Dan Brown and the art of the conspiracy theory

Dan Brown and the art of the conspiracy theory

Debs Taylor agrees we should question everything, but doubts the biggest conspiracy theory in the universe is likely to be discovered by a hack writer who’s basically a shaved monkey in a suit…

I blame Dan Brown.

I know that it’s easy to blame him, as he appears responsible for so much. Most of it isn’t his fault; he’s just a symptom, not a cause. However, I do think that he is most definitely where I should be laying the finger of blame.

It’s almost impossible nowadays to move without finding yourself face to face with some conspiracy theory. Nothing happens nowadays without it being questioned as part of some Government plot or other. 9/11 never happened! It was all a plot to re-elect George Bush. 7/7 was a plot to keep up support for the war on Terror! The recent airport scare was fake!

Obviously, Dan Brown cannot be held responsible for this sudden drooling stupidity in the face of the world. People were coming up with conspiracies years before he used a laptop to vomit up his own personal affront to the novel. According to conspiracy theorists, JFK was assassinated by the CIA or Led Zeppelin on the orders of Jimi Hendrix. Men never landed on the Moon, but were filmed on a movie set in the middle of the desert. The Jews are running the media, the CIA is running the oil and the Illuminati are running the world from tunnels honeycombing the planet.

And there have been books and films and TV series that have played on our love of conspiracies. Dan Brown wasn’t the first, he’s just the latest in a long line of conspiracy theory fodder. Why not, you may ask, blame Oliver Stone? The X-Files? Probably because, although they achieved mainstream success, they only really attracted the usual fringe conspiracy nuts. The ones who could tell you about the Zionist conspiracy to rebuild the Tower of Babel, but they might be listening.

Then Dan Brown comes along and all of a sudden everyone is staring at the Mona Lisa as though it holds the secret to life. Suddenly the number of American tourists traipsing around cathedrals and monuments asking fatuous questions that a half well-read six year old would realise are ridiculous has doubled. Or it would have doubled if only those American tourists could get past airport security. All because one semi-literate mastered the motor controls to beat away at his keyboard to produce further waste of paper, people believe that all of this is true. That maybe this shaved monkey in a suit has discovered something that people have for dozens of centuries been hitherto in total ignorance of.

Now, I’m all in favour of people questioning. You should question your Government, your state and everyone who ever said anything to you. You should question whether a passable marksman with limited view over a long distance could manage to fire six shots to kill a president in a speeding car. You should be wondering, aloud, about the legality of the invasion of Iraq and about the events that led up to it.

But you shouldn’t believe the answers. We’re not in the state we’re in because of a Catholic conspiracy centred on Christ’s alleged offspring. And a third-rate hack from America isn’t going to be the one uncovering that secret either.

Question everything, believe nothing. At least, that’s what they told me to write…