At work we are undoubtedly all guilty of idly talking. Often it’s in hope of incanting the clock to turn at a quicker pace. In doing so we can end up talking about all kinds of trivialities, or, on a rare occasion, stumble onto something much more profound. A few months back a colleague of mine started speaking about something which I myself considered to be dearth of substance but which everyone seemed to find pathologically intoxicating. The person in question, spouting knowledge like a street preacher, but in this case actually attracting an audience, partly out of necessity, expounded that ‘All Disney films contain subliminal references to sex”. Here below are the two examples I distinctly remember the person talking about:
It would be easy for me now to go on a rant about how all the people that believe such things are ignorami but there are plenty of such posts like that around the web, and plenty from the converse side claiming the same of non-believers. I don’t in fact think people who believe in conspiracies are stupid, many who are staunch critics of such people can often simultaneously hold a similarly uncritical belief in religion, what they do not seem to realise is that they are then much more alike to those who believe in conspiracies than they’d dare to think. Alan Moore in this clip here states he believes that “The main thing I have learnt about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting, the truth of the world is that it is chaotic.” This is surely also true of religion and many other belief systems, such as Astrology to name another, in fact you could perhaps describe some conspiracy tribes as being religious or cultist in nature, it is, therefore in this light, simply another belief system in which to frame the entropy of life
Of course I’m perhaps over-egging the story at hand here, for believing that there might be subliminal messaging in Disney cartoons, because certain frames might resemble something else, is far from joining a sect that praises or curses the mythologised, cryogenically frozen, body of Walt. But, the idea that the reason we believe such things is because the world is chaotic and we resultantly need something to hang onto, even if that something is in fact little more than sham, is quite interesting, particularly in a postmodern society in which we arguably reside. Undoubtedly we all, even the most rational of us, hold onto little rips of narrative or cling to minor superstition (even if it isn’t fully believed) because that is how we understand the world, we are analytic creatures who require some semblance of order in which to function, and if that does not exist we possess powerful imaginations to make it so. Following this logic then, the people who are either attracted or even need elaborate belief structures are those who are the most needy for some kind of order, they are of no lesser in intellect than anyone else. (in fact many in academia, the institutionalised bastion of intelligence, can be drawn into conspiracy as was recently discussed on Radio 4′s Thinking Allowed show.)
When I was a teenager I was highly interested in Conspiracy (and Paganism), and this is hardly surprising when going along with what I have previously stated. At that age, going through puberty, you are of course at your most volatile and in desperate need to discover your own understanding of reality, breaking free from the shackles of parents imposing their world view on you. Conspiracy theories (and paganism for that matter) gave me the real sense that there was in fact more to life than I had been told, like a good novel there was more to the world than first met the eye. The problem was, the novels I was reading were science fiction and fantasy in nature and being read as non-fiction, I was like an alien (which many teenagers are) trying to understand the world via pop culture, shards of truth may exist within but it isn’t truth absolute. (But then again, what is?)
Many of the people that were sucking in the putrid disinformation being vomited at my workplace were the kind of people who watch trashy television, read celebrity magazines, and, work in a menial role. There is of course nothing wrong with any of the things mentioned, I do not want to come across stobbish, I mean I study popular culture so simply because something is seen as low-culture, it does not mean to does not possess value. But the point is, such people only the lower rungs, gorging on such a culture diet must surely crave, like my teenage self, more meaning to the anarchy of existence, the answer, we are told by capitalism, is to be found in consuming more trashy TV and more gossip rags. So in this scenario it is hard surprising that when an easily accessable conspiracy theory, such as the Disney one mentioned, come along they are quickly grasped. Because like good fiction, conspiracy theories capture the imagination and provide substance to an unstable world, but of course most conspiracies aren’t good fiction are they? Well, I would perhaps say, in comparison to a normal popular media diet, they could perhaps be seen as better fiction, it’s all relative and ultimately in the eye of the beholder.
As mentioned, as a teenager I was interested in conspiracy theory, as a result I own a couple of books that would be labelled conspiracy. I got speaking to this person preaching about the underhandedness of Disney and it soon became apparent that they had only really dipped there toe in the vast ocean of conspiracy theories on offer, in fact the way they were telling people about their Disney discovery was a give away really, doing so in a feverish child-like excitement of sharing some little known gossip. I got engaged in conversation and they told me a few other things they believed in, you know the sort, Moon Landings were fake and 9/11 inside job etc. I ended up giving the person a book by David Icke called: The David Icke Guide to the Global Conspiracy (And How to End It). I recently received the book back, and I tried to disguise that I owned it when walking back home by trying to conceal it under my coat. And this is why I started this post. On walking home I felt bad about lending the book to the person at all. Did I, by lending the book, legitimise the content? Have I simply encouraged someone to go down a wrong path? I’m sure many would say so. But ultimately the person reading it is an adult, they should make up there own mind as to how to interpret the content, for all I know they could have read it as fiction, for example. And besides, if the book, true or not, helps provide order to someones life is it such a bad thing? Many certainly believe it’s a fine excuse for the bible, so why not conspiracies? Ultimately it is a hard call, but I tend to take a pluralist/postmodern attitude on the whole thing, conspiracy theories are no less valid in my view than a 30′s cartoon or a Victorian novel, it is all just discourse within chaos which we can do and please what we like with.