Coming up in multiple discussions of late has been the subject of “Conspiracy Theory.” Former Green Jobs Czar Van Jones was primarily pushed out of his post because he signed a statement sympathetic to those who preach that the government was somehow involved in orchestrating 9/11.
More recently in the debate over Glenn Beck, the talk show star’s opponents (both on the left and the wimpy right) have tried to suggest that the problem with the media sensation is that he’s a “conspiracy theorist” or that he cavorts with those who harbor such sympathies.
And who could forget the waves of “Birthers” who show up to bug us with their inanities every time one of our bloggers dismissively mentions their pet conspiracy?
But what are we actually talking about here? What is conspiracy thinking? And what about conspiracy thinking makes it a dangerous logical fallacy that American Patriots should reject? To answer this question, I present an email dialogue I stumbled into with a 9/11 Truther who started emailing me after NewsReal’s Chris Yogerst delivered a full-throated rebuttal to this particular variety of conspiracist nonsense.
The value in this dialogue to our present discussions comes in several ways. First, we see that conspiracy thinking is a specific mindset which can be analyzed and understood. Second we see that Beck is not possessed of it. Third, we see that Jones is. (If you believe in conspiracy theory, you believe in more than just one. Jones embraced not just 9/11 Truther conspiracy gargbage but also Mumia Abu Jamal conspiracy garbage and “racist corporations poisoning black people” conspiracy garbage.)
Fourth, it’s entertaining reading. Or at least I think it is.
What if 9/11 was not as advertised?
[He then provided a link to his conspiracy blog which I won't be including here.]
E. V. [Not his real name]
I have a basic canned response to every conspiracy theorist who emails me or comments on the blog. I’m going to encourage them to read Bob Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s satire of conspiracy thinking The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
Looks like an interesting book. However, I am looking for someone who is absolutely convinced of the governments’ accounting of events on 9/11) to explain the appearant discrepancies I have observed, with repect to certain videos provided by the authorities. Have you seen them? What are your explainations of said videos? Thanks.
This seemed like an odd question for him to start with. Who has such blind faith in the government these days?
What moron would be absolutely convinced of the government’s accounting of any event? One needn’t believe everything the government says or have an answer to ever Truther’s argument to reject the absurdity of claiming “inside job.”
I recommended you read Illuminatus! because every person who appreciates conspiracy theory (and I consider myself an aficionado) needs to encounter Robert Anton Wilson’s work. Once you have, it’s impossible to take conspiracy theory seriously ever again. Also, upon spending a little time out in the world, one realizes just how incompetent and corrupt human beings are. The idea of “great conspiracies” quickly becomes absurd as soon as someone gets an idea of human nature and human weakness. The more humans conspire to do something, the more they screw it up.
William of Ockham has a good answer on this subject as well.
Further, I don’t “believe” in anything. I accept all ideas and propositions on a sliding scale of probability for truth. On the subject of 9/11 conspiracy theories, the possibility that our government was involved in some fashion is certainly possible, however ridiculously improbable. So I feel little need to spend my time wading through Truther arguments.
Don’t be too thrown by the semantics of that last paragraph. Just because I recoil at the dogmatism of the word “belief” does not mean there aren’t subjects and ideas about which I feel passionate. It does not mean that I’m not willing to die for ideas. For example, it’s called the American Idea, not the American Belief for a reason.
Note: I’m going to leave in all of the Truther Crackpot’s typos.
**The first requirement for any operation to succeed is for the target population to believe that, “it can’t happen here”.
“What moron would be absolutely convinced…. [He was quoting my various points back to me and responding. All such quotations will be in bold.]“
**Take any group of people. Charge them with a motivation, and depending on the resoursefullness of that group, they will accomplish that objective. Even if it’s only temporary. Nazi Germany comes to mind, however, it is not the only example. Reichstag.
“I recommended you read Illuminatus! because…”
** Ah, human nature. Well there are two sides to that argument. All it takes for evil to succeed, is for good men to do nothing.
“William of Ockham also has a good answer on this subject as well.”
**So did Shakespere. Ther is more to heaven and earth, than is dreamt of in “ones” philosophy.
“Further I don’t “believe” in anything…”
**Surely one must look at all the evidence, if one would conclude any degree of probabilty. Arguments aside, there seems to be certain reasonable evidence that is available for inspection.
Do we really have to invest our time in going after ever conspiracy whack-job’s claims? What are the implications of that argument?
I answer these questions tomorrow in Part II of “Crackpot Chronicles: Van Jones, Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, Rorschach, the Truthers, And Me.”