Red Pill, Blue Pill

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Red Pill, Blue Pill: How to Counteract the Conspiracy Theories That Are Killing Us [Bookshop, Amazon, Publisher] by David A Neiwert

Neiwart Red Pill, Blue Pill

Author Neiwert is an investigative reporter who has been working the beat of the rightward fringe of American politics for decades. This book published in 2020 saw all too clearly the “conspiracist” contribution to what eventuated in the Capitol violence of January 2021–not that there’s any reason to think that episode exhausted the impulse.

The subtitle is “How to Counteract the Conspiracy Theories That Are Killing Us,” but most of the book is in fact dedicated to establishing that “Conspiracy Theories … Are Killing Us.” Not only have conspiracist worldview of fabulist paranoia. He also draws a line between the “old conspiracism” (epitomized by obsessive JFK assassination and UFO investigators) and the “new conspiracist” Infowars and Q-anon crowds. And he offers a digestible cultural history of conspiracist thinking in the US that goes back to the eighteenth century.

Only in the final chapter does the book provide any “How to Counteract” ideas and material, and these are of the difficult no-silver-bullet variety. Thanks to pandemic-driven isolation, outrage-mongering social media, and the bizarre twists of surveillance capitalism, we are all epistemologists now. This book is a sober overview of the biggest hazards in the increasingly difficult work of orienting society towards genuine events and shared goals, rather than paranoid hallucinations and cultural fracture.