The Conspiracy Theories That Failed to Explain 2017
From the Queen dying, to trans teenagers destroying the Labour Party.
The Queen (Photo via the Home Office / CC BY 2.0
The earth is flat! The moon landings were faked! Bush did 9/11! The royal family are space lizards! Finland isn't real! Personally, I've never really been one to go in for these kinds of conspiracy theories. I get that everyone in any sort of position of power is lying to us – that general hypothesis seems perfectly plausible – but there's just something about conspiracy theories that doesn't hold: they never go far enough.
Let's take the assumption that powerful people are working hard to keep us in the dark with regard to the truth about our world. If this is true, how come the truth is leaking out all over reddit? If we're going to hold on to the first assumption, then surely we also have to doubt the plausibility of any conspiracy theory we're exposed to – after all, it might be part of the cover-up too. The real truth – if the universe is even structured in such a way as to admit of truth at all – has to be far stranger, far more disturbing, than anything any conspiracy nut has yet imagined.
Given the general air of political insurgency that's been blowing through this year from the previous one, the powers-that-be must surely have been especially motivated to leak false-flag nonsense into our imaginations. So, let's take a little jaunt down memory lane and reminisce about the various flavours of bullshit which have been used to colonise our powers of resistance in 2017.
THE QUEEN IS DEAD
On the 29th of December last year, rumours of a mysterious UK "#mediablackout" started circulating on Twitter. As the day unfolded, a public still bloated and woozy on booze and turkey somehow came jointly to the conclusion that this alleged blackout must somehow concern the health of the Queen, who had been ill over the Christmas period to the point of missing traditional church services. Most likely, they believed, the Queen had succumbed to her illness, and – given the truly immense mourning apparatus that would need to be put into action once this fact became public knowledge – the palace was waiting until the new year to announce the news.
But in the new year, no announcement came, and the Queen began to re-appear intermittently in public at various events (as well as in her own garden at 3AM, almost being shot). She was, it seemed, still very much alive. But did the belief that the Queen was really dead go away? Not completely, no. There could still have been a cover-up, she could have been replaced by a look-alike. Just think what the Windsors would stand to lose if the Queen popped it. King Charles? They'd risk being disbanded. No, the Queen's death would be more trouble than it's worth. Buckingham Palace has every reason to be fooling us.
Plausibility: I mean, given the age of the Queen, the various incentives involved here, the mysterious events that unfolded over the course of the new year... yeah, I'd say it's probably more likely the Queen is dead than not. 7/10
ANTIFA ARE GOING TO OVERTHROW THE GOVERNMENT
A spectre is haunting established norms of political decency – the spectre of Nazis being punched. If 2016 was the year of far-right insurgency, 2017 was the year the hard left (as is their nature) kicked back – literally, as well as figuratively. This former aspect of the kick-back led to a high degree of alarmism, which in the US in particular manifested in fears over shadowy, masked "antifa" (imagine I'm typing this word as an American would pronounce it, all one syllable).
Infowars – which I think is a sort of infomercial for a brain enhancement supplement – did a lot to fuel this conspiracy rumour when it claimed that a series of rallies, in fact planned by a fringe group called the Revolutionary Communist Party, were in fact a front for the left, well-organised and backed financially by international billionaire George Soros, to "kill conservatives" and start a civil war. Alarm was heightened to the point that comedy tweeters were getting suspended for posting obvious nonsense about "antifa super-soldiers" that people had somehow panicked themselves into the intellectual space necessary to take seriously.
But this sort of conspiracy rumour was by no means confined to the States. In the UK, the right-wing press were briefly worried about the possibility of a protest against the Queen's Speech, planned by something called the "Movement For Justice By Any Means Necessary", spilling over into insurrectionary violence, an armed John McDonnell storming the Palace of Westminster and citizen's arresting Theresa May. But obviously it was just over-hyped nonsense.
Plausibility: Unfortunately, the left can't actually call on an army of super-soldiers to do their bidding – and, of course, none of these rumoured insurrections in fact took place. On the other hand, by the end of 2018 the most left-wing Labour government in history could well have assumed power. So, you know. 5/10
TRANS PEOPLE ARE INFILTRATING THE LABOUR PARTY
For some reason, towards the end of this year the press started going full-throttle against trans rights, spreading old-school Section 28-style alarm with the claims that: a) the unreasonable demands of "trans activists" have started a plague of gender confusion in our schools; and b) men, using "trans ideology" to disguise themselves as women, are infiltrating female-only spaces within the Labour party to (??? I don't actually know what they're supposed to be gaining by doing this, but apparently they're doing it).
This might not on the surface seem like a conspiracy theory, but that's only because it's a battle largely being fought in actual, physical newspapers – which we intuitively don't think of as fringe hate outlets. But take, for example, the way in which the anti-trans lobby, in the context of their lengthy bullying campaign against 19-year-old trans Labour CLP women's officer Lily Madigan, seem to think they can convince people she is "really" a man posing as a woman as part of some elaborate ruse by citing evidence including a Twitter account from when she was 15 with her former name attached to it, in which a rape joke is allegedly prominently displayed.
There's a hidden plot to give men total access to the ladies' toilets, and trans teenagers (and Owen Jones, for some reason) are at the vanguard of it.
Plausibility: Everyone perpetuating this hateful nonsense needs to either grow up, or lose the newspaper columns they've somehow fallen arse-backwards over their lack of talent or even basic insight into being given, or both. 0/10
VLADIMIR PUTIN CONTROLS EVERYTHING
Sorry dead Queen, sorry antifa super-soldiers, and especially sorry to you, trans teenagers – none of you win conspiracy theories in 2017. No, the number one conspiracy figure of 2017 is of course Vladimir Putin, the all-powerful President of Russia, who, with an army of hackers and trolls at his command, is able to control everything we do.
Brexit, the surprise election result, the way in which people are rude to centrist journalists on Twitter – throughout the year it increasingly became clear that these things are absolutely not the product of widespread discontent caused by capitalism's increasing inability to offer a decent standard of living to anyone but the already-rich. No – according to everyone from social media personality Eric Garland to Theresa May, these things were definitely the product of a Kremlin plot. Think you are remotely free in anything you do? Well, think again – and then remember you're only thinking again at all because it serves Russian interests for you to do so.
Plausibility: Sorry, centrists, people just don't like you! Not everything is a Kremlin conspiracy. But I'm still giving this one a point because I think if Putin could control all of western politics with a secret troll army he probably would. 1/10