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I read a lot of really, really interesting articles from people whose ideas are not taken as seriously as they should be.
The reasons for this are usually twofold:
The person writing is not credentialed in ways that signal the appropriate shibboleths to people who consider themselves to be within the mainstream.
The way their writing is structured is not optimal for the absorption of those ideas.
There’s not much anyone can do about the first aside from going out and getting the appropriate credential. The second is easier to fix, but it requires rethinking the way you express your ideas.
Matthew Crawford has an intriguing article over on his blog today. It’s about historical tests performed in the 1950s and 1960s by the Army and intelligence agencies to determine how pathogens intentionally introduced by an adversary would spread within the United States. The government really has done biowarfare tests on American cities in the past, which have resulted in the tragic—and documented—deaths of American citizens. Matthew has the receipts, and you should read the article; it’s a chilling story.
Having said that, the reach of ideas like the various COVID biowarfare hypotheses is limited. The idea that our government is intentionally infecting its citizens with contagious diseases is so horrifying that the mind recoils. Unfortunately, unless they already harbor a deep distrust of institutions (the primary qualification for membership in the New Right, per Tyler Cowen), readers will find a rationalization, any rationalization, for this not to be the case, and the MSM, effectively stenographers for power, are only too happy to assist.
The attack vectors most commonly exploited by the MSM to knock unconventional hypotheses like this off their pins have to do with the author rather than the ideas. As a result, if you have a theory like this, you better come correct if you don’t want to be dismissed. It is imperative that you frame your ideas in a way that will not set off the “crackpot” tripwire, especially if you’re not a credentialed authority in the field you’re discussing.
Speaking as a professional rhetorician (and as someone who has worked as a literary editor for over a decade), in order to convince normies of the rightness of out-there ideas, you need to invert the structure of articles that espouse ideas counterintuitive to a readership unfamiliar with them.
Instead of ginning up the emotions of the reader before telling them what happened, start right in with a description of the history on which you're basing your speculation (in this case, Operation Sea Spray).
Then, and only then, explain the implications (and your suspicions), and make your analysis as concise as possible. For maximum effect, the sweet spot is between 1/4 and 1/5 of analysis to between 3/4 and 4/5 of documentation.
The resulting article will read as much more credible to people not already sympathetic to the idea that you're espousing. By the time the reader has gotten three fourths of the way down the page, they’ve invested enough of their time that they’re likely to give your analysis a hearing. If you keep that analysis level and reasonable, and let the documented facts do the majority of the work, your ideas will take root.
Mainstream people don’t want to believe “conspiracy theories.” Switching the rhetorical order in the way I've described ameliorates that framing. Write in a way that presents unconventional ideas as sensible and credible and respectable people will give you a hearing.
Someone who’s consistently good at striking the balance between data and analysis when discussing ideas that go against the mainstream narrative is BJ Campbell of Handwaving Freakoutery. If you want pointers in how that can look when done really well, you could do worse than to check out his ‘stack—people take him seriously.
What are your thoughts on the inclusion of humor? In my experience, minds tend to become more receptive to new ideas if they are tickled by wit, delivered at the precise moment they might otherwise recoil. I sense this has something to with the broad overlap between comedy and horror.
Even (or especially?) a dark joke can sometimes pry open a part of the subconscious that suspects something is wrong with the current model of reality. It opens the path to being "in on the joke" and therefore the concept less alien, which might otherwise be closed by authority fallacies and the like.
This is one of the reasons I subscribe. Actionable insight