Quote of the Day, May 11 2011 — Conspiracy theories

“A critical — the critical — psychological purpose of a conspiracy theory is to make a complex world simple enough for the simple to understand, and in addition give those believing in the conspiracy theory a moral sheen as well — they are “brave” for seeing the truth that so many others refuse to see.”

– Ace, Ace of Spades website, post dated May 03 2011

I read conspiracy theories as a hobby — it’s a quick & easy way to look at the world from a completely different perspective, so when I come back to my own usual perspective it’s with fresh eyes to see if there’s any blind spots I have or things I’ve been avoiding admitting to myself.

Ace’s description of conspiracy theories & their rationales is one of the most succinct I’ve ever seen.

I waited until further down this post to start putting in links & titles because Ace — and all the rest of the contributors at Ace of Spades — are uanbashedly conservative commentators who are a lot of fun to read and always have interesting points too.

However, the point of these “Quote of the Day” posts is not to create a political blog, but just put up stuff that I wish people would think about more often.

And a lot of people I know would have immediately turned off their brains & discounted everything above as soon as they saw the blog post that quote came from was titled “Tea Party Spokesman: Let’s Stop Talking About “Birthers” And Focus On All The “Racers” In The Media“. And the link to Ace of Spades home page is ace.mu.nu.

The full text of his description about conspiracy theories is below. I’m not posting it because I don’t want readers to go the original post, but because I think it’s so well written I want to keep the full text somewhere easy to access for myself in case the original link ever dies or changes.

1. They are constructed specifically to be nonfalsifiable.

2. They postulate “wheels within wheels” hidden reasons and secret agendas moving the world’s events. They are crafted precisely as a means of ignoring the real, evidenced, surface reason for an event in favor of an imagined, unevidenced, allegedly “real” reason beneath it.

3. They broadly indict large numbers of vague, unnamed people as being part of the illicit conspiracy. “A conspiracy so vast” that it is pointless to name this specific person or that as being in the conspiracy.

4. They are purposely constructed by those with a less-than-exhaustive knowledge base about a subject in order to have a justification to ignore all that knowledge (of which the conspiracist is ignorant); that is, the conspiracist looks for a theory in which his lack of knowledge is irrelevant, and postulates further still that those with knowledge are actually compromised as analysts because their minds are clouded by petty details, whereas the more “unencumbered by knowledge” conspiracy theorist is not so blinded by facts and can see the “big picture.”

5. A critical — the critical — psychological purpose of a conspiracy theory is to make a complex world simple enough for the simple to understand, and in addition give those believing in the conspiracy theory a moral sheen as well — they are “brave” for seeing the truth that so many others refuse to see. In two ways, then — intellectual and moral — the conspiracy theory serves as a vanity, and as a dubious reason for self-valuation.

2 thoughts on “Quote of the Day, May 11 2011 — Conspiracy theories

  1. I don’t think that’s true at all… But then again, it also depends on who you define a “conspiracy theorist.” There are a lot of things going on that are really crazy. I don’t believe in UFOs or anything like that, but facts speak for themselves.
    One of the authors points is that you can’t come up with names. I can name quite a few off of the top of my head. The funny thing is that most of the time the government fully admits to doing something, but most people don’t pay attention to world events. (That is, REAL world events. Not American Idol or Dancing With the Stars)
    Unplug from Fox, CNN, and MSNBC and you will quickly start to see what the real agenda is and the players involved.

  2. Thank you for your comment Cody. Yes, there is a lot you can learn about the world if you stop focusing on irrelevant minutiae like American Idol, Dancing With The Stars and just about anything that’s on E! or Entertainment Tonight or any similar show.

    And yes, there are some people who can both articulate a non-standard view of the world and come up with names & facts to support their view, and can even create a fairly sturdy train of logic that supports their view.

    A good example of a good argument for a non-standard theory is the book “Born In Blood” by John J. Robinson. The subtitle is “The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry” and in the book Robinson puts forward a decent argument that the Freemasons were possibly linked to old remnants of the Knights Templar. While usually the uttering of “Freemasons” and “Knights Templar” in the same sentence is a sure sign that the speaker is a conspiracy nut who has just boarded the train to looneyville, Robinson makes a convincing case.

    However, lucidity such as that being shown by yourself or Robinson is sadly lacking in many (even most) people who are arguing non-standard views.

    Most of them are like a co-worker I once had who spent a half-hour trying to convince me they were running the world & trying to keep the little guy down. I spent the whole half-hour asking for a single example of who “they” were, either by name or organization, and kept getting the same answer — “They! Them! You know!! Everyone knows they’re out there!!”. And again I’d say “Well, I don’t know know that they’re out there, and your whole entire argument depends on there being this group of people who through some usnpecified means are keeping the little guy down, so can you please explain who “they” are???” And we’d go around the same argument again, “They! Them! You know!! Everyone knows they’re out there!!”

    For people like that, Ace’s description is exactly right.

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