Conspiracy Theory is fascinating, but only to a point.
That terminal point for me is when you realize that it is all based on what Robert Anton Wilson called a “Loser Script.” RAW’s model of winner vs. loser scripts (archived) for each of his “eight circuits” is illuminating to be sure.
By loser script, I mean here that it is a mental program through which one perceives the world – a filter, if you will – but one which locks the perceiver into a position of being a loser in the game of life relative to the rest of the world.
So when I run a loser script on my BrainOS, I project my feelings of being a loser onto exterior events and use this to filter & color my interpretations of things. And it is self-reinforcing. The more I project my loser feelings outward onto others, the more I find opportunities to prove that they are valid and “true.”
It is a problem that is not just epidemic in conspiracy theory thinking, but literally forms the basis of it. While conspiracy theorists like to believe that they are “just asking questions,” what they’re doing usually is quite different. They are trying to validate their emotional state outwardly. They believe (perhaps based at least partly on lived experience) that some other group is more powerful than them. They are jealous of what they perceive as the power and status of others, and as a result end up both vilifying it (“those people have so much power –> and are evil”), while also secretly worshipping it (“I wish I were powerful like them, but I’m not, and never will be”).
Have you ever noticed it’s basically impossible to tell a story in the conspiracy theory genre without a bad guy? Name one conspiracy theory with no overarching enemy or source of evil. You can’t. It’s part of the narrative package and is the underlying source of conflict that drives the drama as an adversarial narrative.
But the drama is always the same:
- “I am good but I am weak & I am oppressed…”
- “They are powerful, but they are bad & they are the source of my oppression…”
- “Because I am weak, I could never be powerful, because the powerful are bad…”
Now, don’t get me wrong. Oppression exists. Imbalances of power exist. Inequality exists. Much of it is so deeply ingrained in our society and our institutions that it is effectively invisible, but you know it’s there on some deep, dark, festering level. It’s why conspiracy theories excite us in the first place; it’s why they feel emotionally real.
The fact is, you *are* being lied to. Society *is* trying to manipulate you into some shape that doesn’t necessarily fit everyone, and is in many respects arbitrary. But so what, are you gonna sit around crying about it on the internet forever? Because that is a surefire recipe for continuing to be oppressed and controlled, and buffeted by the ill winds of fate, rather than taking control of your experience, and of your destiny itself.
Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher, called this the “sphere of the moral purpose.” While you cannot control outward events (such as death, imprisonment, etc.), you can control your reactions to them to some degree. This is the world that lies within the sphere of the moral purpose. You get to choose what happens within your head and your heart. And in doing this, you can begin to transform your reactions out of a self-reinforcing loser’s script into a self-reinforcing winner’s script.
Here’s a short video of Robert Anton Wilson talking through these ideas:
The danger of conspiracy theory thinking is not strictly believing wrong things (and thereby having a faulty basis for living), or getting sucked into toxic cesspools of hateful and violent rhetoric (a very real danger), but being lulled into inaction and feeling powerful about taking illusory & inherently weak “actions” that have no impact on the true state of things.
Consider this use case: “Group x is very bad and powerful, and I am exposing them by writing this long rant on Reddit, and then waiting for others to validate my feelings, and attacking anyone who disagrees with my poorly laid out logic…”
This is not a winner script. This is a loser script that is pretending to be a winner script. When losers “expose” what they perceive to be “evil winners,” they are only reinforcing & widening the vast gulf that separates them. They are, in effect, actively supporting the power structures they claim to be attacking.
Does this mean we shouldn’t seek truth, ask questions, or expose injustice? Far from it. We should do all of those things, and vigorously. But we should do it from the perspective of the winner. From the perspective of the person who has seen the sorrow and the chaos, the degradation and the stupidity that rules the world, but who despite being trampled by it and nearly overrun, has instead managed to rise above & overcome it. First in their own heart & mind, and then in the world, where they are empowered to take real non-illusory actions, and effectuate actual meaningful change. That, to me, is the only viable way forward. Everything else is worshiping your oppressor & cherishing your own powerlessness, which is a cycle that will never end until you stand up and choose to end it for yourself and in yourself.