All this talk about Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist that Facebook recently banned from its site, makes me think of Ernest Hemingway.
In his later years Hemingway could not be made to shut up about the conspiracies about himself. He was being persecuted, he said, by the FBI. They had gotten the IRS to pursue and harass him. They had bugged his house and his car. They were following him and dwelling on his every word and action. Out at a restaurant, he told embarrassed friends that a couple of strangers there were actually FBI agents who had been watching him for years, though the restaurant owner said they were only hunters who returned to Idaho, and his eatery, every year. Hemingway’s wife finally started him on electroshock treatments to try to help. As the world knows, Hemingway took his own life not long afterwards.
In the 1990s, however, the FBI coughed up Hemingway’s file in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. Shockingly, it revealed that Hemingway was being persecuted by the FBI, which had sicced the IRS on him. His house was bugged. His car was not, though probably if technology had permitted it it would have been.
The two strangers? FBI agents, who had been posing as hunters for years. Because they’d been following him for years. Hoover was guilty of so, so much.
Which is not to say that Alex Jones is right…about anything. Theories are by definition frequently wrong. It is to say that, in one of modern life’s more “meta” moments, conspiracy-theorism can itself become a tool of conspirators eager to deflect interest in themselves by mocking the idea. Probability, on which conspiracy-theorism-as-pejorative relies, often gets it wrong.