Please send any reasoned disagreements to me.
If your facts and logic are convincing, I'll change my mind !
Are They True ? section
Falsehoods are Harmful section
Why Do People Believe ? section
The Conspiracy Theory Industry section
Debating Conspiracy Theorists section
There are terms "confirmed conspiracy" and "suspected conspiracy" and "conspiracy theory".
I'd say "suspected conspiracy" is where you actually have a few facts (not just doubts or innuendo; real smoking guns)
in support of your thinking, and "conspiracy theory" is where you first decide what the conclusion
is (govt is evil, usually) and then go from there, maybe never getting to any actual facts.
Once you prove it, it becomes "confirmed conspiracy".
"Conspiracy theory" just means "belief in a massive conspiracy, based on a desired conclusion and no evidence".
Yes, there have been real conspiracies. Yes, there is plenty of malice and incompetence by govts or govt agencies.
But these conspiracy theories are a different thing: start with desired conclusion, and invent/deny facts to justify it.
Bob Maschi's "Conspiracy behind Conspiracy Theories ?"
- Jumping to a pre-determined conclusion based on an agenda.
It's not a CT to say "the official story on 9/11 has holes A and B in it".
It is a CT to say "the govt brought down the WTC on 9/11 with controlled demolition, despite no evidence of that".
No good evidence, but jumping to a conclusion.
One clue to this: trying to overwhelm with quantity instead of quality.
AKA "Gish Gallop". Offer a hundred "facts" or scenarios, and every time one is refuted, jump to another.
Only the conclusion remains constant.
Mere hours after a major incident occurs, a dozen conspiracy-theories about it
will have been created. The theorists aren't waiting to hear facts or working to find facts; they're making things up to fit their agenda.
- Denying any simple or common-sense fact that doesn't fit the pre-determined conclusion.
Denial by creating some complex web of additional conspirators, or attacking the source of the fact, or the person mentioning the fact.
- Seizing on any unknown or coincidence, and giving it the most dramatic or sinister interpretation.
- Emphasizing the tiniest gaps in the official explanation, while ignoring enormous problems with the CT's explanation.
- Failing to add any new facts. Simply using guesswork or bias to add unfounded allegations.
- Polarization: there are two "sides", and if you question the CT, you're "on the other side", a "shill", a "sheeple", a "dupe".
- Ascribing great skill and cunning to organizations that we can SEE screwing up every day (government, CIA, FEMA, corporations, etc).
- Contradictory or nonsensical positions: Evil organization X is incredibly powerful and secret, yet normal people have
found out the "real truth" about it. Government Y is evil, and is hiding incredibly powerful alien technology,
yet has never used it, even in wars. Car company X would rather suppress great new breakthroughs rather than
use them to beat the competition and make tons of money.
- Not falsifiable: there is no fact or evidence that could possibly show the CT to be wrong.
From Mike Wood's "What does online discussion tell us about the psychology of conspiracy theories?":
... belief in conspiracy theories can be more accurately characterised as a disbelief in official
or received explanations – that the content of the conspiracy theory doesn't matter as much as the
fact that it opposes whatever the official explanation is. The focus is not on promoting an
alternative explanation, but in debunking the official story.
From Mike Rothschild's "A Conspiracy Theory Primer - In Fun Alphabet Form!":
D is for Denialism. No matter what beliefs are held by the mainstream and supported by solid evidence,
you can always find someone who thinks we're being lied to about them. Everything from the existence
of AIDS to the moon landings to vaccine safety has an accompanying movement that says "everything we know is wrong"
about these subjects, usually with nothing to prove it. Most of these movements are tied together,
because if you're going to be contrarian, you might as well be really contrarian.
From 3 June 2013 "Point of Inquiry" podcast interview of Stephan Lewandowsky:
Some aspects of conspiracy theories:
- Self-sealing: any contrary evidence is immediately absorbed into the conspiracy;
it becomes evidence that the conspiracy is even wider.
- Always negative: there's never a theory about a conspiracy to do something good.
From Skeptoid's "The JFK Assassination":
Conspiracy theories follow these three laws:
Law #1: Authority's version of events is untrue, by default.
Law #2: Everything that differs from the authoritative version is more likely true.
Law #3: All evidence that contradicts #1 or #2 is part of the conspiracy.
Various positions you could take on any incident:
On the facts and reasoning:
- I believe the official account 100%.
