I have been sitting in a saucepan for the past few weeks. The water is scorching, peeling away layers at a rapid speed, its damage becoming more and more irreparable as the seconds tick away. Yet, much like that frog, I have a distorted perception of time. Inside the pan, the hours feel like minutes.
I have a longstanding love affair with Internet artefacts that make me feel better about myself at the expense of others. Botched auditions, botched surgeries, something called ‘Karma For Brats’, and my personal favorite, a judge who travels the Dutch countryside to rule on the entanglements of neighborly disputes… You name it, I have made it my personal happy place.
This catalog of Schadenfreudian atrocities is altering my perception of reality as well as my own self worth in one way or another, of this I’m sure. But to be honest, I’ve been on YouTube for fifteen years now, and this is hardly the time to begin keeping track.
Luckily, there is another, perhaps altogether more pressing matter inviting me to closer inquiry: my recent preoccupation with conspiracy nuts.
In a matter of weeks, I’ve become somewhat of a conspiracy theorist theorist. I marvel at how shamelessly these ‘independent researchers’ string together 5G radiation and satanic pedophile rings. I am fascinated and terrified by how their sentiments cannot decide between antisemitism, obsession with Jewish mysticism, and hatred of the nazis. I mean, God help you, make up your mind. I smh at the abuse of the very term ‘research’. Yet, at the same time, something else is happening.
I’m feeling the pull.
After all, behind the facade of the mind-boggling, offensive, anti-science, racist, misogynist, and misandrist cries of the conspiracy theory, there is a much more benevolent scene at play: that of armchair epistemology.
It’s a beloved pastime of many an undergraduate student in the arts and humanities. Oh, the exhilarating feeling of uncovering the real truth behind how we can Know in the works of Descartes, Kierkegaard, and Wittgenstein… Beer and port wine flowing so heavily that, after hours of semi-intelligible soapboxing, the only thing left to do is to break out the guitar and sing dream pop covers of the Backstreet Boys.
How I miss all of this every September.
And so, isn’t deep thinking about conspiracy theories exactly what the doctor ordered for this thirty-something who, like clockwork, finds herself missing freshman year in University?
Embracing the conspiracy theorist’s version of Knowledge is not a plunge into boiling water. It’s a simmer. If I don’t take into consideration exactly these changes, I will soon be on the other side.
I’d say I’m lucky to see this development, and to have a partner who is able to guide me back to the safety of a world in which a bunch of rich, scary Jews don’t puppeteer every high-ranking official. On the other hand: I very much assume that I am one more hour of conspiracy video watch time removed from printing this map and hanging it on the kitchen wall for all to see.