Sep 7, 2023

How the "15 Minute City" Conspiracy Theory Fooled People Into Fighting for the Status Quo

By Tim Hjersted /

A meme promoted by the FreeThoughtProject (so much for free thinking)

The 15-minute city is a simple idea: Cities should be designed for people, not cars. 

Cities “should be designed so that within the distance of a 15-minute walk or bike ride, people should be able to access work, housing, food, health, education, culture, and leisure", the Paris-based Carlos Moreno writes, who invented the term.

"Who wouldn’t want to live within easy walking distance of shops, cafes, schools, theatres, and swimming pools? Those, it seems, who claim that Moreno’s 15-minute-city concept is a Stalinist climate lockdown plot to confine people to ghettos and thus easier for global cabals to control." - Carlton Reid 

It is rather ironic and tragic that a basic idea that would enhance personal freedom and make cities more enjoyable places to live has been perverted by disingenuous merchants of right-wing propaganda

This baseless conspiracy theory is rather brilliant, apparently, because so many people already believe it. Despite the conspiracy being promoted by numerous elite conservative media corporations, including the small independent outlet known as FOX News and the UK's GB News, even supposedly anti-authoritarian social media outlets like the Freethought Project have fallen for the charade. They'll make memes like the one above to promote the con, becoming foot soldiers for the status quo, without ever realizing they are being played like a fiddle by the power structures that be. Everyone from conservative PMs to fossil fuel industry-funded climate deniers like Marc Morano are getting in on the action. Yep, you know a totalitarian conspiracy is true when extremely well-financed and powerful politicians and media figures are parroting the same talking points you can also find on scruffy right-leaning anti-authoritarian social media channels. 

I'll never cease to be amazed by how folks can remain steadfastly anti-authoritarian and suspicious of faux-liberal elites, but when conservative elites promote a fearmongering totalitarian eco-conspiracy, they will swallow the con without question. Yeah, large conservative media corporations and politicians with enormous cultural power (the ones that trick people into fighting for elite economic interests on the daily), yep, they're on our side, fighting the good fight! It's just us and the extremely powerful corporations fighting against this globalist tyranny!

So here's the sad truth of the matter: This conspiracy theory serves no purpose other than getting people to fight for the shackles they don't even realize they're already chained to. 

Do you feel free when you're stuck in traffic for hours a day, commuting to a job you probably don't like, breathing in noxious vehicle pollution? Do you feel free being almost entirely dependent on a car to get anywhere because cities were built for cars and most alternatives are suppressed or ignored? Does endless suburban sprawl and food deserts scream freedom to you? Are the 50,000+ people estimated to die every year from vehicle-related air pollution in the US "free"? 

Take a look at the photo below. Is this what freedom looks like? You say it looks like an authoritarian open-air prison city in communist Russia? Is it a leaked digital rendering of the prison cities that the globalists hope to build by 2050? Nope, that's Arizona, right now, deep in the heart of capitalist America! 

Photo: Christoph Gielen


Photo: John Spink

Above, we see congestion in Atlanta, GA, an example of the millions of people across the world getting stuck in their "freedom machines" for hours a day, every day. Sure looks like freedom to me!

The air quality in some California cities was rated the worst in the country by the American Lung Association. Los Angeles has been ranked at the top of the Association's annual "State of the Air" reports for all but one of its 18 reports. - Angie Marcos

Mmm. Look at all that freedom smog we get to breathe in every day! I love freedom smog in the morning.

What's that you say? This looks like a totalitarian control grid where people are forced to drive in toxic environments simply to survive? Is this some dystopian vision of the future? Nope, that's just California right now (which was built by capitalist ideology and corporations). Note: Whether this ideology has a slight liberal or conservative surface-level flavor is irrelevant when the folks who wield power and build cities in America share the same conservative profit-maximizing economic logic). 