- The official account doesn't explain everything.
- The official account has some unusual or unlikely things in it.
- The official account has some contradictions or incorrect facts in it.
- I won't believe the official account or its facts, no matter how convincing or complete it is.
- I'm going to make up my own facts and claim they prove the official account wrong.
- I don't care about facts or reasoning at all; I just say the official account is wrong, and nothing you can say will change my mind.
On the motivation:
- I believe the officials are being honest and did a good job.
- I believe the officials are honest but could have done better.
- I believe the officials are honest but incompetent.
- I believe the officials are dishonest and covering up their mistakes.
- I believe the officials are malicious and orchestrated the whole incident (or allowed it to happen).
Often, a conspiracy theorist thinks that everyone must be at one extreme or the other
on these scales. They believe the official account was completely wrong and the incident was orchestrated maliciously.
If you question their "facts" or reasoning, they allege that you're a "sheeple", you must believe the official account 100%,
you must think the government is flawless. Not true.
Creativeconflictwisdom's "The Problem with Conspiracy Theorists: My Top Ten Insights"
Are They True ?
From Skeptoid 364:
No conspiracy theory has ever been proven true.
I stand by this statement as fact,
given the distinction between a real conspiracy and a conspiracy theory
. So let's define that distinction clearly.
Conspiracies, as we refer to them, are crimes or schemes carried out in secret by a group of conspirators.
Sometimes they are discovered, like the three I just mentioned; and others have undoubtedly successfully
remained undetected. These clearly exist. But they are quite distinct from what we colloquially call
a conspiracy theory, which is claimed knowledge
of a conspiracy that has not yet been discovered
by law enforcement or Congress or the newspapers or the general public. They are, in fact, future predictions.
They are the beliefs or conclusions of the theorist that they predict
will eventually come true or be discovered.
... Unlike a Julius Caesar conspiracy discovered when or after
it took place, a conspiracy theory
is of a discovery that has yet
to take place.
I maintain my claim that a real conspiracy is very distinct from a hypothesized conspiracy; and I maintain
my claim that no hypothesized conspiracy, believed within the conspiracy theory community, has ever subsequently been discovered to be true.
If every time govt does something, you say "I think their facts are wrong", sometimes you'll turn out to be right.
Is that a win for conspiracy theorists ? Was that a govt conspiracy ? I don't think so.
Some people think the government or "scientists" are
conspiring to hide alien UFO's or to ignore ESP. But:
- Our government has proved itself totally
incompetent at keeping its biggest secrets
(atom bomb secrets, names of agents in Russia, diplomatic cables, etc).
Why should it be amazingly competent at hiding alien UFO's ?
In the last 60 years this is supposed to have gone on,
at least one minimum-wage security guard
or dirt-poor enlisted man would have sold some real,
testable evidence to a tabloid. A piece of metal alloy no one's ever seen before.
A piece of alien flesh totally unlike any animal on Earth.
Similarly, the record is full of cases where the CIA failed to predict coming
world events (fall of Shah of Iran, fall of Berlin Wall, breakup of Soviet Union, 9/11). Cases
where major covert government efforts failed (decades of attempts to assassinate Castro).
- If our government really had amazing secret technologies,
wouldn't it have used them against our enemies ? Don't you think our
government and military used every tool they had against North Vietnam,
or the Soviet Union, or Saddam Hussein, or Osama bin Laden ?
- "The government" is not a monolithic organization.
Not only are there multiple "governments" (local, county, state, federal),
but often people and agencies within each government body are in heated competition
with each other. They fight over offices, budgets, committee assignments, perks, jurisdiction, power, promotions.
They leak to media to make the other side or the other guy look bad.
Within the CIA, within the military, within the Congress, within the White House,
there is competition and conflict and backstabbing. There's no way they could
all set aside their differences to keep some big nasty political secret for any length of time.
And they'd have plenty of evidence to show when they revealed it, to protect themselves.
- "Scientists" are not a monolithic body;
they fight among themselves constantly, compete with
each other for money and positions and lab space,
and pride themselves on being mavericks and independents.
Besides, there are tens of thousands of graduate students
and associate professors desperately looking for
something new that would make them famous; they'd love to get a
Nobel prize for being the first to prove ESP or alien UFO's are real.
If they were real.
