A World of Speculation

My friend and I were at Papaccino’s after church Sunday, talking about this and that, and I told her my search for the meaning of paranoid conspiracy literature.

After listing some books and a lot of movies that fall into the genre, we talked ourselves into a answer about the audience that satisfies me, at least for now.

Why do we love conspiracy literature? It answers the feeling of being a lonely protagonist against the great faceless institution. You call the insurance company (hospital, Internet service provider, whatever), and you get routed into voice hell, where you find yourself listening to a mechanical voice say, with feeling, “Your call is very important . . . ,” all the while proving the opposite. Or you get to talk to someone who doesn’t know anything and can’t do anything and just wants to get this call done and get off the clock. Or even if people try to add a “personal touch,” as in the supermarket, it’s lame and mildly intrusive, like commenting on your groceries.

And so the plot line of a great institution–the Church, the U.S. government, the world of perceived reality–being taken over by a secretive cult from within–the Knights Templars, the CIA, the Matrix–with only a handful of ordinary people to fight it is a metaphor of me against the faceless evil (never mind that in reality it’s more commonly incompetence than evil–that doesn’t have the same narrative power).

Somebody could write a book in which the Lost Apostles become a heretical group then form a corporation and take over the CIA . . . .

Anyway, my friend and I are in Papacino’s, wandering the fields of conspiracy, and there’s a young guy sitting nearby, looking our way. He was wearing sunglasses, so I was never sure where he was looking, but every so often he’d look directly in my direction and twitch. I think he wanted to join the conversation, but the sunglasses were a barrier (no eye contact, no invitation).

Later I wished I had asked him, but he may have been just watching something behind me, which would have embarrassed both of us, or he may have been annoying.

Or maybe he was part of the Conspiracy, and we were getting too close to the secret.