A tentative hypothesis:

Conspiracy theory is so popular in the early 21st century because the major institutions of life in the 21st century - business, media, military, politics and academia - are structured indistinguishably from conspiracies (ie: as opaque, secretive, networked yet hierarchical systems, whose inner and outer motives are different) to those not already part of their inner circle.

And increasing numbers of people find themselves outside of those inner circles of power.

Case in point:

The poor NSA agent (like 20committee on Twitter) who keeps trying to argue


'the public is ignorant, they think the intelligence services are a big conspiracy, but they know nothing about us and the good things we do!'

'well can you tell us what you do with all our data, to allay our fears?'

'nope! lol. I can't and won't tell you anything. you don't have a right to know. Because I'm just better than you and outrank you.'

Okay. Do you... see the problem here.

'look, just... just trust us. you know nothing about our culture here in Intelligence.'

'okay can you tell us what that culture is?'

'nope! our culture is we don't talk about our culture. we have oaths. it's very secret. just go away.'

okay so... uh. right. you.... hmmm.

and you wonder why people think there is a big conspiracy running everything?

@natecull right, but compare with game developers who now refuse to discuss their processes in public because gamers.

@zensaiyuki Yeah, that's a very good comparison. An angry, suspicious public looking for conspiracies everywhere naturally makes organisations turn inward and become more conspiracy-like.


@zensaiyuki in fact if I understand correctly, I think the existence of occult/alchemical secret societies like the Freemasons is a direct result of the witch hunts of the early modern period.

@natecull that could be true,, though my understanding is they were secretive because thr lack of, err, what we would now call “IP” laws, meant that trade secrets were important. bakers, for instance, kept the existence of yeast a secret until the early 1900s. until 1919, if you wanted to make your own bread at home, fuck you.

@natecull the masons secret was how to build stone buildings that don’t collapse inward and kill everyone inside. but you maybe have a point about *freemasons* which i guess is more about fetishing the secret societyness of it all.

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