There’s More To 15-Minute City Conspiracies Than You Think

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The idea behind the 15-minute city is a simple one: You should be able to go to work, get groceries, find an ATM or visit a doctor, all within 15 minutes of where you live — and without ever getting in a car. It’s urban design that prioritizes people over parking, but it’s also a phrase that’s launched a thousand absurd conspiracy theories. Why are people getting so riled up over urban planning?

Well, they’re not — not really, anyway. The conspiracy theories are less about the realities of 15-minute cities, and more about their imagined position as the first step in a grand UN-backed plan to imprison humanity and depopulate the Earth. How do you get from such an innocuous point A to such an absurd plan B? Abigail Thorn of Philosophy Tube has an incredibly cool-sounding explanation: All those conspiracy theorists are caught in a phantasm.

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A phantasm, as described by Thorn, allows a person to avoid dealing with information that would force them to change their worldview — a task that would spark anxiety — by allowing contradictions to exist unchecked. People who use phantasms can truly know things that they understand to be unreasonable, unlikely, or outright untrue — yet, to the mind of the phantasm user, factual nonetheless.

Phantasms are a heady philosophy topic, and Thorn describes them far better than my bachelor’s-degree-in-business ass ever could. I know I’m telling you to watch an hour-long YouTube video (or the ad-free version on Nebula) in order to understand conspiratorial opposition to urban planning, but Philosophy Tube is always worth the runtime. Put on an hour of Chube, and come out seeing the world through clearer eyes than ever before. Who knows? You might even come out in favor of 15-minute cities.

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