Cookie Schwaeber-Issan
Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

Conspiracy Theorist

One of my close friends is really smart – not because she has a Master’s Degree in molecular biology but, because as any good scientist, she does her own research to arrive at real conclusions about what’s true and what isn’t.  Spending endless hours, meticulously gathering information, she watches a great deal of medical clips, reads peer reviewed studies and articles which are corroborated by their validated findings.  If something doesn’t make sense to her, she relentlessly continues her investigation until the facts begin to add up, and she is able to see a pattern which not only makes sense but can be cogently argued and defended.

Such an individual, who has put in the time and effort to prove her case, might be the last person you’d expect to be called a “Conspiracy Theorist” but, not surprisingly, she has.

Leveling that two-word charge on someone has become the most effective and powerful silencing tool to stifle debate in our day.  It’s right up there with being called a racist, xenophobe, homophobe or misogynist.   The claim is so odious that the immediate impulse is to back down from your opinion, soften it, reword it or even apologize for whatever speech has passed through your lips.

You see, “Conspiracy Theorist” is defined as an explanation for an event or situation that invokes a sinister plot, often surrounding political motivation, when other explanations are more plausible or likely.  In other words, an individual, who has concluded that bad actors are at work for the cause of a political or evil agenda, is probably suffering from paranoia,  delusional or a person who has simply lost touch with reality – all of which can be tied to mental illness.

That label, therefore, suggests that anything you say is nonsense, the ravings of a lunatic and certainly not based in fact, sound judgment or clarity of mind.

So it’s no wonder that the epithet is frequently used.  It works to discredit, shame and mock any argument which challenges whatever the one-sided, lock stepped crowd is pushing.  Once you’ve been called a “Conspiracy Theorist,” you’re basically on your own.  No one is going to come to your defense, even if they see the validity of your argument, because to do so will threaten their own sanity standing.  So you’re out on a limb – in need of either firmly asserting your position, all the more, or climbing down from that lonely tree.

Having said that, it is my contention that invoking the label and pasting it on someone’s forehead displays a lazy and slothful tactic which requires no deep or profound thought, research, investigation, creativity or any other skill which would transform you into a worthy opponent – one who would be able to hold their own in a well-matched debate.

To the contrary, that would require hard work and long, concentrated thought.  It would demand fair and honest consideration of ideas, opinions and analysis.  Why go there when two volatile words can blow up the argument as well as cast doubt on the sanity and lucidity of the person you’re trying to crush?

Consequently, if you can destroy one’s rationality, the argument is not even viable anymore.  Those two words effectively throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak.

It is for that reason that anyone, daring enough to buck the system and offer a logical, common sense approach, must be willing to muster the courage needed to make their case.  They must stand their ground and not cower in the face of that indolent and unimaginative branding which is nothing more than a lame “cut and paste” effort to attack your thoughts.

Likewise, another empty set of words, “follow the science,” which almost guarantees the fact that no specific science is being invoked, has become an effective catchphrase.  It suggests that you have not done your due diligence needed to properly protect, guard and ensure the safety of others as well as yourself.  It relegates you to the company of the ignorant, uninformed and misguided.  Notice how it effectively performs double duty in one stroke.  If you’re told you’re not “following the science,” you are also being reprimanded for being an unreliable renegade and going against the prevailing and dominant position of what has been deemed to be the ultimate in safeguarding society.

Once again, your normalcy, stability and soundness are brought into question, making everyone feel unsafe and threatened by your seeming lack of logic in the face of the majority’s commonality of thought. It’s no fun to find yourself in that category, because you have crossed over to the risk side and are no longer considered to be sensible or enlightened.

Yet that’s today’s easy path to winning an argument.  Destroy the one making the claim and you destroy the claim.  It’s quite insidious and lacks any equity or integrity by those seeking to end the discussion before it even begins.

Shutting down free speech and diverse opinion must be seen as a tactic of those who are insecure, unprepared to argue the merits of their position and desirous of controlling and dominating the narrative.  Such behavior is quite transparent and deeply rooted in fear and self-doubt.

Those characteristics do not describe my smart friend who exudes confidence, authority and sound judgment when she speaks.  She has no reason to second-guess herself as she is always armed with proven facts and well-researched information.

Anyone employing the easy way out by labeling someone with these defamatory tags should realize that they are in the company of those who promote censorship, suppression, thought control, blacklisting, character assassination and authoritarianism.  All are meant to squelch free thought, free expression and individuality.

So the next time you hear someone being called a “Conspiracy Theorist,” in the light of today’s charged social environment, make a concerted effort to find out why that person is trying to be silenced, dismissed and defamed rather than engaged in fair debate and the exchange of diverse ideas.

You may end up realizing that the name caller is nothing more than a frightened, intimidated and unequipped individual who lacks both the courage and the moral character needed to value both the person and their message regardless of their own opinion.

Societal respect for others can only be had when people are willing to listen to each other without placing ugly labels on them! It doesn’t obligate you to agree, but it does obligate you to afford everyone the right to be heard!

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.