Suppose you gave a global march and nobody came? Last Saturday's worldwide marches against the weather-slash-population control conspiracy theory known as "chemtrails" were sure to shake The Man's global power structure to the core...until nobody showed up.
The groups that sprang up on Facebook promised thousands upon thousands of attendees to these protests, but as it turns out, clicking a "join" button on social media is easier than actually leaving your home to put your money where your mouth is.
If you're not in-tune with the conspiracy, 1) lucky you, and 2) it's a growing movement that falsely believes that the trails of condensed water vapor (called contrails) that follow behind high-flying aircraft are really toxic chemicals being sprayed into the atmosphere to control the weather and make us sick.
After hoisting their cardboard freedom high in town squares the world over, a handful of distraught activists took to Facebook begging people to explain to them why the truthy keyboard commandos didn't follow through with their online bluster.
A gentleman named Bob asked a popular conspiracy page a pressing question:
why was i the only one to show up at todays protest in rhode island?
The protest in Louisville, Kentucky, got a comparatively earthshattering attendance:
There were 4 of us in Louisville. We got mostly positive responses and beeps and felt good about spreading awareness. :)
The lackluster performance of the chemtrail protests brings up a good point about how the internet works. The internet makes it easy for you to take up causes without actually having to put forth the effort to make a difference. How many of your friends and relatives fall for that "one like = one pray" junk on social media? Changing your profile picture to combat disease is like retweeting a picture of spaghetti to combat child hunger. Similarly, six thousand people virtually agreeing that they'll join a protest to scare The Man into caving in to your demands sounds great, but when those thousands of people materialize in real life as just a few dozen, your cause looks more comical than serious.
Of course, it is comical, because there is no "there" there. Chemtrails don't exist. It's a conspiracy theory born in the 1990s and continues to grow today because people enjoy creating science fiction more than they care to understand science itself. The reason scientists and science writers have to keep addressing the issue is because they have a ton of sway with people. While nobody may turn out to protest these conspiracy theories in person, if tens of thousands of people keep repeating a lie, that lie will start to sound like truth to thousands (and possibly even millions) more.
I made an argument a few months back about why I write about the chemtrail conspiracy theory on this blog so often. People enjoy telling writers to stop writing about these conspiracy theorists because they're just like children; if you ignore a child throwing a temper tantrum, he'll eventually give up. Conspiracy theorists thrive when nobody pays attention to them. Their whole shtick is that nobody with an audience will give them the time of day, so they have to scream louder and get more people to join in their cultish worldview to force The Man to listen. When we write about (and make fun of) these conspiracy theorists, it takes away their motive. We're listening! And we think you're crazy.
In addition to shining light on the conspiracy, people don't realize how dangerous some of these folks can be. Every other week, I'll run across a particularly impassioned conspiracy theorist who advocates shooting down airplanes that are creating condensation trails. Think about that: they're so deep into the conspiracy that they're advocating mass murder over something that doesn't exist! These conspiracies are not just some harmless internet fan fiction. Some people are dead serious about this stuff.
It's a never-ending battle because it's easier for people to accept a conspiracy theory than it is for them to accept reality. They don't want to accept that we landed on the moon. They don't want to think that one person can kill the president. They don't want to accept the terrifying reality that nineteen misled extremists can carry out a world-changing terrorist attack. They don't want to accept that tornadoes and hurricanes and volcanic eruptions just happen.
Conspiracy theorists want to believe that there is something more sinister and complicated behind major world events because, quite frankly, it's scary that bad things can just happen. Taking the time and effort to understand science takes the mystical nature out of many unexplained events, but fiction plays better than education.
Maybe this past weekend's dud-of-a-protest will give these slacktivists some pause about their faulty understanding of how the world works, but it's doubtful.
[image via Facebook]