Inspiration, Conspiration, Transpiration, Expiration

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 12 Oct 2020

Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens - TRANSCEND Media Service

Towards a Universal Model of Conspiracy Theories

Introduction

12 Oct 2020 – Reference is widely made to the problematic existence of conspiracy theories, variously understood as deriving from fake news (Varieties of Fake News and Misrepresentation, 2019). In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns are raised regarding the epidemic of misinformation  (Bill Chappell, U.N. Chief Targets ‘Dangerous Epidemic of Misinformation’ on Coronavirus, NPR, 14 April 2020).

Conspiracy theories are now held to be especially influential with respect to the US 2020 presidential election (Charlotte Alter, How Conspiracy Theories Are Shaping the 2020 Election — and shaking the foundation of American democracy, Time, 10 September 2020; S. Jonathon O’Donnell, Demons of the Deep State: how evangelicals and conspiracy theories combine in Trump’s America, The Conversation, 14 September 2020; Thomas Milan Konda, How Did Conspiracy Theories Come to Dominate American Culture? Literary Hub, 18 April 2019).

The role of such theories is especially evident in relation to the coronavirus as succinctly stated by Gregory Hood (Coronavirus and the Greatest Conspiracy Theory of All, American Renaissance, 4 May 2020): There are two contradictory media messages about the virus: First, we don’t know much about it. Second, we cannot let certain people talk about it. The trend is exemplified by the publicity given to the banning by Facebook of the QAnon social media movement — claimed to be a far-right conspiracy theory that alleges that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against President Donald Trump, who is battling against the cabal.

In the same period, great emphasis is placed on the quest for inspiration and sources of insight to address the difficulties of the times. However those finding inspiration from one source are readily seen from other perspectives as entangled in a form of conspiracy which their involvement serves actively to cultivate. In this context of multiple sources of inspiration, variously appreciated and deprecated, alternative perspectives may well be labelled in terms of conspiracy theories. One person’s inspiration may indeed be another person’s conspiracy.

The prevalent phenomenon is the process of blaming those who fail to share an inspiration — possibly then understood as a failure to “share a dream”. For those identified with the dream, however, associating with others who share it in a hostile environment may well be appreciated as a form of conspiracy — a secret shared appreciatively with the complicit.

Reference is indeed made to the blame-game and those indulging in it. Emphasis has been given to the tragic erosion of mutual trust, with the suspicions which the absence of confidence engenders. There is a sense in which all are however embroiled in different aspects of this dynamic. Each could be said to feel a sense of despair at the conspiracies which undermine an inspiration regarding a way to move forward — if only those conspiring to prevent this could be bypassed, or even eradicated. There is a paradoxical unrealistic naivety to the assumption that if only everyone would believe in “my dream” then all would be well.

Part of the difficulty would seem to be the lack of insight into how these phenomena can be more fruitfully understood, to enable a means of dissociating from the influence they exert — whilst appreciating whatever is held to be an inspiration. Fruitful discourse on such matters is itself increasingly difficult to sustain (if not impossible), given their divisive effects on viable interaction.

This problematic condition encourages “doom-mongering” and the anticipation of civilizational collapse — despite the strenuous efforts of those engaged in “hope-mongering”. The dramatic depredations of the environment, and the disasters these may enable, only reinforce the uncertainties regarding the dynamic between conspiration and inspiration as variously experienced.

The argument here explores the perspective offered by the strange association between inspiration and conspiration — potentially extended to expiration via transpiration. Curiously these share a common etymological root which may offer clues to a means of transcending the dynamic in which people are embroiled. Why indeed should they share an association with “spire” and “spiral”?

More curious is the extent to which specific reference is made to distinct forms of spiral descriptive of aspects of experience at this time — “spiral of silence“, “spiral of depression“, and “death spiral” — each subject to interpretation in psychological, economic and environmental terms (as discussed separately). Much less is however said about any “upward spiral” — a “spiral of hope”, a “spiral of inspiration”, or a “spiral of creativity” — with the ironic exception of an “inflationary spiral“.

Ironically, in a period challenged by climate change, the most obviously familiar clue in this respect is provided by the weather — with its shifting pattern of cyclones and anti-cyclones visualized daily on meteorological broadcasts. These are readily recognized as being of spiral form, variously interacting with one another as they emerge and disappear — drifting over the globe. They are readily adapted as metaphors to describe social, political and economic phenomena, as discussed separately (Psychosocial Learnings from the Spiral Form of Hurricanes, 2017)..

Less familiar to some, but widely presented in dramatic science documentaries, is the spiral form of many galaxies in the universe — in one of which, the Milky Way, that of the Earth is embedded (List of spiral galaxies, Wikipedia). There are of course many somewhat presumptuous references to “universal” as a framework for addressing the challenges of a global civilization (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Universal Basic Income, Universal Law). There is therefore a case for exploring whether the “universal” nature of human society calls for recognition of any spiral form in the dynamics of disparate collective initiatives in problematic relation to each other.

On a smaller scale, it is appropriate to recognize the capacity of gliders and many species of bird to use the updraft of spiralling thermals to enable them to fly long distances. In a period of “heated” discourse, have some individuals and groups acquired an analogous skill in relation to “thermals” potentially experienced (or labelled) as dangerous by others? Can a spiralling source of inspiration and hope — perhaps experienced by those identifying with it — enable such facility?

There is some irony to any failure in this respect, given the extent to which the body politic is explicitly recognized as having a “right wing” and a “left wing” — although use of the metaphor clearly does not extend to much understanding of the ability to “fly”, especially as may be required for appropriate global governance.

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