Conspiracy Theories: How they work.

hardheadjarhead

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Here's a good analysis of conspiracy theories...with some references to recent books on the topic.


Regards,


Steve


The Truth is Out ThereWay Out There

by George Case


The peak popularity of the television series The X-Files, and the initial Internet-boosted acceleration of the Information Revolution are behind us, but their legacies live on, in the pervasive familiarity of the conspiracy theory. Indeed, the trust-no-one phenomenon is today so much a part of our culture that it has become an object of suspicion: recent books such as Daniel Pipes Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where it Comes From, Robert Anton Wilsons Everything is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults, and Cover-Ups, and Devon Jacksons Conspiranoia! The Mother of All Conspiracy Theories, dissect the history, nature, and function of phobic fantasies in all their sprawling interconnectedness. Yet conspiracy theorieslets call them CTsremain almost routine elements of our socio-political discourse, even if few of their exponents would describe them as such, and even if fewer of us recognize one when we see it. Why?

A lot of CTs attractiveness, logicians will say, is in their dexterity at skirting the basic rules of deduction and inference. The world is complicated; many arguable factors contribute to events; CTs simplify things enormously and with great flair. Psychologists might add that the sheer randomness of modern life is so distressing that CTs offer a weirdly reassuring master narrative no longer provided by religion. No matter how malevolent the alleged String-Pullers are said to be, they are perhaps less scary than the thought of no String-Pullers at all. And rhetoricians may remind us that CTs are a kind of all-purpose argument winner, inevitably shutting down further debate by invoking sinister, shadowy agents whose very elusiveness confirms their existence and influence. Through all of thesesupposition, evasion, innuendoCTs work, in journalism, education, political activism, and ordinary conversation. But they arent infallible: studied carefully, they form patterns, fall into categories, and hide errors of reason and common sense. A brief field guide to their habits may help detect them before they turn dangerous.

Hidden Connection CTs

George H. W. Bush and Osama bin Laden have shared interests in a Saudi oil company. Lee Harvey Oswald was seen in his future killer Jack Rubys Dallas nightclub. A numerical translation of Bill Gates full name adds up to 666. Or, the synchronicities found in any daily newspaper, e.g. Unexpected Shutdown of Corruption Inquiry on page one, and Lawyers Death Called Foul Play on page ten. As Hidden Connections, such links are essentially twisted chains of circumstantial evidence, whereby any tenuous overlaps of time, place, and incident become proof of deliberate collusion. But all of us are never more than a few relationships removed from everyone else (the so-called six degrees of separation), and putative causes and effects are always happening around each other, especially in hindsight; a really compelling Hidden Connection would accurately predict a future event, rather than employing the hindsight bias by stringing together a disparate assortment of dots after the fact. Chance, simultaneity, and accidents are never conceded by Hidden Connection spotters, and their only conclusion is the ultimate hanging question, Coincidence? You be the judge. In the court of Hidden Connection CTs, a verdict of Guilty is never in doubt.

Manipulated Media CTs.

At their most sensible these might reflect the view that print and broadcast news and entertainment outlets have an interest in maintaining a stable, none-too-critical audience of pliant consumers. But towards the fringe the Manipulated Media message is less Dont believe everything you hear, and more Dont believe anything you hear, with the straightforward truththat trivial material can distract people from serious mattersembellished into a scenario where all information is mere propaganda that obscures government or corporate misdeeds. Implicit here is the assumption of a single entity called the media that can be wholly hijacked by a single body, giving us deathless slurs like The Jews control Hollywood (did they steal it from the Amish?). Thus the inconvenient responsibility of informing oneself through one or many of the thousands of publicly available news and opinion sources is dismissed. Manipulated Media CTs are a favorite of anyone who hasnt seen their own ideology spelled out in banner headlines or heard it echo back from the six oclock news. Nowadays given a wide forum in the free-for-all of the Internet, their odd irony is that its only ever through the media that were told how spun, suppressed, and censored the media is.

They Know Everything CTs

This posits that important figures behind closed doors instigate or are aware of impending disasters, but allow or encourage them to precipitate some broader, beneficial (to them) outcome. The Iraq war (started by the U.S. to guarantee its oil supply), the September 11 attacks (sanctioned by the CIA to kick start an American pipeline project in Afghanistan) are only the latest fodder for such speculation. Oliver Stones film JFK may represent its supreme example. The problem with They Know Everything CTs is that these kinds of elaborately murderous schemes are hardly the most effective or predictable means of steering the tides of history. It has been pointed out, for example, that if Franklin D. Roosevelt knew the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor but let them proceed because he wanted a pretext for U.S. entry into World War II, why wouldnt he have prevented the attack at the last minute? Wouldnt an intercepted surprise have produced the same result as a successful one? Similarly, was atomizing several thousand New Yorkers an obvious, practical step to the commercial exploitation of Central Asian gas reserves? And why would the U.S. military shoot down TWA 800 over Long Island, with so many potential witnesses? And would assassinating John F. Kennedy on a sunny afternoon safely ensure his successors dragging the U.S. arms industry into a profitable Vietnam War? If Theywhoever They arereally Know Everything, would They gamble so big on such catastrophic rolls of the dice? And how good are They at conspiring if Their cover gets blown so easily and so widely?

