It wasn’t until I transferred the photos from my phone to my laptop that I realised I’d misread one of the words. I thought the sign affixed to the front of the old Midland Bank building on Glastonbury High Street said, ’Covid-19 Cull of Magic’. Ah, I thought, that’s interesting: another Covid-19 conspiracy theory, and one I hadn’t come across before. I suppose my mind had been primed by the graffiti scrawlers I’d just passed outside the Church of St John the Baptist. They were chalking the pavement with urgent messages about the use of the pandemic to increase State control and the deleterious effects of face masks. I think there was also something about 5G.
As I say, I may have been primed. But of course, Glastonbury is a centre of magical thinking and practice, probably the such centre in all of England. So I read the sign as ‘Covid-19 Cull of Magic’. So I took the slogan and ran with it. Clearly, this was a conspiracy theory that could only have been hatched in Glastonbury. The witches and magicians, the old hippies and new agers, the occultists and complementary healers, believed that the whole Covid-19 bureaucratic-medical-industrial apparatus was a front for an all-out war on magic, or rather, Magick. They believed there was an occult power struggle going on in plain sight, a cosmic war of light and dark spiritual forces. It all cohered. It all made some kind of sense.
Back at my hotel and eager to learn more, I googled ‘Covid-19 Cull of Magic’ and found nothing relevant. I searched for the phrase in quotes, trying for an exact match. Nothing at all this time. That was when I transferred the photos to my laptop and saw that what I had thought was an L was actually a stylised T. The phrase was actually ‘Covid-19 Cult of Magic’. I modified my construct. As I imagined it now, the conspiracy theory was that the whole Covid-19 phenomenon was some sort of magical enterprise itself, designed to cow or oppress the population. Perhaps it was even a hoax, a common enough view among the likes of David Icke and Piers Corbyn. But in either case the use of ‘magic’ as a pejorative seemed very un-Glastonbury. Then again, ‘magic’ generally is a pejorative in these circles and as noted ‘Magick’ is preferred term of the insiders.
This wasn’t as appealing a theory as my first attempt — less cosmic, less romantic. But I tried searching for it. Google couldn’t help me. Nor could Bing and DuckDuckGo. The thing didn’t exist. The sign on Glastonbury High Street was random and meaningless, a quantum event at the macro level. But that wouldn’t do. Surely whoever made the sign and put it on display believed it meant something? I couldn’t tell. As far as the search engine oracles were concerned, there was no trace of human activity that could be tied to the sign.
It used to be said the on-line world, cyberspace and all that, wasn’t the real world. Sensible, informed people would compare the two and opine that the on-line world was shallow, artificial, and came up short. But increasingly I find that the so-called real world comes up short. In any case, what’s the use of a putative conspiracy theory if you can’t find it on-line? Does it have any real existence, even as a theory? Whoever put this sign up in Glastonbury really needs to get their act together. What’s that you say? The search engines are deliberately hiding the phrase and its occurrences because they’re in on the conspiracy too? Wait a minute, you may have a point…