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Kate Middleton
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The Kate Middleton conspiracy theories

Speculation runs rampant after she was hospitalized for surgery last December and disappeared from public view

Kate Middleton
Kate Middleton in October 2023 (Nottingham, England).Samir Hussein (Getty)

Kate Middleton has been noticeably absent from public view since December 25. Official reports from Kensington Palace revealed that she underwent a “planned abdominal surgery” on January 16, which was successful. The palace also announced that Middleton would remain hospitalized for two weeks before returning home to continue her recovery. She is expected to resume her public appearances at the end of March. However, these sparse statements have been largely ignored by a public gone wild with speculation about the Princess’s well-being. Social media blowhards say the official statements are not credible and just plain boring. As expected, online conversations abound with conjecture wondering what’s going on with the princess.

People are convinced that something is terribly wrong with Middleton, and they are not shy about saying so. The hashtag #WhereIsKateMiddleton is trending globally. The speculation surrounding the princess’s mysterious absence has reached unprecedented heights, making it one of the most salacious dramas of 2024. Rumors range from Middleton being in a coma, to her marriage crumbling due to William’s alleged infidelities. Gone Girl memes are flooding X, with the Prince and Princess of Wales replacing Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Some say she died and is being replaced by a doppelgänger – a body double – a theory reminiscent of past celebrity conspiracies involving Avril Lavigne and Melania Trump. Others whisper that she had a terrible haircut and is waiting for it to grow out. Or that she is recovering from a mediocre cosmetic surgical procedure. Or that she is somehow responsible for the recent Willy Wonka Experience fiasco in Glasgow. The intense speculation and wild theories have prompted Kensington insiders to reassure People magazine that the princess “is doing well.”

Conspiracy theories are so prevalent that even our uncle who innocently joined Facebook years ago to view family photos has suddenly become an anti-vaxxer. The paranoid and delusional genre constantly mutates, with plenty of surprises and a robust sense of humor. #Pizzagate (a conspiracy theory politically exploited by Trump) is not the same as gossip about Kate Middleton. But something connects all these theories, wrote philosopher Pepe Tesoro in his recent book about conspiracy theories. All of them emerge from an information crisis and new technologies for immediate dissemination.

Reviving the concept of the “cognitive map of the poor,” Tesoro highlights the profound impact of information as a source of power. In contemporary society, we have “cognicrats” and “cognitariats.” The former are people with access to information and the ability to analyze it, while the latter lack one or both aspects. Tesoro says a conspiracy theory is not merely a quest for understanding in a complex and evolving world; it represents a justified response to the growing inequality, violence and ailments of our planet. In a system where living conditions are constantly deteriorating, we experience disorientation and a diminished capacity to respond effectively. “You don’t need an explanation of evil when evil is absent from your life,” wrote Tesoro. This is why many of us are captivated by and perpetuate conspiracy theories, even if we don’t fully believe them.

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