Let’s say you’re a bored writer, suffering from writer’s block, dehydrated, left alone in dark rooms too often as a kid, and looking to raise some hell just for the hell of it. You’re tried writing prompts, writer’s conferences, seven how-to-write books, You Tubes about National Book Award winners, and starvation diets. Nothing works for you. You got your degree in English from a university with State in its name and still no one wants to read your stuff. What do you do!
Well, there’s always conspiracy theory, says your favorite bartender as he bellows last call in the Down and Dirty Saloon on the wrong side of the tracks in your two-horse town. So, why not, you say when you get home, plug in your Royal Consumer Typewriter, and begin your first conspiracy theory.
First, you have to figure out what a conspiracy theory is. You’ve heard about them, watched the January 6, 2021 attack on the nation’s capital, and have a tee shirt with a giant block Q on the back and an even bigger A on the right sleeve. Your battered Funk and Wagnall’s says, “A conspiracy theory is an explanation for an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful groups, often political in motivation when other explanations are more probable.”
That sounds too positive for your present mood, so you keep leafing through the pages of a leaflet you found in the debris following a protest against something. It is more inspiring. It has a catalogue for conspiracy theories that seems suitable for 2021. You plagiarize the opening paragraph: “Over the past year as COVID-19 rocketed around the world, conspiracy theories quickly followed. Scores of cell phone towers were set afire in Iceland. A South Dakota veterinarian discovered thousands of moles and pack rats spreading a disease he named COVID-90. He theorized they were actually little robots with super charged DNA.”
You discover on the Internet, via WiFi from your non-Apple phone that a recent “Pew Research Center survey found that more than half of Americans have heard at least a little about QAnon, the complicated web of pro-Trump conspiracy theories that originated on the message board 4chan. And that in November 2020, two candidates who voiced support for QAnon theories were elected to the U.S. Congress.”
That’s a clincher. If all that shows up in theory, why not conspire to sow it? In the back of your mind there lurks the nagging thought that no one will believe your conspiracy theory because all the good ones have been taken. The world is so crazy because of the isolation caused by the COVID-19 thing, being suspicious about “others” is an adaptive thing to do. Everyone you know at the Down and Dirty Saloon doesn’t necessarily want to trust anybody. But as you think it through, that makes it a perfect time to conspire, and an even more perfect time to trust no one except on social media where everybody just lays it out for the world to see. Come to think about you could say everybody is their own conspiracy, except that some of them don’t have a theory.
The more you surf the web the more exciting the conspiracy theories get. There’s the one about the lizard people taking over the planet. It must be true because it was in the newspaper because one of the believers was shot or something on January 6th at the Capitol. How can anyone deny that? It was proven by the photos of a fleet of stealthy black helicopters. The images on TV were grainy images taken by a first-generation flip-phone camera. So, they weren’t kids.
Let’s say you’re lucky enough to discover that the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, was a fake. No matter that 530 million people watched on television as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the moon. Well, at least the first steps we know of. There’s reason to believe that other, earlier, much bigger footsteps where there all along and the dust of the heli blades destroyed them. As conspiracy theories go, this was one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated on mankind, all to convince the Russians that the United States had won the space race.
A semi-journalist spent a week in outer California on an organic farm. He discovered the chem-trail conspiracy that a Geo-Reengineering Awareness group posted on its Facebook page. A woman in Arizona ran with it and got elected to something because of it. They did it with aerosol attacks, toxic silver skies, mad men playing god with our weather, and blocking our life-giving sun. You could write about that, he thought as the keys flew by on his Royal Consumer Typewriter.
And that’s how the secret conspiracy theorist added to his stack of digital rejection slips. No ethical concerns about something that never happened.
 Source not identified for good reason.
I am an author and a part-time lawyer with a focus on ethics and professional discipline. I teach creative writing and ethics to law students at Arizona State University. Read my bio.
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