So, hopefully, point made. This is the "freedom" that supporters of this conspiracy theory are fighting to maintain and uphold, which benefits the fossil fuel industry, the car industry, and the profits of developers, who, in the interests of saving money and maximizing profit, have designed a monoculture of cookie-cutter, suburban, car-dependent sprawl, the likes of which would make the most cartoon-evil version of an authoritarian communist proud. 

This is the tragedy. People think they're fighting for freedom from totalitarian control when they don't even realize the chains that already tie them down. But linking city design principles that would enhance human freedom to an eco-fascist plot under the guise of combatting climate change? That's pretty genius.

Addressing climate change and the horrible design of cities has the potential to make future cities a lot more enjoyable, but we'll never see that if people think that the things that will make their lives better are actually plots to enslave us. Can you think of a better way to entrench the status quo, with its vast economic inequality and planet-destroying end-game, than to get the public to demand things don't change? To get people to fight the very solutions that challenge the current order?

I can't.  What a coup d'etat by the power structure that exists currently. 

This brings me to my last point, which ties into the larger conspiracy about climate change itself being a scam.

I hear about this from people in the comments section of virtually every post I make that merely mentions climate change. Every comment boils down to climate action being a globalist pretense to bring about a totalitarian "New World Order." Without getting lost in the weeds, let me just state a few counter-facts:

*Rapid climate change due to fossil-fueled industrialization is indisputably real. (Just look at the spike at the end of this 22,000 year graph to understand that it's not the climate changing that's bad or new but the speed of that change that's dangerous)

*Of course corporations and corrupt governments are trying to fight us and real climate solutions (like justly phasing out fossil fuels via a Non-Proliferation Treaty) by promoting astro-turf solutions (like cap and trade or "net zero" carbon credit schemes).

*The idea that climate change is simply a totalitarian plot to gain control is pure conspiracy fantasy. If you haven't noticed, governments around the world already have control and have been controlling the public for generations

*The fossil fuel-driven corporate oligarchy IS the current control and domination system. The "New World Order," also known as the Current World Order, also known as Empire and the Military Industrial Complex is COMPLETELY dependent on keeping the fossil fuels burning. 

*Phasing out fossil fuels is a direct threat to the current empire of control and domination systems across the planet. That's why governments are so resistant to real change and only pay lip service to climate action while pouring billions into war and big pharma and new fossil fuel development pipelines.

*I would not be surprised one bit if the conspiracy theory getting folks to fight climate action was funded by the fossil fuel industry because we threaten their power and profits. We know for a fact that this industry has spent enormous sums of money on climate science disinformation campaigns. Getting right-leaning conspiracy culture to package this disinformation into a larger NWO conspiracy to control the world is a hop, skip and jump away. They may not even need to directly fund that part since they're likely to do it all on their own, driven by their own interest to amass a profitable and exploitable following (Alex Jones was once the king of exploiting peoples' anxieties for personal gain, but now less bombastic figures have taken up his mantle, to greater success).

It's sad that the folks fighting climate action are actually fighting for their continued enslavement because they don't even realize how this fossil fuel-dependent imperial system has been controlling the world for decades. (This may not be obvious until you actually protest the system, that's when you'll be met with excessive police brutality. Of course, if you don't protest you might have the illusion of still being free but that's how advanced totalitarian systems work these days: they control the public via advanced mass media propaganda, rigged "democratic" elections, and appeals to patriotic obedience from a young age (like singing the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in state-funded schools) rather than brute force, unless necessary).

I hope that makes sense. Keeping the fossil fuel paradigm going is how they KEEP control. They are worried about LOSING control. Not GAINING it. They ALREADY HAVE IT. 

Promoting fake climate solutions like Cap & Trade or Carbon Credits on one hand (via the left wing of the corporate duopoly) and promoting "climate change/totalitarian control conspiracy theories" (via the right wing of the corporate duopoly) is how the power structure - the world order that has existed for decades, ensures it will win one way or the other.

