March 10, 2012 at 4:41 am #81159
Some may find this article on conspiracy theories of interest. Many will find that it is a confirmation of the views we have stated in the past. – “Are there real conspiracies out there?” And the answer is: Of course. Iran-Contra, Watergate, Teapot Dome. In Canada, we had something called the Sponsorship Scandal, which no one here has heard of. It involved the Liberal Party and their fundraising irregularities. Real conspiracies do happen. They tend to be small, they tend to be grubby, and they tend to be about money or sex. They don’t tend to be about taking over the planet in the name of the Vatican, or the Bilderbergers. That’s the way you can tell a real conspiracy from a bogus conspiracy theory…”
“…Originally, I thought I was going to have to spend 10 years researching my book, because there are so many conspiracy theories out there. Yet it turns out that conspiracy theories actually are remarkably similar. They all follow the same structure. The structure is this: that there is evil in the world — terrorist attacks, depressions, wars — but that all of these evil acts are perpetrated by a small group of conspiring men (it is always men, not women) in a smoke filled room, somewhere in the world, trying to further some kind of evil agenda. What is interesting is that, for purposes of this narrative, the actual identity of the evildoer — Jew, Muslim, banker — is fairly inter-changeable…The point is that the structure of conspiracy theories is remarkably consistent…Ancient conspiracism helps us understand modern conspiracism.“
“…conspiracy theories are narratives about why bad things happen, about why evil exists in the world. But, they are also narratives of distrust. The people who believe in conspiracy theories obviously don’t trust the government, or the media, or any public institutions…And so when you ask a conspiracy theorist “When did you start believing that 9/11 was an inside job?”, you’re asking them a very personal question. You are essentially asking them the question: “When did your world fall apart? When did you start believing that everybody was lying to you?”…You very rarely run into someone who believes only one conspiracy theory. Typically, what happens is that at first they’ll buy into one conspiracy theory, then they’ll get on the Internet, they’ll get on a few websites, they’ll start watching some videos, and before you know it, they believe dozens of conspiracy theories...The first question they asked is: What *else* is the government lying about? When you ask that question, the extrapolation of it can lead you into some very dark areas, and you start believing that the government is lying about *everything*, from what vaccines to take to whether cigarettes are bad for you, to whether there are UFOs in Colorado — to who destroyed the Twin Towers...In some cases, the source of the distrust is something very personal. I interviewed some people whose children had autism and they had become convinced that their children’s condition was a result of vaccines that the children had taken, in particular the MMR vaccine. Believing that, they also came to believe that the pharmaceutical companies and the government, the FDA in particular, were lying to them about tests they had conducted on these vaccines. If the FDA was lying to them about the vaccines, and the government was lying to protect the FDA … what else was the government lying about? And from then on, they start believing all sorts of things.“
I think many in the WSM will share the speakers despair when he concedes the futility of rational argument. We all have had those frustrating banging our heads against the wall moments when debating people holding conspiracy theories.
“No matter the reason that a person had been brought into the world of conspiracy, it was very difficult to bring them out again. It was very rare that you could get a conspiracy theorist to “recover.” Once their trust is broken with the powers that be, it is like a broken relationship — it is very hard to build the trust back. One thing I confess in the last chapter of the book is that I’ve never won an argument with a conspiracy theorist. I spent three years working on the book, speaking with conspiracy theorists and never once was I able to convince any of these people that … you know, maybe it was al-Qaeda that did 9/11, or maybe Barack Obama was actually born in Hawaii. That’s because, for the people who adopt these theories, it becomes a worldview. It becomes like a form of religion. And like all religions, it becomes very precious to these people, because it is an explanation for evil. And, they hang on to it as a sort of security blanket to explain why bad things happen. Unlike real religions, conspiracy theories do not supply gods, but they do supply something that might be even more important than gods for some people — they supply demons. They supply a singular address for evil upon which you can blame everything. This fetish for using conspiracy theories as a tool to change history — to make it align with some militant ideology or other — it exists on both sides of the political spectrum.…They were able to bring ideology and reality into a unified whole only by creating a theory that somehow this act of terrorism had been inflicted on America by its own leaders. So, it protects them from cognitive dissonance. It is a bridge between ideology and reality.“
“..But conspiracy theories also have a political function — not just a psychological or quasi-spiritual function: For militant political movements, conspiracy theories act as a bridge between political ideology and reality. Take Barack Obama Birthers, for instance. Let’s say you spent your entire political life believing that America is a right-wing country, and that it would never elect a left-wing Harvard type like Barack Obama — a community organizer from Chicago, no less. And then along comes the 2008 election, and this is exactly what America does — this shatters your view of the world. It is comforting to think that somehow that historical episode never happened, that it is illegitimate, that it is a hoax… You can roll back presidential history in God’s eyes, and you can show the world that this episode never really happened. You can erase Obama’s presidency, and thereby bring the real world into compliance with the world that exists in your ideology…”
And we can all relate to this type of converstaion we find ourselves in.
