I can barely keep up with everyday life, so forgive me if I can’t keep up with all of the banana pants ideas floating around that keep people up at night and busy on the internet all day long. I’m talking about baseless conspiracy theories that range from being wildly imaginative and harmless to downright dangerous.
Coin shortages are joining the ranks of aliens, UFOs, the Illuminati, and QAnon in terms of triggering paranoia and radical ideas. I appreciate some people’s need to live in an altered reality—I did so for years when I was an active alcoholic. But much like my own need to avoid focusing on things in my life that were true and hard to look at, conspiracy theorists tend to not want to examine their own lives either. Instead they make shit up or buy into made-up shit in order to feel important, included, or part of something special. They want to believe they are privy to esoteric knowledge. But lean in, folks: the government is not trying to eliminate paper money so we can be tracked through electronic transactions.
Some stores are asking customers to provide exact change or pay with a credit card, and because of this people have created the narrative that elitists, celebrities, and government officials have joined forces to control all of us. And in order to control us they need to track us, according to those who don’t dig a little deeper into actual facts. Conspiracy theorists believe this tracking is happening through financial interactions. Here’s just a snippet of a long rant currently making the rounds on Facebook:
It goes on to say that “the government WILL decide what you can and cannot purchase” and that “if your transactions are deemed in any way questionable, by those who create the questions, your money will be frozen, ‘for your own good.'” Sigh.
First of all, everyone knows the government tracks us through forcing us to do our taxes each year. And then there are stop lights. And cell phones. And our computers. And those little plastic cards that we sign up for at the grocery store to take advantage of BOGOs. Look, save a penny, lose anonymity is not a saying I made up, but sure as shit if it ain’t true.
It is true that folks are being asked not to use coins, but it’s due to COVID-19 and not the government trying to turn this into a cashless society like theorists are claiming. The Federal Reserve Board reported that the pandemic has disrupted the supply chain and business-as-usual coin circulation in the U.S.: “Coin deposits from depository institutions to the Federal Reserve have declined significantly and the U.S. Mint’s production of coin also decreased due to measures put in place to protect its employees.”
A little skepticism or common sense and a simple Google search would have explained why the underpaid cashier at the grocery story asked you to use a credit card if you could. But that would have been too…logical.
Studies have found that half of the United States population believes in at least one medical or political conspiracy. I have my own theories about why people are so quick to believe utter bullshit, or at least fail to question it right away. But since my theories could be as wrong as someone thinking money is being eliminated, I did a little research. I know: I went looking for facts and science.
Joe Pierre, M.D. for Psychology Today says that people who believe in conspiracy theories do so because they need “cognitive closure.” They need explanations, and for things to make sense. To me, this seems contradictory to religious beliefs; how can one be so sure of something without proof? Yet for so many it’s why their faith is so strong. Conspiracy theorists also desire being unique, while other studies show that these “unique” people tend to have lower levels of education and lack analytical thinking skills.
Turns out I was correct: conspiracy theorists need to be right, even if they are wrong, because at least they have an answer. They haven’t had the education of lived experiences and can’t seem to think well on their own. (Think antivaxxers and people who believe Earth is flat.)
It’s maddening and sad. People are so quick to think something awful is happening behind closed doors with expensive locks. They work themselves into cult-like groups who believe they know what’s best and what needs to be done but can’t prove that anything is actually amiss. Yet, child welfare systems, poverty, mass incarceration of Black people, conversion therapy, religion, and bigotry are harming children in plain sight and everyone seems to be okay with this.
I am not here to get too far into the delusional ideas folks have about the “deep state.” I agree that our government needs some fixing and that there are too many corrupt politicians with too much power. The cycles that perpetuate systemic racism and patriarchal toxicity feel impossible to break. But I don’t believe that our government, or Wayfair for that matter, are covering up sex trafficking rings. Oh, there are pedophiles and rapists in too many places and the rich and powerful are often protected. But I don’t believe there are enough horrible people in our government, and what is supposed to be the finest intelligence in the world, that would miss the coordinated effort of buying and selling mass loads of children. Yet this is just the type of mindset that feeds into folks also believing that our paper money is becoming extinct so the government can keep track of our every purchase.
I understand that the pandemic has stressed us out. With anxiety comes very real fears and paranoia; those should be addressed with a therapist, and not a reddit thread. Instead, folks seem to be using conspiracy theories as coping mechanisms. I believe in the power of denial, but not in microchips being planted in the vaccine that will protect us from a virus that some people think is either a hoax or was manufactured in a lab and is being used as a weapon against us.
And I’m not cashing in on the theory that our government wants us to “cash out.”
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