- It doesn't help their credibility that many people who claim to
know the "real truth" about alien UFO's, for example, also claim to know
the "real truth" about the Kennedy assassination,
the moon landings, Roswell, Area 51,
the Illuminati, the prophecies of Nostradamus, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg group,
TWA flight 800, HIV/AIDS, Princess Diana's death, global climate change,
HAARP, chemtrails, FEMA death camps, the "mainstream media", Obama's birth certificate,
crop circles, cattle mutilations, and every other possible
conspiracy. Not likely.
- It doesn't help their credibility that many people who claim to
know the "real truth" about something disagree with each other.
They're united in "the official explanation is a lie", but completely contradict
each other on what the "real truth" is.
From Marin Cogan's "The Last Stand of the JFK Truthers":
"According to an upcoming History Channel documentary, 311 distinct conspiracy theories
point blame at 42 groups, 81 assassins, and 214 people."
The Onion's "Kennedy Slain By CIA, Mafia, Castro, LBJ, Teamsters, Freemasons; President Shot 129 Times from 43 Different Angles"
- It is revealing that, mere hours after a major incident occurs, a dozen conspiracy-theories about it
have been created. The theorists aren't waiting to hear facts or working to find facts; they're making things up.
- Some of the people pushing these theories are making money from it (Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, various TV shows, etc).
They are making money by fooling people.
Skeptoid's "5 Conspiracy Theories that Turned Out to Be True ... Maybe?"
Will Storr's "The 9/11 conspiracy theorist who changed his mind"
Falsehoods are Harmful
These conspiracy theories do real harm. We should oppose harmful falsehoods.
If the lesson we learn from 9/11 is "govt is evil" or "the Jews did it", when the real lesson (I think) is
"we should stop supporting dictators and invading countries", we risk more 9/11's.
And people in the Mideast don't learn the lesson "we should stop the extremists among us".
If the lesson we learn from big events (9/11, Boston Bombing, HIV/AIDS, Ebola) is "don't trust anything the govt or scientists say",
that helps lead to "deny climate change, refuse vaccines, deny evolution".
The effects of these conspiracy theories often are even WORSE in other countries. The HIV conspiracy theories have led govts in Africa
to promote nonsense cures or deny the reality of AIDS in their countries; this costs many lives every year.
Vaccine conspiracy theories have led to outbreaks of disease
in many countries, and even murders of medical workers. If an Arab or Muslim country can dismiss 9/11 as "the Jews did it" or
"the US govt did it", they have no pressure to do anything about violent extremists in their country, or donations from
their country to violent extremists.
From Bob Maschi's "Conspiracy behind Conspiracy Theories ?":
Conspiracy Theories were used by Hitler and the Nazis to enslave and exterminate the Jews.
In the 1950's, Senator Joseph McCarthy invented a Conspiracy Theory that disloyal communists had
infiltrated the highest levels of government and society and used the ensuing panic to trash many a person's career.
Conspiracy Theories are often used to gain political or financial power. People take advantage of existing prejudices
and suspicions to compose intricate plots that appeal to some other people who lack the knowledge and reason to
confront them effectively. The result of this is that many people are misled into shifting the blame for real
problems from the actual source to imaginary enemies. This leads to a lot of time, energy and intellect being
wasted that would be better spent on actually improving our communities and places of work.
I'm all for free speech, but this made me think twice:
From /u/Wegwurf123 on reddit:
[Re: German Holocaust denier sent to jail:]
> Let people live their lives in peace and
> let them believe whatever nonsense they want to believe.
As a German, I find myself groaning whenever I see this discussion come up.
You seem to start with the assumption that these are fringe beliefs that forever stay on the fringe when left unchecked and never,
ever have an impact on anyone else. This is simply not so.
The ban on holocaust denial was instituted on a nation literally
filled with Nazis. Every village, every city, every school,
every government insitution - Nazis everywhere. The suppression of Nazi ideology was absolutely vital
to rebuilding the country.
And it's not like there wasn't precedent about just how harmful letting a conspiracy theory run free can be.
Are you familiar with the DolchstoBlegende? It was a right-wing conspiracy theory circulating in Germany after WW1
that said that the German army hadn't truly
lost the war but were "stabbed in the back" by cowardly revolutionaries
(read: The Jews) at the home front - revolutionaries who went on to found the new democratic Weimar Republic.
This conspiracy was widely
believed by the German people as it fed into their victim complex and was one of
the key tools with which the Weimar goverment's legitimacy was undermined - which allowed the Nazis to take power.
