For whatever reason, conspiracies are popular, something I have seldom been able to understand . Rather than talk about conspiracies as such, or the way in which they are often inferred even when they may not actually exist, or the way that what is conspiracy to some is often just a good working relationship in the eyes of others, all of which is interesting enough, today I would like to talk about a few cases that have come across my radar of late that are worthwhile particularly for what they say about us. The sort of conspiracies we believe are often more important than the question of whether those conspiracies are in fact true or not. The fact that we find a given idea plausible is itself revealing about ourselves, apart from the truth or fiction of the specific conspiracies that we believe.
Let us get to brass tacks. For whatever reason, I frequently read something that alludes to a belief that Shakespeare was or was not the writer of his plays. I happen to believe that he was, and that none of the names chosen are all that compelling as choices, whether because they were dead or because they were just not that good at writing, not to Shakespeare’s level at least, and are only chosen because of being aristocratic and/or university educated. What I fond of particular interest is that so many people show themselves to be snobby when it comes to the belief that writing popular drama requires a university education. Shakespeare’s genius is not the sort that requires years of university study and a large degree of erudition, but it does require a high degree of understanding in what makes people tick as well as being a voracious and critical reader of stories to adapt existing stories into even more compelling form. The sort of genius that Shakespeare had could very well have been disciplined by study, whether that study was a formal one in a Catholic university abroad, as is possible given the “lost years” about which we know little, or whether that study was a voracious program of self-education through reading combined with being an astute student and playwright in the dangerous world of Elizabethan and Jacobean theater. I happen to believe that a bright person with a grammar school education was capable of that sort of genius, even though I am obviously no foe of higher education myself.
Like everyone else, it seems, I have been paying attention to the political drama relating to a partisan probe that was conducted of our president while he was running for office, and my own thoughts are rather nuanced. The conspiracy here reminds me of a dual conspiracy that took place during the life of Michael Jackson, where a dogged prosecutor sought to make a case stick to the late “king of pop” that would put him in jail for some sort of crime against children while the embattled singer fought just as hard to claim that the prosecution against him was motivated by a hostile conspiracy. It may have been the case that both conspiracies were right, but they ended up canceling each other ought and leading to a damaged reputation for Michael Jackson and a not guilty verdict that showed a failure for the prosecutor himself, who is immortalized in some of Jackson’s own songs. One gets the feeling that the same thing was going on here with Trump’s campaign, in that there has been a consistent attempt on the one hand to delegitimize his presidency by appealing to one set of conspiracies even as those who oppose him appear to be acting from a conspiratorial script themselves that serves as a threat to our republic. Whether both conspiracies are in fact true or not remains to be seen.
And what discussion of conspiracies would be complete without a look at the NFL and the way that the continued success of the New England Patriots remains a contentious issue among fans of football. It is hard not to look at football and see in it some vestige of the sort of heel turns that expects out of “professional” wrestling. Once upon a time the Patriots were an ordinary team that one could cheer but one had little reason to despise, but like many teams before them (the Cowboys come to mind particularly notably), the attempt to make the team into America’s team has come with a fair bit of backlash, and there are some who think that the hatred of the team is at least partially responsible for their continued success. Apart from the skill of Belichick as a coach and the talent of the core of players on the team, it would be particularly perverse for dislike of a team to drive their popularity, as if the success of a heel was in some way dependent on the passionate hatred that they generated among others. I would not wish to be manipulated in such a way that whether I liked or disliked something, my feelings about it would itself encourage that which I loved or hated in a rigged sort of fashion. It is likely far better not to have an emotional response at all, and not to let any portion of my well-being or good mood be dependent on the results of a game, anyway. There is too little in this world that one can trust as being legitimate, and it is too easy to mistrust any sort of competition as being rigged or lacking in genuine difference, and that certainly says a lot about us as a society at present.
 See, for example: