WWR Talks Conspiracies with Christian Perez
Interview by Heather Warburton, article By Ryan Hosey
In this edition of Wine Women and Revolution, we’re conspiring!
Conspiring to tell YOU about conspiracy theories!
Today, Heather sits down with Christian Perez, host of the podcast Modernity and Absurdity, to discuss why conspiracies have such an impact, and what people can do to remedy conspiratorial thinking.
Skeptics Gonna Skeptic
To start off, Christian mentions how his podcast, Modernity and Absurdity, evolved from an outlet for him to vent about things he cared about into an outlet for his own political commentary.
“I know a lot of fun people, there’s a lot of things I like to talk about it, but it really just kind of turned into me talking about politics. My first ever episode was on the shooting at the church in Charleston a couple of years ago and then it’s kind of followed that vein.”
Christian, a Kings University alumnus, likes big issues such as politics and culture, and also has a knack for conspiracy theories. He says that a healthy dose of skepticism, sans right wing batshit crazy talk, is not only good, but necessary, especially for lefties.
“I got into a lot of the skeptical podcasts, and I do consider myself a skeptic. I do think that as socialists, progressives, anticapitalists, we do need to be a little bit more skeptical. That being said, there’s a lot of right wing assholes in the skeptic movement, and they kind of need to get cleaned out.
The World of Conspiracies
It was the weird, paranormal, and the bizarre that attracted Christian to conspiracy theories. Classic examples, such as UFOs, Bigfoot, the JFK assassination, and reptile people sparked his interest in this often-eccentric world. He was also interested in why people believed in conspiracies.
“I think a lot of it is ego, honestly”, he jokes. “I think I know what I’m talking about at least we’ll say 85% of the time. But you go online, whether it’s in a chat room or you’re listening to media, people start talking about all kinds of crazy stuff and they start blaming Jews, people of color, Muslims, African Americans. And it’s basically, I was interested in the idea of why people believe things that are just not true.”
As Christian puts it, when it comes to conspiracies, “I’m disgusted with people believing downright silly things, sometimes not so silly things.”
The Chinese Hoax: Trump’s Scapegoat Strategy
Unless you have been living under a rock, or you’re the current Commander in Chief, you may have noticed that the climate is changing, and it’s not for the better.
The science is in, and it’s grim: The United Nations (not a group of assholes in their basements) says the planet has to get its stuff together in the next twelve years or Earth is on its way to Goodnight, Irene.
But unfortunately, there are individuals out there who do not believe the science behind climate change.
And one very prominent, very orange individual famously discredited climate change as a “Chinese hoax”.
Christian says the whole concept of the “Chinese hoax” conspiracy can be directly credited to President Cheeto Mussolini.
“It’s absurd. It’s silly. And it really begins and ends with Donald Trump. I went online, I looked up the phrase and it basically begins and ends with him. He’s the guy, he just threw it out there one time. And this is a man who throws around the word ‘hoax’ like you and I would throw around ‘water’ in a locker room.”
Interestingly, Christian says that the Trump “Chinese hoax” conspiracy, along with others, stick because most conspiracies stem from peoples’ own rational disdain of government and power. He goes on to say that there is method behind Trump’s conspiratorial madness: It provides an easy scapegoat.
“What you’re going to find with conspiracy theories is there’s similar themes that are weaved in throughout them,” he explains. “This distrust of government, this distrust of foreign governments, this distrust of foreign ideas. So, whereas Trump kind of makes up this idea about the Chinese conspiracy theories, it’s coming from someplace else.”
One Big Lie
Christian breaks it down quite simply: Old conspiracies still find their place in today’s world. The Trump “Chinese hoax” climate change conspiracies are an example of that.
“Part of that plan is: Climate change is the Trojan horse that they’re going to use, one of the many Trojan horses, the other being universal health care and educating children of color. But it could be preexisting conspiracy theories about this supposed New world order about the Illuminati, which was created and disbanded in the night and the 18th century, right? These people haven’t existed for 200 years, but they keep popping up as boogie men because it’s easy to pull upon these preexisting themes.”
