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Conspiracy theorism

This week, Charlie Brooker talks about conspiracy theorists, specifically 9/11 "truthers". It's his normal ranty stuff, but has so far managed an impressive tally of over 1,700 comments. (Usually, 300 or so is a good result.) And I just want to smack pretty much everyone, but especially the smug, arrogant posters who think that anyone who even considers any "conspiracy theory" is a nutjob loon with a low IQ who believes in Nessie, lives in his parents' basement and wants to feel important. Bear in mind you get called a "conspiracy theorist" for proposing (not even necessarily believing, just thinking about the possibility of) a theory that contradicts the official government version of events.

But there are hundreds of times when "conspiracy theorists" have been RIGHT, dammit. Think about WMDs and the Iraq dossier and Rumsfeld's "proof", for a recent example. The existence of the NSA and Echelon. Psy-Ops in the American army. The Bilderberg Group. (Again, the existence of, rather than that it's made up of alien lizards, etc.) Extraordinary rendition, or the CIA's secret torture prisons. MKULTRA, the CIA's mind control and interrogation research involving the use of LSD and other drugs. The attempted assassinations of Castro. The extraction and rehabilitation of Nazi scientists.

I've got some sympathy for the argument from incompetence - that X government/ X group/ people in general aren't smart and competent enough to pull off these secret conspiracies and keep them secret. But a) there are sufficient examples of times it has been done to make the argument invalid (most of the examples above, plus many others, including Bletchley Park) and b) at best it only rules out some theories, not all of them. The American government planning and executing 9/11? Unlikely, partially because of the chances of it being kept secret. The American government having warning of 9/11 and doing nothing to stop it? Not ridiculous, from a practical point of view.

Yeah, a lot of the "9/11 was a conspiracy" people commenting on the Brooker article are closed-minded, abusive, and cherry-pick the evidence. But the same applies to a lot of the people on the "No it wasn't" side. There seem to be very few people in the middle going "You know what, I've looked at the evidence we have, and I haven't made up my mind. More evidence, please". And that's a shame. I think we have to keep a healthy cynicism about what we read in the media, and look for things that contradict our beliefs as well as things that back it up. A country full of people who believe whatever they're told is just as unhealthy as a country full of people who don't believe anything they're told.

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( 34 comments — Comment )
(Deleted comment)
pickwick
Jul. 16th, 2008 10:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I don't think we'll ever get definitive answers to a lot of this stuff. So it baffles me how people (on either side) can be so sure they're right. That's true about a lot of things, though!

A lot of people are either scared of not knowing something, or scared to admit they don't know something, so they convince themselves that their preferred belief is a fact, and ignore anything that contradicts that. I'm perfectly aware there are an infinite number of things I don't know and possibly never will know, and that's great, because it means there's more things to learn!
endless_psych
Jul. 16th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
Its prescriptive definitions versus how people actually understand the word to be used, innit.

A conspiracy theorist in popular terms is understood to be someone "who believes in Nessie, lives in his parents' basement and wants to feel important." Many people seem to make the mistake that going but, but thats not what the word(s) actually mean if you look at the dictionary/original usage. Unfortunatly faggot is almost never used to describe a piece of burning wood, the correct use of bitch is vastly outweighed by the derogatory term and lets not even get into the ever developing use of the word gay.

Cherry picking is also an interesting term to use for I suspect if you had the actual number of distinct conspiracy theories out there (probably even if you blurred the boundries a little) you would discover that the ones that had been found to be correct were dwarfed substantially by the ones that are utter batshit lunacy.

Lets also not forget that the 9/11 conspiracy theorists distract from issues with the 9/11 report and probably more then anything else prevent anyone looking into the report seriously. Which I suppose is kind of ironic.

Also there is compelling evidence, agreed upon by consensus by most scientists (Which is generally how science works - not always perfect but hey thats how it works), that suggests the 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by terrorists flying planes into buildings.

endless_psych
Jul. 16th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
That and believing there was no conspiracy based on the evidence that is now widely and freely avaliable on the internet does not mean you nessecarily trust anyone sources editorial spin on the matter.

It probably just means that your a member of the Occams Razor gang.
(no subject) - pickwick - Jul. 17th, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - endless_psych - Jul. 17th, 2008 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
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dermfitz
Jul. 16th, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC)


But there are hundreds of times when "conspiracy theorists" have been RIGHT, dammit. Think about WMDs and the Iraq dossier and Rumsfeld's "proof", for a recent example. The existence of the NSA and Echelon. Psy-Ops in the American army. The Bilderberg Group. (Again, the existence of, rather than that it's made up of alien lizards, etc.) Extraordinary rendition, or the CIA's secret torture prisons. MKULTRA, the CIA's mind control and interrogation research involving the use of LSD and other drugs. The attempted assassinations of Castro. The extraction and rehabilitation of Nazi scientists.


Well, no. The conspiracy theorist in particular who was on about the Bilderberg Group said they were lizards. You can't extract the bit you like and leave the rest - that makes you no better than the loopiest conspiracy theorist.

