The Chaos Candidate And The Truth
Somewhere along the way, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. went from being a circus sideshow to a spokesman for a long list of conspiracies.
He's been around as long as I can remember , talking about various scandals, fake science
and such, but over the last month or so he started showing up more regularly, embraced by a ragtag group of conspiracy theorists, provocateurs, and attention-seeking billionaires. Some of them seem to at least acknowledge that what he's saying is nonsense, but in the realm of “rigorous debate,” they find his attention-seeking nonsense amusing or worse.
Take Jason Calacanis, the ringmaster of a group of rich guys (the Besties) who have a podcast that thrives on controversies and drama. Tweeted Calacanis: “LOVE that we are having a vibrant debate on big pharma, Covid, vaccines, & the big money driving all this—long overdue!”
But is it really a “vibrant debate”?
Farhad Manjoo, writing in the New York Times, remembers when he got into a debate with Kennedy. It was 2004, and Kennedy was peddling a conspiracy that the election had been stolen from John Kerry. “But now I see where I went wrong, “ writes Najoo. “Not on the merits; there’s still no case that Kerry actually won in 2004. My mistake was attempting to debate and debunk Kennedy in the first place. At best, the effort was a waste of time and energy; at worst, a big bow-wrapped gift of the thing a conspiracy theorist desires most — recognition that his arguments are important enough to merit serious debate.”
NBC’s Brandy Zadrozny seems to have figured out what RFK Jr. is looking for: “Kennedy… reminds me of the way the world has recently been gripped by conspiracy theories — many of which Kennedy has helped spread: ones that imagine clouds as government-sprayed chemicals, cellular networks as surveillance plots — and lifesaving vaccines as poison.”
Kennedy supporters, Zadronzny writes: are “anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, internet contrarians, billionaire tech bros, Camelot nostalgists and right-wing provocateurs who seem to be pumping Kennedy as a spoiler candidate.”
Kennedy’s eight-minute promotional video is titled “Running on Truth.”
Truth, it turns out, may be what’s really on the ballot here. Trying to understand things about the world, about government, about health care, reasonable citizens can’t be faulted for looking for truth: solid facts, data and expert opinions. Kennedy has none of those things.
Amplifying misinformation, and wrapping it in the cloak of truth is certain to have terrible consequences. In a world of AI-produced and -replicated fictions, the average media citizens is outmatched, gringing a knife to a media gunfight.
And so, people hungry for clarity find themselves drawn inexorably toward the promise of objective, absolute truth -- delivered by artificial intelligence.