To be honest, I do not like the term conspiracy theories. It is, much like its cousin-term “misinformation,” denotatively meaningless. These terms are rhetorical cudgels to delegitimize whatever ideas and beliefs the speaker using them does not like. That is all. Richard Weaver called such language “devil terms.” If you drill down on what is meant by conspiracy theory, its distinct elements as a category of belief, how conspiracy theories are operatively different from other kinds of narratives that attempt to explain the causes of various events and circumstances, you will find nothing there. The edges bleed out; the center is empty.

But I am also not interested in a semantic fight over definitions. This is a stupid game played mostly by the dishonest and the pedantic. They do this with Critical Race Theory for instance. It is said not to exist, or else only narrowly apply to an abstruse legal theory for which no one making claims under its rubric ever has to account. Define “dishonest.” Define “pedantic.” Whoever plays this game you can safely ignore.

So let’s stipulate for the sake of this discussion that conspiracy theories are a type of narrative that you know when you see it. They posit shadowy forces lurking behind the scenes, choreographing the grand spectacle of geopolitical life toward malevolent ends. Conspiracy theories assign intentionality to what may seem on the surface to be random or spontaneous. They are often inflected by a schizo-autistic kind of inductive reasoning, the “paranoid style,” as Richard Hoftstadter put it. They may have an eschatological or revolutionary bent, and sometimes overlap with apolitical folk beliefs about the supernatural and the occult.

The principle feature of conspiracy theories, above all else however, is that they defy mainstream narratives. There is an official version of events, supported by the evidence as interpreted by “credible” experts, and then there are conspiracy theories. That’s the basic dichotomy. Take for example 9/11, and the two conflicting theories about what happened that day. In both versions a cabal of covert agents planned and executed an unprecedented attack on the United States requiring prolonged secrecy and improbable logistical complexity. At the center of one version is George W. Bush. At the center of the other version is Osama bin Laden. Both versions are theories about a conspiracy. But what makes the former a “conspiracy theory,” and not the latter, is that the former is not the explanation of events favored by officialdom, of the broad set of people and the institutions we might call epistemic authorities. It is not supported by the preponderance of known evidence, or of the usual process of postulation and verification. It is not supported by the 9/11 Commission Report, or NIST’s peer-reviewed report about the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. It is not, frankly, supported by common sense either, at least at the level of its most popularly articulated details. While I do not intend to debate whether 9/11 Trutherism has merit or not (of certain particulars and of certain “directional” suspicions versions of it definitely do have merit), I mean only to say that it is not the official explanation. Therefore, it is a “conspiracy theory.”

Conspiracy theories exist, in other words, to the extent they exist as a coherent category of ideas at all, outside the Overton Window. And it is for this reason that conspiracy theories are worthy of our attention and have much potential epistemic and discursive value. What lies beyond the Overton Window is, after all, the intellectual landscape we (and I mean just about anyone reading this) inhabit. This is our home turf. We come here on the premise that there is truth and story and belief of great value to be mined where the light of officialdom does not shine. Conspiracy theories are a major part of this territory and we ought not neglect them.

This is not to say that conspiracy theories, or conspiratorial thinking are all together positive. Eugyppius (, who has done a lot of very good writing about the pandemic, has rightfully warned about the danger of conspiranoid fantasies that presume our elites to be smart enough and competent enough to bend the world to their will. The elites are instead as retarded as they are malevolent. I have long said there is no one at the wheel and this is borne out over and over again in the many failures and desperate measures these elites are forced to take in order to prop up their increasingly fragile hold on power.

