“Hate speech” of course is a fairly silly term, since intent doesn’t necessarily follow the literal meaning of words. Let me give you an example:
I once sold a house to a gay couple. The one of the pair I dealt with happened to be a really decent guy with a good sense of humor. At the walkthrough our conversation went something like this:
James (laughing): So, Paul, you don’t mind selling your house to a couple of fags?
Paul (also laughing): Nah, it’ll make the neighbors happy. You guys are always neat and stylish, aren’t you?
I assure you, there was no hate involved in this conversation. James started the joke and I joined in with him. And while I don’t normally call people “fag,” in this case I played along because it was just that… playful. Using “fag” this way diffused tensions rather than caused them.
That said, I’ll play along with the political term, “hate speech,” today, because the term, “conspiracy theory,” as it’s so often used, really does have aggression and hate built into it.
How Adults Speak
I’m talking about actual adults now, not just people of a certain age. I’m referring to people with some level of maturity.
Mature people speak to communicate and (hopefully) to find the truth of things. And if things are too complex or obscure for truth to be clearly seen, they try to understand the other party’s viewpoint and to clarify their own.
Immature people speak for the purpose of winning. And that’s simply barbaric. It’s almost excusable for the fifth grader on a playground; it’s not for the 30-year-old or, God forbid, the 50-year-old.
And sad to say, I’ve seen a lot of older people – in their 40s, 50s, and even older – who are woefully immature in their speech. You can see plenty of them on TV (expensive suits don’t actually impart maturity), where the common denominator of their immaturity is politics, a blood sport devoted to winning at all costs.
A Weapon Is as a Weapon Does
There was a cute line in the Forrest Gump film, “Stupid is as stupid does.” In other words, stupidity is shown by its actions. Likewise, a weapon is shown by its actions. And if that’s true, the term, “conspiracy theory,” is very clearly a weapon.
This term was popularized by the CIA, by the way, when they were trying to quash discussions surrounding the JFK assassination((You can find the details in Conspiracy Theory in America, by Lance deHaven-Smith. There was even an official memo on precisely this.)). In other words, it was promoted to shut down inquiry, not with reason, but with intimidation, ridicule, and shame.
Since then it has been used widely, usually with fear mixed in. As in, “You are challenging authority, and people who do such things get hurt.” Clearly, this is a weapon-like usage.
Likewise in daily life. I think all of us have said something that generated the reply – the blow – “That’s a conspiracy theory.” Whereupon people in the vicinity take a sort of step back from us. And again, reason has nothing to do with this. “Conspiracy theory” is not a reason; it’s a verdict… a verdict supported, not by fact, but by fear and its dark associates.
And we should make no mistake, most of time this phrase is used, it is used with malice. To call someone a “conspiracy theorist” is to slap them. It’s to hammer them down, shut them up, scare others from considering what they said, and to shame them as badly as possible.
So, yes, such uses of “conspiracy theory” really are hate speech. The only serious difference between them and the so-called n-word is that one attacks race and the other attacks cognition.
The Dark Faith of the Heretic Hunter
Michael Barkun, a political scientist who has studied conspiracy theories at length, concluded that a common feature among conspiracy theories is that they form a closed system that is unfalsifiable. That is, they are cut off from reasoned examination. Because of that, he says, it becomes “a matter of faith rather than proof.”
Ironically, that’s precisely what has become of the epithet, “conspiracy theory.” The term is used as a verdict, enforced with dark and aggressive emotion, and is thus cut off from examination. It is a slander that stands upon a dark type of faith. The user of the term, “conspiracy theory,” is all too similar to the heretic hunter.
“Conspiracy theory” is launched more than spoken, intended to deliver shame and cut off from examination by the dark triad of intimidation, ridicule, and authority.
Very often it is hate speech.
* * * * *
A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:
I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.
* * * * *