The Conspiracy Theorists

BY ALEX STORY

Rare were the occasions when the term “conspiracy theory” was used.

Only a few years ago, conspiracies were whispered between last orders, a brawl and a trip to the kebab van, around the corner from the pub.

Three such “Conspiracies” stood out:

Firstly, Neil Armstrong never actually landed on the Moon in 1969.

He and his colleagues in fact, the theory stated, staged the landing in a Californian studio.

Secondly, at 87, the King is still with us. Elvis was spotted doing some gardening somewhere in Lincolnshire, close to Scunthorpe by a derelict industrial complex.

Thirdly, 9/11 was organised by Mossad, the ubiquitous Israeli national intelligence agency – responsible for all things that appear, absent facts, and dubious at first glance.

The attackers were either duped Saudis or undercover Israelis. After 11pm and a lot of pints, the details were cloudy.

A few others had claims to be in the top three, such as the dreadful death of Diana on the 31st of August 1997, following a fatal car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris.

The Queen, Mossad and MI6 were somehow implicated, according to the conspiracy theorists.

More recently, we had Bill Gates’ trip to Jeffrey Epstein’s Island of Fun in order to fundraise for an undisclosed charity.

These theories stood out because they were few and far between. In fact, the term itself was very rarely used.

Indeed, You knew a conspiracist when you came across one.

And most of the time, he was the most interesting man in the room.

In particular when the discussion moved from the bar to the street and from there to someone’s living room, only to settle on a crummy, but surprisingly comfy sofa in the middle of the night.

What the “conspiracy theorist” was definitely not, however, was someone who disagreed with the government, the BBC, the expert, the professorial class or CEOs of large companies.

Most of the time, if the discussion had to do with political decision making, that person was just part of the majority who never voted for the government and was, as a free born man, under no obligation ever to agree with his political masters.

In a First-Past-The-Post system, it is a rare thing indeed when the winning side receives more than 40% of the votes, leaving 60% in, at the very least, political opposition.

Tony Blair won a landslide victory in 1997. He took 43% of the votes, winning a total of 418 seats out of 650.

Boris finally reversed that huge Conservative loss 22 years later by taking 43.6% of the votes in that other landslide in 2019. He won 365 seats.

Boris got more votes; Tony got more seats.

As the numbers suggest though, of those who voted, across the seven general elections which took place since 1997, the majority voted against the winning side.

That is to say that the majority of those who voted didn’t agree with or support government policy.

The legitimacy of the First-Past-The-Post system is not under scrutiny here.

Few, apart from fringe movements, whose ideas don’t sell, perennially demand voting reforms. Most agree that while the system is flawed, it is, to paraphrase Churchill, the worst election system apart from all the others.

In a democracy, there is no and should be no requirement to agree with the government of whatever hue on the decision those in power make.

That is true at all times and in all circumstances.

At no time in our long history were people who opposed political developments decried as Conspiracy Theorists.

Indeed, in a truly free country, it makes no sense to call someone conspiratorial or contrarian because he has the temerity to question authority – in whatever shape the latter manifests itself.

Our biggest industry, for better or worse, is the financial one.

The whole edifice is built on the notion that each participant takes opposite sides of an argument. There is a price because someone bought what someone else thought needed selling – Adam Smith’s magic hand as it were.

A contrarian today is a herd follower tomorrow.

It all depends on the perspective you choose to take.

Without a multiplicity of differing opinions, shaped for whatever reasons – from unexplainable but strong gut feelings to hard-headed, data-strong spreadsheets – there is no Market.

However, we stand witness to an accelerating, and ugly, shift towards an anti-intellectual universe that, by design it would seem, divides the world into a totally artificial and inhuman oppressor versus oppressed paradigm.

In this brave new world, it is the most powerful who seem to want to win unchallenged the Most Oppressed gold medal to climb on the moral high ground’s highest step.

Simultaneously, they berate those who question today’s winners’ aims and methods.

Those who have taken the trouble to educate themselves, taking as a result a learned but opposite view to officialdom, self-promoting experts, licensed media outlets and corporate behemoths are attacked as individuals; they are generally not challenged on the facts.

In other words, the strong are playing the man not the ball. Motives are questioned, words twisted and reputations destroyed.  

As we march on towards the twenty fifth anniversary of Tony Blair’s historical landslide win, the term conspiracy theory has become pervasive.

Not a day goes past without this once rare term being used. It is deployed, it would seem, to smother the other side, not to compete with it on an cerebral plane.

Those who are hungry for debates and the intellectual jostling that amicable argumentation brings find themselves under instant verbal assault. Their right to disagree politely, that is to say their individual humanity, is gradually denied.

Former athlete Joe Rogan; Psychologist Jordan Peterson; and Historian David Starkey fall into that category.

Comedian, and erstwhile enfant terrible Russell Brand has recently joined this hallowed band of impressive and very different men. Into the millions already, his following is growing at a rate of knots.

The reason is simple, it would seem. He takes his viewers seriously. He is curious. He is content to challenge both them and himself.

As a result, he has become an increasingly interesting man.

Charlotte Lytton of the Daily Telegraph dismissed him a few weeks ago as the “Mad Hatter” of conspiracy theorists.

The millions who follow him might or might not agree.

What is sure is that they enjoy spending time with him as he launches on his daily truth-seeking endeavours, not always succeeding.

And I know who I would rather have around the fireplace for a chat – even if he has stopped drinking alcohol.

Alex Story is Head of Business Development at a City broker working with Hedge Funds and other financial institutions. He stood for parliament in 2005, 2010 and 2015. In 2016, he won the right to represent Yorkshire & the Humber in the European Parliament. He didn’t take the seat.