantly more thought-provoking post by Sam Kriss on conspiracy theories, titled Notes toward a phenomenology of conspiracy theory.
Kriss starts from the premise that perhaps conspiracy theories are “not propositionally true,” but they may be “in a very important way more true than the truth,” and from their explores both the social and legal history of “conspiracy,” ultimately arriving here:
It might be futile. But is it, phenomenologically speaking, true? In Heidegger, truth is not a matter of a subjective mental image conforming to reality, but the disclosure of a world. Truth is ‘letting whatever is sleeping become wakeful’ (sheeple) – the unconcealment of what had been hidden. I say that Socrates is mortal, and his manifest mortality, knobbly knees and tremoring heart, is suddenly made apparent to you. In this sense, conspiracy theory – all conspiracy theory – is true. And it’s a truth far more fecund and far more fun than anything allowed to us by epistemology. In conspiracy theory, the things of the world are atoms of signification, to be combined and recombined into the modes of appearance of any number of potential noumena. ‘The RAND Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, are forcing our parents to go to bed early in a fiendish plot to eliminate the meal of dinner.’ Life encrusts itself like milk on endless fathoms of possibility. And yes, most of it is evil. But it doesn’t have to be. Remember that through much of our history, the conspiracy was not a creature of aristocratic malice, but a mode of popular resistance. The Illuminati is not only to be fought; it’s to be established.
It is certainly an essay that will be a much better use of your time than worrying about B.o.B.’s decision to come out as an anti-semitic flat-earther.