To go beyond conspiracy theory

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One must measure all the conformist power of a daily bludgeoning, which, like salvoes of cognitive artillery, would strike the social body of its univocal and indisputable reality, since more than one year. The power of this mental burden is measured tenfold by the material measures that accompany it: confinement, curfew, compulsory masks, even outside, even for children, and justification of one’s outings within a perimeter defined by the State. We had never seen this before. 

The submission of beings, atomized to the mimetic injunction to do all the same(1), is coupled with the obligation to think collectively in an identical way: distancing oneself from others is beneficial, as is confinement; the virus is extremely dangerous and kills massively; the only solution is vaccination. Action follows thought, thought follows action, and there is only one official path to follow. 

Never has a period been more propitious to reveal the psychic confinement of the elites, but especially of their henchmen, the dominated fraction of the dominant class, that is journalists. They were themselves as they had never been before, uninhibited by a panic of which they were the main architects: unabashed servants of governments, they became the spokespersons for vaccine companies which, with the passing of time, saw their shares rise, while vilifying the heretics(2)criminals in the making(3) who, if they did not obey, would have to learn house arrest. In the emergency, their true self was revealed. 

It is that during the « war », those who do not support the « common effort » are deserters or collabos. There is no need to think when the enemy is already designated and we have to fight against him: just thinking would be taking the risk of being defeated. Authoritarianism then has all the latitude to unfold, totalitarianism incubating in many « little soldiers » for a long time, these citizens who will become, without the need to be sworn in, the relays of central power. What we are experiencing here and now is therefore nothing new, except to note that the control of bodies and minds had reached the peak of perfection, since obedience no longer required armed men. The TV was enough. 

Modern totalitarianism — unspeakable since it would have disappeared since the Third Reich, which is a lie maintained since the end of the Second World War (cf. Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust), — has reached perfection, since it unfolds unknowingly, surrounded by the democratic label. The subject who opposes cannot keep any form of autonomy, hence this perpetual « what to do » in the subjects who want to act.  » In modern totalitarian states, said Bruno Bettelheim, a concentration camp survivor, the mass media provide almost unlimited opportunities to influence the thoughts of all. And modern technology makes it possible to monitor even the most secret activities. All this, and more, gives the modern dictatorship the ability to claim that its subjects are free to think what they want (…) while forcing them to adopt the beliefs desired by the system. Thus, whereas in the dictatorships of the past, an opponent could survive within the system while retaining considerable independence of thought and, at the same time, self-respect, in the modern totalitarian state, it is not possible to retain this self-respect or to oppose the system internally. Nowadays, every non-conformist has the choice between two attitudes: either he poses as an enemy of the government and exposes himself to persecution, if not, very often, elimination; or he pretends to believe in something he deeply disapproves of and secretly despises « .(4)

Hence the mental split in most of the subjects and the double thought which results from it (cf. Orwell), henceforth « indispensable » political-psychic mode of organization(5) of this society which ensures its continuity. A case in point is the « non-mandatory » requirement for covid-19 vaccine. On the one hand:  » you do what you want and can choose to be vaccinated or not », on the other hand: « when more people are vaccinated and the virus is circulating, the measures can be relaxed »; « there is no obligation to vaccinate » but « there will be a return to « normal » life only when 70% of people are vaccinated(6)  »  » those who do not vaccinate will become pariahs  » (QR code to enter a business, vaccine passport…);  » the vaccine is not dangerous  » but  » insurance won’t cover you for side effects, and pharmaceutical companies are exempt from lawsuits for side effects « ;  » the vaccine will allow you to return to a normal life  » but  » you will have to continue to do as those who are not vaccinated  » (confinement, mask, curfew, « social » distancing…). 

Everything is the same in this « covid crisis », which signs the apotheosis of a sick society in which the subject has no more autonomy on the choices of society: the politicians praise the transparency but they censor all dissident voices; the politicians are concerned about the health of all but they are at the origin of sanitary scandals and do nothing to stop all that kills, as long as it makes money… 

This absence of visible and palpable coercion, which renders the revolt without an « object », this transfiguration of evil into good by the central power (the « benevolent » State), conceals the totalitarianism in progress, which some people then risk discovering, too late. The main elements are however there: 

- The entire social body is summoned to obey, subjected to a single injunction to « save others »; 

- Under orders, the border between the public and the private disappears, subjecting our bodies to the diktats of a sanitized society, which, « paradoxically », claims to save us but kills massively (famine, misery, junk food, pesticides, modern diseases, work…); 

- The « facts » on which the orders are based cannot be questioned, nor can the orders, so ; 

- The « facts » and information are now in the realm of the divine word, and the danger they highlight must give rise to behaviors designated as indispensable to eradicate the virus. From then on, the disobedient put everyone’s life in danger and become criminals. The society is divided as never before, groups of « for » and « against » structure the social, composed of « responsible » and « irresponsible » people; 

- Any word outside the official line is considered heretical, censored and punished. It is now referred to as a conspiracy theorist. 


