Hatred, Not Distrust, Fuels Conspiracy Theories

On Wednesday, we all watched in stunned horror as a pro-Trump mob stormed the capitol. We watched as they broke windows, hung from ledges, ransacked offices, and in one case, even died for their cause. Like everyone else, I’m still processing the events at the capitol. It will probably take months for a full picture of what happened this week to emerge.

But, as I watched these events, I couldn’t help but think of something I read just days before which helped to contextualize the entire event for me. David French, a conservative columnist I rarely agree with, had a moment of profound clarity in a piece for Persuasion titled The Hate at the Heart of Conspiracy Theory.

In this article, he explains his  resistance to the popular narrative that it is distrust in the system that generates conspiracy theories like Qanon and Pizza Gate.

French writes,

But though I don’t trust my car dealer, I don’t dislike anyone at the dealership. So if you told me that the guy who sold me my 2018 Honda Accord was part of a global pedophile ring that cannibalizes slaughtered children—central elements of the Q-Anon conspiracy theory—my first response would be total confusion. Distrust alone wouldn’t come close to preparing me to hear those words. I’d have to hate him before I believed something so evil.

In other words it is hatred, not distrust, that inspires the full-blown assault on reason, integrity, and dignity that we see in Qanon. Followers of Qanon don’t simply distrust our government, progressives, antifa, and Joe Biden: they ravenously hate them.

As I watched the storming of the capitol, I didn’t see distrust. I saw a mob motivated by conspiracy theories rooted in pure, blinding hatred. Hatred is the only explanation for the storming of the capitol, and the only explanation for the proliferation of conspiracy theory in our culture.

As French states in his article, “Liberty can survive disagreement even when it is very intense. But it cannot survive pure hate. For when you despise your adversary, you cease to see how any form of mutual tolerance or forbearance could be morally justified.”

But that’s just me. What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


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2 thoughts on “Hatred, Not Distrust, Fuels Conspiracy Theories

  1. Thank you for sharing this.
    I love this recommendation in French’s article:

    “But if all of us show a little more tolerance and forbearance towards our ideological adversaries, we might just be able to undercut the hatred that allows conspiracy theories to have such wide reach in the first place. The best inoculation against the viral spread of hate is not education; it is humanization.”

    It’s not just not distrust, it’s also not stupidity that fuels such movements.

    Liked by 1 person

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