My preference: subtle economic critiques rather than diabolizations of capital, or any kinds of diabolism. Instead: critiques that reliably express, explain, or narrativize the banality of evil, the devil in the details, the complex articulations and capillaries of power. Here’s how transcendent “capitalism” has gotten: I no longer know what the term means.
Reminds me of another thing: that maybe most empirical ground has already been trodden; we’ve seen, heard, grabbed, and tasted most every thing and every place that our senses can get to. The Age of Discovery, or Uncovery, is over. The hard part, now, involves our grasping and phrasing— in getting the higher orders of complexity of the things around us, like a cat suddenly seeing the connection between that hand, that laser, and the little red dot jumping all over the furniture. It’s easier to lapse into believing that causes must be hidden but simple, rather than open and boggingly complex; that there must be some dark, conspiratorial force behind the appearance of things — for example, the rumor of a relatively small cabal that controls the fate of the entire world. The rumor is true. They’re called rich people. The control, the articulations and capillaries of power, are not hidden but subtle or fractured into fine print, and buffered in questionable-but-unquestioned ideological terms that need to be rephrased, not uncovered.
However, on the other hand, I will say one thing about the growing supernatural dimension in some of these conspiracy theories— like the entertaining Coast-to-Coast symbologies of shape-shifters and ancient aliens— and that is that they do articulate, if only in figures, a body of religious imagery and belief in radical opposition to entrenched power (unlike most institutionalized religions that only help fasten and make pretty various modes of domination). As is most often the case with paranoia, this free-wheeling theorizing rightfully detects that something is misplaced or amiss, but shifts the blame in order to make some small peace with itself, and gains in comprehensibility. Quoting a friend of a friend: “I know when I talk about shape-shifters, it’s crazy, that it’s crazy to talk about politicians as reptiles, but, all the same, come on.”
These quasi-religious traditions have fairly standard beliefs and iconography— pyramids, reptiles, Kris Kristofferson, new world orders, chemtrails, etc.. — that vividly set to metaphor its thorough-going (if slightly skewed) suspicion of power. At the end of the day, they have every right to lose the “quasi-” and count themselves as a bonafide religious tradition; more so than their obverse, the newer religious traditions that actually do attempt a cabal to furtively gain power, or footholds with raving celebrities seeking something more lasting than the fickle glories of Hollywood. People laugh now, but…