To ask the question of the causal agent of the established order (the politician or the media) seems vain. The influence is exercised and « suffered » in each, the two forming a system where the existence of one is ensured by that of the other. Without politicians favoring the media, no media favoring politicians. If the editorials of the Belgian — and French, etc. — daily newspapers are not the same as the ones of the French ones, they are the same. — are thus more like communiqués from governments — or employers’ federations, which is the same thing — it should be understood in this way. 

I am thus persuaded that free media, giving keys of comprehension of the world to the beings which live in it, would have a positive impact, healthy and fast, on the management of the city (the policy thus). By no longer monopolizing the representation of the world in favor of the continuity of the In the absence of astatus quo, citizens would be released from the illusion of the absence of an alternative; the matrix of this false consensus and the tacit obligation to pretend like everyone else would be broken. The Truman show is in this respect a modern allegory, except that the film is incomplete to explain what we live. In the documentary, Truman Burbank is fooled by everyone else, actors paid to play the game; in our society, everyone pretends to adhere, willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unconsciously(7).

The means that accredited journalists give themselves and the results they achieve (« ratings ») are not the result of their actions — the energy they would put into seeking the truth — but of a liability — the networks they have at their disposal to disseminate their ready-made ideas — which exempts them from making the slightest effort: they go where they know they should go. Just like the laboratory rats that researchers in the pay of industries choose from a catalog, assured that they will not be sensitive to the toxic materials that they will test on them and that are contained in the products they put on the market(8)many journalists, such as Philippe Laloux(9)They also choose those who will confirm what they want to hear, such as Rudy Reichstadt, the « conspiracy expert ». This reminds us of when, at the height of the Western bombing in Syria, a London-based one-man operation, self-proclaimed the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, was in charge of feeding all the « free » press The Truth. 


The class habitus and the reflexes to stay in place are enough to make them not tolerate any deviation, the very idea of a possible sedition does not come to the mind of these « new watchdogs ». Their selectivity in choosing the people around them and the information about the world makes them immune to contradictions. While I was debating in a commune in Brussels with the editorial director of the Evening, Béatrice Delvaux, I realized that French media criticism (Acrimed, Le Monde Diplomatique, Alain Accardo, Serge Halimi, Gilles Balbastre…), much more developed in France than in our flat country, was completely foreign to him. Similarly, when the former Prime Minister is asked in a press conference about the conflicts of interest of her colleagues — of which she was obviously aware and which should be called corruption — she can only defend herself with what is the exact antinomy of reality: an illusory separation between private and public interests. For if the public is colonized by the private, it is logically because the latter needs to infiltrate the former in order to ensure its returns on capital: no guaranteed maximum profits without laws, infrastructures, a police force, institutions; that is, the ́State. There is therefore no watertight boundary between the private world of someone who works, for example, at GSK and his or her professional environment, whether he or she is a minister of masks or a scientist on an expert panel. This schizoid subject who forgets that he is or was a stakeholder in a private health-related investment fund, once he dons his ministerial suit, is worthy of a fable. Exit Alice in Wonderland, these double hats are there to ensure the profits of the industry. 


As soon as we try to think about the possibilities of change of « media people », we leave the sociological domain and enter the psychological one. As Chomsky and Herman put it,  » The elite’s hold on the media and the marginalization of dissenters flows so naturally from the very operation of these filters(10) that media people, who often work with integrity and good faith, can convince themselves that they are choosing and interpreting information « objectively » on the basis of strictly professional values. They are indeed often objective, but within the limits imposed by the operation of these filters « .(11) They try to be nice, they are certainly sincere, but to understand them too much would risk a rapprochement that would trade thought for empathy, which would lose us. 


Imagine that you enter a newsroom, a young journalist steeped in the values of freedom of the press and the search for truth, even if you have just come out of a university education where you have not read Chomsky, where no professor speaks to you about Edward Bernays and propaganda, where French media criticism is unknown to you. What choices are open to you when you gradually realize that you can do nothing but adapt, to melt into the mold of the acceptable written word, under pain of being called a « conspiracy theorist » or a « communist » as soon as you describe the reality as you perceive it? Three possibilities: flee, stay or commit suicide. In the first case, the gap between consciousness and action being so great, and the will to do well being so prominent, the subject runs away to remain authentic. The second case gives rise to two types of reactions: in the first case, the person who stays can never accept what is to be done with him and remains attached to his initial values at all costs: he will become depressed, put on a sidetrack, or be fired. In the second, ambition and the desire to succeed take precedence over the initial values: he becomes a journalist under orders, like those who try to persuade us that they are still doing a job of journalism and not of propaganda. Finally, the third case concerns the one who sees no way out except at the end of his life, the contradictions being too strong; these situations are likely to become frequent, unfortunately… 

Obedience to the established order can be heard in the editorials of the current managing editor of Le Soir, for whom globalization and the market are the order of the day. Philippe Laloux, a journalist at Le Soir, when we remind him of the predilections of the editorial director of the same daily newspaper, deploys the usual rhetoric:  » Just because one has an opinion or a fantasy where one maintains a certain conspiracy theory… based on what? Because Beatrice Delvaux did her internship at the IMF, I, as a journalist at Le Soir, would obviously be a supporter of capitalism? Of course I would get up in the morning and say to myself How can I serve the interests of Bel20? it doesn’t make sense. We are in the ideology, we are in the conspiracy theory, we are in the most complete fantasy, and the commitment in journalism, the first thing that counts is to go and look for information, it is the only thing that counts « . He will not say what he is looking for. 