Speech has consequences. And sometimes, those consequences are so much more harmful than the consequences of outlawing it.
Your rights end where harm to others begins. I see such unbelievable naivety about this matter from the Freeeeee Speeeeeech advocates.
> I'm of the opinion that the best way to expose
> a dumbass is show it off. Dismantle them violently
> and thoroughly.
Conspiracy theorists are not rational.
If they could be swayed by facts and reason, they would not believe sh*t that
even the most minor bit of fact checking would reveal to be untrue. Allowing them to spew their bullsh*t freely doesn't
make them seek out people who'd disabuse them of their notions, it makes them seek out other people who share their
beliefs - and who radicalize them further. We see the echo chamber effect right here on reddit.
Whether or not the holocaust happened is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of facts
. You're entitled to your
own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. Making up your own facts is called lying. And when your
lies are so malicious and harmful that they actually pose a threat to other people or the nation itself, then yes,
that should absolutely be punishable. It's no different than slander or libel.
What value is there to allowing holocaust denial? Serious question. And I don't mean appealing to the slippery slope
of how it leads to other worse prohibitions. There's a lot of arguing for Free Speech for its own sake - that Free Speech
is the highest virtue in and of itself that must never, ever be compromised, for any reason, and that this should be
self-evident. But I ask, what's the harm in not allowing holocaust denial, specifically? What is the benefit in allowing it?
There is none.
Nothing good will ever come out of someone spewing holocaust denial. Ever. You won't get a thoughtful debate beneficial
to both parties. They're wrong, simple as that. The "best" outcome you'll get out of it is that you can convince a denier
or someone on the fence that they're wrong. Great. The best outcome involves suppressing it.
There are, however, a hell of a lot potentially bad consequences in that their stupidity can infect others and shift
the Overton window their way.
The reason that the vast majority of modern Germans look at the Nazi flag and feel nothing but revulsion whereas a
sizable portion of US southerners actually fly the confederate flag and defend it ("Heritage, not hate",
"It was about states' rights, not slavery", "Slaves weren't treated so bad") is because Germans were forbidden
from telling each other comforting lies about their past.
Adam Wears and Sam Jackson's "5 Reasons Conspiracy Theories Are Destroying the World"
Janet Allon and Kali Holloway's "9 senseless social panics that did lasting damage to America"
Harm to victims:
Ben Collins' "What Do You Say to a Roanoke Truther?"
Why Do People Believe ?
Heard on a podcast:
We modern humans are descended from ancestors who lived in a threatening world.
If an ancestor heard a rustle in the savannah grass, there were these scenarios:
- Assume it's the wind and do nothing, and it turns out to be the wind: no problem.
- Assume it's the wind and do nothing, and it turns out to be a lion: you're dead, and your genes die out.
- Assume it's a lion and run away, and it turns out to be a lion: you survive.
- Assume it's a lion and run away, and it turns out to be a false alarm: you survive.
So we modern humans are descendants of those who tended to react to threats, even false
Evolution has acted to bias us to see threats even when they're not there.
But I think today, much of belief in conspiracy theories stems from frustration, anger,
boredom, desire to seem "in the know".
"Belief" in conspiracies or ESP or alien UFOs doesn't cost the believer anything.
If you asked them to put time or money where their mouth is, donate to "Save the Unicorns"
or spend nights out in fields looking for alien UFO's or directly pay their money for an investigation of 9/11,
I think you'd find their belief isn't that strong.
[Summarized from Rob Brotherton's "The President is Dead: Why Conspiracy Theories About the Death of JFK Endure":]
We like to think that huge, important incidents are created by big and powerful causes [proportionality bias].
It's unsettling to think that JFK could have been killed by a lone loser with a rifle,
that 9/11 could have been done by guys with knives using ordinary airplanes.
Much more satisfying to think that JFK was killed by some massive conspiracy, or 9/11
was a huge operation involving explosives, missiles, planes and passengers made to disappear, etc.
Nicola Davis's "Conspiracy theories: why people need to believe that the truth is hidden out there"
From Mother Jones interview of Bill Maher:
MJ: Why do you think Americans cling so loyally to conspiracy
theories? Is it the hope that there is planning mastery behind
what is actually chaos and madness?
