A Conspiracy of Systems, A System of Conspiracies
You can't achieve cognitive parallax if you're the one-eyed man
One of the perennial debates in dissident circles is the old question of whether the rampant weirdness and fuckery of clown world is an emergent consequence of a severely maladaptive society, or a deliberate imposition by malign influences operating from the shadows on high. There are good arguments either way, which is one of the reasons this question is as seemingly intractable as the existence of God or the nature of life after death.
The systemicists currently hold the upper hand within respectable society, which is one of the reasons that the more intellectual commentators seem to prefer this more fashionable position. Broadly speaking, the systemicist view is that no one is really in charge of anything. Instead, social conditions are emergent phenomena, arising due to the intersection of psychological forces, evolutionary drives, economic incentives, and technological capabilities, with the high-level phenomena of mass psychoses, currency crises, wars, the dumbing down of the educational system, and so on arising as the sum of billions of individual decisions. Systemicists emphasize the complexity of the human world, and view it as a priori implausible that any one group could steer the teeming masses of humanity with anything like a sure hand. Systemicists seem to come from professional and academic backgrounds, and have some degree of personal familiarity with the talentless inanity that prevails in our venal managerial incompetocracy, so they have a natural personal bias against any hypothesis that requires such people to be capable of orchestrating any coherent plot on any scale larger than office politics.
Conspiracists are very much on the fringes, and have been for some time. Within the regime media, they’re the subject of relentless mockery, which is one of the reasons that they tend to take a dim view of a purely systemicist approach – it looks like a deliberate effort to hide the conspiracy, or simple cowardly blindness. Conspiracists emphasize the hierarchical nature of society, and are fuelled by the tight-lipped, incomprehensible illegibility of the managerial hierarchy. It is the most natural thing in the world to suppose that corporate and state entities that communicate via propaganda and public relations, for whom there is no truth but only spin, perception, and message control, and who classify everything they can get their hands on as top secret, privileged, and confidential information, are hiding something. It’s also entirely natural to expect wealthy, powerful people to collude with one another in order to accrue greater wealth and power. In general, although not always, conspiracists tend to come from the working class, and have relatively little direct, personal experience of the cloud people – as such, it’s easier to imagine they’re more competent than they really are.
The popular smear against conspiracists is that they’re a pack of raving schizos, constructing elaborate hypotheses by drawing connections between people and organizations that implicate them in devious collaborations, where in fact in many cases the supposed connections are indicative of no more than passing acquaintance, when they exist at all that is. In order to maintain the internal coherence of their hypotheses, speculative narratives are spun to fill the plot holes, often leading to conspiracist narratives having something like plot armour for their seemingly invincible antagonists. Every event on the world stage is the result of deliberate action by a hidden hand; every possible response has already been anticipated well in advance by the omniscient secret masters, who are several moves ahead in a game of hyperdimensional Go played with superstrings that no even knows they’re engaged in.
In the conspiracists’ favour, there really are conspiracies, and there are a great many of them. The Freemasons are a real group that has been massively influential for centuries, as anyone who grew up in the eastern areas of North America who’s ever walked through a graveyard knows. The Illuminati actually existed. Opus Dei is a real organization. Jews really are disproportionately powerful in American finance, politics, media, and academia, to a degree that is absolutely incompatible with whatever advantages in genetic IQ and cultural work ethic they possess. The CIA really was engaging in mind control experimentation via the MKULTRA program. The media spent decades claiming that there was no such thing as the Italian mafia. Similarly, despite decades of the media insisting it was a figment of everyone’s imagination, the Bilderberg group really was bringing together the world’s most powerful people on an annual basis. The successor of the Bilderbergs, the World Economic Forum, meets right out in the open, drawing together thousands of the world’s most powerful financiers, industrialists, and politicians, training future leaders in their Young Global Leaders program, infiltrating the cabinets of the world’s governments with those YGL alumni, and coordinating policy across NGOs, states, and corporations. As to the reptoids ... okay that one is probably made up
The conspiracists point with incredulity to the existence of such groups (and the above list is very, very far from complete), and the legacymedia’s track-record of covering them up, and ask the systemicists how they can be so myopic as to ignore their obvious presence and influence. The systemicists will shrug, and say, okay, sure, such groups exist, but what’s to say they’re important? To which the conspiracists reply, look how powerful these people are, of course they’re important! And the systemicists then say, well okay they have money and position, but they’re only human, they’re just reacting to the same conditions everyone else is. And on and on in circles it goes.
