At the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, David Crosby of the Byrds presented to the audience his thoughts on the JFK murder. “He was not killed by a single man,” Crosby said. “He was shot from different directions by different weapons. History has been deleted, witnesses have been killed, and this is your country. This incident, possibly the first high-profile case of a musician spreading a conspiracy theory, is one of the reasons Crosby was fired from the group. “He didn’t know anything more than anyone,” grumbled frontman Roger McGuinn. “He was just trying to be Mr. Cool up there.
These days there are several Mr Cools in the music world whose ideas about secret plots make Crosby’s seem vanilla. Covid-19 has sparked a flood of conspiracy theories often involving a combination of 5G, Bill Gates, the World Health Organization and microchips. Musicians who shared them include Madonna, Ian Brown, MIA, Ice Cube, Wiz Khalifa, Right Said Fred, Jim Corr, The’s Matt Johnson, and Sugababe Mutya Buena. Robbie Williams, meanwhile, expressed a late interest in Pizzagate 2016 theory. ” Nothing has been debunked, ”he said in June., as if the white supremacist allegations of a child sex ring at a Washington DC pizza place needed further investigation.
It’s hard to generalize about a trend that unites MIA and Right Said Fred, but there are several reasons why pop stars might be drawn to magical thinking. Music attracts nonconformists and foreigners. The typical psychological profile of a conspiracy theorist – arrogant, stubborn, proudly heterodox – fits many artists as well. Some are self-taught, drawn to the juicy secret knowledge that you won’t get from the mainstream media, while lacking the analytical tools necessary to sort the wheat from the chaff. And given that musicians who express an interest in politics are disproportionately left-wing, it is inevitable that a minority will drift to its furthest limits. When you’ve learned about real plots, such as those involving the FBI and CIA, it’s tempting to migrate to those that don’t exist. Heavy smoking can also play a role.
Once you get past a certain point in the Rabbit Hole, any challenges are seen as proof that the conspiracy exists. Often there are not enough challenges anyway. In a more innocent era, when conspiracy theories were seen as a harmless eccentricity that made a good copy, interviewers would wind up musicians and watch them go. Do you remember chemtrails? Simpler times. Group members and employees tend to look away. The greater a person’s fame and wealth, the less likely it is that a loved one will say, “Wait, these are bullets. Stop. ”
The current rise in paranoia is the predictable result of a group of isolated people deprived of their usual sources of income and attention. But are musicians so unusual? You can also find actors and TV stars plugging into Covid conspiracy theories, not to mention academics, Uber drivers, and plumbers. The difference is advertising: Madonna will have more coverage than your aunt on Facebook. Considering all of this, what’s surprising is not that there are so many conspiracy theorists in music, but so few.