Creative Conspiracy: Deadly Fiction

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On January 6th, 2021 I watched people storm the American Capitol. It was a disgusting display of people motivated by lies and anger. It was a pathetic display as the fools streamed themselves and photographed themselves, meaning the world could find them. It was a foolish display as it awoke law enforcement and the public to their horrific activities.

I watched people threaten my Congress, following the debunked lies of “President Trump” and his enablers, and turn it into a show. It came close to being a snuff film.

Experts and amateurs alike will analyze what happened for years and ask, “how did we get here?” This column series is my small contribution to that effort because I’ve come to realize a painful truth.

Conspiracy theories are creative acts, and we must understand them as such. We must understand them as those caught up in them do not, and those exploiting them often do know they’re making things up.

On the surface, Conspiracy theories may seem as ridiculous as they are sinister. How can someone believe such nonsense? How can someone draw connections between such unrelated people and events? What leaps of imagination are people making to have faith in such elaborate foolishness?

Now, consider that we may enjoyably believe nonsense. We will happily embrace fictional worlds of ninjas and starships, sorcerors and superspies, and so on. We will take out our dice and our manuals and play a role-playing game, forcing new characters out of numbers and checklists. We use our imaginations all the time, exercising, stretching them, growing as people – and having fun.

There is only one difference between those spinning foolish conspiracy theories and the lofty heights of epic fanfic and Role-Playing Campaign. That difference is the former doesn’t always know – or admit – they’re making things up. Ask yourself how often, as of late, believers in conspiracy theories are sneered at as LARPers – but how close it truly is.

Your last Round Robin Writing Exercise is very close to what your average Conspiracist does.

Conspiracists are misusing their creativity to trap themselves in a fantasy world. It’s every warning about Dungeons and Dragons from thirty years ago; only the real danger was people believing tales of fraudulent elections and Satanic cults.

Worse still are those lying to them to sell books, T-shirts, and whatever. The conspiracy field is filled with grifters – it always has been if one is historically aware. In modern times they have more platforms to spew their fictions from, though thank gods there’s less over time as of late.

Conspiracy theories – and the violence that follows them – result from a series of malicious and ignorant creative acts.

In understanding this, I hope we can find new ways to battle falsehood – and help people find healthy creativity. But to do that, we must admit something simple.

The border between a conspiracist and a creative is very, very thin.

Steven Savage

Cults, Conspiracy Theorists, and Connection

Well now we have Sandy Hook Truthers, who believe some or all of the shooting was staged, many people involved were actors, and it’s all part of some elaborate scheme to create mild gun safety laws.  Some people have decided to go and harass one of the people who helped the kids out, a 69-year old man.

When I look at the Conspiracy Theorists, the hardcore sealed-in-their-heads types, and certainly in this case we’ve got an already noteable group, something comes to mind: they resemble a cult.

There’s the System that explains everything.  There’s the feeling special as you ‘get it.’  There’s convenient enemies to hate (like a 69-year old pet sitter).  You even get to feel persecuted as everyone is calling you out, often for being kind of a jerk.

Also, if you’re ethically challenged, you can play Cult Leader and make a mint off this stuff.  Just trapse through a book store and look at some of the “political” books.

A conspiracy theory is a cult that’s often decentralized, with a few Cult Leader types taking advantage of a larger miasma of fevered thought.

It’s also like a cult in that it attracts the disconnected – and disconnects people.  It’s easy for people looking for meaning to find it in conspiracy theories.  It’s also easy for those enmeshed in the world of paranoia and fear to become disconnected from others (those political arguments you had over the holidays? Take those, and turn them to 11).  Conspiracy theories build on and build distance.

This is why building and keeping the foundation of civilization and culture is important – and requires a place for people.  The connections, the reliable systems, the meaning, the support structures are important to both our survival as a civilization, but also as they keep people from getting disconnected, and thus being prey to cults and cultic thought.  Much as a cult disconnects people from their connections, cultic though like conspiracy theories (sort of do-it-yourself cuts) can be used to unmoor oneself.

Next time you observe conspiracy theories gone gonzo, think of it as a decentralized cult.  It’ll make things clearer.

Also, remember the value of civilization, culture, and social connection.  It’s easier to appreciate when you see what happens when that falls apart.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at