Conspiracy Knowledge and Desire

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I’ve been thinking about the relationship between information and desire. There are at least three positions that are immediately relevant: 1) I want to be a reasonably informed person; 2) I want to be reassured that I am not alone and have a good supply of support for what I believe, but I want this support to be factual; 3) I want to believe a story about the world that confirms my suspicions. The third position seems to stress some combination of confirmation bias, plausible “believability” (what counts as truthiness), and closed-loop insulation from correction.

The last part is the most brilliant of the conspiracy strategies; whatever info might burst the bubble of the desired becomes part of the attempt to disguise the conspiratorial truth. So if a story contains early unconfirmed details aired as speculation as a story develops, then the later denial of these details becomes part of the conspiracy. “No evidence for it? That’s what they want you to think!” And who is they?

In this case I want to suggest that, for those of us who know we need to be the first with just a touch of the second and none of the third, “they” is really a way of thinking. To dig further, there are two things you can consider. One is this piece by Simon van Zuylen-Wood from

Photo published for This Is What It’s Like to Read Fake News For Two Weeks
This Is What It’s Like to Read Fake News For Two Weeks

The other thing would be to read some work by the late Robert Anton Wilson, who got that the conspiracies we believe in are not about the world but about us. He turned fear into a hilarious game of Schrodinger’s Cat and Maus.

Be warned, though, that Wilson offers a kind of performative skepticism that challenges not just your beliefs, but the idea of belief itself. For me, though, it perfects the balance between how we know, how we believe, and how we desire.