“I was sipping my coffee, and the waitress came to talk to me. This being America, and 2011, it took her about eight seconds to talk about how horrible Obama is. It was very sad. She told me she had a mother who was 52 with two degrees and can’t find a job. She herself was working for what I assume was a very low wage in a pizza restaurant. She has a three year old and very little hope for the future. So it didn’t surprise me that she hated Obama and that she thought Obama was responsible for all of her problems. Ten minutes later, she started talking about immigrants. She talked about a successful immigrant family that she knew who were running not one, but two restaurants now, and had three cars. She claimed, falsely I think, that they were receiving all kinds of government support because they were Mexican. What she was saying began to creep into what was approaching a conspiracy theory. I thought it was implausible, but I listened to her. I realized for people like that and for tens of millions of other people around the United States, it is really hard to accept a reality where the United States is a second-rate power compared to China, where you’re in danger of losing not one, but two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the economy is a mess, where people’s mortgages are underwater. I realize that a lot of this stuff maybe doesn’t apply to people in this room; but for people for whom it does apply, it is much easier to find one single person or group of people to blame for all their problems than it is to analyze the extremely complex subject of, for instance, mortgage-backed Wall Street securities, which most people can’t understand. So, you blame taxes, or you blame ObamaCare or you blame Obama himself…”March 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm #87922AnonymousInactive
I am not sure I understand the point here. A lot of conspiracy theories have a lot of evidence backing them up. My point would be – so what? If workers take control and establish socialism we can build smoke filled room for people who wish to conspire.March 11, 2012 at 2:38 am #87923
One of the points is that many conspiracy theories hinder the understanding of the workings of capitalism and diverts from our struggle for socialism. It is not all about who killed JFK or whatever . If it was my response may be similar to yours – who killed Kennedy – who cares But as can be seen on another thread on this forum concerning ideas on banking there exists a very commonly held view that banks can create money/credit from thin air. Such beliefs directly influences the manner of the class struggle. Another important consequence was the HIV causes AIDS denial by the government of South Africa which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of victims who were never treated with antireviral drugs. Nor should it be forgotten that the anti-Jewish conspiracy had a bearing on the Holocaust Conspiracy theories are not harmless. We should seek out why people fall for them so we can counter them more effectivelyMarch 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm #87924
I came across this article which again confirms much of the WSM view. “a democracy cannot function without a public that is properly informed. Informing the public used to be the role of serious newspapers and television networks. Of course, not everything in the mainstream media is always true: Mistakes are made. News organisations have political biases, sometimes reflecting the views and interests of their owners.But high-quality journalism has always relied on its reputation for probity. Editors, as well as reporters, at least tried to get the facts right. That is why people read Le Monde, The New York Times, or, indeed, The Washington Post. Filtering nonsense was one of their duties – and their main selling point.That has changed. Populist demagogues in politics and the mass media are doing everything they can to discredit the quality press as propaganda organs for left-wing elites who sneer at the views of ordinary Americans. Santorum pretends to speak for these people – that is, for a minority of Americans who are mostly white, provincial, highly religious, deeply conservative on cultural and social issues, and convinced that Obama and all Europeans are dangerous godless socialists.The point is not whether Santorum is right or wrong factually. What he says “feels” right to his followers, because it conforms to their prejudices. And the internet, having swamped the quality press, feeds and reinforces those prejudices, making it more difficult to distinguish the truth from lies.The public is increasingly segmented into groups of likeminded people who see their views echoed back to them in blogs, comments and tweets. There is no need to be exposed to different opinions, which are, in any case, considered to be propaganda…The first people to argue that all truth is relative and that all information is a form of propaganda that reflects society’s power relations, were far removed from the world inhabited by Santorum and his supporters. Several decades ago, a number of European and American intellectuals, often with a background in Marxism, developed a “post-modern” critique of the written word. We might think, they argued, that what we read in The New York Times or Le Monde is objectively true, but everything that appears there is, in fact, a disguised form of propaganda for bourgeois class interests.There is no such thing, the post-modern critic believes, as independence of thought. Objective truth is an illusion. Everyone is promoting class interests of one kind or another. The real lie, in this view, is the claim of objectivity. What is necessary to change the world is not the truth, but another form of propaganda, promoting different interests. Everything is political; that is the only truth that counts…” The Socialist Standard wrote “Postmodernist junk The “right environment” in question is the one presented by postmodernism, that loose body of thought which contends that interpretation is everything and the truth an ephemera, and that science and reason are merely particular interpretations of events, being “narratives” with no more claim to validity than any other. It is postmodernism and the parallel distrust of science and progress that has arisen in recent years that has opened the way for conspiracy theories to multiply – whether they have a basis in reality or not. At the same time – and without coincidence – various New Age and occultist ideas and practices have gained ground. Postmodernism, irrationality and conspiracy theories now unite to form a bizarre trinity that informs much popular interpretation of historical events and processes.” Our problem is how do we combat this self-censorship of opposing views. In fact the Socialist Standard also reflected the view of the articles author on the ‘respectable’ press “If you want to know the truth, you cannot rely on newspapers. We have that on good authority – in fact, on the authority of the more honest newspapers. (The more honest papers are those that are read mainly by capitalists who need reliable information about the world in order to make investment decisions, as opposed to those that are read mainly by workers.)””
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