By some chance the other day I happened to read two separate pieces on conspiracy theories, which caused me to think a little about conspiracy theories. Or, perhaps it wasn’t by chance. Maybe they wanted me to read them.
Anyway, the first was this article in Cracked.com which listed five conspiracy theories that are easily debunked. Cracked.com is a comedy website, the successor to the magazine Cracked, which was, for a time, the biggest competitor to Mad Magazine. Although their articles are written to be humorous, I have found many of them to be surprisingly informative. The whole point of this particular article was that some of the most popular conspiracy theories, the JFK assassination, faked moon landings, 9/11 truthers, are easily debunked with a little true knowledge to events and with the use of common sense or reasoning.
The second article I read was by Walter Hudson at PJMedia. He describes himself as a former conspiracy dabbler and writes about the attractions and problems of conspiracy theories.
Enter Alex Jones, with his seemingly plausible claim that the Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same coin, fronts for a globalist conspiracy to erect a New World Order. Look! We have video of Bush 41 telling Congress about it. Look! We sneaked into the Bohemian Grove and took creepy footage of a strange ceremony. Look! That hole in the Pentagon wasn’t shaped like an airplane… as if aluminum leaves a cartoon silhouette in reinforced concrete.
After many months veraciously taking in everything Prison Planet had to offer, watching Jones entire catalog of documentary-style films and following his organization’s “alternative news” and even having a couple of my personal blog entries cross-posted on his site, I eventually began to tire of the shtick. There were a number of things which contributed to my rejection of the conspiracist mindset.
First, as I began to get more involved in political activism and came to know people in positions of real power, their bumbling humanity undercut any sense that they might be part of a massive globalist conspiracy. That observation added credence to the idea that vast, complex conspiracies like those posited by 9/11 truthers, who more often than not don’t even agree with each other, would require far more covert cooperation among innumerable co-conspirators than is remotely feasible.
I also found it suspect that Jones and his ilk never presented practical solutions, even within the context of their unique worldview. If anything, they seemed to employ the very fear-mongering tactics they accused others of using. To listen to Jones on a regular basis is to live on the edge of a knife, in constant anticipation of tomorrow’s martial law, complete with door-to-door gun confiscation and cattle cars delivering patriots to concentration camps.
It must be a heady feeling to know that you are one of the few who know what is really going on. You can have that welcome sense of superiority over the sheeple around you. Then too, there is the excitement of being in a world in which a vast struggle is going on behind the scenes. There is the delicious fear that tomorrow may be the day when they round dissenters like yourself up and ship them off to the FEMA concentration camps. Along with the human instinct for imposing order on chaotic or random events,these must be a powerful psychological impulse to believe in conspiracies.
For my part, I do not give much credence to conspiracy theories. There have been many conspiracies throughout history, in the sense that people have plotted and connived ways to control events, but the fact that many of these conspiracies have either been less than successful, or have not remained secret for very long suggests that a vast conspiracy of a powerful secret society is not very probable. Most conspiracy theories assume that the conspirators possess superhuman intelligence and foresight and have influence everywhere. The truth is that people are idiots. I mean no one is capable of planning for every conceivable contingency and even if one were able to, something unexpected is likely to occur. How many military campaigns have gone exactly as the generals have planned them?
Then too, the conspiracy theory requires everyone in the conspiracy to be of one mind in the planning and execution of the plot. How likely is that? Think about the times in school when your teacher had the students form groups for a group project. How did that go? Think about your coworkers. Are there never disputes over what to do and how to do it? In a conspiracy which includes the most powerful people in the world, wouldn’t they also have some of the biggest egos in the world? How likely are people used to giving commands going to submit to other people’s plans?
It is also human nature to form factions. Every major religion and many political movements splits into sects and schisms given time. If there were some vast conspiracy out there, how long would it take before the movement would split? Why wouldn’t some disgruntled former conspirator go public?
Hudson concludes with the real danger that such theories pose.
Therein lays the reason why conspiracists are genuinely dangerous. Just as it would be ill-advised to drive while blindfolded or fly an airplane in whiteout conditions without instruments, proceeding through life in denial of the facts at hand leads inexorably to harm. Genuine threats to life, liberty, and property exist in the real world and deserve an informed response. Conflating those with imagined or unproven threats diverts attention from where it ought to be focused. More fundamentally, the goal of a properly whittled down government limited to its single rightful purpose of protecting individual rights, if achieved, would inherently defang any malevolent conspiracy. So why not focus on achieving that rather than converting people to believe “the truth” regarding a particular incident?
In my experience, the conspiratorial mindset presents the believer with an excuse for inactivity. Sure, the Alex Joneses of the world happily trot around the globe chasing Bilderbergers, shoving cameras in people’s faces, and ranting in bullhorns. But that’s not activism. It doesn’t accomplish anything. It doesn’t affect public policy or otherwise secure individual rights. On the contrary, it drives an addictive sense of perpetual revolution where believers stand ever ready to shoot back, yet won’t bother to participate in the political process and effect real change. It’s so much easier to sit holed up in your bomb shelter, cleaning your arsenal for the day the Man comes to take it, than to roll up your sleeves and commit to the humble and often tedious work of politics. One of those options has the virtue of seeding real change. The other proves self-indulgent.
In fact, you have to wonder whether the Bilderbergers are spreading outlandish conspiracy theories in order to hide what they are really out there. If I don’t post on this blog again, you’ll know they got to me.
- Here’s A Pretty Crazy Conspiracy Theory About Metal Gear Solid V (kotaku.com.au)
- Moon Landing Faked!!! Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories (scientificamerican.com)
- ‘Idiot’ Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Explodes On BBC Show (telegraph.co.uk)
- “The best predictor of belief in a conspiracy theory is belief in other conspiracy theories.” (parislemon.com)
- The Problem With Conspiracy Theorists Like Alex Jones As Opposed To Sceptics (theglobalistreport.com)