That’s why, when we tell him what we found, he will tell us that we didn’t dig it up with our teeth(12)where others will argue that this was not the time to say it(13)or, as the authorities say, that private interest does not exclude self-sacrifice for the benefit of the public. And when one of their own goes to serve politics, it will be proof that the journalist had already begun his or her work as a spokesperson for the government even before being hired by the media, without those who remain in charge of the media even taking offense. On the contrary, they will congratulate him. 

But their « tolerance » is only a function of the threat context. Once identified in their function of reverent journalists, they will get out their fangs, defending their sacrosanct « freedom ». When the question of conflict of interest in government is raised, the editors will see it as a crime of lèse-majesté and will suggest that the impudent (the author of these lines) be stripped of his right to belong to the « family of journalists ». The anathema is from Dorian de Meeüs, the same one who shamelessly censored information that could have harmed a member of the IPM board(14). Others, when they notice that the people start to think and take the prerogative to inform and to be informed elsewhere — prerogative of which the mass media thought to be the only ones to be able to benefit -, will pretend to listen, to question themselves. But let’s not fool ourselves. 

Is it any wonder then that if they manage to hide what is happening under our windows, it is easy for them to « forget » to talk about the protest that is rising elsewhere, to relay the studies under another heading than that of opinions and white cards, in short, to stop giving us a hard time, creating anxiety, atomizing us and inhibiting our intelligence. 


If the period allows journalists and politicians to enjoy their usual prerogatives more than ever, it also constitutes a double-edged sword, because this unprecedented period can also serve as a revelation for the greatest number of people of the political and media imposture. Behind the impression of diversity of the media and politicians, there is only one religion, that of Progress, where today is necessarily better than yesterday and worse than tomorrow. They therefore conceal and censor more than ever, intoxicated by a context that gives them the feeling of being untouchable. They vilify, banish, excommunicate. Their certainty of being unpunished, hidden behind their editorial pulpits, makes them forget that not everyone supports the « war » against Covid, and supports resistance fighters and conscientious objectors. What is hidden becomes so enormous that, paradoxically, it becomes more and more visible, with the Internet proving to be essential in the counter-information. Because from now on, behind their chimerical diversity is revealed their deep uniformity: they all say the same thing, at the same time, modify their position according to the political announcements, which makes them navigate in a single trajectory. 

The intellectual depth of their conspiracy theories can be measured by their ability to defend themselves by counter-attacking the most convincing facts. We will see that the first conspiracy is that of the monomaniacal conspiracists who draw their weapon of war as soon as one dares to denounce the profound inequity of the powerful whom they serve and whose world they strive to defend. 

Brandishing the conspiracy offers a temporary protection against the scathing awareness of the reality of the type of society we live in. It is an easy weapon for those who work for the  » preservation of the existing order  » (cf. Alain Accardo). 

Let’s not play their game. 

Alexandre Penasse

Notes et références
  1. Voir les études de Asch (1956).
  3. « C’est criminel de pousser les autres à ne pas prendre de vaccins ». Les informer est dès lors sans doute criminel aussi pour Marie-Paule Kieny, virologue et vaccinologiste, qui ne précise lorqu’elle lance ses condamnations, qu’ele a aussi été membre du conseil d’administration de la société BioMérieux (dont les actionnaires sont, notamment, Dassault, Sofina, The Vanguard Group, …) et conseillère pour GISAID (initiative notamment financée par Sanofi et Sequirus).
  4. Bruno Bettelheim, Survivre, « La paix qui règne dans une société totalitaire s’achète au prix de la mort de l’âme », Éditions Robert Laffon, 1979, p. 376. Cet extrait est tiré d’un chapitre au titre évocateur : « Séduction psychologique du totalitarisme ».
  5. Puisqu’elle est au service du pouvoir (« la guerre c’est la paix », « l’esclavage c’est la liberté »…), mais devient aussi pour le sujet une forme de protection schizophrénique mise en place par le sujet pour ne pas tomber dans la folie.
  6. Ce qui sous-entend implicitement que le vaccin sera obligatoire pour 70 % et non-obligatoire pour 30 %…
  7. La mise en scène de la vie quotidienne, de Erwin Goffman, est un ouvrage à ce titre intéressant, étude de ce jeu constant mis en place par des acteurs qui s’ignorent.
  8. « La fabrique de l’ignorance », documentaire réalisé par Franck Cuveillier et Pascal Vasselin, Arte.
  10. Les filtres : pubs, politiques, contre-feux, capital
  11. Noam Chomsky et Edward Herman, La fabrication du Consentement.
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