BM: Exactly. Many people can't deal with unanswered questions,
which, of course, religion exploits by providing answers, even if
they are just made up by someone. This is also why we love TV shows
and movies that neatly wrap up everything in exactly an hour or two.
My take on Ben Judah's "Why are so many Americans in the thrall of conspiracy theorists?":
This says it all: "conspiracy theorists such as Trump thrive in societies that are growing poorer,
weaker, more unequal, and where their citizens do not understand why that is happening. And that is America today."
People are scared and angry because the economy is bad, USA has competition through globalization, automation has been taking jobs,
inequality rising, housing crash, etc. So they lash out at any authority: govt, police, scientists, corps.
Also because white male Christians see their dominance fading. They are frantic to stop women, gays, minorities,
other religions, atheists from getting equality. The changes must be the work of some conspiracy, or Jews, or Satan, or something.
How religions and conspiracy theories are alike:
Greta Christina's "Conspiracies and Unshakeable Faith: What Would Convince You That You Were Wrong?"
Our brains pre-dispose us to see patterns and agents (to detect predators and prey), or
to see everything as tools and tool-users (since tools were so important in our evolution).
Conspiracy theory = lies or guesses about some prominent issue or event, to serve some agenda.
Usually to "get back" at some authority figure, or to make life seem more interesting by knowing some secret, or to make money.
I think the motive for creating most conspiracy theories is the same: the desire to lash out at authority.
People are scared and angry, because the economy is tough, they feel their life is out of control, their kids
or marriage or their life or job or the country didn't turn out the way they wanted, etc.
So, they take every opportunity to lash out at anyone in authority or power:
science, government, police, mainstream media, rich people, corporations, etc.
They make up lies to try to "get back at" those authority figures.
It also makes their dull lives more interesting. Same reason people claim to have ESP or have been abducted by aliens.
It gives them something cool to boast about in a bar: I'm special because I know the REAL truth about X.
I think conspiracy theories are a poison in our society, equivalent to another religion, with the same attitudes.
"You're either with us or against us, we don't have to listen to any facts or people that disagree with us,
we know the one truth, the ends justify the means, etc" Conspiracy theories harm us by preventing us from learning
the proper lessons from events. Like religion, CT's contribute to the polarization and gridlock and denial we see in society today.
From Mandy Oaklander's "Here's Why People Believe In Conspiracy Theories":
According to a pair of new studies published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, conspiracy theorists ... tend to have one thing in common:
they feel a lack of control over their lives.
From discussion on reddit:
What about the Illuminati ?
Ok, you're going to get a lot of flack over this one, and in part that's justified, but I'm going to
go on the assumption that you're a bright young man/woman/cabbage and have just stumbled onto the concept
of the Illuminati and Worldwide Conspiracy™.
Now, these are exciting things for a few reasons.
- First of all, it's a nice, complete, explanation of Why Things Are The Way They Are.
It presents an exciting narrative (Ancient Secret Societies), presents a clear villain
(The Illuminati Who Control Everything), and weaves in just enough real-world facts that it has
a hint of truth to it. It tells a tale of how we got here, and presents a clear picture in an otherwise muddy world.
- On the subject of a clear picture, the Illuminati conspiracy story has another factor in its favor:
It's a black and white picture. There are Bad Guys™ controlling everything. There are Good Guys™ desperately
trying to get the word out to the unwitting populace, risking everything for the sake of The Truth™. The story
explains a very complicated world in a very simple way. People cling to conspiracy stories for much the same
reason they may cling to religion, or any other myth: it makes the world a less scary place because, as bad as
things may be, at least there's order to the world.
- Finally, one of the most satisfying things about conspiracy stories is that they reassure the believer
that the bad things are not their fault. "It's not your fault we treat black people/the poor/homosexuals/etc like s**t,
the all-powerful Illuminati have made it that way." In these stories you can, and should, fight that organization
but it's not your fault if you can't make a positive impact. In fact, your inability to affect the status quo or
to make anyone else believe in the story just reinforces how powerful the Illuminati is (in the story).
So, in the end, look on stories like the Illuminati as you would any other myth: There are some truths to be found
in there -- about how to act in a hostile world, for example -- but it is not literal truth. Heck, if you want
a laugh at the whole thing I'd recommend Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus Trilogy. It's a bit dated,
and stuck in '60s counterculture, but it's a nice teardown of the Illuminati story.
