Social-distancing and now self-isolating has given me lots of time to think, and so I’ve been doing some thinking.
And having thunk I have had some vague thoughts. Then, having turned them into a hypothesis — I won’t grace it with the label ‘theory’ — I thought I’d share that with you.
I can’t claim it’ll be anything new (because I’ve no doubt that it’s old hat to philosophers) but in view of the C-word that we all know about, and what with social media being awash with information and misinformation in equal measure, I offer this post as a public service.
I’ve been aware of conspiracy theories circulating for a while, as I’m sure you have too. They range from claims COVID-19 is bioengineered (China, the US, Iran and Israel have all had the finger of blame placed on them) to vinegar being the best antiseptic for combating the virus (no, it isn’t). In addition foreign spies are supposed to have stolen it, plus its vaccine, from one lab or other. Mischief-making Russian bot factories have been shut down for spreading even more disinformation online.
Then there are the cock-up theories, for example that the spread of this coronavirus isn’t deliberate but a mistake (see Terry Gilliam’s ingenuous 1995 film Twelve Monkeys for riffs on both of these memes). Mostly, however, amateur sleuths scour the internet for what they see as inconvenient truths, anomalies and inconsistencies, following which they can lay the blame for the pandemic at the door of, variously, governments, scientists, civil servants and health workers who have ballsed up big time.
I have long wondered whether there are real or only apparent links between cock-up theorists and chaotic organisation, and between conspiracy theorists and organised chaos — just as there are sliding scales between conspiracies and cock-ups, and between chaos and organisation.
I’ve placed these four concepts in a quadrant grid in the hopes that they may inform each other in terms either of opposites on a continuum or of alternative ways of approaching a situation. As I say, I can’t promise this represents an original paradigm being suggested here.
But, this being first and foremost a literary (and hopefully literate) blog I went a step further and wondered whether this diagram could be applied to narrative plots.
I can see crime fiction, political thrillers and historical novels fitting in with the grid, the plot line migrating from one box to another as one’s perceptions of what may be be happening in the novel changes. Dystopias (including cli-fi, the new genre born out of global heating) sit well here too, and some speculative fiction and fantasy. But can you think of mainstream contemporary fiction which makes use of these categories?
I ask because right now my brain hurts from too much thinking: it’s going thunk thunk thunk…