Where are the conspiracy theories about extraordinary rendition, for example? If you mean something more detailed than "bad governments do bad things LOOK", then you need to show me the people who were going unbelieved on that one for them to be "right".
Most conspiracy theorists who are proved "right" are just "right" in their pessimistic view of big governments, not in the details; it takes actual, real journalists and investigators, not "theorists" to bring out the truth, not people extracting evidence to suit their own means. That's the fundamental difference between these doomsayers and people who work hard to uncover evil or destructive acts.
dibsy
Jul. 17th, 2008 12:08 am (UTC)
Also the Bildeberg Group has never been secret, just private. It's like Bohemian Grove. The nutters are ranting about it's secrecy, but Armistead Maupin was satirising it tin the 70s. How secret is that?
(no subject) - pickwick - Jul. 17th, 2008 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dibsy - Jul. 17th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
zagreb2
Jul. 17th, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
What Dermo said. If there is any truth behind extraordinary claims then good journalistic investigation uncovers it; conspiracy theorists never do anything but muddy the waters because they start with a conclusion and then try grab at any old thing that will "prove" it to them regardless of whether its credible or even remotely true.
(no subject) - pickwick - Jul. 17th, 2008 06:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
pickwick
Jul. 17th, 2008 05:58 pm (UTC)
You're just saying that if it's true it can't have been a conspiracy theorist saying it, it must have been an Investigator, aren't you?

David Icke was not the first and is nowhere near the only conspiracy theorist talking about Bilderberg, he just got the most publicity.

There must have been people who didn't believe extraordinary rendition existed, given the fact that we only now know for sure that the US and the UK are involved in extraordinary rendition; even three years ago it was a subject for late-night Panoramas rather than the news; and before 9/11 it was only ever mentioned on the Amnesty International website and on newsgroups. (Again I suspect we're going to hit a vocabulary problem here - is it a conspiracy theory if Amnesty's talking about it?)

You're taking the word "theorists" far too literally in the last paragraph, or you're playing with semantics - if someone works hard and manages to uncover the truth they're an investigator, if they don't work hard and/or it turns out not to be true, they're a conspiracy theorists.
(no subject) - dermfitz - Jul. 17th, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pickwick - Jul. 17th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jul. 18th, 2008 11:33 am (UTC) - Expand
dibsy
Jul. 17th, 2008 12:06 am (UTC)
In many respects I agree with your argument, but I think that there is a big difference between doubting and investigating official narratives, and being a conspiracy theorist. Take JFK, for instance, as Charlie cites. Like him I was convinced by Oliver Stones film, and like him I was disappointed when I found out that the evidence is massively in favour of the lone gun man theory. But when you question that the conspiracy theorists come out with the "You are a naive dupe, how stupid are you to believe the Warren Commission report. Go back to sleep!" argument that the truthers are so enamoured of.

I personally think that there was a conspiracy behind JFK's murder, but I have no idea what it was. I may have even come close to knowing it, but hordes of rabid conspiracy nutters have obscured that.

Again, I agree with you that without people doubting official versions then many previous conspiracies wouldn't have been uncovered, but compare 9/11 with Watergate. There was evidence in Watergate. There was a reasonable hypothesis, information was available, names were named, a paper trail was uncovered. With 9/11 there are doubts about how things occurred, and a huge amount of misinformation, misunderstanding and lies. Whenever I argue with a truther and ask for evidence all i ever get is links to rambling websites, most of which is links to other sites. The other thing I get is aspersions cast on my character and (massively incorrect) assumptions made about my beliefs.

Ultimately there may have been some kind of conspiracy. Luckily for them, they will never be uncovered, as any evidence is likely to be lost in the noise. And I'm happy that the truthers are being trolled, for that reason alone.

pickwick
Jul. 17th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, there's definitely a definition problem going on here, about where the line is between questioning official narratives and becoming a conspiracy theorists. It's helluva blurred in some places - if you do question something that X person happens to believe the government about, you're a conspiracy theorist.

I think the truthers would say they have evidence about 9/11 :S But I suspect you're right about all the noise meaning any actual evidence is lost or missed. The downside of t'internet and global communication, I guess.

And yeah, there's a hell of a lot of aspersion-casting from both sides! Come join me in the middle saying "I don't know what happened there, man."
(no subject) - dibsy - Jul. 17th, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pickwick - Jul. 17th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dibsy - Jul. 17th, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
theealex
Jul. 17th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
"I've got some sympathy for the argument from incompetence - that X government/ X group/ people in general aren't smart and competent enough to pull off these secret conspiracies and keep them secret. But a) there are sufficient examples of times it has been done to make the argument invalid (most of the examples above, plus many others, including Bletchley Park)"

Though, if you've heard about them, then they HAVEN'T kept them secret....
pickwick
Jul. 17th, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
Well, yes, but they did for a while :D I can't provide examples of things that are still secret! I read that nobody knew anything about Bletchley Park until the files were released in the 70s, but I don't know how true that is... Impressive, if it is true.
theealex
Jul. 17th, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC)
Anyone who has worked in even the lower rungs of the Civil Service will know that there is no way in hell that a government is competent enough to pull off something like September 11th as a False Flag operation.

IMO conspiracy theorists don't want to believe that the world really IS as random and indiscriminate as it is.
pickwick
Jul. 17th, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
I happen to agree with you on the False Flag operation idea, but I just don't think that means it must have all happened exactly the way the government says.
(no subject) - theealex - Jul. 17th, 2008 06:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pickwick - Jul. 17th, 2008 06:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - theealex - Jul. 17th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
marcella_riddle
Jul. 20th, 2008 01:32 am (UTC)
A country full of people who believe whatever they're told is just as unhealthy as a country full of people who don't believe anything they're told.

Well said!
( 34 comments — Comment )

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