If you’ve ever watched genuine conspiracy theorists at it, you’ve seen a slew of distortions designed to trap people into patterns of thinking that oversimplify nuances and give an unduly broad scope of explanation to a particular idea.
The essence of this is, to me, a “mind virus.” It appeals to something we desperately desire as its foot in the door – an explanation for a frustration or an intractable reality that appeases some other sensibility, but skips a number of steps along the way. It appeals to our religious hardwiring which requires a coherent narrative, a defined enemy, and a group of faithful individuals who fight back against injustice or evil, led by a charismatic figure who epitomizes the ideals of the movement, which you can join if you say the right things and do the right things. It has a Telos, which is the most valuable denomination of ideological currency.
The most powerful ability in the entire world is the ability to influence large groups of people in their beliefs (“Let me write the songs of a nation, I don’t care who writes its laws”), and not all religious (that is, systems which attempt to explain the origin/meaning/morality/destiny of mankind) ideas are anywhere near the same nor do they produce the same results. This religious instinct can be hijacked, and in the social media age we are seeing that writ large.
I am currently finishing a novel titled “Snow Crash,” a futuristic novel written in the 90s about a new “Tower of Babel” event on the horizon as bad actors figure out how to weaponize binary code, language, and drugs to render certain classes of humans as invalids, incapable of functioning, which can be administered digitally, biologically, or even linguistically. One facet of this is the notion that once a person understands a structure such as a language, they are actually now vulnerable to infection by “viruses” that abuse the structure of that language, the same way a computer given a certain operating system is now vulnerable because of the structure of that operating system. Defenses can be constructed and antibodies made, but the arms race goes on.
Similarly, religious ideas have viruses that use the same intellectual pathways as the real thing. One such virus is racial grievance theory, which is heavily in vogue now. It purports to explain the world, and particularly the United States, in terms of the original sin of racism. You see, racism is not just what the word actually means – deliberately advocating for the advancement of one race against others, or belief in a racial superiority or inferiority doctrine – it is actually the unconscious bias that leads to all inequality.
So, wherever you see an unequal result segmented along racial lines, that was necessarily racism, and as the Compline prayer goes, “I have sinned exceedingly, in thought, word, and deed ::beat breast three times:: through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault…”, and in some iterations, “…through what I have done and what I have failed to do…” It is not enough to merely not believe in racial doctrines or act to benefit or harm one race against another. Any end result which has any degree of inequity – or does not benefit a particular “oppressed” racial group is a sin of omission in line with the founding fathers’ original sin of racism, and is tantamount to lynching and slavery, and all non-poc are culpable for their participation in this system of sin racism.
The reason this is a mind virus is because it fills a void in the non-religious’ mind with an explanation for a state of affairs that is far too easy. The sin is not adultery; it is looking lustfully upon a woman, which is tantamount to sinning against the entire law, and is a descendent of the original sin of Adam – one of treason. Likewise, the sin is not being an actual nazi or a sheet-wearing KKK member. The equivalent sin is not supporting left-wing politicians who are working to destroy the patriarchy or the white male establishment.
So what is the solution, in racial grievance theory? As in nearly all religious ideas, there must be a sacrifice. There must be a price paid to appease the gods. Therefore, those who benefit from racial privilege must beat their breasts, self-flagellate, and sometimes even go to Calvary to effect a resolution to racism. Sin must be pointed out wherever it is, and remember brethren:
Sobrii estote et vigilate; quia adversarius vester diabolus, tamquam leo rugiens, circuit quaerens quem devoret…
Racism goes around as a roaring lion, seeking whom they may devour…be sure that Satan racism has no place in you…And be glad that [insert white male politician/celebrity who grovels over his privilege and supports policies that benefit non-whites] has suffered because of your sins as well as mine…
These sorts of theories are more degenerate than even pure hedonism, although hedonism leads naturally to vulnerability to such viruses – hedonism is not a virus that attempts to supplant the normal functioning of religion, although it can in extreme cases. Hedonism often gives the individual an obvious fork in the road – holiness and truth, or pleasure and falsehood. Hedonism is like excessive sugar consumption with diabetes. You can lose your foot if you keep going, or you can reverse the damage somewhat by going low carb and watching your sugar levels: holiness, in other words. You always have a path to get back on the straight and narrow, as long as you are alive
Such mind viruses as the oppression narrative in all its forms actually replaces good tissue with cancerous tissue; it accomplishes damage to the host while staging itself to capture more and more of the host until it dies. It threatens the modern soul more than even hedonism, because you think you are on the straight and narrow. You are praised for your public affirmations of your sin racism/privilege and your sacrifices to reduce the amount of sin racism/privilege in the world. You are part of a righteous community resisting the offensive evil of Drumpf, his Russian cohorts, and anyone who believes in national borders.
Such beliefs actually handicap real institutional improvement and reform, distort language and create confusion, and finally polarize and paralyze politics. They should be rejected by good Catholics in favor of the traditional and biblical narrative that dictionary racism is a sin, but sin is so much larger and broader than that iteration of it, and that the most important aspect of any discussion is man’s ultimate end and his relationship to God.