Conspiracism, taken too far, makes the mistake of believing the people and forces arrayed against us are omnipotent. This is not so unlike Hoteps ascribing all adverse circumstances of black people to the Whiteman’s tricknology. It is a totalizing belief system that is both obviously false and also reduces the field of potential action to zero. It enfeebles the believer to a state of passive submission. It is cope. It also reveals the believer to be incapable of formulating skepticism proportionate to the middling ability and cunning we know these would-be conspiratorial overlords actually possess. Consider the meme of the slick CIA field agent you know from spy movies juxtaposed with the image of Eggman McMulfin with his sweaty Gap shirt and moron smile. This is the same basic idea. The elites are in reality farcical imitations of the genius Masters of the Universe they believe themselves to be and how they exist in the imagination of the Reddit conspiranoid.

Understood with these caveats in mind, conspiracy theories, even obviously false ones, still have several useful functions. For one, properly deployed, they exist in the difficult to parse middle-ground between genuine belief and absurdist humor that is critical for dissident thought. They operate as a kind of playful esotericism in this way. Some may resent the need for esotericism since it concedes a subaltern position, but is nonetheless an important tactic to confound and expose outsiders while also allowing the exchange and testing of ideas in a liminal, non-committal space. When BAP says that Honduras does not exist, or when Alex Jones laments the interdimensional globalist reptiloids feeding off adrenochrome in the basement of Comet Ping Pong, these claims are simultaneously metaphorical and literal, at least for those who know how to decode them. The normie, the bugmen, and the midwit cannot understand. They cannot comprehend how such claims are either funny or true, and never both. They are left outside the circle of participatory, bottom-up storytelling and humor through which our beliefs and attitudes about the world are given space to breathe. Maybe it is helpful to think of this as a form of encryption, for which only insiders have the key.

There is a second meta-function of conspiracy theories which is, earnestly approached, they provide a kind of training ground for effective participation in the broader arena of ideas–that is by sharpening one’s argumentative and story-telling capabilities. There is a misconception that trading in conspiracy theories is like playing tennis without a net, and certainly some are prone to a Dadaist take on these subjects, but to do them well, to do them in a way that engages an audience, one must operate under a set of fairly severe constraints. There are rules. The first is that any good theory must have explanatory power. The more improbable the conspiracy, the more difficult this is to achieve. It requires the conspiracy theorist to call upon all of his historical knowledge and analytical know-how. This is what Loki Julianus does so well, for example. He is a great master of obscure recall. Then, making these explanations compelling, which is the second constraint, requires not just the knowledge and analysis to produce the explanation, but the rhetorical artistry to frame these ideas in an interesting way. They must jar the audience out of their prior beliefs, if only slightly. They must reconstitute events and motives while still cohering to a larger historical view.

Doing this well also makes one attuned to the discursive tactics and loose accounting of facts that increasingly characterizes mainstream narratives. One learns to recognize the conspiratorial style wherever it exists, and can develop appropriate responses, and learn to identify for others how such narratives are shaped and maintained. It is not a coincidence that the schizoid right-wing sphere, steeped in conspiracism themselves, were so early to call out the lies being told about Wuhan Flu or Russiagate or the election, which all required a strained conspiratorial narrative to be convincingly sold to the normie, and for which the normie has become increasingly skeptical. Conspiracism is good intellectual hygiene.

Much in the memespace functions like this––as discursive practice. But one must be wary of depending too heavily on crypto-irony or quasi-belief as a mode of politics. There is the leftist tendency to revel in transgression or absurdism for the sake of these things alone. Conspiracy theories can be a trap when they are used only for this end. If you ever listen to the TrueAnon podcast you will know what I mean. This is a Chapo extended universe spin-off show, with the same renegade pretensions and appealing to the same out-of-work humanities academic audience. In this context, conspiracy theories are used to counterbalance the host’s and the audience’s otherwise self-serious and maudlin politics, so you get this manic, clownish kind of talk that is constantly expressing histrionic surprise and glee at itself for exposing the secrets of the arcanum. But it is all rather dull. Inevitably it turns into a first-year PoliSci section with the “cool” TA doing Howard Zinn tier “secret history” reading of the syllabus. This sort of thing. It is only ever safe conspiracies, the known unknowns, nothing that could ever shock the listener into rethinking her assumptions. The point is never to test or produce knowledge, but to affirm oneself as (superficially) transgressive while still being safely within the confines of acceptable belief.

