Friday, 10 October 2014

It's all a conspiracy!

My brother has, in the past, postulated that government agents may be engaged to combat conspiracy theories which threaten the ruling order, by inventing and disseminating fake conspiracy theories so patently ludicrous that their sheer absurdity serves to discredit the entire sphere of conspiracy theories. It’s an interesting thought. (He also reckons he might be rather good at this job - he’s probably right, but I can’t image how one would embark on such a career!)

Personally, I’ve no time for conspiracy theories, or those who propagate them. They are fascinating - and yet often so tortured and tenuous that it amazes me just how many people seem to take them seriously. In many cases, it feels as though the theory is not a conclusion reached after examining evidence but a twisting of correlations in order to fit the narrative which the theorist has already decided he wants to tell. In other words, conspiracy theorists know what they want their theory to be in advance - then they go out and look for evidence to support their hypotheses. This is the opposite of an evidence-based scientific process.

It is this dogmatic adherence to principle, often in spite of evidence, which makes me so suspicious of conspiracy theorists in general. Indeed, the absence of evidence supporting the conspiracy theorists’ stance - and sometimes even the presence of evidence directly contrary to it - is more likely to be presented as further evidence in their favour than taken as a sign to reconsider the position (ie. the lack of evidence is, in itself, ‘proof’ that something is being suppressed by ‘the establishment’).

Conspiracy theories can become almost cult-like in nature. And this is exactly why they are nonsense. Anything which has a basis in truth is not advocated solely by hysterical zealots screeching on the internet.

How many times do you see someone on Facebook posting a link to an article claiming to have uncovered some great ‘truth’ about the world in which we live, which is oh so obvious when once your eyes have been opened to it; and yet, if you comment to question the premise - not in a hostile or offensive way, but simply in the spirit of having an open debate on the topic - the original poster instantly becomes defensive, and highly personal? Anyone who can back up their position with facts doesn’t have to resort to such tactics, but is happy to enter into a reasoned discourse and present their side of the argument in a rational, logical way. Conspiracy theorists do the opposite of this, and the great irony is that these people who delight in telling the rest of us among the common herd to ‘open our eyes’ and ‘wake up’ and ‘see things for what they really are’ are actually some of the most closed-minded people one is likely to encounter.

Which is why none of what I’ve written here will make any difference to people who actually believe conspiracy theories - of that, I am certain. “Oh, but of course, you would say that. You’ve been taken in!” they will say. “Of course there’s no evidence to support conspiracy theories - it’s all been carefully removed or covered over by the ruling establishment, to keep you in the dark!” (And thus, as I’ve mentioned, a lack of evidence to support a conspiracy theory becomes, in itself, evidence supporting that conspiracy theory.) But this is precisely the problem I have with conspiracy theorists - the unwavering faith in their own agenda, the twisting of facts to suit their narrative, and the absolute point-blank refusal to countenance anything outside the confines of their own world view makes it supremely difficult to take any of what they say seriously.


Giles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Giles said...

I think it's a conspiracy theory that I wrote a comment on here but it never went on!!!.....

Giles said...

Anyway, the comment I tried to leave (and not the one I deleted because it had a typo which I couldn't edit!) was along the lines of this:

It's a good job we all ignored those crazy conspiracy theorists who said that Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris abused lots of children, and the ones who said that anti-depressants could cause suicides, and who said that stomach ulcers had a real, physical cause, and who said that surgeons not washing their hands before surgery could transmit tiny particles of pathogens which could make their patients ill or die, and who said that working with asbestos fibres could cause horrendous types of lung cancer, same with smoking, and who said that the US military were responsible for the anthrax attacks, and who said that some chemical companies collude with governments to put things into foods and the environment which are known to kill bees and cause widespread serious disease to people......

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