“Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game” – Matt Taibbi
Trust no one. No one human, that is. There’s been a subtle change in the “Aliens are here” oeuvre, and it is highly reflective of our social and political mood – a mood that alternates between despondency and paranoia, as we find ourselves boxed in by lies, damn lies, and conspiracy on a heretofore inconceivable scale, from Wall Street to Syria. The measure of our state of mind can usually be found in the themes underlying our entertainment, and the message is abundantly clear when it comes to strange phenomena, discernible in the latest extraterrestrial offerings, the 10th Season of The X-Files, and The Colony, both of which take for granted that the aliens have arrived, either accidentally and covertly or deliberately with malign intent, but they are a mere backdrop to the depredations that man levies against his fellow man. It’s almost as if the aliens need not exist, or rather are interchangeable with any other sufficiently large, advanced, and obscure organization manipulating reality for its own secret ends. The curtain is drawn back, not to reveal the Wizard of Oz, but that it was the Wicked Witch who set up her sister, used Dorthy as a patsy, and manipulated events from the beginning to further plans for world domination and social control of those unruly munchkins. She doesn’t have to get you and your little dog Toto, too, since everything you believed to be true was her finely tuned creation in the first place.
Now, grand conspiracies are nothing new to the fantasy/science fiction genre, and one can rightly point out that other popular preternaturally themed shows such as Supernatural are rife with them, but over the past few decades, the windmills they often tilt at have been rooted in the struggle of man against monster (angel, devil, or subspecies of nasty freak). And while we have traditionally promulgated the meme of man as monster in the forms of cannibal serial killers, criminals with an absence of conscience, and government officials out for personal aggrandizement, the tenor of our conspiracy theories has simultaneously simplified and become more intricate. In short, the monster doesn’t matter. We are told that we need not fear the strange or anomalistic, but instead must be aware of the all-too-human conspirator or collaborator, who is cognizant of the existence of phenomena beyond our ken, but is determined only to utilize it to manipulate our consciousness in the service of power and control, with a long view towards your ultimate oppression.
Aficionados of anomalistics and strange phenomena, be they believers or skeptics have begun to manifest a similar burgeoning conception of the world, not as abundantly populated with mysteries worthy of investigation, but as a philosophical duel between ideologies enmeshed in far-reaching conspiracies to deny the truth or falsehood of their own precious version of reality. We are convinced the world is a strange place, but that someone is intentionally manipulating our understanding of it – the skeptic talks about the madness of crowds, individual psychopathology resulting from social discontent, or the need for fame and financial gain amongst the believers, who are imagined to participate in a massive, involuntary conspiracy of ignorance and delusion, whereas the believer envisions a world where all manner of bizarre things are happening beneath our noses, but an academic guild system, a clandestine political entity, or a conspiracy of willful ignorance and denial is sweeping things under the rug or pocketing them for future use. The unnatural, whether phenomenal or noumenal, is an afterthought to the eternal war of man against man, where the individual is simply an unwitting pawn in a historical game of one-upsmanship, subject to insurmountable social and psychological forces, orchestrated by a savvy cabal, aimed at limiting freedom, and freedom to do what is never made clear.
The monsters of folklore past were unified in their otherness, a representation of that which was outside the bounds of polite society. The modern monster, alien, cryptid, or inexplicable phenomenon is slowly being rendered irrelevant in a sea of presumed conspiracy, where each and every eruption of the strange is regarded as a manifestation, not of flaws in our understanding of the universe, but a battlefield of the mind, waged by mundanely human parties ultimately disinterested in knowledge, rather vying for supremacy as arbiters of our thoughts.
In the end, we are victims of our own technological success. One would hope that the ubiquity of the internet, the breadth and depth of information that it makes available would counteract our tendency to imagine that truth is routinely and instrumentally suppressed, hidden from our view, or manipulated to make us believe or disbelieve, yet what it really may have accomplished is to suggest to us a vast web of interactions that are easily interpretable as an organized effort by our fellow man to alter our perceptions, or as Douglas Rushkoff said, “While we may blame the Internet for the ease with which conspiracy theories proliferate, the net is really much more culpable for the way it connects everything to almost everything else. The hypertext link, as we used to call it, allows any fact or idea to become intimately connected with any other”. And thus, with an abundance of human knowledge a mere mouse-click away, we are slowly learning to ignore the unknown, just as we are taught that few things will ever be more dangerous than an organization of our fellow man from which we are excluded. Everyone hates it when they don’t get an invitation to the party, even if they wouldn’t have gone anyway.