Toward a Taxonomy of Conspiracies


Conspiracy theories do not inculcate powerlessness, so much as they are the signs and symptoms of powerlessness itself.

In my work for the United States National Security Agency, I was involved with establishing a Top-Secret system intended to access and track the communications of every human being on the planet. And yet after I grew aware of the damage this system was causing — and after I helped to expose that true conspiracy to the press — I couldn’t help but notice that the conspiracies that garnered almost as much attention were those that were demonstrably false: I was, it was claimed, a hand-picked CIA operative sent to infiltrate and embarrass the NSA; my actions were part of an elaborate inter-agency feud. No, said others: my true masters were the Russians, the Chinese, or worse — Facebook.

As I found myself made vulnerable to all manner of Internet fantasy, and interrogated by journalists about my past, about my family background, and about an array of other issues both entirely personal and entirely irrelevant to the matter at hand, there were moments when I wanted to scream: “What is wrong with you people? All you want is intrigue, but an honest-to-God, globe-spanning apparatus of omnipresent surveillance riding in your pocket is not enough? You have to sauce that up?”

It took years — eight years and counting in exile — for me to realize that I was missing the point: we talk about conspiracy theories in order to avoid talking about conspiracy practices, which are often too daunting, too threatening, too total.

Read More at Edward Snowden’s Substack

Read the rest at Edward Snowden’s Substack