This is a trivial, kitsch style of conspiracism, more affectation than an earnest attempt at understanding, and as it is merely a kind of intellectual dress or fashion it neglects conspiracism’s larger practical utility. And here is the final point about why it is so vital not to abandon these kinds of ideas as capable of uncovering truth about the world. It is perhaps fair to assume that in a more functional society, where an adversarial press can be relied upon to hold powerful interests accountable, and where that power is diffuse across many competing institutions, the likelihood for successful conspiracies is rather low, and therefore conspiracy theories do not offer much benefit in the way of producing actionable information. But that is not the society we live in, not now and perhaps not ever. The press actively suppresses information that is detrimental to the very same people it ostensibly must hold to account. And on the flipside it constructs fake conspiracies, whether it is white supremacy or the fascist Putler overthrow of the Republic, to demonize whatever segment of the population opposes their interests. Meanwhile, the press aside, the competing institutions that ought to moderate themselves through self-interest have almost totally fallen capture to the same globohomo ideology and agenda. One might say this view of the situation is itself a conspiracy theory, but I take the situation to be largely self-evident.

In any case, I do not think I have to prove to this audience that the press, the deep state, academia, woke capital, Big Tech, etc.––virtually the entirety of our sense making institutions––have demonstrated the ability and willingness to shape narratives and produce outcomes that comport to globohomo cultural and political preferences. Again, as a reminder to an earlier point, do not mistake this for total control, or supernatural omnipotence. Never forget that these people are retarded. But what these present conditions suggest is that our leaders and their media lapdogs will be more willing to carry out actual conspiracies, what we might call “ops,” coordinated efforts of various kind and degree for which there will only be scant evidence available, in order to achieve their aims. They will do this NOT because they don’t think they will get caught––this is an obsolete view of conspiracy theories, that they are unlikely precisely because they will be found out––but rather because even if and when they do get caught, they will pay no consequences for it. Their perfidy is immune to punishment, since the very institutions capable of meting out that punishment are themselves a part of the conspiracy (or anyway, share its goals).

This view of things does not require or even imply a centralized plan of action. All of this can be done via well-aligned incentives and genuine and organic commitment to a set of preferences shared by the people who are selected into these roles precisely because they are the kind of people who will passively comply. To put this very simply and plainly: Conspiracism is legitimate because conspiracies are becoming an ever more salient feature of our social and political organization.


There is a very good recent book by Tom O’Neill about the Manson murders called “Chaos” that provides an instructive coda to the points being made here. O’Neill set out to write a straightforward history of the Tate-Labianca murders but soon found himself following a bizarre thread of largely unexamined evidence that credibly implicated the CIA, various mysterious figures associated with Manson, experimental LSD treatment facilities with ties to the MK-Ultra program, and other coincidences that made the official narrative of the event almost certainly a cover for something else. O’Neil became obsessed, devoting his life to this story for the better part of a decade, attempting to unravel it all and discover the dispositive smoking gun that might finally explain what actually happened that night and who knew what and why. But he never quite gets there. The final answer is always just out of reach, hidden from view, in a file that was accidentally shredded in a Langley basement, or in a tape-recorded testimony that freakishly goes blank for three minutes right at the point the critical question is finally asked.

This is the ultimate lesson of conspiracy theories. They rarely ever can be proven. The conspiracy theorist must reconcile himself to uncertainty, to a glimpse at the face behind the veil, but never the full visage. And that is okay. It is enough to know that what meets the eye is not all there is. The story is almost always deeper and more complex than what is told to us by officialdom, and the people at the center of it have names, perhaps 500 of them. They can be found, and they can be held to account. And it is within our capacity, even if we can never get our hands on the Confidential document that confesses their grand designs (and such a document almost surely does not exist), to sort the chaff, to dig, and to probe, and uncover what was meant to be left in the dark.