Updated: Mar 3, 2022
“A Paranoid in Every Bush”
(Paranoid Planet Podcast: Season 1, Episode 1.1, Introduction)
Have you ever wondered whether someone is secretly watching you? Hacking your private information? Keeping track of your movements? Hovering over your house in silent helicopters? Watching you while you vote, sleep, eat, and get changed?
Are these people selling your personal data to foreign agents or corporate cabals? Are THEY manipulating elections so they can grease their pockets with your hard-earned tax dollars? Did THEY murder your favorite politicians and musicians? Are THEY manipulating your thoughts and actions? Did THEY abduct you in the middle of the night to poke and prod your body while you watched, paralyzed, until they wiped your memories clean? Are THEY listening to us right now? And who the hell are “THEY” anyways?
If you ever asked yourself any of these questions—or thousands more like them—you could be a little bit paranoid. But even if you are, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Any quick web search or walk through a bookstore will reveal that these questions are popular, and they’re very hard to ignore. And if you haven’t ask yourself such questions, well, it could be that you’re not fully human...
All of us have at some time in our life had the strange sense that we’re not as safe as we previously thought, or as free as we’d like to be; that we’re being watched, controlled, misled, or misinformed, perhaps by some powerful organization or group of faceless outsiders threatening our way of life.
Rest assured. That doesn’t mean you’re out of touch with reality or that you’re in need of psychological help. There are, after all, a lot of bad guys out there, and some of them really are out to get you, or your money, or some other valuable thing. On the other hand, you could be suffering from a profound neurosis that makes you see bad guys and demons lurking in the shadows.
You could also just be misinformed, making faulty assumptions about the world you perceive. This might not be your fault at all: we live in a society saturated with media who bombard us each day with a cocktail of true and fictional stories—stories that tell us our world is a dangerous place where change occurs instantly on a global scale; where the health, wealth, and social standing we enjoy could disappear in a flash; where politicians, bureaucracies, corporations, scientists, religious leaders, immigrants, foreign spies, non-human agents, strange diseases and, yes, even the weather, may be conspiring against us at any moment. So you could be forgiven for not being sure where the line between fiction and truth should be drawn.
Or perhaps you are willfully blind to the cold naked truth of your own unimportance. Because, let’s face it, learning that your fears are unfounded might actually harm your ego more than your enduring conviction that those monsters in the bushes are real.
But you don’t have to believe in mind control plots or alien abductions to get that uncomfortable feeling that you’re being lied to, or that the good things in life are fading, or that the oceans and skies can harm you, or that the food you eat could be making you sick, or that the technologies that help us move faster, live longer, and communicate more easily are messing with our bodies, that politicians lie, that “accidents” are not always accidental, that corporations often put the public at risk for a small slice of added profits, that terrorists and criminals hurt innocent people, or that the legal system often works against the helpless and vulnerable.
In short, the world is full of evil—whatever way you choose to define that word—and all you need are human emotions--and something precious to lose--to see that this is a pressing problem.
Michel J. Gagné, 2020.
Readings related to Episode 1.1
1. Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent: American Conspiracy Theories. Oxford University Press, 2014.
2. Joseph Uscinski, ed.: Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them. Oxford University Press, 2018.
3. Michel J. Gagné: "Who Watches the Watchers’ Watchers? A Review of Conspiracy Theories & The People Who Believe Them, edited by Joseph E. Uscinski," Skeptic magazine 25.2 (Summer 2020).
4. Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler: “When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions”, Political Behaviour (2010) 32:303–330. Springer.
5. "The Backfire Effect", The Oatmeal.
6. Jonathan Kay: Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground. Harper, 2011.
7. Professor Uscinski’s personal website: https://www.joeuscinski.com/