Conspiracy theories and dogmatism

Perhaps it is tempting to sneer at anti-intellectual conspiracy peddling as fundamentally stupid, but it does present a genuinely interesting epistemological problem in addition to the practical ones of how to approach someone who literally lives in a different world from you.

Maybe the attraction to dogmatic thinking is a measure of tiredness with postmodernity, in which micro-“grand narratives” are constantly shifted, morphed, spliced then discarded (think of stuff like self-help, motivational speakers or “financial education” on the socially-accepted end, Western Buddhism, New Age and Richard Dawkins-esque cultish Atheism somewhere in the middle, and conspiracy theories and the like on the extreme end). And then there are the legacy ones, those left besides mainline Christianity in the West that metastasized, mutated and took on monstrous forms, such as militant Islam and fundamentalist variants of Evangelical Christianity, or even the revival of fascism, all characterised by a dogmatic and simplistic presentation of their respective totalising visions.

All these are indicative of a deeper social dissatisfaction with the world and the way it is set up, an indication that there really is so much more to human desire than the neoliberal assumption that the skinner-box-like model of production as stick and consumption as carrot would let on. Turns out people are not at all satisfied by a life of misery and alienation in the pursuit of an endless accumulation of toys. They want to be part of something great, much greater than themselves – even if it is as terrible as it is great.

The odd man out is of course Marxism, the grand narrative by excellence, the most totalising theory of class, economics and history if there ever was one, which seems socially taboo over much of the Western world (no matter how ardently Moldbug tries to convince you that a Cathedral full of Marxist professors holds court at Harvard plotting the fall of Western Civilisation), and especially in post-Communist Romania, which I know firsthand having been a useful idiot for the anti-Communist right for much of my life. Marxism’s continued falling out of favour both in intellectual circles and in public discourse more broadly seems to be related to the fact that while the other more or less totalising dogmas are every bit as radical and imply just as much future bloodletting as the most brutal fantasies of Mao or the Khmer Rouge, Marxism is the only one that is fundamentally at odds with the neoliberal establishment.

The Saudi Royal House synthesized dogmatic Islam with the profitable businesses of oil and war. It turned Islam s holiest sites into booming Las Vegases. The Ayatollah also handsomely rewarded loyal businesses and other allies. Many figures in the American “religious right” also appear to see no sin in vast swathes of ancient forests burning to cinder as a result of climate change, but scorn society as sinful for having allowed abortion. The point is, theocracy, as fascism, is perfectly marriable to business.

No matter if in these fantasy worlds it’s Jews, Witches, sinners or “degenerates” that will be dealt with, in whichever gruesome way imagined, it is certainly not going to be the business magnates and political elites, at least not most of them, anyway. And any change, even for the worse, in which they get to keep their cushy asspillows is a preferrable alternative to any change in which they don’t.