He admits that while he doesn’t know how all of the conspiracies work, he is more interested in why people buy into them.
“I’m more interested in collecting them than trying to find out the details and the minutia of each one because they’ll start to drive me nuts. And then I realized, I feel like I can’t trust anybody,” says Christian, “and I started thinking my wife is a reptile alien.”
Full disclosure: As of right now, NJRR employs zero reptile alien people, but of course, we are an equal opportunity employer.
In all seriousness, Christian says all the “Chinese Hoax” nonsense is just typical conspiratorial lies, it’s just this time they’re just being delivered by the president via 6 am rage Tweet.
“This is all just a big lie. That’s the conspiracy theory,” he says.
Mr. President, All The “Oligists” Say “We’re Fucked”
All the scientists are saying we need to act now to fight catastrophic climate change. Unfortunately, conspiracies perpetuated by right wing talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh have has a strong effect on the public’s perception. Including of course, President Trump. Once more, Christian alludes to the distrust of the system.
“They distrust the government, they distrust authority. And this is what has added to the breakdown of public discourse. Donald Trump, and I think you’ll agree with me here, there’s a lot of liberals out there that think that if we get rid of Donald Trump, everything goes back to smiles and assumptions that Obama is going to become president for a third term. And we’re going to go back to being this, this, this happy go lucky society.”
As Christian points out, a lot of the neoliberals and #resisters fail to see Donald Trump is merely a symptom of a much larger problem. He also cautions that the “Trump effect” can rear its ugly head again, after President Orangey leaves office.
“Donald Trump is a buffoon. Donald Trump is a cartoon character, right?” asks Christian. “In one generation, a couple of years, there could be another Donald Trump who smarter, better looking, more articulate and just better at being a right-wing maniac than Donald Trump, and the same cycle will repeat itself over and over again. But you know, Donald Trump is the result of this breakdown in public discourse.”
As previously mentioned, conspiracies floated by right-wing talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh have proven to be massively influential on public perception.
Long before Donald Trump stumbled onto the political scene, there were the “Old Guard” crazies, like Limbaugh, who made it their job to push climate change denial conspiracies.
As Christian explains, one of the most prominent climate deniers is Senator Jim Inhofe, R-OK.
Famously, Inhofe once brought a snowball onto the floor of the U.S. Senate to try to make a bogus point about climate change not existing.
Yeah, he’s that guy.
“In his (Inhofe’s) book, he outlined his conspiracy theory that scientists, in order to secure more money for research, will exaggerate claims about climate change. And there’s kind of like this whole climate change-industrial complex, I guess. Scientists and left wing politicians and activists are in on this scam to defraud these helpless billionaires in their corporations out of their profits.”
This level of nuttiness (from a sitting United States senator, horrifyingly enough) is what, according to Christian, separates intelligent conspiracy theorists from the tinfoil hat clan.
“As an educator, I don’t want to paint a broad brush because a lot of conspiracy theorists are incredibly intelligent, but not all of them are,” states Christian.” And some of these are just some silly ideas. And I can’t help but just roll my eyes or get nauseous at times.”
Denying Everything Smart
There is always that one person in a group chat or blog somewhere who will deny climate change is occurring, no matter how many times one may hit them over the head with the facts.
Importantly, Christian says that there is a three-pronged approach to dealing with these hard-to-reach conspiracy theorists.
“We would have to look at the actual conspiracy theory, and then B., we have to accept the fact that most people aren’t rational, right? People are irrational. They like to “follow their hearts”. We all know somebody like that. They always get themselves into trouble. And a lot of times they get other people in the trouble. And then the third part, and I try to get my students to understand this, is some people are just full of shit. I mean, if someone is telling you in 2019 that they don’t think climate change is real, they are either completely ignorant of the science and uneducated, or they’re just up to something,” he says.
