In "Constantly Wrong," Kirby Ferguson continues his brilliant mashup work on conspiracy theories with a new, 47 minute documentary that contrasts real-world conspiracies (crimes) with conspiracy theories.
Ferguson says you can tell the difference because conspiracies collapse as the complexity of maintaining secrecy among conspirators reaches unsustainable levels, while conspiracy theories posit there are long-lived conspiracies that somehow solve this problem.
It's an argument others have made, but he makes it very well, in part through of his dazzling video-editing and encyclopedic storehouse of snippets that go into his mashups. It's what made Ferguson's "Everything Is a Remix" videos so stunning.
Ferguson doesn't dwell much on why people become conspiracists, but to the extent that he does, he attributes it to trauma - in emotional wounds that demand succour. He's echoing Anna Merlan's hypothesis from her brilliant 2019 book REPUBLIC OF LIES.
Ferguson's work is always a delight. That said, I have a quibble with his litmus test for sorting conspiracies from conspiracy theories: if the difference is that conspiracies eventually come to light but theories go on forever, what about a pre-exposure conspiracy?
He cites Epstein as an example of a conspiracy (not a conspiracy theory) because Epstein was exposed. But there were YEARS when Epstein committed crimes with impunity thanks to complicity from law enforcement and politicians.
Epstein - like other conspirators - used legal threats and worse to attack people who threatened to expose him (think of Harvey Weinstein hiring ex-Mossad agents to harass women who publicly accused him).
So there was a period when Epstein was a "conspiracy theory" (because his crimes hadn't been brought to light and publicly acknowledged) and then they became a mere "conspiracy" - in public view.
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