In many ways this is the old argument between the Great Man and the Social Forces theories of history. The Great Man view, analogous to the conspiracist view, is that history is shaped by the actions of especially influential individuals – statesmen, scientists, generals, inventors, prophets, and artists who stamp their mark on society. The Social Forces view, which is essentially the systemicist view, argues that the supposedly (here come the scare quotes) “great” menare just as much a product of historical circumstance as the masses of unremarkable and unremembered commoners, and that their actions are largely or entirely guided by prevailing ideologies, societal trends, and exigencies. The Great Man theory posits that the wave came from a fat man jumping in the pool; the Social Forces theory says the fat man was tossed about on the waves of the ocean. Great Man theory says that the character and nature of the Soviet Union was an extension of Stalin’s will; Social Forces theory says that Stalin acted as he was forced to act by circumstances well beyond his control. As with conspiracism, Great Man theory is out of fashion in academia, and that’s no accident.
Another parallel is in the debate between reductionist determinism on the one hand, and free will and teleology on the other. Once again, the hegemonic view of the academic mainstream is that everything in the universe is just the result of atoms and the void: chemistry, biology, psychology, and sociology are ultimately just emergent phenomena, with no intrinsic meaning or purpose ... they just kind of happen as a result of physics. In this view, free will is entirely illusory: you can’t get something from nothing, and since quarks don’t have free will, neither does anything else. This is strikingly similar to the systemicist view that all historical and societal phenomena are simply the additive result of the behaviour of fallible individual humans. The other view posits that people really do make decisions, that there is meaning and purpose not only in human activity but in nature. When it comes to life, it emphasizes the irreducible complexity of molecular and cellular biology, which speaks to intelligent design, and therefore a designer. This then suggests a telos, a goal or purpose towards which life – and by extension, humanity – strive. A divine plan, if you will. And, if there can be a divine plan (say the conspiracists), there can also be an infernal plan.
At the most basic level, the debate between conspiracists and systemicists, Great Man and Social Forces theories, Darwinian evolution and Intelligent Design, reductionism and teleology, come down to two different ways of viewing the world: top down vs. bottom up.
Earlier, I mentioned the tendency of conspiracists to fall into a sort of despair – imagining the masters of the world to be so devious, so far-sighted, so well-informed, and so influential that no meaningful resistance is possible. Their ultimate victory is inevitable, and the best one can do is to shelter oneself as best one can. This is implicit in those who say, for instance, that Trump was secretly working for the Democrats, or for the Jews, or for the globalists ... that his presidency was intended to discredit populism and nationalism, and provide a pretext for the censorship that followed his rise to power. They’ve got all the angles covered, and the rest of us – even those of us who think we’re onto them – are just pieces being slid around on the superstrings of that hyperdimensional Go board, our limited 3D brains stupidly oblivious to the vibrations in the higher dimensions.
The systemicists like to imagine themselves immune to such a trap, but they aren’t, really. In the extreme systemicist view, human action is entirely dictated by the invisible egregore of societal forces, which move us around every bit as powerlessly as the poor, manipulated dupes of the Great Conspiracy. You might be able to perceive the results of these forces, individually, and to understand some of the economic and psychological mechanisms from which they arise; but there’s no real hope of opposing them, any more than one can oppose a landslide or a hurricane.
Both extremes can lead to a kind of apathetic despondency in which the only possible response is to withdraw into a detached intellectual analysis. Whether you’re trying to follow the lines of force emerging from the invisible force fields of mass psychology, or charting the intricate connections between the families of the rich and powerful, it comes down to the same thing, psychologically.
In my view, both positions are correct; the only thing that’s wrong about them is the insistence that only one of the positions is correct. That sort of all-or-nothing, black-and-white approach is classic left brain hyperdominance, and a one-way ticket to the land where you’re the one-eyed king of the blind. It’s all a question of emphasis. One can see a system of conspiracies, or a conspiracy of systems ... or one can blink back and forth between the two perspectives, and obtain the cognitive parallax that gives the world depth. Trying to see reality from as many perspectives as possible, even (or especially) when they’re seemingly contradictory, is a key alethiological technique.
There are ideologies, economic systems, political and professional incentives, and human nature – these combine to produce emergent societal phenomena, which to a very large degree carry all of us along in their wake. But human nature being what it is, there are conspiracies, and they exist at every level and on every scale, from cartels smuggling heroin across the border, to financial magnates rigging the economy. People lie, they cheat, they steal, and they murder, and they collude to do so whenever it serves their purposes. Not everyone, to be sure (although most of us are at least a little dishonest), but there are enough stone-cold clinical psychopaths out there to make up for the rest of us.
