I’ve researched many conspiracy theories and countless other controversial phenomenon over my lifetime, and am formally trained in research and discerning BS. And I actually read BOOKS on the subject published by HISTORIANS, not kooks. I have found some conspiracies to be true in one or more ways, and some perhaps more than most would believe. But I’m not gullible enough to fall for something just because it claims to be some suppressed secret. Unfortunately, most people are.
And it’s gotten worse. Thanks to the Internet, anyone can have a voice and say anything they want, with countless people following their word as truth, even if there is not a shred of credibility. That is why 99% of the conspiracy theories out there are TOTAL BUNK. I’ve become quite the connoisseur of scams, deceptions, and propaganda techniques. There’s plenty of things to be paranoid about in this world, but few of them are being talked about. Only the ridiculous diversions of attention-seekers and their acolytes are widespread “secrets” being “exposed”.
I am aware and catch things in the news few other people do and make connections they do not. I know quite a bit about what is going on behind the scenes and ALSO all about what people shout from the mountaintop they THINK is going on. And I know that no matter how much we are being misled, we are being even more misled by nutjobs who are trying to “expose” some truth they know nothing about. They are hitting the wrong targets nearly every time, completely missing real issues in favor of more entertaining “truths”.
For example, the conclusions from things like “Zeitgeist: The Movie” have some degree of validity, but 95% of the facts are wrong and the reasoning lies somewhere between stupid and clever propaganda. I could have re-written it with the real smoking gun facts and logic instead of uneducated props on a backdrop of dramatic music. It is not agreement, but dishonesty that stokes my ire against such things. Oh, and maybe a bit of metaphysical envy that the truth is never as shiny and digestible as a fiction.
But the problem is the mentally unskilled masses, and how easily they are led. The audience makes it profitable, even if it’s a die-hard minority swallowing it. Among those “true believers”, no amount of evidence to the contrary will ever satisfy them or change their mind. This growing class of people tends to be gullible from the start and ineducable in the end.
In contrast, there can be a sound evaluative process. I know it is sound because when I use it, my mind changes when the relevant information presents itself. I refuse to start with assumptions and examine and re-examine carefully at the evidence on both sides. I even do original research when I need to.
That makes me a bit unpopular with people who live in a black-and-white world. And I get ridiculed by closed, confused minds for having my eyes closed. The irony has finally wore on me to the point I can no longer just bite my tongue and be diplomatic about it. It just saddens me that the people who are the most sheeplike, led by the nose over any nefarious hint of a plot, are the ones convinced everyone else is hoodwinked when they dare not accept the klaxon call. And I am personally tired of the threadbare assumptions used against me and others that we haven’t done our homework or we would simply agree. But maybe we should be forgiving (or ask forgivemness?) since these “experts” invested so much time to being right — to discovering what the rest of us don’t know! No, when having done due diligence, hearing really bad, constantly debunked fiction passing as news is just too much to bear.
For example, when someone posts that snippet about Bill Gates at TED talking about reducing population through immunizations, there are massive numbers of clueless people who never took the time to watch the WHOLE SPEECH. I did. But how many people who did not are claiming he called for a eugenic solution when clear as day he did not?
Half-truths and misinformation is no longer in the hands of the elite, but every person who can edit a video, fake a document using off-the-shelf tools, and hit the “share” button on Facebook or forward to every email in their address book.
Yes, I’m mad as hell, and maybe I shouldn’t vent here, but hopefully my pleas will someday make at least ONE person stop claiming ignorance against people who DO know about a conspiracy and simply do not agree. Honestly, I’ve been in these discussions a thousand times in a thousand places, and could argue or bring so much to these topics. Maybe we’d all learn something or I’d even change my mind. But I just wish to spend the energy to deal with it in those cases where otherwise simple things will have to be spelled out down to the letter, and likely to no avail.
The “What Do We Know?” Game
And what is the fallback position when inconveneient facts are presented? To assert that nothing can be truly known and so we should not dismiss anything. Well, guess what? We SHOULD. There’s a little thing called plausibility, and the fact that we do know a great deal.
For example, tt is a skill to consider and work past issues of historical accuracy. With practice and diligence, one can be more than reasonably aware of bias, historical editing, and take into consideration all these things you mention and more. Personally, when I say I have studied the history of a subject, I do not merely mean I read a book on the subject by some person and take it at face value. I strive for scholarship that addresses multiple interpretations and contradictions, shows their work (citations), follow those citations accordingly, and even read between the lines of what is NOT being said. And I don’t make assumptions about the pieces until the puzzle is more formed and only then realize which ones fit and which do not.
