At the beginning of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous American novel, The Scarlet Letter, a crowd gathers in Puritan Boston, Massachusetts, to witness the punishment of Hester Prynne, a young woman who has given birth to a baby of unknown parentage.
Her sentence requires her to stand on the scaffold for three hours, exposed to public humiliation, and wear the scarlet “A” for the rest of her life. Hester’s letter A is a representation of her sin and adultery.
In many ways, the label “conspiracy theorist” is a modern symbol of the scarlet A. Those given this label are – like Hester – meant to be shunned by society, their ideas relegated to idiocy and fodder. Their crime today is not adultery but rather questioning the official government narrative of things. In effect, those who offer alternative narratives to the official narrative. In this way, members of this group of conspiracy theorists are given a modern type of “scarlet letter” by those who create the “official narrative” today.
Ed Rankin argues in his important Ph.D. thesis, The Conspiracy Theory Meme as a Tool of Cultural Hegemony, that conspiracy theory is a label given to those who question those in control of culture to marginalize and dismiss alternative views. He writes, the label is given “those rejecting the official accounts of significant suspicious and impactful events” to “dismiss the beliefs of those individuals who question potentially hegemonic control of what people believe. The conspiracy theory concept functions as an impediment to legitimate discursive examination of conspiracy suspicions.”
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In effect, modern government control is no longer via the hard control of physical force as much as it is via the methods of soft control like controlling the official narrative of events in culture. For this reason, it is important for those who create the official narrative to have little competition from those creating alternative narratives. The label conspiracy theorists apply to the group creating alternative narratives to the official narratives.
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This group used to be a relatively small group during the era of mass culture (1920s-1970s) as the government had control over media. However, with the segmentation brought about by the Internet and digital technology, the power of mass media declined, and the ranks of conspiracy theorists have grown. The government continues to battle conspiracy theorists. But it is getting to be more of a battle for the government. The traditional label of whackos and crazies traditionally given to conspiracy theorists by the government is no longer large enough to contain all those who question the official narrative today and bring forth alternative narratives.
The real battle in culture is no longer based on political sides but rather narrative sides. There are those who create and support the official narrative of the world. And, there are those who create or believe in alternative narratives of the world. On this new battlefield, there are members of both political parties mixed in new ways.
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In the immediate attempts to give scarlet letters to conspiracy theorists, there is little attention paid to the definition of the word conspiracy. According to Merriam-Webster, it comes from “conspire” or “to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or an act which becomes unlawful as a result of the secret agreement.” In effect, conspiracy is “the act of conspiring together.”
It is interesting to substitute the word “plan” for the word “conspire.” In this way, we can define “conspire” as “to plan in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act.” Using the word plan in terms of narratives has much relevance to the pandemic. In fact, the word plan might be a dividing line like those who believe in the official narrative of events and those who believe in the alternative narrative of events.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government narrative about the pandemic is that it has not been planned but that it has come about rather haphazard from several unfortunate coincidences and accidents. Yet there is increasing evidence that it was planned, that it has been a “plandemic” rather than a pandemic.
There is the meeting a few months before the outbreak of the pandemic. There is the plan for a global “reset” as proposed by the World Economic Forum. And, there are small “Freudian” type slips like August 25th when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki accidentally said “plandemic” instead of “pandemic” when talking about what President Biden would be discussing during his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
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The idea of unseen plans or the “transparency” of no plans controlling the world today might offer another way of looking at those the government calls conspiracy theorists. This is the group that feels the pandemic is really a “plandemic,” that the continuous outbreaks of new strains of the virus are not haphazard events caused by a rampage of nature but rather a plan caused by the rampage of our cultural controllers.
As we move towards our second year of the pandemic, headlines announce the new strain of the virus called Mu as if the Delta variant was not bad enough, or enough. In early September, the administration announces all federal employees are required to get vaccinated. Cases are three times what they were last Labor Day. At the same time, unmasked college football crowds across the nation ring in the new football season in defiance of government guidelines.
Things don’t add up around the world.
Why has Israel seen a huge spike in the virus when they have one of the highest vaccination rates? Or, why has Sweden shown a low incidence of the virus with very low vaccination and mask wearing rates? Why are so many people having terrible reactions to the vaccinations? All of this when we continue to get mixed messages from our scientists and doctors and health institutions like the CDC.
Perhaps the pandemic will lay to rest the claim of the claimed transparency of the government narrative today as many begin to realize that there is a plan behind the pandemic. It really comes down to this in many ways, the dividing line between Americans. It used to be the line between Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals. But now the line is between those who believe the pandemic was planned and those who believe it is basically an out-of-control act of nature. Those going over to belief that it was planned are like the surge coming across America’s southern border and the government is having a difficult time holding them back.
They might form the basis of a new political movement. One that sees a plan behind each move the government makes and works to create their own alternative view of the world. One that is no longer gaslighted by those in control. One that fits the reality one sees before them and not the reality others suggest to them. One that is not distracted by the shininess and noise of an advanced consumer culture but one that finds a new path in silence and reflection more than hype and hyperbole.
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We return to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and a continuation of the narrative. At first, Hester Prynne was humiliated by having to wear the scarlet letter A. However, as time progresses, the meaning of the letter changes and it represents something much more than humiliation and shame. As Hawthorne writes, “The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her – so much power to do, and power to sympathize – that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able, so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength.”
Is this happening to many who wear a modern scarlet letter today during the great pandemic for questioning the official narrative? For seeing a plan in the events of the past year and a half. Nature is surely powerful. It can burn up California and cause great hurricanes. But should we give it all the blame for the pandemic?
Slowly, the scarlet letter many have been labeled with might be changing from a sign of shame into a new symbol of power, truth and freedom.
John Fraim has a BA from UCLA and JD from Loyola Law School and blogs to Midnight Oil Studios at https://midnightoilstudios.org.