The selective blindness that results from insisting on one view to the exclusion of the other is a potentially dangerous thing. The conspiracist focuses only on the danger posed by the lurking tiger, and doesn’t see the forest fire closing in from behind. The systemicist swims away from the approaching tsunami, and straight into the mouth of the great white shark. Reality is a jealous goddess, and in her vanity she gets cross if you ignore one part of her by fetishizing another. She gets pissed if you compliment her dress and fail to notice that she did her hair. She demands holistic worship.
To put this into practical terms, a conspiracist might imagine that everything would be fine if we just threw a rope party for the worst actors and put good – or at least indifferent – people into their place. They ignore that unless the system is changed, it’s likely that the same shitty outcomes will develop. The systemicist makes the opposite mistake: if we can just adopt a better set of laws, or more intelligent regulations, or modify the constitution, or change the economic incentives, or promulgate a better ideology, everything will improve. Left out of their clean equation is that you can have the best laws in the world, but will still end up with a pathocracy if those laws are being administered by a secretive cult of characteropathic monsters.
Taking this more balanced view of things naturally results in a broader distribution in the perception of agency within society. The extreme conspiracist essentially places all agency in the hidden masters. The systemicist pushes all agency into invisible societal forces. That concentration of agency is what leads to the tendency to despondency when an extreme view is adopted. If agency is split between forces and humans, it follows that agency is found to greater and lesser degrees everywhere. That means that, yes, there’s the weather and landscape provided by ambient social conditions, and yes, there are the lurking predators represented by the various dark conspiracies; but neither are all powerful, and there’s room in there for you, little human, to act according to your own will, and change things for the better: to shelter from the storm, to alter the environment, and to cull the predators.
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Well, less so these days, when the reigning joke is that a conspiracy theory is defined as a plot spoiler.
Although based on what I’ve seen, ‘graveyard’ is very much the operative word for the contemporary masons ... or maybe their appearance of irrelevant decrepitude is just what they want you to think.
Oh fuck here we go.
And it really is the case that a large amount of otherwise inexplicable American economic and foreign policy makes perfect sense if you assume it’s motivated by the prejudices and interests of the tribe.
Probably. I hope. At any rate there’s no evidence for it. Aside from being an excellent metaphor for the souls of the vampiric sociopaths that lord it over us.
And why are they always men, you sexists?
Which isn’t necessarily a conspiracy, or due to the cowardice of academics who quail at the thought of mentioning conspiracies. Anyone whose social life is populated primarily by other academics will have a very difficult time believing in great men, as it’s unlikely they’ve ever encountered one.
And the influence of psychopaths on society, as encapsulated in political ponerology, is a greatly unappreciated factor that everyone would do well to read up on. In many ways ponerology is the first real attempt, at least that I’m aware of, to rigorously square the circle between systemicist and conspiracist thinking.
Just ask Liberia how their cloned US Constitution worked out for them. Though to be fair, the human biodiversity nerds probably have a word or two to say on that subject.
Your essay reminds me of topology. In topology, we have sets that have properties. Those properties intersect, in other words, they share properties. Once you start seeing the things in our world as possessing groups of properties, you can begin to see the connectedness of all things, and where things are unique. This allows one to approach things, as the sage of Barsoom is doing, in an analogical way, looking for patterns of form.
In the case of the systems that he describes, both are focused on expressions of power, their origins, and basic properties of expression. Rather than thinking of them as diametric, think of them as complementary.
He has noticed that there is no reason why both these things can’t be true at the same time. In other words, he has abandoned the addiction to dialectic for the freedom of analogy. In other words it’s not either or, it is both and.
Once we can make the leap to looking for the connections between things before we look at the things that distinguish them, we can avoid the cognitive dissonance and anxiety that results from the endless wash of propaganda which intolerably fills the world around us.
Great piece! Totally agree and this has been the same binary perspectives of the brain and its development; top-down or bottom-up? environment or genetics? The truth it's both top-down and bottom-up, it's both environment and genetics, it's both from within and from without that we see the forces shaping the developing brain.
So to with society (the brain is always such a good analogy for society!), as you say, systemic forces AND those individual forces are all at play. And of course it's the right hemisphere that can appreciate the two playing together in a non-linear complexity that's difficult to clearly define.
One thing that I would add, which is not spoken of in academic circles, is the supernatural element - a layer above (or below, depending on your allegiances) the systemic and individual forces at play. What the Bible calls "principalities and powers", I believe, have a significant influence, but not either the "Great Man" nor the "Social Forces" but catalytic to both (for it is still men and society who have the agency to perpetrate both good and evil).