Narrative control

The chattering classes are very disturbed by the flourishing of conspiracy theories, particularly among Trump supporters and Generation Z TikTok users. And why wouldn’t they be? People who make a living through words (authors, journalists, academics, politicians) correctly perceive that their power to shape public opinion is threatened by a collapse in trust. Their control of the narrative, and therefore their ability to manipulate and mobilize the public in support of various agendas, is gravely compromised by the explosion of counter-narratives on social media and alternative media.

Much of this material is obviously bogus, but some of it is not. After all, conspiracies are a recurring theme of history, from the murder of Julius Caesar by a cabal of Roman senators to the wretched intrigues of our own time (Crossfire Hurricane, the bizarrely uniform global COVID response, and the 2020 election theft being the most glaring recent examples). “Conspiracy theory” is, for the most part, simply a term of abuse used to discredit alternative explanations of public events without actually addressing the facts and arguments being presented. This thread is an amusing example. A screenwriter says that his nieces and nephews believe that Helen Keller was a fraud and his response is, essentially, to blame Trump for undermining people’s respect for the truth.

What makes it especially funny is that he admits that the basis for his knowledge of Keller is The Miracle Worker, a 1962 Hollywood movie. Perhaps it’s not surprising that someone who works in show business would confuse a film with reality, but an educated person should be capable of doing a modicum of research. He shows no signs of having done this. Instead of presenting historical evidence for his position, which might have resolved the debate and certainly would have shown respect for the intelligence of his interlocutors, he decides instead to grandstand about conspiracy theories (“This is 100% a teachable moment”) and then disparage his teenage relatives on Twitter. As of this writing, the thread has 3.5K retweets.

For all their posturing about the “truth,” our elites are remarkably incurious and intellectually lazy. They demand censorship of opposing views and punishment of those who don’t conform to a specific narrative. They rapidly adopt a bullying tone when confronted with perspectives they don’t agree with. But the truth doesn’t need to be shoved down people’s throats. When you are beaten over the head with a narrative, you can be almost certain it’s false. That doesn’t bother our elites, because they are hungry for power, not the truth.

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