While your explanation of the power of conspiracy theories is a popular one, it misses the mark in several
important ways. Yes, conspiracy theory does divide the world in very simple ethical terms between a Good and an Evil,
but that's more a possible end result of conspiracy theory rather than the mechanism that makes it so appealing.
Rather, conspiracy theory is appealing precisely because of the way the theorist weaves together a dizzying convolution
of seemingly disparate facts on the way to creating a total narrative that is never quite arrived at.
It is precisely this conspiratorial tendency that Illuminatus! parodies so well.
Of course, what makes conspiracy theory such an enduring phenomenon (and here is where the more subtle
parody of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum comes in) is that anyone can play the game. There are lots
of theories out there that "explain why things are the way they are" in abstracted, simplified terms.
Certainly, religion does so. So does Marxism. So does sociology. But all these systems of understanding
have a kind of entry requirement that requires access to certain sorts of expert training, typically
through an institution like the University or the Church. The conspiracy theorist rejects the offerings
of such institutional knowledges - and he authorizes his own free-form truthmaking in an inverse proportion
to his confidence in authorized understandings of the world.
Thus, in addition to constantly inventing his own truth, he must constantly reject the truth he is given.
Nothing could be further from a simple, comforting view of life. First, there is always something of the
victim in the conspiracy theorist, precisely because he places himself in opposition to the "powers that be".
But this also entails a constant state of agitated overproduction of truth, in which the story must continue
to grow bigger simply to continue to exist. The pleasure of conspiracy theorizing is in just this constant
state of overcoming those phantoms of a hidden authority through a never-ending process of expanding narrative.
Conspiracy theory is not myth in the doctrinal sense you use it here, but rather something more akin to fable
or rumor - a practice whereby individuals take pleasure in their ability to re-present reality in ways that
contradict accepted interpretations of events.
Of course, there are certain kinds of charismatic political actors that could cause such renegade truth-makers
to collectively adhere towards the identification of the villain, hitherto a nebulous and always shadowy concept,
with a particular group. This might be the Illuminati or the lizard people. But it has been more
historically - and more tragically - a concrete and otherwise human Other: The Jews, The Bourgeois,
The Papists, The Commies. Here is where the figure of the intrepid crusader for truth passes over into
the inquisitorial mob, and s**t begins to hit the fan.
Also, conspiracy theorists get to stroke their egos: They know what's going on, while all the sheeple
are hopelessly stupid and ignorant. It feels good to believe the conspiracies.
From Maggie Koerth-Baker's "Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories":
... believers are more likely to be cynical about the world in general and politics in particular.
Conspiracy theories also seem to be more compelling to those with low self-worth, especially with regard
to their sense of agency in the world at large. Conspiracy theories appear to be a way of reacting to uncertainty and powerlessness.
Economic recessions, terrorist attacks and natural disasters are massive, looming threats, but we have little power
over when they occur or how or what happens afterward. In these moments of powerlessness and uncertainty,
a part of the brain called the amygdala kicks into action. ... the amygdala jump-starts the rest of the brain
into analytical overdrive — prompting repeated reassessments of information in an attempt to create a coherent
and understandable narrative, to understand what just happened, what threats still exist and what should
be done now. This may be a useful way to understand how, writ large, the brain's capacity for generating
new narratives after shocking events can contribute to so much paranoia in this country.
"If you know the truth and others don't, that's one way you can reassert feelings of having agency,"
Swami says. It can be comforting to do your own research even if that research is flawed.
It feels good to be the wise old goat in a flock of sheep.
William Saletan's "Conspiracy Theorists Aren't Really Skeptics"
Insufferable Intolerance's "The faith of science deniers: conspiracy theories, shills and elitism"
Katy Waldman's "Creativity, Conspiracy Theories, and Delusions Have One Thing in Common: Apophenia"
The Conspiracy Theory Industry
Conspiracy-theorists NEVER talk about the fact that there is a conspiracy theory "industry",
that people are making money or fame from pushing these theories, that some theories aid some corporations
or political groups or rich guys in fighting competitors or legislation. Even nations; Russia has a
long history of creating propaganda and having it swallowed by the people in the West.
Mark Hill's "The Shady Agendas Behind 5 Popular Conspiracy Theories"
Alex Seitz-Wald's "Alex Jones: Conspiracy Inc."
