They’re coming to take me away! He he!

For the record, I appreciate conspiracy stories. The Grassy Knoll, the 9/11 inside job, etc., conspiracies are thrilling, much like reading a riveting mystery novel. It gives one the sense that I am one of the few who know the truth, the awful, terrible truth about how the Powers That Be manipulate our world….Etc… Such conspiracy theories, however, can, themselves, become a conspiracy all their own, i.e., one of the ways we are manipulated in our modern world is by believing that we are victims of a great conspiracy. To put it another way, if you believe that you are the victim of a conspiracy, then you’ll be ready to go to war against whatever powers are conspiring against you.

Such seems to be the case for the political right today, and it’s one of the reasons why Donald Trump has been able to become the leader of the Republican Party and create a cult following: Trump has positioned himself as the guy who will stand up for all those who are victims of the conspiracy by liberals to use the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to destroy our freedoms.

It’s part of the conservative ideology to believe that the EPA is simply another way that liberals are trying to control our lives and strip us of our freedom. Conservatives have successfully convinced themselves that the only thing motivating liberals is an evil plot to grow government and take away freedom and money from good, hard-working white Americans. Those damn liberals and their EPA.

It’s true that liberals do, by and large, need a big government to control capitalism and to keep capitalism from destroying itself, but is the EPA part of some greater Grassy Knoll -like conspiracy? Well, Trump thinks so.

The Environmental Protection Agency will not consider the health risks and impacts of asbestos already in the environment when evaluating the dangers associated with the chemical compound, Scott Pruitt, the agency’s head, quietly announced last week. That means asbestos used in tiles, piping and adhesives throughout homes and businesses in the United States will remain largely unchecked and unaccounted for. Nearly 15,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-related diseases, but President Donald Trump has called the substance “100 percent safe, once applied.”

In his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, Trump argued that the association of the chemical with health risks was part of a mob-created conspiracy. “I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented,” he wrote. From:

People sometimes wonder why so many Americans vote against their best interests. It’s a conspiracy about a conspiracy, sort of a meta-conspiracy, or perhaps a conspiracy in the form of a Russian doll, where smaller dolls nest in larger dolls. Conspiracies are no simple matter.

The end result of all of this is that conservatives will put themselves and the public at risk, rather than engage the actual issue of asbestos and the science driving it. Ditto for global warming or any other environmental risk. It’s a template that can be replicated, applied to any environmental issue that comes up, past, present, or future. It’s the successful manipulation of the public by use of conspiracy theory.

I’m not quite sure what the answer is, here. Part of the problem is the complexity of the modern world. Many of my own family and friends tune in to talk radio and the mainstream conservative media to help make sense of a world they cannot comprehend. None of us really can, in truth. Even the asshole economists/bankers who crashed the economy admitted that they didn’t completely understand all of the ramifications for how their investment schemes worked.

The complexities of modernity seem to create the perfect environment for making it quite easy to manipulate people politically, even quite intelligent people. My conservative friends and family are just as smart as I am, if not more so, but yet they allow themselves to be manipulated by some pretty stupid bullshit — but to them it isn’t stupid bullshit, quite the contrary, it’s quite plausible given that they believe that liberals are out to get them, or that liberals are really Commies in disguise, or that liberals want to steal their freedom and religion and guns, etc.

Once a person is convinced that they are being conspired against, it’s easy to rally folks to the cause, even if that means allowing poisons into our lives. Dioxin is found in every mother’s breast milk, traces of plastic are now found in most drinking water in America, and if that doesn’t get you then maybe asbestos will — but it’s a small price to pay when you are raging war against the great evil of liberals. 😉

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

2 thoughts on “They’re coming to take me away! He he!”

  1. A little over a year ago Anne’s uncle died from mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure. There are ongoing class action suits against companies that exposed their workers to asbestos, and the widow has collected some money from that source. Liability insurers have taken a big hit, but most companies didn’t carry enough coverage to handle the asbestos claims. Most of the employers deemed at fault have declared bankruptcy, which means they pay only a few cents on the dollar for settlements while their investors walk away scot-free. So, not unexpectedly, it’s corporations who benefit from lax SEC at the citizenry’s expense.

    I don’t believe it’s possible to make a claim against the builder of your house if it contains asbestos. Supposedly the asbestos doesn’t pose a risk if you just let it sit there, but I wonder how strong the evidence is. I entertain conspiracy theories of my own: either the government refuses to conduct studies of home asbestos exposure for fear of what those studies might uncover, or else the evidence is being suppressed. In the current world homeowners who want to get the asbestos out of their houses can’t get reimbursed by either the builder or the government; they’re on the hook for the costs. A lot of Trump supporters own (or are paying mortgages on) old houses built before asbestos was outlawed as a building product, so they’re probably nervous about being required by government to pay for the removal. And rightfully so. If the government were to declare asbestos in homes a health hazard, the government should find a way to keep the homeowners from having to absorb the cleanup costs themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John: “Liability insurers have taken a big hit, but most companies didn’t carry enough coverage to handle the asbestos claims. Most of the employers deemed at fault have declared bankruptcy, which means they pay only a few cents on the dollar for settlements while their investors walk away scot-free. So, not unexpectedly, it’s corporations who benefit from lax SEC at the citizenry’s expense….”

      One of the really paradigm changing shifts in modernity was the idea that the investor class could be separated from liability and their risk limited. Keeping investors off the hook meant that risk was much lower. It had the intended result: lots of money being invested resulting in manic economic growth and technological advance. That’s capitalism.

      The downside, though, is that capitalism essentially doesn’t leave anyone accountable for their actions. Whether it’s poisons (like asbestos in homes or plastic in drinking water or dioxin in breast milk), or whether it’s climate change, the buck stops nowhere. We’ve created an economic system in which the people and corporations who create great harm have no culpability in addressing the harm that they cause. The only recourse, as you discussed, is a lawsuit, and that’s not a reliable way to compensate folks.

      Of course, when conservatives and the MAGA crowd hear about lawsuits, they immediately rally to the cause of the corporations or investor class, eager to strip away the rights of victims to take legal action, and complaining that too many lawsuits hinder economic growth. They aren’t wrong on this count, it’s just that they are incapable (it seems) of acknowledging the consequences and real harm of capitalism.


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