Friday, September 2, 2011

Paranoia = Profit$

Why Conspiracy Culture on the Internet is Big Business


Yep, it’s that time of year again. Time for all of the basement dwelling, tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy weirdos to emerge from their subterranean lairs to tell all of us “sheeple” the TRUTH about 9/11.

It was a false flag operation perpetrated by the Bush Administration to get us into Iraq. No, it was actually a controlled demolition arranged by the Bilderbergs. NO, it was really a set-up by the Illuminati involving a fighter jet equipped with cruise missiles. So, does it sound just a little delusional to accuse a shady, underground cartel of Swedish international bankers and governmental puppet organizations backed by the Knights Templar of orchestrating the September 11, 2001 attacks?

Well, not to millions of people across the globe. Yeah, that’s right, millions. As it turns out, Internet-born conspiracy culture is no laughing matter. In fact, many of the superstars of online crack pottery are laughing all the way to the bank.

Alex Jones' YouTube videos have had more than 100 million views. The Zeitgeist Movement channel has received over 15 million, and the creators of Loose Change have sold over 2 million DVDs since 2006.  Apparently, not only has Internet "conspiracy culture" gone mainstream. . .it's literally turned into a cottage industry over the course of a decade.

So what does this say about new media? Well, for starters, that there sure are a lot of people on the Web that feel disenfranchised and disempowered. Now, I’m not saying that types like Alex Jones and the TRUTH Movement folks are necessarily exploiting people with all-too-apparent social issues, but. . .well, no, never mind, I guess I am. The psychosocial dynamic here is pretty obvious; a lot of people out there that feel beat-up and left-out take solace in attaining “knowledge” that a.) explains, rationalizes and neatly shifts the finger of blame for the individual’s foibles and failings to a universal culprit and b.) gives said individual a sense of empowerment via obtainment of said knowledge. Why do so many people “believe” in such far-fetched, unfounded and generally cockamamie ideas to begin with? Because those same ideas give them a smidge of comfort. It makes them feel like they “know” something the general population doesn’t, and that, by proxy, gives them a social edge over all the people they encounter that seem to be enjoying life way more than they are. We often talk about how the Internet, especially with the advent of social and mobile media, has made us a single “collective” of users and producers, but judging from the staggering number of people buying into the conspiratorial agitprop of the present, it’s quite clear to me that a true unification hasn’t exactly taken place on the Information Superhighway. Judging from the sensation WikiLeaks stirred, it’s quite obvious that new media can be used for genuine social empowerment (just ask the ex-leaders of Egypt and Libya if you get the chance.) However, the ‘net can also be used as an apparatus that exploits, beguiles and generally swindles people into believing and following any number of odd movements and agendas. Sigh. . .if Jim Jones were alive today, he probably would’ve made his congregation sip poisoned FlavorAde through an iPhone app.

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