the CO nspirasphere
The Grenfell Tower tragedy spawned, inevitably, numerous conspiracy theories, which nOel rOOneY suggests reveal emerging and competing schools of thought
grenfell’s grand narrative
The conspiracy theories that blossomed in the wake of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower elucidate some epistemological trends in the Conspirasphere. The automatic nature of the responses is symptomatic of the event anxiety that permeates the community (an anxiety that often resembles malicious glee more than fear); the range of responses speaks to a growing formalisation of theorising – the emergence of schools of thought.
Event anxiety (or event compulsion) is not unique to the Conspirasphere; how can it be in an age when the news media are desperately subordinate to the next new thing, and pass that appetite on to their consumers? But the carnival of tragedy has different effects on different audiences. Whereas in the mainstream it typically induces short-term hypnosis followed by an addict’s yearning for the next fix, in the Conspirasphere it is often a strangely affirming experience. It adds to the store of proofs, embeds validity into the most eldritch of world views. Those world views lead to very different retellings of events; the narratives are beginning to have a canonical feel to them, the telltale signs of a burgeoning of sects. They range from a very specific, and consistent, attribution of blame to a position that might be characterised as satirising reality; the former reflects the fact that the sphere has its own mainstream, while the latter is evidence of the radical off-shoots that the alt-truth testament has spawned.
The continuing uncertainty over casualty figures, and the very real litany of negligence and cost-cutting are the main fuels for the canonical response. For this school of thought, Grenfell is more proof that the rich are out to get us; that anything that can be covered up, will be covered up (I’m tempted to term this Icke’s Law); that the mainstream media narrative is slave to (or in cahoots with) an elite agenda of oppression, perhaps extending to eugenic attrition by neglect; above all, that something must be done (and retelling the story in the language of conspiracy theory is the something that must be done).
The school that presents all major events as false flags is, in many respects, an example of hermeneutic, or grand narrative, conspiracy theorising (see ft330:4 for a discussion of this term). For this group, the fire was deliberately started (the immediate culprits range from the London Fire Brigade, through the local authority to the German secret service) to serve an agenda completely unrelated to the benighted residents and their lost homes. To render this kind of interpretation legible, one needs to acknowledge the Illuminati as an axiomatic element, and understand the Big Picture as way bigger than anything an automatic dissident might recognise.
Then there is the school of thought that understands Grenfell as a hoax: Hollywood incendiaries rigged on a building devoid of real residents but replete with crisis actors (crisis actors recognisable from earlier episodes of the post-real tableau) in a species of postmodern performance that has no immediately discernible purpose. This sect is gathering adherents at an increasing rate; its world view is essentially nihilist, or cryptic existentialist, and defies rational explanation. Pattern is more important than meaning for this group; for instance, it includes a sub-sect that interprets events purely in terms of numerological clustering. Above all, it denies the veracity of all major events, a position oddly close to that of Fort himself in some respects.
None of this farrago of interpretative ingenuity is much comfort to the real victims of the real fire, of course. Reality is not performing ontological cartwheels for them; it is merely killing people, and ruining lives, in the callously neutral, and viciously random, way that it always has.