Sam Vaknin's "The Economics of Conspiracy Theories"
Gable Rhoads' "How to Make Money Creating Conspiracy Theories"
Matthew Sheffield's "A short history of fake news: Conservatives believed all sorts of crap long before Facebook"
Debating Conspiracy Theorists
Many conspiracy-theorists debate exactly the way many religous people do:
"We have no evidence to support our claims, so let's attack the evidence offered by the government/science;
if we can show that to have weaknesses, that means our story must be right !"
From confluencer on reddit:
What I hate about conspiracy theorists ...
What has always struck me about such people is that they never seem to have any kind of competence
in the underlying details of the system that is under scrutiny. I routinely excoriate them for being
total idiots, and I do this simply by asking a series of basic questions of competence that you would
expect to be correctly answered before believing anyone's theory about anything in any field.
9/11 truthers; What type of fuel did the flights contain? At what temperature does steel deform?
What was the load on each foundation? At what speed did the jet fly into the building? How many steel
support columns did the towers have? etc. etc.
Moon landings; How much fuel is used during a Saturn V burn? What is the required amount of energy
needed to move the command module to the moon? How heavy is the module? etc. etc.
Fluoride: What is the concentration of fluoride in the public water system? How can you test for this?
What are the chemical properties of fluoride? etc. etc.
The biggest thing that annoys me with conspiracy theorists, and by extension other pseudoscientists,
is their total lack of competence. If you're going to go full retard with some insane theory,
you better know your sh*t better than I do. Instead, all I get is vague paranoia about "they",
and "them", and "the controllers" and "the group". I mean seriously, get your sh*t together.
My response to "politicians, media, everyone lies; why are conspiracy-theorists labeled as nuts ?":
Sure, everyone makes mistakes, politicians lie, etc.
But in my experience, Conspiracy Theorists are in a class by themselves, in these ways:
- Most CT's I've met have claimed to know the "real truth" about EVERY possible conspiracy. Not credible.
- Most CT's I've met escalate the denial of every fact. They claim something, I give a countering fact,
they say my source is "part of the conspiracy". Ad infinitum. BBC, NPR, US govt, UK govt, individual reporters,
web sites, whatever. If it disagrees with them, then it's not credible, or part of the conspiracy, or both.
- Most CT's I've met escalate the argument into an ad-hominem attack. If I disagree with them persistently, then
I'm deluded or a "sheeple" or even "part of the conspiracy".
- Most CT's I've met ascribe great skill and cunning to organizations that we can SEE screwing up every day.
They claim US govt is able to hide aliens and alien tech for 50 years. Heck, US govt wasn't able to keep
someone from selling names of our agents in Russia for $1M or so. Our biggest secret, and they couldn't keep it !
- Most CT's I've met think the "US govt" or "scientists" or "Big Pharma" or "mainstream media" or whatever is a monolith.
As if there aren't layers of govt, different agencies, different officials all trying to stab each other in
the back every day, or competing for positions or jurisdiction or budget money or promotion or future office.
Scientists competing with each other for positions, grants, fame, prizes.
Pharmaceutical companies in various countries competing with each other, suing each other, etc.
Someone once accused me of being like an "atheist" about conspiracy theories. My response:
Conspiracy-theory atheist: Exactly ! I am the guy who says "you have no good evidence, you're making
claims without evidence, you're trying to shift the burden of proof onto other people to prove that
something DIDN'T happen the way you claim it did". Exactly the position of an atheist.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Good evidence will make me change my mind;
repeating claims again and again without evidence will do nothing.
Mike Rothschild's "A Conspiracy Theory Primer - In Fun Alphabet Form!"
Donna Ferentes's "10 characteristics of conspiracy theorists"
Insufferable Intolerance's "The faith of science deniers: conspiracy theories, shills and elitism"
Leigh Anderson's "How to Have a Conversation With a Conspiracy Theorist Without Losing Your Mind"
See Conspiracy section of my Anti-Science page
"Stonecutter's Song" from "The Simpsons":
Who controls the British Crown ?
Who keeps the metric system down ?
We do, we do.
Who keeps Atlantis off the maps ?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps ?
We do, we do.
Who holds back the electric car ?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star ?
We do, we do.
Who robs cave fish of their sight ?
Who rigs every Oscar night ?
We do, we DO !
The Onion's "Slow-Witted Conspiracy Theorist Convinced Government Behind NASA"
The Onion's "Half Of Americans Believe In Medical Conspiracy Theories"
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