The plotters make plots and keep quiet about them. Those who talk about them, even if it means inventing them, are called conspiracy theorists [comploteurs]. A real plot is a matter of politics; the conspiratorial narrative is of another order: it is a matter of literature. What makes it so seductive?

The pure and simple narration of facts, whatever they are, borrowed from the real world, always contains lacks, inconsistencies, nonsense. In short, a “grey area” [zone d’ombre]. This is where the conspiracy theorist introduces an element that changes everything: an intention, a desire, an active will, attributed to a Big Other that is at the same time multifaceted, tentacular and concealed.

Slipping this element into a narration is enough for everything to light up immediately. Chance is abolished. It is replaced by necessity. Everything now has a cause. It all makes sense. The statement becomes irrefutable. It is self-validating. The storyline tightens. It is closed in on itself, like a poem.

Aesthetic pleasure is coupled with cognitive satisfaction. As soon as one supposes the shenanigans of the Other, there is no fact that cannot be explained, as well as the absence of fact. Do you object that there is no evidence? It is because it has been removed. The conspiracy theorist dispels the mysteries with the aid of delusional interpretations. He shows you in his own way that the real is rational. In other words, it simulates scientific knowledge.

But at the same time, it echoes the oldest Gnostic beliefs, those which make Satan the creator of the world. The Other of Conspiracy has many faces, he can be embodied by any group that speaks amongst itself, but he is always wicked. A charitable plot only exists in Balzac (“The reverse side of contemporary history”). It shows that our modern conspiracy theories are like the demonic flip side of providence.

It is thus in literature, in science, even in religion, that we see what is at the root of the success of conspiracy theories. Shouldn’t it be sought at an even more basic level? Everyone knows that even before the birth of a child, we worry about him. We prepare against him this attack which sometimes proves so difficult to be forgiven: being given birth. All speaking beings are the result of a conspiracy. It could be that the speaking being is a conspirator by nature. Besides, as soon as we speak, is it not true that we are plotting?



Translated by Florencia F.C. Shanahan and Roger Litten

Published on 15/12/2011 on the occasion of the publication of “Soirée Lacan”, with Philippe Sollers (Navarin).