21 September 2009

The Inside Game

"You are now breathing...virally mutated molds, nano-particulates of aluminum and Barium and cationic polymer fibers with unidentified bio-active material...Drs. Staninger and Karjoom and researcher Jan Smith have reported findings of self-replicating nano-machines and rivers of silicon running wild through the bodies...Welcome to the brave new world of toxic skies, weather control, mind control and population control through the use of chemtrails modulated with electromagnetic frequencies generated by HAARP. Our health is under attack as evidenced by the skyrocketing rates of chemtrail induced lung cancer, asthma and pulmonary/respiratory problems as well as the emergence of a bizarre and frightening new plague...We must join together to stop this insane program of chemtrail spraying now."

-excerpt from a chemtrail conspiracy website

I'm a late comer to the chemtrail conspiracy. Don't ask me how, up until now, I've managed to miss it. It's exactly the sort of empty calorie, Krispie Kreme whackiness I usually can't get enough of. There are dozens upon dozens of websites devoted to the subject, most stocked to the rafters with elaborate, intricate narratives and New World Order paranoia futilely refuted by reputable experts.

All of this got me thinking about conspiracies and how drawn to them the intertwined popular and media cultures are. From Vince Foster-was-killed-by-the-Clintons, to Bush-blew-up-the-World-Trade-Center, to HIV-was-engineered-by-the-CIA, to the elaborate, shop-worn fictions of Roswell and the Kennedy assassination, and finally to the recent unhinged and deeply creepy Obama-isn't-an-American Birther movement, the coherent narrative offered by conspiracies, however dark, seem so much more attractive than the chaotic, random and incomplete realities they compete against.

Neuroscience has long described the human mind as a sophisticated pattern matching machine. While as a species we may be compelled from deep within the structure our brain stem to find comfort in organization, this hard-wired ability to tease out patterns from complex data may sometimes misfire and lead us to see connections where none exist --and at considerable cost and peril. Pattern matching it might indeed be. I'm not so certain about the sophisticated part.

"If we are on the outside, we assume a conspiracy is the perfect working of a scheme. Silent nameless men with unadorned hearts. A conspiracy is everything that ordinary life is not. It's the inside game, cold, sure, undistracted, forever closed off to us. We are the flawed ones, the innocents, trying to make some rough sense of the daily jostle. Conspirators have a logic and a daring beyond our reach. All conspiracies are the same taut story of men who find coherence in some criminal act." -Don DeLillo

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