To label someone a ‘conspiracy theorist’ has come to mean they are, essentially, a tinfoil hat wearing lunatic.1
One of the more sophisticated critiques of such “theorists” is that their claims of e.g. global-level control can not stand up to scrutiny. Simply, no central control scheme is up to the task of managing the level of complexity in large-scale natural and human systems.
Instead, they say, what we see are emergent outcomes of self-organizing processes that may look like they are intentionally guided by some central actor, but are in fact consequences of many micro-focused actors doing what is locally reasonable (typically in their own self-interest).
They are certainly right that global control is infeasible and any attempt at such is doomed from the start. What they often fail to see is that that hasn’t kept people from trying.
Just today Bloomberg magazine tweeted out an article claiming we might need to “cut off sunlight” to fight climate change.
It is really a shame that this is NOT a tinfoil hat theory. The level of hubris that leads to presenting such an idea with a straight face is hard to fathom. It’s clear we need to be more sensitive in how we treat the natural life support systems we depend on. This would include NOT blocking out the sun — literally our main dependency for all life on the planet.
So someone had the great idea we could cool the planet down by blocking the sun, reversing the negative impacts of climate change as they understand it.
This is a perfect microcosm of the real danger of conspiracies:
There are groups of people that can marshal vast resources that have shockingly naïve ideas about what can be controlled.
Those that seek central control will never achieve their ends, but they can bring massive destruction in pursuit of them. And the emergent outcomes we experience include such naïve and hubristic actors. This is what those sophisticated critiques often miss.
And to make matters worse, as things spiral out of control as a result of the attempt to centrally control what could never be, the deteriorating situation invites more grasping from these same players. A positive feedback loop of destructive clinging.
The danger of control freaks is not that they will achieve their ends, it is that they will commit massive destruction in trying.
And that association is designed to dismiss their claims. Make them ‘untouchable’. True enough in many cases, but ultimately weaponized to set bounds on polite thinking.