“So you self-identify as a conspiracy theorist?” asked the Masters student disparagingly at a protest in 2015.
I was 37 at the time.
I thought I knew what I was doing. But quite obviously, I was mad.
What was I doing there, outside the German Embassy, near Mayfair, aged 37, surrounded by students, taking photographs of a protest about a protest — a Meta-Protest?
I obviously thought it was something worth covering at the time.
The detention of a London-based Italian national, Fede, in Frankfurt for having having hurled rocks at the Police during a protest about the European Central Bank.
I had heard about it on Facebook. A younger better connected activist had posted something and I thought I’d tag along. It was a weekday morning. Who else could possibly be there? I was bound to get some exclusive shots and help spread the word. It was God’s work. Obviously.
I’d also just launched the blog — londonconversation.com — time to act like a reporter.
Take photos and get coverage.
So I was only in it for the retweets.
The Society of the Spectacle, indeed.
Attention hacking. My convoluted attempt to monetise the protest. The misery of others. Hmm.
I had become the thing I despised, and I had barely started. The thing was to get coverage, not to be niche. But the human brain is wired such that it needs a constant feed of stories. What kind of a person dispassionately puts out stories one after the other without lingering on any of them for long enough to see the results?
A superficial person?
Someone who specialises in manufacturing moments for maximum drama.
The Magic Bullet
The magic bullet at the grassy knoll in Dallas on the morning on November 22nd 1963 is, of course, a favourite.
I first heard about it when my mum took me to watch JFK at the cinema. Gary Oldman played Oswald and he was famously photoshopped to look like he was holding a rifle. The shadow gave the game away.
Then there’s Umbrella man. I never heard about him until 2014. I was at a talk on the Psychology of Conspiracy Theory. The presenter said it was his favourite. He said most conspiracy theorists believe conflicting theories. In my case I recognised that was true. It’s a bad habit. But what can you do when you don’t want to believe the official version?
Of course your mind will wander off to the fringes, the margins. Where else can the truth lie?
For me, these things never go away.
They cast a shadow over all events.
Flickering through phones and tv screens.
Nothing is real.
For what is possible in one place at one time is surely also potentially possible in and during another.
It may well have been with these thoughts in mind that I start to think differently about the man in the Nazi uniform that started to appear in our telephone screens early on Monday morning.
Paul Townsley, a 55-year-old martial arts instructor, was attending the debate at the University of the West of England when it was taken over by left-wing activists who started shouting anti-fascist slogans
Murdoch’s Sun and Times published photos of Paul Townsley, who carried out an unprovoked on an unarmed woman at a Jacob Rees Mogg talk in Bristol, dressed up as a Nazi in front of children at a family Christmas party.
Plus ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose