The Social Cell by Brandon Nobles: The Organizational Principle of Conspiracy and Myth

Brandon Nobles <>


Students and readers are no doubt familiar with Shakespeare’s popular history play Julius Caesar. What may be less familiar is the social and political climate in which the play was written. There had been a long succession crisis in Tudor england during the 1560s1 and the possibility of civil war was very real. With no heir or obvious successor, it’s not hard to imagine Elizabeth sensing plots all around her. With Parliament standing in for the senators of Rome in Shakespeare’s drama, she had every right to be nervous. There were plots being organized to overthrow Elizabeth I. Pope Pius V denounced her as a heretic and decreed anyone who killed her would not sin, and would have god’s blessing. Conspirators on the ground in France and Catholic Spain plotted her overthrow with Rome, organized behind the idea of putting the Catholic Mary Steward on the throne. Elizabeth outmaneuvered Mary, and she would face the gallows after being caught out on a conspiracy to assassinate Elizabeth, and she was consumed within the famous Babington plot, and later at Chartley Manor by Elizabeth’s very capable spymaster, Walsingham. One wonders if Elizabeth ever dreaded that the English Civil Wars would follow within a generation, when the crowd hoisted the head of Charles I into the air.

This paper will not be a study of which conspiracy is right or wrong. It will not be based on a personal perspective, but on a perspective that looks at conspiracy and its effects on those who are inclined to believe them and skeptics. A conspiracy movement is motivated by shared beliefs and principles, sometimes philosophical, sometimes political, and they’re willing to work towards the realization of an agreed upon social object. Conspiracies are the culture myths of the post-social world, whereby we understand the phenomena of thunder in scientific terms whereby once they were the work of unseen, mighty forces on whose whims we depended, a social myth now similar to what conspiracy theories attempt to explain.

Questioning belief can become a mantra, and conspiracy is a skeptic’s secular mythology, replete with heroes and villains like the mythography of old, with apostles and gurus, each armed with Psalm-like literature. There are characters that deceive, misinformation agents, and our social and personal self-actualization is in opposing them. If not physically, spiritually, as the hero exposes the global conspiracy of unseen, godlike control through media, government, and large corporations, the deities of the secular world.

It has been taken to be a sort of allegory, but it can be an allegory literarily speaking without necessarily being true, or intentional in the revealing of a specific conspiracy. But, conspiracy theories have applied to others (and our entertainment has thrilled us with the barbaric others in popular cinema). The notion for us in the modern world is to pull the mask off these powerful structures to expose them, as the ancients attempted to understand the unseen forces controlling their destinies from behind the scenes.

An active conspiracy theory is an oral tradition that has yet to be formalized and compiled into its given cultural mythology. Those who have rejected traditional structures for alternatives hold as fast as to those alternatives as they once held, or as those they now self-arrange as opposite, replacing what was once the vast force of God and giving meaning to the season by the explanation that the earth rotates on an axis at a 23-degree tilt, causing the seasons. We give the force of nature over to nature, letting it be sufficient enough to enforce its own laws, while behind the scenes where there were once vast, all-powerful gods and forces of nature, we now have a never-ending lattice wherein all contribution towards the conspiratorial argument of a belief structure is attached to a pre-structured apocrypha. In the past, we resigned the unseen work to Providence, but in a conspiratorial mindset we put the hat on those that can’t be identified. We give human agency to chance and probability, imbuing it with many and purpose, with a ready source of blame for our discontent.

In ancient cultures, beliefs and cultural identity came from tradition and culture heroes4. A social cell ranges from a small collective come together by an operative principle of thinking together, the creation of a social, public area of life with mutual interests. Any collective, from native tribes to modern collectives, has a foundational, motivational principle built into its structure. A civilization could be, in this sense, regarded as a realized social cell: a cell in which a stable majority of interacting non-social individuals share the beliefs and values of the collective and identify socially in the manner of an individual, participating in holidays and respecting the traditions of the tribe. An individual need only look to the heroes and villains of legend to understand how to work virtuously and for the greater good, as a civic service.

Historically, a generic social cell was built on the foundation of myth, identity, purpose, motivation, and meaning. A civil purpose, the familiar routines of tradition and communal meals at synagogue, church, or Masonic lodge. Conspiracy touches on notions of structural stability, that of institutions and social, greater good establishments for an organized people, where the social cell perpetuates shared values which give individuals a group identity of non-social goals. A pre-social cell is a society that hasn’t congealed, or one that is together purely for survival and necessity. When we consider groups, we would do better to consider individual motives. The study of conspiracy theory allows us to look at how belief takes shape by looking at myth as it happens, in popular entertainment, literature and culture. It helps us understand how societies function in their formation and disintegration. In conspiracy theories, one can work by looking for patterns. And sometimes, when we are possessed of a belief, we tend to see patterns everywhere, and the mistakes we make in finding patterns where there are none is something worth considering when looking for patterns you expect to see, as pareidolia can make links to ideas and objects where there are none.5.

Another interesting facet of conspiracies is that of its ability to inspire, and draw inspiration from, popular hysteria, such as the red scare of McCarthyists and the military purges of Josef Stalin after the Russian Civil war, is it a coincide, that so many fall before the charge Traison! As it tends to have its greatest effects in times of socio-political upheaval, the study of conspiracy allows us look at history with a warped lens, where everything is potentially menacing. A popular notion, perhaps made popular by Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and the historical impact of the Salem witch trials in America, a land whose founding myth is in thirds the freedom of religion, meaning freedom to have or to live peacefully if not. These laws were not in place in such times; it gave people the last desperate  and historical impact, with many failed conspiracies exerting an impressive influence on the present, which all good myths do: it highlights connections before the expression, such as the assassination of Julius Caesar bringing to popular attention the possibility of a civil war, and common attributes denote common substance. It’s not surprising that solved conspiracies such as Watergate have not kept the same amount of cultural appeal as America’s political assassination conspiracy. The film All the President’s Men could have been a guide for Oliver Stone: it begins with a small discrepancy, a few reporters start to cover the conspiracy as it’s happening, but at the end, the conspiracy is revealed. President Nixon resigned from the office of President of the United States 2 months after the publication of the investigator’s book on the case6, as the whole process is painstakingly detailed in the follow up to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s investigation, as the Nixon administration dissolves, taking down one of the most Machiavellian politicians of his era, foiled in the end by a burglar 7.

The kind of conspiracy and myth that endures and becomes a necessary component of one’s culture is one without a definite solution. There is a contrariness in our approach; attracted to mystery, yet through our earliest literary work, the Epic of Gilgamesh, had already started asking questions about life and death and mortality. Humans are inclined towards mystery, but closure amid crises, even if the resolution is horrific, the conspiracy theory that has yet to be disproved and as such has a massive corps of motivated, public-object-oriented individuals who continue the tradition, as oral lit was the repetition and slight changing and passing down from one generation to the next so is the eras of a conspiracy’s life. Watergate did shock the majority of Americans (perhaps not as much because of president Nixon’s behavior but their surprise at his getting caught) and yet at the same time we got an answer. The enduring mythology is that type of adaptable myth, that is multi purposed for different eras and arranged in slightly different ways. It is a way to contribute to the continued stability of a society’s institutions, as the faith in the American government fell sharply after the Nixon administration. . The social cell deteriorated, belief, faith in the confidence in the American system of government8. But the cell stabilized, and the government, if less trusted, continued on. Gerald Ford was sworn in on 8th August 19749. In Shakespeare’s play, we see a social cell of like-minded senators to overthrow his rule; while watching it, and for years before it was written, one conspiracy after another attempted the overthrow of Elizabeth I. In writing it, surely he would have been nervous, about his own time, as the death of Julius Caesar would lead to one of the most destructive civil wars in Roman history, The Last War of the Roman Republic9 would see the Republic’s end, with Caesar’s heir Octavius (Later Caesar Augustus) would become the first Emperor of Rome10.


Murder by Decree was released in 1976. Starring Christopher Plummer and George Mason. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are on the trail of the elusive Jack the Ripper. Sherlock Holmes’ story, which – like all conspiracies that work with other, larger conspiracies – there is a shared mythology each time a new conspiracy answer is added to the collective myth, as the collected myths of Hesiod, the traditional Orphic poems, and Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound11. Each tale fills in the blanks where other myths are silent, therefore giving the foundation a more solid structure simply by making it a part of a structure that is already a foundation.

The movie Murder by Decree is a pastiche 12 in that it takes popular storytelling elements from many sources by using real life events, such as the Jack the Ripper murders and the enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who continue to be popular because they are adaptable to different times. The reason Jack the Ripper has remained popular is because no one knows the truth which makes it adaptable to conspiracy theories and allows for the practice of speculation, letting us project our own fears onto the unknown. Alan Moore13 wrote a graphic novel in 2001 that borrowed parts of the Masonic conspiracy from Murder by Decree. It’s not popular opinion it’s popular thinking, popular interaction.

It is understandable for a period of such chaos and confusion to generate ever more elaborate conspiracy theories. An unsolved murder mystery is a natural environment for a conspiracy theory, as they thrive in high profile, unsolved murders and cold cases. In Murder by Decree, the author seems to work by the notion of propinquity, that of establishing proximity and thereby a ‘link’ that confirms a certain idea, making innocuous correlations seem ominous and deeply important. What remains remarkable about this is the mixing of myth with purported fact, the connecting the dots method of research, and is an international, multisocial myth.

Understanding how myth influences the way we think, through Jack the Ripper conspiracy theories14 or bad movies, may let us understand what social myth offered pre-social societies. Any force capable of disturbing social order like famine or natural disasters, capable of destroying societies, was sure to have related mythography. It was by the social progress that a non-personal idea becomes a shared public object, which works as a refined coping mechanism.

The multisocial myths was popular after the Roman conquest of Greece, where Rome adopted Greek deities, storytelling traditions, and philosophical ideas of the new satellite state15. This is an example of a stronger social cell absorbing and retaining the core of an assimilated social conscience through conquest. The seasons themselves are given character, personality, and agency, such as in etiological story of Demeter’s despair, with the crops failing upon her daughter Persephone departing each yard for the underworld. This was a personal relationship of interactive social forces.

Roman would develop its own social-historical myths and characters16. When cultures endure severe times, famine, plague, and disease, a means of humanity’s endurance during these confusing and chaotic times is to ‘attempt to define the indefinable’17. The practice of making sense of chaos and of tragedy is a recognizable primordial form of conspiracism. Powerful forces behind the scenes, mighty and awesome beings of immense influence and empires, capable of holding empires beneath the whims and caprice of invisible hands – the use of anthropomorphic gods as stand-ins for natural abstracts – makes them more familiar; and there is comfort in familiarity. is an imprint of what individual lives within the cell were like; it is a social thumbprint

Etiology is the ennobling of one’s past and allows for something in the social sphere to mean something, rather than it be a senseless loss, or unpoetic, cruel human loss. In the case of a conspiracy, the subsequent imparting of meaning somehow adds our non-social person to the material relationship within the social cell.

As ancient civilizations build their myth and culture around the powers that held them in thrall, each reckoned as an abstracted quality given human form, modern conspiracy theory often contains many of these elements. From the prevalence of powerful groups manipulating events from behind the scenes, to a small group of recurring powers with control extending like long filaments into every orifice of the world, they’re omnipresent

The relationship between the building of myth and conspiracy is not superficial. Both attempt to explain the inexplicable; each are populated by an attempt to give meaning to and find solace in a tragedy by giving it a familiar, recognizable face. Further, the modern conspiracy culture is an ever expanding group, with a founding myth that gives purpose to their efforts, with the task of giving a human face to these unseen forces and ascribing meaning to the innumerable questions conspiracy theories generate. With a human face and a sense of meaning, a group has an identity and a purpose, with their actions ennobled.

Finally, a myth is bound to reinforce a sense of cultural identity through the organizing principle and build bonds through a new, shared understanding, like the pantheon of Roman gods, by looking closely at them and seeing their fears, their idea of heroism and virtue, of villainy and vice. In short, it is the window into the anatomy of an ancient and long-lived human tendency to look for meaning, to look for patterns in nature and in human behavior.

The manner of a founding myth’s stability for a civilization and larger society comes from much older processes in the human brain, not limited to human beings. Connecting the dots, pattern recognition, seeing causal relationships between nature and material action. In pre-industrial social cells, the inclination to conspiratorial thinking and designs of competing social cells, cells competing within with out-growths or at war with a foreign, differently organized and motivated cell, allowed for individuals to have a sense that they were a part of something larger than themselves, and that it wasn’t all meaningless. Sometimes that’s enough for a society to survive, as long as some part of it becomes a part of a future socio-organizational myth.

The character of the surviving social cell then is a society unified behind traditional beliefs, history, and culture, and its consistency among the population can be viewed as the measure of the cell’s popular cohesion. By connecting an individual’s misfortune with that of the social cell, or with characters of history and legend, persons can draw strength and motivation from these traditions, mythical characters, and the behavior of great culture heroes., mutual belief, and a shared history is how a social cell is defined, it is an important factory in a society’s behavior, internally and externally.

In other cases, a newly formed social cell, after passing through a period of rebellion (usually revolution), will go to war as a means of social unification and nationality. This way, a newly formed social cell remains stable as a cell in rebellion, without having to settle for a cohesive national structure. One popular example of this is the myth of war enthusiasm in pre-World World I Germany. War enthusiasm is a popular term used to define the spirit of national identity prior to the war18. One can’t help notice the similar public attitude during times of revolution, as the enthusiasm for revolution in France was far more pervasive – including elements of every rung of society, from the poorest to the emperor – than the enthusiastic patriots of a newly founded and suddenly powerful German. The citizens of the newly formed social cell of Germany had the legends and heroes of the wars of German unification, giving a newly united and sovereign cell, founding on a myth of revolution. A perpetually revolutionary cell will fall apart, as much as a perpetually anti-social cell will fall to multisocial cells.

One of the major nexus points in world history is the conspiracy to assassinate Arch Franz Duke Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

A conspiracy in theory is a shared dissenting myth, around which motivated groups become organized. Rallied by principle and motivated by social, or political goals, a conspiracy theory sometimes rebels against a standard, accepted structure within a society. When there is social dissent within a shared myth or religious schism, one sees civil war and reformation. Sometimes, in post-industrial social cells, the denunciation of a previously established ideal can become a large enough cell in itself to push against its traditions, which can lead to revolution, such as the French Revolution of 178319. As historian Simon Schama observed: “Virtually as soon as the term was coined, ‘old regime’ was automatically freighted with associations of both traditionalism and senescence. It conjured up a society so encrusted with anachronisms that only a shock of great violence could free the living organism within.”20 The French revolution can be said to demonstrate the principle of a cell in rebellion, an attempt to remake tradition and overturn what had been a majority. It can be seen as a rebellious cell’s attempt to force agreement for survival upon a possibly weak social cell and overturn it, as the monarchy collapsed during the Revolution of February 23-24, called the February revolution, as food riots broke out in Pretrograd21.

On March 3rd, tsarist rule had come to an end22. Revolutionaries are best viewed as social discontents, with socially cognitive objects in mind, and the means and nerve to carry out the socio-political objective through interaction with other social objects, persons or groups of persons. Non-social, personal interactions within cells can change the nature of the social sphere, the space between the inner and outer walls. The outer wall is our organizing impulse, maintained by social-interpersonal agreements. Social thought is a cohesive structure for maintaining a stable society, and for a social cell to be overcome, a transformation of the culture, traditions, and social mores must change with it, and the new core must be attained by majority.

III JFK, Subversion and the Cell in Rebellion

In a Times article in 201423 ““Here’s Why We Believe in Conspiracies”, prominent conspiracy scholar Jan-Willem van Prooijen, associate professor in social and organizational psychology at VU University Amsterdam, said, “Conspiracy theories often crop up during times of uncertainty and fear: after terrorist strikes, financial crises, high-profile deaths and natural disasters. Past research suggests that if people feel they don’t have control over a situation, they’ll try to make sense of it and find out what happened. The sense-making leads them to connect dots that aren’t necessarily connected in reality.”

After reviewing JFK, Roger Ebert was approached by Walter Cronkite for his review24. “There is not a bit of truth in it!” Cronkite said. The late film critic later wrote in his review that he felt that Stone was capturing a pervasive mood in the counter-culture about the assassination, that it was a film that captured the way some Americans felt, about the need for answers in the days and then years after the assassination.

Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison is a good fit for the character. His motivation and passion is understood as depicted. As assassination researcher and former Los Angeles County Public Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi puts it in Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy “…Rejecting the message of the clean-cut, wholesome-looking Costner (Garrison) is like rejecting motherhood, apple pie, and the American flag.”25

In the film, Costner’s take on Garrison is a patriot, open-minded, truth-seeking detective, looking to expose a vast conspiracy that has gotten to the heart of the American social cell. To seek the truth is a heroic act, to expose crime in places where the abuse of power is most likely is courageous, even. They follow leads, doggedly pursing them wherever they leave. They are physically and morally courageous, against a large and faceless system, intent upon giving it a face.

JFK perverts this in a way, historically, by neglecting to mention any detractions from the case Garrison attempts to put together in the film. Where it becomes social mythmaking is in providing questions and then answering them selectively. It is informative in showing the process of popular myth and belief as it is being made.

What’s the harm, then? As Bugliosi puts it, “The problem with Stone is, really, not that he egregiously fictionalized the Kennedy assassination. The problem was is that he was trying to convince everyone he was telling the truth.”26 A small group of patriots are pitted against the endless bureaucracies of the US Government, and they have their phones tapped. Team members betray the group (an evolving rebellion cell against an established social cell). The film’s world is a small group of men who are behind the major events, while we little people can’t even begin to comprehend the vast and inexplicable subtleties of this grand design. It is a tale of betrayal and personal sacrifice, but it’s for the sanctity of American traditions, for the truth. In a way, it is Jim Garrison playing the offenders of Caesar’s murder in the Shakespearean play, as Garrison brings up Julius Caesar to a fellow-researcher who is having doubts27. In the end, in the prosecution’s final summation, he gets to the heart of his accusation:

In JFK, Oliver Stone is attempting to present a widespread discontent which Americans had built up over the years, and takes a bit here and bit there from other prominent researchers whose work had kept the movement going between the release of the Warren Commission Report and the release of JFK. Since its release in ’91, as of 15 November 2013, according to a Gallup poll28, the majority of Americans believe JFK was killed in a conspiracy. This is common in cases of social thinking, or individual-social ideation – where a single person is influencing through social means the thoughts of a significant amount of people.

As a legal drama, JFK works as a film, but only by using ahistorical composite characters, such as “X”. X is important because he supplies the foundation myth for a new generation of anti-social cells: Oliver Stone joined the U.S. Army in 1967, and returned “very mixed up, very paranoid, and very alienated,”29 like many of his generation. The foundation myth of the Kennedy is that the president was taken out because he intended to withdraw from Vietnam. Surely, this is something that would’ve influenced Stone deeply and personally, as a veteran. When “X” introduced himself as “one of those secret guys in the pentagon”, and goes on to give the following speech:

“I spent much of September ’63 working on the Kennedy plan for getting all us personnel out of Vietnam by the end of ’65. This plan was one of the strongest and most important papers issued from the Kennedy White House. Our first 1,000 troops were ordered home for Christmas.”30 The plan mentioned in X’s statement is National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263.

L Fletcher Prouty, on whom X is based, really worked close to people involve in the formulating of this plan, but there is precious little evidence that Prouty himself had anything to do with. In his book, JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy repeats a similar claim (summarizing the McGeroge-Bundy cover letter that accompanied NSAM 263):

“At a meeting on October 5, 1964, the President considered the recommendations contained in the report of Secretary McNamara and General Taylor on their mission to South Vietnam. The President approved the military recommenddations contained in Section I B (1-3) of the report, but directed that no formal announcement be made of the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 US military personnel by the end of 1963.”31

Prouty goes on to quote the relevant section of the McNamara-Taylor report:

IB(2) A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by US military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of US military personnel by that time.

IB(2) In accordance with the program to train progressively Vietnamese to take over military functions, the Defense Department should announce in the very near future presently prepared plans to withdraw 1,000 US military personnel by the end of 196332.

This leads Prouty to conclude, “In brief, those sections above are the essence of the Kennedy policy that would take men out of Vietnam in 1963 and the bulk of all military personnel out by 1965.”33

In order to understand Oliver Stone’s perspective in evaluating this film and its legacy, one might attempt to ‘solve’ it, or at least draw an inference based on our understanding of conspiratorial groups as cells in rebellion of their natural social environment, wherein a rebel cell might attempt majority and grow, based on how many social objects reject sources from once trusted foundations. By our study of myth as etiology, drive to search for truth and meaning.

For viewers, it’s easy to see how the tragedy of the JFK assassination is compounded by the tragedy of the Vietnam War, as it was for Oliver Stone, in which millions would be killed or wounded, and millions more shocked and sobered by the horrors of war. To take JFK from the people by this assassination, from the people he might have otherwise spared the traumas of this divisive, ignominious war, is a greater tragedy than that of a lone assassin. This is how a social event can directly affect someone on a non-social level, and motivate them to rally around a social object as a means of organization and of personal principle.

From the perspective of Stone and many, an entire generation – a lost microbe of what may have become foundational and contributed to the stability of the national/cultural – to look at this film as fact, the conspiracy theory turns JFK into more than a victim, shot while the world looked on, in broad daylight – it gives us a martyr, someone who died for a cause, giving meaning to his death beyond the event itself, but, as we’ve seen, gives us closure, stability, and a chance to get our bearings.

When a rebellion cell achieves majority, the record is distorted, the social cell deteriorates and is sickened by mixed constituent parts. History therefore is viewed through a warped lens when a minority individuals within a social cell rally together and achieve majority of believe, they are a cell in rebellion of the established cell. In such a case, the social cell’s outer membrane loses cohesion and assumes the identity of the rebel cell, wherein the filters of conspiracy are placed atop the historical record.

Our socio-personal development of conspiratorial thinking is an early stage of social-cognitive development, where we begin to consider others as social objects, with intent, motivation, belief, and purpose as oneself. Recognizing that someone can exist outside of the self as an independent object in a social environment, we can look at scenarios and project more or less how we would act if put in the same situation.

As we gradually become aware of another person as a thinking agent, the first step towards psychological, motivational inference is in reading someone’s intent by an examination of their actions. In Cognitive Development34 John H. Flavell outlines social cognition as series of developmental stages, each a part of social cognition’s complexities as we interact with others, and attempt to recognize other social phenomena, that of persons as thinking persons, with intents and points of view different than ourselves, it is the basic knowledge of aspect of the social world exists in life35, that of its existence.

The first stage is the mere recognizing of another person, or persons, as social phenomena within a realm of interactive possibility. To think sociably, one considers that others, as individuals and groups, and among groups, have different ideas, beliefs, and unique perspective . The next stage of social cognition is need36, which amounts to individual attempts at understanding and acting with awareness of others’ feelings and experiences37.

Inference concerns a capacity to carry out social thinking successfully, though the thinking need not be strictly defined as inference, but more broadly as any social cognitive process, the discussion of personal ideas between individuals on a given subject. If you have the disposition to rely on inference as an act of social cognition, for example, you might look at a conversation and find a specific remark that is indicative of a broader range of beliefs and personal feelings.

Social cogitation is the sharing of inferences about the relationship between people and events, and the collective process of social cogitation is an organizing principle behind social groups, persons and individuals. Interactions between one person engaged in social cogitation and another influence anyone else involved in the social sphere capable of further inferences from these micro-interactions, or interactions among groups.

An important realization is that any cohesive society relies on harmonious social thinking; those an individual, like an individual social cell, is only one among many in the world, as an individual is only one among many, they have telling interactions when a post-social cell or united-social cells become possible. Social thinking is individual’s public voice, the chorus of which, among others, should be considered the mucus membrane of any social cell, whereas the inner core is a founding narrative, the recitation of the society’s origin and myths to reinvigorate and motive traditional social arrangements.

V Social division, rebellion, and revolution

We’ve also looked at cells within social cells, minority cells that can, with enough prodding, impart agency to individuals within social cells not as cohesive as the individuals would like for it to be, and attempts to consciously hold together a specific sociocultural cell or culture, the more it leads to stagnation. A relationship structure can be socio-hierarchal, as it was in old regime France37, or it can be what the revolutionaries spilled so many tears and blood drops for – a conscious personal-social agreement, in mutual agreement and of like devotion, dedicated to improving the cohesion and strengthening the core of the social cell’s character.

In France in the 1780s the theatre could be a political space. Ordinary people got involved in the questions before the government. Books which offended the Royal Censor, such as the work of Enlightenment philosophes, were often censored in old regime France38.

Works that undermined the monarchy or the clergy, like Voltaire’s Candide and Rousseau’s The Social Contract, were censored and some of the books were literally taken to prison39.

Beaumarchais wrote The Marriage of Figaro in the 1780s. Reading it now, it seems tame. But at the time it was so radical that the censor took it to King Louis XVI himself. Louis said: “This shall never be played. It would be necessary to dismantle the Bastille itself before this could be played without consequences. This man mocks at everything in the government which ought to be respected.”40

Despite being formally banned, the play was an enormous hit in private salons. And when the ban was lifted, Figaro became one of the smash hits of the century41. What was it that made it so popular? It had the Royal Censor, which was sure to bring a crowd, as Simon Schama put it in his series The Power of Art41.

But on the other hand, it was cheap, and accessible to a wide class of society, from the madames and monsieur in the boxes to the often illiterate peasants in the pit.

The subversion that cut so deep into the traditions of old regime France aren’t noticeable today. But in a society of rank inequality between the classes, the rich and the poor, its egalitarian message, its winks to the clever and scrappy princes of Spain, Beaumarchais undermined the very foundation of the French social cell:

“Nobility, rank, position, how proud they make a man feel! You think because you are great nobleman you are a genius? Put yourself to the trouble of being born, nothing more. Nobility, fortune, rank, position! How proud they make a man feel! What have you done to deserve such advantages? Put yourself to the trouble of being born—nothing more. For the rest—a very ordinary man! Whereas I, lost among the obscure crowd, have had to deploy more knowledge, more calculation and skill merely to survive than has sufficed to rule all the provinces of Spain for a century.”42

Calling an estates general would bring together representatives of the three legal orders of politically active Frenchmen: the aristocracy, the clergy, and the commoners. It had been inactive since 1614, and was called due to the financial crisis following France’s military support of America in its war of revolution against the British. The nation was going broke. The debt crisis was due primarily to the war with Britain and participating in the American Revolution. And years of poor harvests had caused grain riots in Paris43. This estates general brought the inequality of the old regime into sharp relief. It was bred into the French way of life. A seigneur or seigneury upon taking up residence in their parish takes their special pew at the front of the church, usually adorned by their coat of arms. The peasants of the lands pledge to work so much and dedicate so much barley and grain over the year. Traditional seigneurial dues allowed them to make bizarrely specific requests and demands of their peasants: for example, one nobleman’s list of dues was a number of ornamental feathers, a quota of olive oil and wine, a chicken, and a pair of leather gloves. The Catholic political arm of the old regime, weren’t only exempt from royal taxes, but got to impose a tithe on the peasants, while the seigneurial dues were owed to landowners by all peasants who worked in the lord’s bakery, or who made wine in the lord’s press.44

This was not a society in which secretly and behind the scenes a small group of rich men plotted on oppressing the public, distorting information to control and make them into mindless workers. This was not a secret. The notion of conspiracy, that of people in high office making subversive plans against the public, that was not a theory; it was a way of life. The foundations of King, aristocracy, tradition, ritual and the clergy were the foundational pillars of the French social cell, a cell rapidly losing cohesion. The revolutionaries didn’t want to overthrow the government, at first, with the right supporting the King. The political climate was tense when news of

After a major defeat in the Battle of Neerwinden in March 1793, he made a desperate move to save himself from his radical enemies. Arresting the four deputy- commissioners of the National Convention who had been sent to inquire into his conduct (Camus, Bancal-des-Issarts, Quinette, and Lamarque) as well as the Minister of War, Pierre Riel de Beurnonville, he handed them over to the enemy, and then attempted to persuade his troops to march on Paris and overthrow the revolutionary government. The attempt failed, and Dumouriez, along with the duc de Chartres (afterwards King Louis Philippe) and his younger brother, the duc de Montpensier, fled into the Austrian camp. This blow left the Girondists vulnerable due to their association with Dumouriez.

Citizen soldiers fought royalists in the Vende, in Western France, and after Dumirouriez defection, the left was radicalized, and quick to use the Girondists’ former support and political consistency with the traitorous general, and in radical press agigators like Jean-Paul Marat, a conspiracy-minded Jacobin who had predicted many of the turning points of the revolution, and when he pointed to a conspiracy, the revolutionary tribunal, once established, would take

To get past suspicions, of which conspiracy theory is now the formal disbelief, the inter-social exchange should be encouraged, when a social cell can interact with others and incorporate without absorbing, then the multisocial cell construct becomes possible.

A multisocial cell is the achievement of a society that can survive the attempts of anti-social opposition from without and rebel cells from within. This is a national stage of social development, as our first tribes were strictly isolated and xenophobic, our most modern social cells run the spectrum of hated, tolerated, supportive in its willingness towards social polyculturalism. In the anti-social cell, the tradition is a collection of traditions the individual social objects reject. But, as a rebel cell can only survive amid opposition, it cannot outlast the multisocial cell; for the cell in rebellion must be in rebellion to survive.

As Jacopo della Quercia’s recent books


The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocketwatch Conspiracy and License to Quill have shown, our enduring interest in conspiracy theories, whether in history, entertainment, literature and film, continues unabated. His recent works are, as Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. By using history as an inspiration for a tale of discovery, intended to seek answers to great questions, to seek, to solve great mysteries of the past and use them as lessons for the mysteries that persist. While Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Richard II drew inspiration from other cultures, such as Rome and that of his own unique social history, Jacopo’s work draws upon popular tradition and even historical fiction to reveal what are timeless truths, multisocial foundations and unique attribute of the modern attempt at a multisocial cell: expressing a celebration of foreign histories and traditions as well as inter-social history, cultural diversity and adventure provide the foundations for future, possible multisocial cells.

Incorporating multiple traditions and myths into a social cell does not dilute the composite of the whole. They establish an elasticity and flexible structure, a foundation that will not break when pulled apart or when holes are picked in any individual foundation; a multisocial, polycultural cell is a hope for the future, perhaps.

V Towards a Multisocial Social Model

While JFK’s posthumous reputation has done to glorify him and lament the loss of promise shown by the handsome, young president and charming wife, only time will tell if this interactive social mythmaking keeps majority as a rebel cell, and further, how long a traditional social cell can remain cohesive with an alternative majority within a wider cultural consensus. One needs to look only to Nero, or to the irony of Lee Harvey Oswald, the person to whom all evidence points as the assassin, has been pardoned, with many within the conspiracy community believing in his absolute innocence. To contrast that, it’s a popular myth that the Emperor Nero ‘fiddled while Rome burned’.1

Cassius Dio’s account of the Great Fire and Nero’s Role in it can be found in his Roman History. Cassius Dio’s account is unflattering to say the least. He begins with the claim that “Nero set his heart on making an end of the whole realm dying during his lifetime.”


Dio’s account continues as Nero sets about sending out men pretending to be drunk or engaged in general hooliganism while setting fire to different parts of the city. After several days and nights of destruction and deluge, the wailing of children and lamentations of the women fill the air. Nero ascends to the roof of the palace which offered the greatest view of the conflagration. And assuming his lyre player’s garb he sang the Capture of Troy, as he styled the song himself.source please

Suetonius’ account of Nero in The Twelve Caesars


is similarly unflattering. In this account, Suetonius states that Nero pretended to be disgusted with the drab old apartments and the narrow, winding streets of Rome. He brazenly set fire to the series. Suetonius adds that two ex-consuls caught Nero’s attendants with tow and blazing torches trespassing on their property but did not interfere. Nero also used the fire to take over several granaries he coveted, solidly built of stone.

Suetonius claims the terror lasted for six days and seven nights, as people were forced to take shelter in monuments and tombs while Nero’s men destroyed apartment buildings as well as mansions that once belonged to famous generals, still decorated in their triumphal trophies; temples, dedicated and vowed by the Kings and others during the Punic & Gallic wars – in fact every ancient monument that had hitherto survived. Here’s where Suetonius deviates from the account of Cassius Dio:

“Nero watched the conflagration from the tower of Maecenas, enraptured by ‘the beauty of the flames”


. Then Nero put on his tragedians’ costume & and sang the sack of Illyricum. This is an example of a social myth in progress, though not quite congealed yet as a hardened part of the social cell. The thorough establishment of this socio- political myth is interrupted by Tacitus’ accounts from Annals.

In this account Nero was staying at his country estate at Antium and didn’t even return to the capital until the fire was nearing the house by which he had connected the Palatine with the gardens of Maecenas. After the fire proved unstoppable, before it could engulf the Palatine and the house and all their immediate surroundings, Nero continued to work to save property and lives. In this account, instead of singing (just yet) Nero worked hard to provide relief for the homeless and fugitive populace, opening the Campus Martius, the buildings of Agrippa, even his own gardens and threw up a number of extemporized shelters to accommodate the helpless multitude. The necessities of life were brought up from Ostia and the neighboring municipalities, and the price of grain was lowered to three sesterces.

With all of this effort, how did the Emperor become the suspect and ultimately accused of starting the fire? Tacitus gives us a hint at how tales, like those of Cassius Dio and Suetonius, were “the subject of few substantial conversations, but many earnest whispered accusations.”


Nero’s measures may not have been as popular as their moral character might be, having failed in their effect to reassure and console; for the report spread that at the very moment when Rome was aflame, he had taken to his private stage and, typifying the ills of the present by the calamities of the past, he had sung of the destruction of Troy.

The hint he gives for why this rumor might have caught on was that, after the first fire was finally brought under control at the edge of the Esquiline by demolishing the buildings over a vast area and opposing the great unabated fury, a clear tract of ground opened on the horizon. But the fears had not been allayed, nor had hope returned to the people when the fire resumed its ravages.

Here we have a massive tragedy, again, the conspiratorial fountain of youth, confusion and chaos are in the blood, and social thinking has been blanked by fear; the loss of home and shelter and, the second flame according to Tacitus caused the greater controversy as it had broken out on Aemilian property of Tigellinus and appearances suggested that Nero was seeking the glory of founding a new capital and endowing it with his own name.”

5 The ensuing national trauma was naturally a breeding ground for conspiracy theories, instead of reconciling their lot with the type of senseless tragedy this would be without some agency behind it, the people are left with nothing: no home or property, and no totem, or fear ikon on which to concentrate their exasperation. In the instance of natural disasters, humanity has the seemingly natural inclination to give intent and personality to the forces responsible. They gave Zeus the lightning bolt and virtue, Demeter weeping in the winter over the departure of the summer and her daughter. This instance of a human being given human traits is unique, as – at least as far as absolute power was concerned – an Emperor of Rome had as much power as was capable of being concentrated in two hands in the world at the time, a type of power less than a thousand people have historically wielded, and in front of this type of human power we have the same fear response. It is, as ever, a social definition that runs contrary to the official record. Instilling such fear in a populace can be beneficial for a ruler like Caesar Augustus, the longest uninterrupted ruler of Roman in its history at that time. And after Nero, there would be no heirs to the Julio-Claudian family, and again, there would be civil war.

6 Suetonius himself was born in the Year of the Four Emperors, a society in which generals and pretenders vied for the Imperial title


the first civil war since the assassination of Julius Caesar, which we discussed in the very first chapter. As it was with Figaro, poking at the structure of a long lived social cell can cause it to deteriorate. Over and over we’ve looked at conspiracy as an organizing principle, but organizational principles are operative when there is first separateness. The organizing principle of conspiracy theorizing and socio-mythography among individuals coming together is the motivational tendency toward civilization and culture.

We’ve also looked at cells within social cells, minority cells that can, with enough prodding, impart agency to individuals within social cells not as cohesive as the individuals would like for it to be, and attempts to consciously hold together a specific sociocultural cell or culture, the more it leads to stagnation. A relationship structure can be socio-hierarchal, as it was in old regime France


, or it can be what the revolutionaries spilled so many tears and blood drops for – a conscious personal-social agreement, in mutual agreement and of like devotion, dedicated to improving the cohesion and strengthening the core of the social cell’s character.

A social conscience and shared culture is easy to take for granted; all the movie references our friends make we are able to share in a social moment only because in being saturated by the same pop culture, and as we share meanings we can move onto share meaningful things.

Social cognition is the necessary condition of a conscious social cell. Discontent with the foundations of an established cell in a time of stagnation is the outgrowth of displacement or reform, that of the rebel cell. During an outgrowth of a potential replacement cell – when a rebel off-shoot obtains majority – we can see how people form into groups and how groups and civilizations tend towards collective villains and heroes, which ultimately adds up to a group sharing perspectives, rather than the limitation of inference and suspicion, a motivating principle of shared means and ends would be collective thinking, in which people imagine together.

The social cell is the end result of the mechanism of cultural exchange involved in the faces of snow clouds, the personalities of a violent sea, and within the American social cell we have our founding myths, as well as Rome, and our heroes. Our heroes have moved from abstractions into more humble forces. To understand an age, look at what’s inside its social cell. In America, the inner walls are filled with books and movies, thrillers and supernatural thrillers, and unique in the American social scale is its welcome addition of those from other social cells to bring a piece of it with them, to enrich the social cell intended to be a place of many cultures, towards the idea of a multi-social cell, in which the individual foundational principles of other cells mix without malcontent. When malcontent is suspected, our imaginations are quick to fill in the blank, based on the way we would ourselves respond.

V Social division, rebellion, and revolution

We’ve also looked at cells within social cells, minority cells that can, with enough prodding, impart agency to individuals within social cells not as cohesive as the individuals would like for it to be, and attempts to consciously hold together a specific sociocultural cell or culture, the more it leads to stagnation. A relationship structure can be socio-hierarchal, as it was in old regime France


, or it can be what the revolutionaries spilled so many tears and blood drops for – a conscious personal-social agreement, in mutual agreement and of like devotion, dedicated to improving the cohesion and strengthening the core of the social cell’s character.

In France in the 1780s the theatre could be a political space.



1. McLaren, A.N. “Political Culture in the Reign of Elizabeth I”. pp. 135

2. Smith, Jeremy L. “Unlawful Song”. pp. 497

3. Adams, Simon. “Elizabeth’s Spymaster: Francis Walsingham and the Secret War that Saved England.” CXXIII (501): pp. 457-458. doi: 10.1093/ehr/cen048

4. Nagel, Joana. “Constructing Ethinicity” Social problems 41.1: 152-176

5. Powers, Michael R. “Patterns, Real and Imagined: Observation and Theory.” In Acts of God and Man: Ruminations on Risk and Insurance, 191- 206. Columbia University Press, 2012.

6. Kilpatrick, Caroll. “Nixon Resigns” Washington Post, 9 August 1974. p. A01

7. Woodward, Bob, Bernstein, Carl. “The Final Days” pp. 77-79

8. Dalton, Russell J. “The social transformation of trust in government.” International Review of Sociology (2005): pp. 133-154

9. Tacitus, Cornelius, “The Annals of Ancient Rome.” Vol. 60, 1973

10. Kalmey, R.P. “Shakespeare’s Octavius and Elizabethan Roman History” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 18, no. 2. pp. 275-287

11. Knight, Steven. “Jack the Ripper: the Final Solution”

13. Moore, Alan. “From Hell”

14. Wardman, Alan. “Rome’s Debt to Greece”. The Classical Review, New Series, Vol. 29, no. 2. pp. 110-112.

15. Heinrich, Albert. “What is a Greek God?” pp. 19-40

16. Hadas, Moses. “Aesneas and the Tradition of the National Hero”. American Journal of Philology, vol. 69, no. 4. pp. 408-414

17. Menzies, James W. “True Myth” pp. 21-40

18. Clickering, Robert. “War Enthusiasm?” pp. 200-201

19. De Toqueville, Alexis “the Old Regime and the Revolution”

20. Schama, Simon. “Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution.” p. 84

21. Warnes, David. “Chronicle of the Russian Tsars.” p. 210

22. Warnes, David. Ibid. p. 211.

23. Oaklander, Mandy. “Here’s Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories.” Time Magazine, 14 August 2015

24. Ebert, Roger. “JFK Movie Review and Analysis” (1991) via:

25. Bugliosi, Vincent. “Reclaiming History: the Assassination of John F. Kennedy”. p. 1354

26. Bugliosi, Vincent. Ibid. p. 1356

27. Harrison, John M. “A Crusade and Its Problems.” The Review of Politics 37, no. 1. pp. 122-125.

28. Swift, Art. “Majority in U.S. Still Believe JFK Killed in a Conspiracy”

29. “Famous Veterans: Oliver Stone” –

30. Stone, Oliver. Sklar, Zachary. “JFk: The Book of the Film”, p. 106.

31. Stone, Oliver. Sklar, Zachary. Ibid. p. 107

32. Prouty, L. Fletcher. “JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy.” p. 268

33. Prouty, L. Fletcher. Ibid.

34. Flavel, John H. “Cognitive Development” 2nd ed. p. 119

35. Flavell, John H. Ibid. pp. 120-121

36. Flavell, John H. Ibid. p. 121

37. Nielsen, Wendy C. “Staging” Rousseau’s Republic” Vol. 43, no. 3, pp.268-285

38. Lambe, Patrick J. “Biblical Criticism and Censorship in Ancien Regime France: The Case of Richard Simon.” Harvard theological review, 78(2-2 (1985) pp. 149-177

39. Darnton, Robert. “The forbidden books of pre-Revolutionary France. Month (1991): 1-32

40. “The Living Age” vol. 119, p. 83

41. Schama, Simon. “The Power of Art: Jaques-Louis David”

42. Beaumarchais, Pierre-Augustin. “The Marriage of Figaro” act V, scene III

43: Sargent, Thomas J. Velde, Francois R. “Macroeconomic Features of the French Revolution.” Journey of Political Economy 103, no. 3 (1995) pp. 474-518.

Sarah Macklin Editing                +44 (0) 7894547733

Monday-Friday 9am-5pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s