Christian is most interested in why people believe in conspiracy theories, even if they are extreme. He explains a variety of environmental factors play a role in planting the seeds for conspiratorial thought.
“You, Me, black, white, rich, poor, North Jersey, South Jersey, Japan, China. It doesn’t matter. Anybody can be a conspiracy theorist. Anybody given the right situation, given the right circumstances can, can take on paranoid or conspiratorial beliefs.”
He mentions extreme economic anxiety factors, such as the events of 9/11, can create paranoia which ultimately can lead to conspiratorial thought.
“There’s so many factors for what can cause somebody to become a conspiracy theorist,” Christian says. “External factors, internal factors. Did you grow up in a household that is predisposed to conspiratorial thinking? Are your parents white supremacists who think Jews are behind everything? Well, there’s a good chance you’re going to be a conspiracy theorist.”
Oh yeah, also remember: In the land of conspiracies, rationality really doesn’t matter. Once again, Christian argues it’s more about who one trusts and distrusts.
“There’s a study done in Australia, where they ask conspiracy theorists: ‘Do you think the British Royal Family had Princess Diana killed?’ And they said ‘yes’. A lot of them said ‘yes’, but a lot of the same people that answered ‘yes’ to that question also answered ‘yes’ to the question: ‘Do you think Princess Diana is still alive?’ So, yeah, it’s not about rationality. It’s about, ‘Do I trust authority?’ And in this instance, I’m don’t mean political authority, I mean intellectual authority.”
Failed Leadership Breeds Contempt
The corrupt nature of politics has an effect on conspiratorial thought, says Christian. He explains how the concept of “one person, one vote” does not always pan out as it should.
“In politics, there’s what’s called the principal agent relationship,” Christian says. “Us, the voters, elect the politicians, the principal, in the hopes that they’re going to do our bidding, that they will act as an extension of our will, and that’s good. And that’s in most cases how it should be. But there are just dishonest politicians, right? There are people who want power. They see politics as a way to cash in. 85% of lawmakers in this country are either businessmen or lawyers. There are a lot of good businessmen and lawyers, but these are not disciplines that are known for their trust and their honesty. That’s the reality of the situation.”
The pay-to-play politics and gross levels of corruption are a breeding ground for conspiracies. Christian says the most effective way of dealing with the corruption? Grassroots action.
“It’s very hard to defeat incumbent politicians. They have the money. They have the name recognition. Something like 70 to 80% of incumbents always when these reelections,” he says. “You can’t just slap a politician in the face. You can’t just run them out of town and tar and feather them as much as we’d like to. You have to do it the hard way. You have to do old fashion campaigning.”
In closing, there is one time-tested method that Christian swears by when it comes to remedying conspiratorial thought.
Big surprise: It’s education.
“You have to find out what the actual conspiracy theory is, what it is they’re saying. And then open up a history book, open up a political science textbook, educate yourself, take a class” Christian says. “There are a number of podcasts people can check out. There’s volumes and volumes of free sources out there to educate yourself on conspiracy theories. I pay for very little sources. A lot of it is just education.”
Of course, Christian says one must always consider who exactly is making the claims, and do they have the public’s best interest in mind?
“If Donald Trump says the sky is blue, there’s probably an 85% chance the sky is going to be orange because that’s how many lies come out this guy’s mouth. So, just right off the bat, know that Donald Trump doesn’t have your best interest or the truth at hand.”
“When it comes to climate science, maybe we shouldn’t be listening to what Exxon says. When it comes to whether or not tobacco causes cancer, maybe we shouldn’t consider Philip Morris scientists on it. Maybe we should look at more objective scientist. But the way to defeat crappy politicians, the way to educate ourselves and insulate ourselves from conspiracy theories is just through education.”
Have any conspiracies or other stories you want to share with Christian? Email him at:
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