Either the public doesn't fight against the corporate-friendly fake solutions and doesn't organize en mass to advance real ones and thus the fake ones win out, or the public is deceived into fighting against both fake AND real solutions, and no change happens. Either way, the status quo WINS. 

Right now, they're definitely winning. As we speak, countless individuals and alt-media channels on social media are doing their dirty work for them, and when your seemingly most vocal opposition is actually compromised and complicit while legit media is drowned out by hoards of misinformed commenters promoting climate-control conspiracy theories, you know the status quo is winning their propaganda war.

Fortunately, the climate movement is advancing serious solutions but unfortunately, our opposition is massive, powerful, and well-funded, and it's hard to cut through the noise when the megaphones of politicians and corporate media, aided by the for-clicks alt-media conspiracy complex is so much louder.

The final irony of this clown show is that the real ideological conspiracy to control the world's resources and peoples through empire, corporate globalization (aka global capitalism), and economic or military domination has been the public-facing intention of the ruling elite for decades if not centuries. The ideological conspiracy that affects everyone's lives daily is not a secret at all - it's been public this entire time. It's simply called the ideology of imperialism and capitalism.  No secret cabals necessary! The people (aka the corporations and their partners in government) who rule the world do so in the full light of day. 

As Edward Snowden writes:

The greatest conspiracies are open and notorious — not theories, but practices expressed through law and policy, technology, and finance. Counterintuitively, these conspiracies are more often than not announced in public and with a modicum of pride. They’re dutifully reported in our newspapers; they’re bannered onto the covers of our magazines; updates on their progress are scrolled across our screens —  all with such regularity as to render us unable to relate the banality of their methods to the rapacity of their ambitions.

The party in power wants to redraw district lines. The prime interest rate has changed. A free service has been created to host our personal files. These conspiracies order, and disorder, our lives; and yet they can’t compete for attention with digital graffiti about pedophile Satanists in the basement of a DC pizzeria.

This, in sum, is our problem: the truest conspiracies meet with the least opposition.

Or to put it another way, conspiracy practices — the methods by which true conspiracies such as gerrymandering, or the debt industry, or mass surveillance are realized — are almost always overshadowed by conspiracy theories: those malevolent falsehoods that in aggregate can erode civic confidence in the existence of anything certain or verifiable.

In my life, I’ve had enough of both the practice and the theory. In my work for the United States National Security Agency, I was involved with establishing a Top-Secret system intended to access and track the communications of every human being on the planet. And yet after I grew aware of the damage this system was causing — and after I helped to expose that true conspiracy to the press — I couldn’t help but notice that the conspiracies that garnered almost as much attention were those that were demonstrably false: I was, it was claimed, a hand-picked CIA operative sent to infiltrate and embarrass the NSA; my actions were part of an elaborate inter-agency feud. No, said others: my true masters were the Russians, the Chinese, or worse — Facebook.

As I found myself made vulnerable to all manner of Internet fantasy, and interrogated by journalists about my past, about my family background, and about an array of other issues both entirely personal and entirely irrelevant to the matter at hand, there were moments when I wanted to scream: “What is wrong with you people? All you want is intrigue, but an honest-to-God, globe-spanning apparatus of omnipresent surveillance riding in your pocket is not enough? You have to sauce that up?”

It took years — eight years and counting in exile — for me to realize that I was missing the point: we talk about conspiracy theories in order to avoid talking about conspiracy practices, which are often too daunting, too threatening, too total.

Want to support something tangible? Support the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and get your city to sign on. 

The treaty is based on three pillars:


    Stop building out the problem by ending the expansion of coal, oil and gas production


    An equitable plan for the wind-down of existing fossil fuel production, where nations with the capacity and historical responsibility for emissions transition fastest, providing support to others around the world


    Fast-track the adoption of clean energy and economic diversification away from fossil fuels so that no worker, community, or country is left behind

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