I am horrified by how the media now treats conspiracy theories as if they are somehow universally egregious. This treatment is wrong, authoritarian, and threatens everything that underpins post-enlightenment life.
Trump and Covid triggered a wave of conspiracy theories which threatened the ruling elite, and now they seek to maintain their narrative by tarring all such theories with the same brush.
Some conspiracy theories are demonstrably false. Some are demonstrably true. The rest are real possibilities which, in absence of proof, are reasonable to express, examine and even to tentatively believe in.
MK Ultra is a conspiracy theory which is proven true. So too is Watergate, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, and countless others. Conspiracies happen. No serious person believes otherwise.
And yet in the media and political discourse reasonable theories about conspiracies are routinely falsely described as untrue and/or associated with some drastic moral failing.
The first major event of this kind that I noticed was the Covid lab-leak theory. The facts were that Covid seemed to originate near to a lab which worked with Covid-like viruses, and the exact source was undetermined. There were only two logical explanations: lab-leak or natural cause. Both were plausible to any thinking person.
Yet people who expressed the lab-leak theory were deplatformed by tech companies and accused of misinformation; in the media it was described as a racist falsehood. When scientists came forward the establishment later accepted the lab-leak 'conspiracy theory' was plausible.
The second event is of course the recent violence in Israel and Palestine. It is a fact that Israel was warned by multiple sources of an impending attack. It is a fact the attack occurred. It is a further fact that Israel has killed tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians and herded the rest into the only city they haven't extensively bombed, all while senior Israeli politicians talk of killing all Palestinians and resettling their lands.
Netanyahu's motivation has not been proven. Perhaps he's terrified of Hamas. Perhaps he wants power. Perhaps he really does want to kill all of those people. In the absence of proof it is perfectly reasonable to express and even lean towards any of these possibilities.
I trust I don't need to detail the kinds of moral and intellectual slanders which have been directed towards those who suspect Netanyahu of intentional genocide.
What I find most shocking is that the scientists, policy-makers and other educated types would never in a million years accept, believe or act upon the worldview being pushed onto the masses.
Do you think that serious foreign policy experts trying to predict Netanyahu's next move dismiss out of hand the possibility of genocidal intent, for fear of being deplatformed or accused of prejudice? Of course not. Biden's advisors behind closed doors are telling him the truth: that Netanyahu may really be aiming for genocide, amongst other plausible theories.
Do you think the scientists studying Covid's origins considered the lab-leak theory impossible or immoral? They couldn't possibly. Any thinking person could see it was plausible. Refusing to examine it would undermine any possibility of discovering the truth.
It is one thing to spin the facts in favour of the establishment narrative, as we've done since time immemorial. But to flatly deny and morally reject patently reasonable theories about matters unknown is a terrifying new development.
Intellectual analysis and the scientific method depend entirely on the freedom to express and examine plausible theories, no matter how unpalatable. This intellectual freedom has been one of our fundamental moral values since long before I was born. Without it we would literally still be in the stone age.
I am SHOCKED by how quickly that moral value has been eroded in our public life.
But I am most horrified by the hundreds of thousands of academics, journalists and creatives who know well the threat this development poses, who would never allow this kind of censorship to direct their own thoughts and beliefs, yet stay silent so long as it's 'conspiracy theories' which are under fire.
It shouldn't be dangerous today to say what was universally accepted just ten years ago: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
The time to publicly defend freedom of thought and expression is now.