• ‘Secrets of America’s Shadow Government’. (Vice TV)Source: Vice TV
When it comes to conspiracies, the trick is to follow the money – and this series says it’s flowing one-way. Season 2 of ‘Secrets of America’s Shadow Government’ is now on SBS VICELAND.
Anthony Morris

3 Mar 2022 - 10:53 AM  UPDATED 17 Mar 2022 - 3:27 PM

Conspiracy theories used to be fun. Aliens created mobile phones? Atlantis built the Pyramids? Nazis have a secret base on the dark side of the moon? Those were the good old days. Today’s conspiracies just want to keep you poor, struggling and powerless – and according to Secrets of America’s Shadow Government, they’re succeeding.

This series says it’s been a rough few decades for anyone who thought their government’s job was to serve and protect the citizens. Across eight episodes, season 2 of this English-language series looks at a range of issues many of us might have thought were settled – toxic waste is bad, food shouldn’t poison us, making big money from pandemics is wrong – and concludes that while we weren’t paying attention, companies and corporations figured out ways to make vast profits from watering down the laws and regulations they couldn’t just ignore.

Sometimes it’s the usual story of corporations donating to elected officials to get the laws weakened or changed. Sometimes it’s businesses realising the way to make more money is to exploit their customers any way they can. And sometimes it’s a little more sinister. Having the soothing voice of Jeffery Wright (The French Dispatch, Boardwalk Empire, No Time to Die) spell all this out helps take the edge off a little; can things really be so bad if he’s the one explaining it all? But even he can’t sugar-coat the overall message. There really are actual conspiracies out there, and they’re working hard to make sure that everyone else gets the rough end of the stick.

Make no mistake, some of these conspiracies are bizarre and twisted. When this series talks about Jeffery Epstein running a secret ring of underage prostitutes pandering to a wealthy elite of saggy middle-aged men, it’s pure fact. That’s the kind of shocking, scandalous, horrifying behaviour that grabs headlines and inspires conspiracy theorists into wild speculation about what we haven’t been told. Which, the series says, is exactly what the people behind the conspiracy want you to think.

Secrets of America’s Shadow Government is compelling not just because it spells out a lot of the news behind the news, but because seeing how society has become so distorted to benefit a minority helps explain how so many people have fallen into the trap of conspiracy thinking. If one conspiracy is real, why not all of them?

The final episode in this series looks at the drug trade, and American government dealings with overseas drug lords, forming “strange alliances abroad… shaking hands with some of the world’s most notorious drug traffickers in the name of democracy”, while back at home legitimate drug companies played a role in the opioid crisis by paying doctors to promote the highly addictive painkillers to patients, who swiftly became addicts. When this is how the real world actually works, it’s not hard to understand why people are seeing evil schemes and sinister plots behind just about everything on the nightly news.

But Secrets of America’s Shadow Government doesn’t fall for conspiracy thinking. The more you watch, the more the idea of a secret cabal controlling the world for creepy twisted evil reasons falls apart. Instead, over and over the real secret behind what’s going on turns out to be little more than just a bunch of greedy people wanting to make more money while they desperately hang onto what they already have. If they have to turn everyone else into junkies or religious followers to do it, that works for them; if they can just steal it from you directly by rigging the entire economy, that’s fine too.

Secrets of America’s Shadow Government brings sinister conspiracies into the light, exposing horrible acts and dreadful schemes, and they’re all just about making sure some people have all the money and everyone else gets nothing. There’s a lot here to get angry about, but mind control implants and Flat Earth Theory aren’t it.

Season 2 of Secrets of America’s Shadow Government premieres at 8.30pm, Saturday 5 March on SBS VICELAND. Season 1 is now streaming at SBS On Demand.

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