I may do some cursory research that satisfies me on some subjects, but the ones I choose to be knowledgeable about I take the process above very seriously. I especially like to review a subject’s understanding over different periods, to see what was filtered out over time (mostly natural without intention of dishonesty). The books I have unburried in the library system often haven’t seen the light of day in a 100 years. There is much more to this process, of course, but you get the idea.
And more than knowledge, there’s understanding — that rare thing that separates those who get it from those who Google it. For example, there have been always been “secret” societies, but few people even understand what a “society” is in this context. This takes rare insight into the sociological aspects of politics. The gist of the lesson is that any labelled group is not homogenous, and any agenda is sought after by disparate groups in loose alliances that rarely if ever make it into the history books. (Most of these are reasonable speculation, and it’s easier to find where such things are NOT true than when they are — which is why today’s conspiracy theories all all so much low-hanging fruit for me. Only the ones I can’t easily dismiss keep me up at night, and they are few.)
So when someone thinks that the Illuminatii and Freemasonry are completely unrelated, they are ignorant; to think they are anything like each other or after the same things is idiocy. The same is true for why any two countries go to war. Countries are not people or instruments used for any one purpose, but a multitude of overlapping agendas, sometimes contradictory in both goal and ethicality. The truth is far more complex than any tabloid-level understanding, and yet that is nearly all to be found in the vaste Internet wastelands.
And we can reasonably infer these agendas and who is behind them not so much as what people do and say, but by the propaganda of what they WISH us to believe. I am a connoisseur of such things, and what should be a college-taught skill of discernment makes people like me look like a psychic or a nutjob, depending on the other person’s temperament and experience.
Back to the point: It is a cop-out to say that because we cannot know exactly with 100% certainty how something was that there is no such difference between a stupidly constructed interpretation and a reasonable or even highly likely one. Can we be certain of anything? Is that even required to have a mature discussion on a subject? Just the opposite.
Otherwise we fall into the danger of “what if’s” just because by some stretch of the imagination something is theoretically possible. “A thousand questions do not make a doubt.” It leaves us to not believe in anything and only accept that which assumes what we know is wrong. And being neither logical nor sane does not stop us from falling for it.
Don’t get me wrong … We OUGHT to question or even doubt anything and everything from time to time. Nothing is sacred in honest scholarship. But unless we can separate tantalizing random possibilities from REASONABLE doubt, we shouldn’t even be in the game. And we should investigate the claims of doubt as vigorously as we test the existing assumptions and known facts.
Of Blame and Prophesy: Nostradamus, Marx, and the Occupy Movement
Frankly, many of the evils in our world are not conspiracies but unintended consequences — ones that some might have seen coming and taken advantage of to blame certain parties. For example, I submit “The Protocols of Zion” — a long-proven hoax no better than Piltdown Man, yet one that refuses to die, simply because some think it foretold what came to happen. Well, many works are claimed to be prophetic, but only after the fact. It is quite easy to take any work and see how it “came true” yet not quite as easy to predict beforehand. Has anyone EVER taken a quatrain of Nostradamus and accurately prediced something in any detail? I rest my case.
But even when they DO seem to predict the future well, works like the Protocols have a purpose of looking at where the world is heading as an intentional act by some party rather than a natural progression of the time. People need scapegoats because they cannot understand the natural powers at play, which are often much stronger and more complex than simple human intentions (which are never that simple anyway).
In a sense, this includes works like Das Kapital. Communism for generations was the means by which certain “classes” were blamed for the plight of others as an excuse to pillage and put new people in ultimate power. Was there any truth to the theory? Of course, SOME. But was is intentional? That answer is not so black-and-white, but such a simpleton’s view seems encouraged by Marx and Engles.
But now we have the “Occupy” movement that is bigoted against some fictitious 1% — which statistically may include your family doctor, the apartment complex owner, and the guy down the street who owns a successful plumbing company. It is based on the after-the-fact scapegoating of disparity on both Capitalism and the people who benefit most from it, forgetting the stronger factors at play such as Corporatism and the Nanny State.
So what can we learn from all this? If we treat political and social issues from a conspiratorial perspective, we are chasing phantoms, and if it were possible to “catch” the ones that are real in some way, their shadowy spheres of influence would be simply replaced by others.
However, if we focus on building systems and principles that dissuade conspiratorial influences, maybe, just maybe, we can transcend the game. And no small part of this would be to elevate the common mind to a place where bad consiracy theories wouldn’t choke out the light of intellect, but be weeded quickly from our attention long enough to find the root of those things are not not only unseen, but real.