By Nate Doromal
The media dismisses any questioning of the lockdown measures as “conspiracy theory,” but we are the final judge of how the authorities managed the COVID-19 response.
PART 1: The Weaponization of Conspiracy Theory
During this time of COVID-19, the term “conspiracy theory” has been casually and frequently bandied about by mainstream media sources. We certainly live in an “age of misinformation.” This is a time when it is legitimately hard to tell what exactly is true and what is not. But during this time, how do we make sense of the non-stop flood of contradictory COVID-19 information? And what do we make of alleged COVID-19 conspiracies?
Members of the mainstream media seldom acknowledge that “conspiracy theory” can become weaponized. Quite often, the charge becomes a means by which to stifle free inquiry into a topic. Who decides between valid information versus misinformation? Who decides what distinguishes a conspiracy theory from real political or financial facts?
The mainstream media often acts in concert with business or government. They have usurped the responsibility to be the official purveyors of news. They are the self-anointed ones to tell you what is authoritative versus what is not. And they have certainly decided to tell you what stories constitute conspiracy theories.
These COVID-19 conspiracies include:
- The COVID-19 cases result from health effects from 5G wireless technology, as opposed to a virus.
- The virus responsible for COVID-19 was bioengineered in a Wuhan lab and was either accidentally or intentionally released.
- COVID-19 vaccines contain “Satan’s microchips.”
The key question here is: who is the ultimate decider of what constitutes a conspiracy theory? We are presented with an illusion of choice in which we are emotionally pressured to join with the author’s views.
As news consumers, how are we to know what to think when certain information is dismissed entirely as “conspiracy theory”? Sometimes a story is unfounded, but sometimes the story reveals wrongdoings that are hiding behind the shadows.
Before accepting the viewpoint of an author or a media authority, there are important questions to consider. We present these questions in a framework that can help you distinguish between honest reporting and propaganda, and thus make sense of the charge of conspiracy theory.
This framework can also help you voice your own commentary. The public has a right to voice its concerns, and each citizen has a duty to ensure the government serves the people.
What is a Conspiracy?
What do the terms “conspiracy” and “conspiracy theory” actually mean? The actual definitions must be distinguished from loaded emotional connotations. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to conspire means “to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or an act which becomes unlawful as a result of the secret agreement.”
To build on this definition, a conspiracy then is an “agreement among conspirators.” And finally, a conspiracy theory is “a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a conspiracy.” Motives for conspiracy often include personal or economic gain, the belief that one’s actions are best for society, or the advancement of ideology (for example, to advance the ideology of Communism or to spread democracy).
Actually, conspiracies happen all the time. Numerous scandals have been reported in the media, including the Enron Scandal, the Theranos Scandal, the Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme, and the Facebook Data Privacy Scandal. While not specifically labeled as conspiracies, the events of these cases do fit the definition: a group of people colluding in secret for economic gain. Each of these conspiracies was investigated and exposed by the mainstream media.
The Weaponization of Conspiracy Theory
Despite its actual definition, the term “conspiracy theory” has a negative connotation. Furthermore, the term can be weaponized to prevent critical lines of inquiry, particularly in this current environment of censorship and cancel culture. Look no further than Wikipedia’s definition of weaponization of conspiracy theory: the “appeal to a conspiracy is based on prejudice or insufficient evidence,” but this is a tautological fallacy as the label of ‘conspiracy theory’ impedes the necessary effort to gather the very evidence needed to determine whether the theory is substantiated.”
Author Jovan Byford states in his book Conspiracy Theories: A Critical Introduction, that “conspiracy theory is not a neutral label used merely to describe a certain type of explanation. It is an evaluative term with significant pejorative connotations. To allude to an account as a ‘conspiracy theory’ is to make a judgment about its epistemic status; it is a way of branding an explanation untrue or insinuating that it is based on insufficient evidence, superstition or prejudice.”
Power-holders and establishment interests weaponize conspiracy theory to shape narratives that benefit their collective interests. Sometimes these interests have immediate and timely benefit because they help counter public opposition and result in keeping the status quo. In other instances, like the Iraq War and Vietnam War, the establishment benefits from building a case for predetermined actions they want to take. In both cases, power interests seek to stifle public inquiry into matters because this meddling would greatly affect their interests and plans.
People who hold power in society do create narratives that the public believes, and this in turn creates a rational justification for the resulting power wielded by the establishment. The use of power builds on itself. The more people who believe in the presented narrative, the better the interests of the establishment are served, including gaining more power. In particular, conspiracy theories are weaponized in scientific controversies to stifle legitimate inquiry. Academic institutions and corporations, and the scientists who work there, are often invested in current paradigms of scientific thinking. These players have an incentive to control narratives for their benefit. For example, they can protect existing revenue lines by exaggerating the benefits of medical treatments or drugs they offer, diminish the harms from certain medical treatments or drugs, or dismiss alternative non-pharmaceutical treatments.
Once labeled as a “conspiracy theorist”, a scientist or independent researcher wanting to explore these alternatives can be discredited by a swift character assassination that often results in the researcher’s difficulty to secure research funding.
Weaponization of the term ‘conspiracy theory’ is designed to control your thinking, so when confronted with it, you need tools by which to evaluate the information and distinguish honest reporting from propaganda. The following framework is designed to help you do just that.
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Nate Doromal is an activist and writer within the Vaccine Awareness and Vaccine Safety movement. He is a veteran software engineer, formerly with Google. Doromal now works in finance. He holds an MS and an MBA in Computer Science from the University of Chicago. He holds an Executive MBA from the Smartly Institute. He was originally trained on vaccines and vaccine activism by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny in her Mastering Vaccine Info Bootcamp. He has also studied immunological science extensively with Dr. Tetyana Obukhanych through her Building Bridges Course. He is a contributing writer for Children’s Health Defense.