Culture Wars/Current Controversies

How to cure people afflicted with conspiracy theories

You mean “conspiracy theories” like believing in some mythical “social contract,” or in the benevolence of the state, or that the United States is a “democracy,” or that the endless wars waged by the USA are for “freedom” or “human rights,” or that the police are there to “serve and protect,” or that corporate oligarchs are merely hard-working go-getters, or that the media is merely about keeping the public informed, or that the scientific/medical establishment is politically and ideologically neutral? Yes, we definitely need to cure folks of these conspiracy theories. I generally prefer flat-earthers and lizard people-believers over system-believers.

By Thom Dunn

In the summer of 2016, I began working on a play about an addiction support group for conspiracy theorists called How To Build A Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart. It had one public staged reading in May of 2017, then ultimately decided to turn it into a novel, which I finished and sent off to my agent on New Year’s Day 2020.

At its inception, I thought it would be kind of a fun, wacky idea — a dark comedy that could also be a vessel for asking some interesting questions. Once I started seriously working on the story, however, it took a pretty dark turn (not unlike our own reality). I realized that I had set myself up for a narrative challenge: not only did each of my characters need a backstory that lead them to believe in each of their respective conspiracy theories, but I also needed to give them each some additional trauma, or a reason to seek out a support group to help them cope with their conspiracy theory. When the story begins, the group is already up-and-running, so you don’t actually see the characters falling down their respective rabbit holes or blowing up their personal lives (except for one, the entry/viewpoint character who’s the new guy at the meeting). Most of the damage is already done; now they’re all just trying to dig out of the hole.


Leave a Reply