The era of batshit crazy: why we should shun conspiracy theorists & nut jobs

Surely, every moment in history can be said to be strange, weird or full of nonsense. I can't state with total confidence our times have the most amount of nonsense ever, because that probably isn't true. But for a global civilization that believes itself to be the pinnacle of human scientific and technological achievements — and rightly so, no age before ours had advanced so much in science and technology — we sure have a lot of harmful stupidity going around. There needs to be an emphasis on the harmful part, because these aren't harmless superstitions like knocking on wood. People are actually dying by the hundreds of thousands. Otherwise stable and historical representative democracies around the world are at risk of becoming authoritarian regimes based on far out crazy conspiracy theories. The virus of stupidity spreads far and wide and is anything but harmless, infecting even individuals who are otherwise intelligent and even accomplished in their professional lives.

Recently I was berated by a Spanish speaking antinatalist for “accepting the official narrative” regarding covid-19. Official narrative, those were his words. He stated I was “scum” for wanting to “criminalize covid denialism”. Yes, he used the word scum. I frankly don't remember ever saying or writing that those who deny that there is a pandemic should be considered criminals but, honestly, that doesn't sound so bad at this time, given what I have seen covid-19 denial do to the world and to my country especially. Some examples are warranted, I guess. I used to have a friend from back in the days I identified myself with the political right — conservatism, right-libertarianism, that sort of thing. I had not spoken to him in quite a few years, which was for the best, since our views became so incompatible. In mid 2020, some three or four months into the pandemic here in Brazil, I received the news that he had died of covid-19. I then went to his Facebook profile and wasn't surprised to see it was a shrine dedicated to Bolsonaro and the shit far-right Brazilians defend. There was plenty of covid denial stuff there, too.

Child being offered to Moloch, by Charles Foster

Honestly, I didn't feel too bad, except for his children. He had married a few years before and had two small kids. I don't know if his wife also died or not, and didn't care to know. My feeling was anger towards the stupidity he willingly infected himself with. In December 2020, my mother and I both got covid-19. We had all the symptoms, but mine were worse. Fever, aching, hard time breathing. Interestingly enough, I only noticed a profound loss in the sense of smell and taste after I recovered from the fever and body aches. In a couple of weeks I was able to taste food again. The sense of smell took longer to come back. The pandemic would ravage Brazil in first semester of 2021. During that time, things got really bad, especially because Bolsonaro and his generals did everything they could to stop vaccines from either arriving in the country or being made here. Brazil has always had one of the best vaccination programs in the world, and this shows how bizarre this whole situation is — we were never fertile ground for anti-vaccine movements.

That meant Bolsonaro and the Brazilian army — which has a history of espousing far-right ideas — embraced a foreign conspiracy theory just because it resonated with the North American right. Luckily, since we have a long history of successful vaccination programs, most of the population accepted the shots and didn't buy into the genocidal lies spread around by antivaxxers and covid deniers. And because of this long tradition of accepting vaccines, even most of Bolsonaro's followers got vaccinated when shots finally started rolling out. But, although they did the get the shots, they kept parroting Bolsonaro's anti-vax discourse online. There are plenty of cases of rich Brazilians preaching against the vaccine who eventually get outed as having had even the booster covid shot. That leaves any thinking person with the impression that their goal is to kill as many poor and uninstructed people as they can, while saving themselves. A decrease in the number of poor workers normally means wages increase. But our rich class doesn't care about losing a little money. It's a sadistic thing with them. Most rich Brazilians like to see the destitute suffer. This isn't an opinion. There's plenty of academic literature backing this up. 

After I was called scum for supporting science and speaking against covid deniers, I was approached by another antinatalist who said antinatalists are a diverse group with different opinions, and I shouldn't get bogged down by someone who doesn't share the same opinions as me when it comes to the covid-19 pandemic. As examples, this person said that there are some antinatalists who lean left when it comes to politics, and some who are conservative, some are theists, others atheists, and so on. They even tried to compare this situation I went through — that is being called “scum” for “defending the official covid narrative” — with discussions between meat-eaters and vegans. According to this person, who happens to be vegan, it was way more horrific for some antinatalists to be meat-eaters than for some to be covid deniers and antivaxxers. I completely disagreed. Some things aren't opinions. Some things aren't debatable. One can feel that, maybe, since antinatalism itself is a minority ethical position, they may believe that it's already some batshit lunacy in which they happen to believe. Might as well open the door and welcome every nut out there, right?

Wrong. First, veganism. Vaganism is something that can be debated rationally. In fact, even though I am not a vegan myself, I cannot do anything but accept that they have the intellectual and moral high ground. Basically, they are right, or at least have the best arguments, in my view. The reasons why I'm not one are mostly due to other factors, which don't make me feel good at all. Now on to God and politics. When it comes to the existence of God or which political stance is correct or not, there can be debates and healthy discussions — that is, when both parties accept a level playing field and play by the rules. Those debates can be heated, even. When we accept that there are rules, and that we might end up disagreeing without having to murder or destroy each other, or flat out lie to subjugate the other, then a conversation is possible. That isn't what antivaxxers, covid deniers, flat-earthers, and QAnon followers do, because they see the playing field itself as rigged by obscure agents, acting in favor of the “globalist elite” or some other crap. They're not interested in having a real debate, since they already have their answer, stated as articles of faith. And sure, there are people on the left that act like that, too. Tankies, uncritical devotees of Domenico Losurdo, fans of Juche — they have a tendency to act similarly.

Now on to antinatalism. To consider birth a negative event, while a minority view, isn't a new idea in philosophy, literature, poetry and religion. The idea that it would be better if no conscious being was ever born is present in the Bible, in Buddhist scriptures, in famous Greek tragedies, and in the philosophies of Arthur Schopenhauer and Emil Cioran. It's been out there for ages, and although it's a view held by few, people discuss it normally. Take two contemporary philosophers who embrace antinatalism: Julio Cabrera and David Benatar. Both are able to debate antinatalism, sometimes heatedly, but most times calmly and in a civilized manner. None feel the need to murder the person they're debating with, regardless of how tense the debate gets. In fact, when violent remarks are made, it's always the more mainstream people they are debating with who end up wanting to shut down the discussion. Cabrera and Benatar have a minority view and yet they play by the rules of a healthy discussion. That isn't what violent conspiracy theorists do — not by a mile, not by a million miles. Especially those spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories during a goddamn deadly pandemic. They are like sick individuals who tell others during a fire at an apartment building that everything is fine and they should stay put, while firemen are outside with a bullhorn asking people to come down the fireproof stairs.

Someone might say: “but what if Cabrera or Benatar come out as covid deniers or antivaxxers? That would destroy your argument.” It wouldn't. As long as they didn't start mixing those incredibly far out and crazy conspiracy theories — which are akin to violent fundamentalism — when discussing the philosophy of ascribing a negative value to birth, nothing would change. If that happened, tough luck, they won't be taken seriously anymore, and rightly so. But I honestly don't think either of them embrace batshit crazy views such as those. And remember: there's plenty of valid things people can disagree with. I might be completely wrong, but I think both Cabrera and Benatar probably wouldn't vibe politically with me, especially when it came to certain specific topics. Even when it comes to ethics I know I don't agree with certain things Cabrera defends — e.g. he argues against abortions being ethical at any stage during pregnancy, something I wholeheartedly disagree. Disagreeing in politics, philosophy, and religion can lead to heated debates, sure. But that's very different than one of them coming out and start preaching that the covid pandemic is part of the “globalist agenda” to “take away our freedoms”, and that “vaccines have satanic-luciferian-communist nanochips that steal our free will”.

by Fernando Olszewski