"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 23, 1800

Thursday, April 12, 2012

C Is For......Conspiracy Theories

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the term Conspiracy Theory thus:

A theory seeking to explain a disputed case or matter as a plot by a secret group or alliance rather than an individual or isolated act.

That sounds about right to me as far as it goes, but I don't think it does the idea justice. I personally love conspiracy theories. I find them fascinating, not for what they propose which is often racist, Marxist or just plain stupid, but I am intrigued by the way they grow and form and get passed around. I find the whole idea of conspiracy theories to be hugely useful in looking at how people, both individually and in groups, think in a political sense.  Although the Holocaust was made possible in part by using conspiracy theory-based propaganda, conspiracy theories are not always dangerous. Sometimes they are just funny or interesting or distractions from the real horrors of humanity.
 I was recently reminded of how much conspiracy theories and their adherents fascinate me while watching a debate between three men running for the GOP nomination to fill the US 7th District Congressional seat. One of these guys, a man named Randy Crow, had a website that is almost too perfectly conspiracy theory-based to be real. He used it the last time he ran for congress and has apparently taken it down, but here is a little snippet of it. 
I find it interesting Congress placed sanctions on the Taliban forbidding their members to leave Afghanistan, closed Afghanistan's foreign offices, & stopped all arms sales to Afghanistan in January 2001. These restrictions on the Taliban make it difficult to believe the Taliban could have played a role in Sept.11.
Since elimination of inheritance taxes does so much to eliminate God from our lives and communi$m, and since the fourth generation na$i'$ unconstitutional Executive Orders merging Church and State were also his first order of business after Big George's Omega Agency appointed Little George President, one can go to the bank knowing the elimination of God from our lives and the creation of a Hegelian State religion with Little George a vomit, look what the cat drug in god, is vastly important to Big George's Hegelian Omega Agency/New World Order.
Thirdly, I would like to point out the New York times types are soo greedy and dumb, they have forgotten to realize their game plan guarantees the end of the planet. The planet simply cannot survive environmentally the necessary wars to achieve their goal, theft of all the money.

Oh my God, I LOVE this stuff!  The $ in place of letters is a nice touch, I thought. Well, Randy toned it down for the debate. He was pretty good on a lot of the issues and the craziest thing that he said was letting us all in on the fact that the Federal Reserve had arranged the assassinations of Abe Lincoln and JFK to keep them from taking the country back to the gold standard. But he displayed some of the textbook signs of conspiracy theory silliness.

One of the hallmarks of conspiracy theories is the use of pronouns rather than any proper names. "They" are responsible for raising gas prices, "they make it so" the little guy can't compete, "they" can make the stock market go down as fast as "they" made it go up. "They" took the country to war to profit "their" bottom line. Randy did specify that usually he was talking about "monopolists" when he said "they," but that's really no better. See, a theory can't be dis-proven if it never actually proposes anything.  I can not convince anyone that "they" don't manipulate the commodities market to make gas prices rise and fall by buying "the politicians" if that's all there is to it. Who took how much money from where and gave it to whom in what form when to cause who to propose or vote for what legislation to bring about what policy that resulted in what effect? No one will ever say. You can't, because "they" control all the information. The fact that the theory is completely empty of specifics is used as proof that it must be true. That, in my opinion, is what defines a Conspiracy Theory.

There is no shortage of them, either. I looked at the Wikipedia page offering a list of conspiracy theories and it is huge. I couldn't read them all, they made my brain cells start to drop dead. They deal with nature, war, politics, economics, history, crime, assassination, aliens and medicine. Everyone probably holds onto one or two, all the while thinking they are perfectly logical, not like all that crazy stuff others believe. The person who believes fluoride in the water is killing us and vaccines make our kids autistic laughs at the person who believes in Bigfoot and alien spacecraft hidden below Area 51. The person that finds it ludicrous that the Knights Templar and the Catholic Church have hidden the truth about Jesus' wife from the world for thousands of years think it's perfectly reasonable that a small group of mysterious men control the whole world's economy like a puppet on a string. Some are convinced that the CIA released crack into the black community as a path to genocide but think it's silly to believe that FDR and LBJ crafted the New Deal and Great Society to destroy the black family and provide the Democratic Party with a permanent under-class voting base. There are people convinced the Bush family and the Tri-Lateral Commission hired the Isreali Mossad to blow up the World Trade Center on 9/11 while shunning those who just know for certain that the US government textbooks purposely leave out the fact that ancient Egyptians were black and flew around in airplanes 4000 years ago. There is a conspiracy theory to fit any or all political leanings and interests.

And they are seductive. I know people who are much smarter than I, have much higher IQs than I have, that are full adherents to some of these theories. That really makes me think. Why, if I'm right and these are all bunk, do such brilliant people fall for them? I think the answer lies not so much in intelligence as human nature. Conspiracy theories appeal to the basic laziness in all of us. They provide easy answers that can't be proven wrong. There is no risk of finding out your closely held belief is total crap-ola, because all contrary evidence is part of the conspiracy. I think I've never found conspiracy theories compelling as true beliefs not because I'm any smarter than your average person, but because I'm not. I've been proven wrong so many times that it doesn't bother me at all. I'm not the "gifted" kid that's expected to be right all the time, I'm just the "B" student who feels no pressure from myself or the world to have all the answers. It's liberating, really.

But I'm wondering if I don't sound like a conspiracy theorist myself when I say that maybe all these stories are meant to keep us distracted. It's easy to keep people in line if they are blaming some mysterious "they" for their problems and failures. There is likely to be less competition from those who think that the world is arranged against their success, because such people aren't likely to try very hard. What would be the point, if "they" will never let you become all you can be?

But who would be behind such a plan? "They" doesn't cut it for me, I'm afraid. Nope, our biggest enemy is not "they," it's ourselves. When we fail to think things through logically, when we scapegoat others for our own failings, when we teach our children that they can't make their wildest dreams come true because "they" will keep them down, then we do more damage to our lives and our futures than any "they" could ever dream of doing.

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