The blunt truth is that conspiracy theories very seldom make a solid case. Either they play on pre-existing prejudices (how corrupt you already take the government / the media / big business to be), or contradict each other (if the Iraq war is all about Halliburton contracts, then it cant be about Judeo-Christian millennial fanatics within the Bush administration; if the Mafia killed JFK, then the Freemasons are off the hook), or defy rational dispute (so the more the supposed conspiracy is denied, the more obviously there is one). CTs do not admit the glum, unresolved reality that public and private officials of good will may make single mistakes that spin vast webs of unintended consequences, nor do they allow that the likelihood of a few cynical individuals covertly trumping the infinite variables of human and organizational interaction, and never getting caught at it, is pretty slim. For all their curiously gratifying implications (We didnt lose; they cheated, sums up Daniel Pipes), they permit us to forfeit our rights as engaged, aware citizens by insisting on a permanently skewed, nothing-is-as-it-seems order. If conspirators are running the world, then why bother to read, vote, think, discuss, act, progress? Today, more than ever, we should be demanding straight answers to our questions. Whether or not we think of them as conspiracy theories, glib brushoffs about Hidden Connections, about a Manipulated Media, and about how They Know Everything, are no longer good enough.
 

Tgace

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Very interesting. Its like Ive always said, Ive worked for the government in various capacities for years (military/LEO). Believe me, based on the things Ive seen and people Ive met, theres no way governments are capable of carrying out these complicated schemes successfully without anybody knowing. A Navy ship shot down Flt. 800 and no teenage sailor told his buddies that he pushed the button? People talk, a lot....this stuff is just too hard to keep a lid on.
 
R

rmcrobertson

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Beyond agreeing wholeheartedly with the last poster--these are the guys who kept the Pentagon Papers secret for maybe five years, got caught burglarizing the Watergate by a rent-a-cop, and couldn't keep Iran/Contra secret for five minutes, one would only add that all the secrets are in the open.

The real question is why people don't care, or why they prefer fantasy.

Repressive desublimation?
 

FearlessFreep

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I spent six years in the Air Force and the government is just not that coordinated or compentent, or focused enough to pull off some of these alleged conpiracies.


Of course, the conspiracy buffs will just say that the 'alleged incompetance' is just part of the cleverly crafted scheme to fool people but...Ockam's Razor
 

Tgace

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Its just like the old saying "two can keep a secret if one is dead." Theres just too many people involved in government for these theories to work.
 

OUMoose

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but that's what they WANT you to think.... yeah... that's it.... and you guys! You guys are just here to throw us off!! You're coming after us!!

*puts on his tinfoil pyramid hat*

ehem....

:D The one problem that the author didn't point out is that the best conspiracies are ones that have not been debunked. UFO's, JFK's assassination, The Philadelphia experiment (along with the Montauk labs), Project Eschelon, Project HAARP, etc etc... Someone has to know.
 

Makalakumu

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So, what is a conspiracy theory and what isn't?
 

MA-Caver

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OUMoose said:
but that's what they WANT you to think.... yeah... that's it.... and you guys! You guys are just here to throw us off!! You're coming after us!!

*puts on his tinfoil pyramid hat*

ehem....

:D The one problem that the author didn't point out is that the best conspiracies are ones that have not been debunked. UFO's, JFK's assassination, The Philadelphia experiment (along with the Montauk labs), Project Eschelon, Project HAARP, etc etc... Someone has to know.
Hey, Moose... calm down... it's not paranoia unless they're really after you.
 

OUMoose

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MACaver said:
Hey, Moose... calm down... it's not paranoia unless they're really after you.
How do YOU know?!! They could be outside your door RIGHT NOW!!! AAHHHHHHHHH!!!

*runs away screaming*



Heheh. Just kidding. Though I couldn't resist that bait. ;) :whip:
 

someguy

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"George W. Bush lowered taxes so that The Jews, oil companies, Ann Coulter, and white men could invade welfare recipients."
Figured y'all should know that.

By the way don't belive any thing hardheadjarhead says... here I'll show you why
Now stick with me
OK in his name there is jarhead now a jarhead is a marine right? So as you can see he is part of a millitary organization bent on umm helping bush invade welfare recipients. But wait theres still the hard head part. Well I'd tell you about it but then the government who is already watching me would have to come after me.
Wait a second they are watching me...poor fools. No one deserves what I must do to them. :moon:
 

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