Conspiracy Theory as Conceptual Art

Drawing by Anthony Haden-Guest

  

By ANTHONY HADEN-GUEST April, 2020

  As dark narratives multiply in our much too interesting times, finger-pointing explanations for ugly events, disturbing developments or just stuff which makes enough people mad, proliferate likewise. Conspiracy theories were exchanged over fires outside caves for sure but their speed-of-light ballooning via new media, has become the new normal. Anxious consumers and hyper-active trolls are the flesh and muscle of the traffic in Conspiracy Theory but there are brains putting the phenomenon to work. In April 2017 Mike Mariani wrote in Vanity Fair of Vladislav Surkov, a Putin capo, known as the Grey Cardinal, that “He studied theater for several years before working in the Kremlin, and Russian propaganda experts believe he imported postmodern ideas from the art world into Russia’s political sphere.”

  Can’t you just smell the approaching Smoosh-Joe Biden tsunami?  The energies with which real data are mashed into invention and/or delusion, sometimes integrating such seductive new tools as Deep Fakes and bots, is resulting in the continuous production of what deserves to be recognised as a populist form of Conceptual art.

  New forms deserve appropriate critique. The phantasmagoric structures that budded around Jeffrey Epstein were ripe for such a look, what with Bill Clinton and a Brit Royal being sucked into the supporting cast, but the stories generated were just about sex and death, themes that pre-date Aeschylus. Then along came the Corona virus and this was swiftly found useful in the building of more timely narratives. Often these give leading roles to individuals who have been frequent targets of the Theorists. Like Bill Gates. It had been Gates who warned about a coming pandemic so now we are naturally being told that he created it.

Drawing by Anthony Haden-Guest
  

  Alex Jones of InfoWars has supported the notion that the virus was created in China as a bio-weapon. Zhao Lijan, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, tweeted in March that “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!” He was referring to 300 athletes from the US military who had attended games in Wuhan the previous October. This theory was taken up by the Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Supreme Leader of Iran, when turning down an American offer for help with the virus. “Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more” he said. He added that the virus “is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians which they have obtained through different means. You might send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person,” he said. This, of course, predated the arrival of the virus in its full force in the United States.

  It has also been claimed that the virus was created in an American lab, and sold to China while Obama, a frequent target of Theorists, was in office. And that brings to mind another Obama nugget, which was that a screenshot taken from a video of him playing ping pong proved that he was in a ring of leading Democrats running a child sex operation in various venues, notably a Washington, DC, pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong.   

  Which takes us to the growing inclination amongst believers to move on from words to actions. Death threats to Comet Ping Pong staffers were followed on December 4 2016 by a visit from a man named Edgar Maddison Welch, who had driven up from North Carolina with three guns to save the enslaved children. He walked in, fired an assault rifle. No kiddies, no casualties. “The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent,” he told the New York Times. He got four years.

   I had thought Pizzagate impossible to top but then along came 5G. A conspiracy theory linking this new superfast telecommunications system to the spread of the virus led to several masts in the UK being set on fire last week. "It's the worst kind of fake news," said Stephen Powis, medical director of the National Health Service. "The reality is that the mobile phone networks are absolutely critical to all of us." Reporting by James Temperton in Wired on April 6 located the birth of the story in an interview published on January 22 in a Belgian newspaper with a doctor, Kris Van Kerckhoven. It was headlined 5G is life-threatening, and no one knows it and in the course of it the interviewer noted that several 5G cell towers had been built around Wuhan since 2019. Might there be a link, he asked? “I have not done a fact check”, Van Kerckhoven said. “But it may be a link with current events”. That was the match, the global forest was soon blazing.

Drawing by Anthony Haden-Guest
 

  Both Temperton and William J. Broad in the New York Times have drawn attention to the strongest and most persistent voice warning us of the dangers of 5G. It has been none other than the Russian TV channel, RT America, this being the channel that US intelligence agencies named as the principal meddler in the 2016 presidential election. A 2017 report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence described RT America as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet” and noted that it was getting a million daily hits on You Tube, more than any other news outlet. Amongst RT’s stream were segments blaming G5 for causing autism and Alzheimer’s, specifying that in children it will cause cancer, nosebleeds and learning disabilities, and one titled “A Dangerous Experiment on Humanity”.

   Nations that get an early grip on 5G will surely also get a massive economic boost. Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a Russian 5G program in February 2019. So they are playing catch-up. A connection? Well, what do you think, Sherlock? Vladislav Surkov was fired by the Kremlin this February. A liking for strategies familiar in theater, fiction and the arts apparently survives him. WM

 

Anthony Haden-Guest

Anthony Haden-Guest is an internationally known writer and artist. 

 

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