According to Wikipedia: “A conspiracy theory is an explanatory proposition that accuses two or more persons, a group, or an organization of having caused or covered up, through secret planning and deliberate action, an illegal or harmful event or situation.” From the Illuminati to the Freemasons to the Truthers, somehow all of the terrible nasty things that happen in the world are the result of a group of people conspiring to destroy civilization, kill people, or make themselves rich while ripping off Joe Lunchbox. Many of us would love the see proof that the rich and powerful are conspiring to keep all of us down and poor, and any message you try to sell to the public will be met with approval if you stay with that theme.
I like the Wikipedia article because it offers an objective view to a very subjective mindset. Many of the conspiracy theorists are suffering from cognitive dissonance. A sophisticated term, cognitive dissonance simply means that a person is “holding two or more conflicting beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.” Something has happened that is rattling the conspiracy theorist’s brains, and they can’t deal with it, so in order to put things right, they invent a conspiracy. Generally speaking, the conspiracy theorists couldn’t think their way out of a four-door outhouse, but are skilled in inventing convoluted theories hinged on specious conjecture and questionable testimonies. The best of the conspiracy theories hinge on one tiny fact that cannot be confirmed or denied, as in secret scrolls under the Great Pyramid, or documents that the government, Vatican or (place your villain here) will never release, or the person who knew the secret is dead. Of course, there are booms that people might have heard and chemicals that might have existed, even with videotape of almost the whole thing has been endlessly analyzed. Dead people knowing things is an important aspect of a conspiracy theory.
The greatest piece of evidence for the conspiracy theorists is all of the prior conspiracies. The logical fallacy “post hoc ergo propter hoc” (after this, therefore because of this) permeates the discussion. Conspiracies like the Watergate conspiracy support and confirm the conspiracy theorist’s ideas that powerful people are controlling the world behind the scenes. The conspiracy theorists would almost be correct, except for the fact that the Watergate conspirators started confessing within months of the commission of the crime. A wise man of long ago (Benjamin Franklin) said: “Three people can keep a secret as long as two of them are dead.” If you apply just this wisdom, most of the conspiracy theories fall apart, and if no one comes forward (according to the conspiracy theorists) it is because they were all surreptitiously murdered. How incredibly convenient. It’s always easy to claim someone who is deceased was a participant in a conspiracy; in fact, it’s almost their stock in trade to do so.
If you look at almost all of the conspiracy theories, even the super-secret Cold War conspiracies, someone always confesses. Google names like Gouzenko, Golitzyn, Philby and Fedora if you’re looking for some conspiracies; you’ll find all the conspiracies you can handle, and strangely enough, as is always the case in real-life conspiracies, someone confessed. There is one qualifier to their confessions, however, and that is that some of the confessions were lies. It took our intelligence agencies years to root out the lies, and in the mean time the Cold War raged on. Oh wait, you mean people lie to get attention? Like children? Like politicians trying to get your vote? You know, like “if you like your plan you can keep your plan.” Like the fellow who claimed to have film of a bigfoot, (known as the Patterson film) who later revealed to his children that he had a friend dress up in an ape suit?
There was (still is?) some whack-job named Gary Sick running around blathering about George Bush (Sr.) going to Iran in an SR-71 to negotiate with them. As I asked my professor who raised the topic (who other than this crazy idea seemed pretty reasonable) except for the fact that an SR-71 requires specific maintenance to get off the ground, (they almost never landed anywhere but at Edwards air base in California and a few other select bases equipped to handle them) and if the Iranians had in their possession one of the most sophisticated and fastest airplanes in the world, why on earth would they let it take off and return to the U.S? The Iranians had under their control the most sophisticated spyplane in the world, as well as George Bush, the former head of the CIA, and they just let him return? The Iranians could have sold the secrets of the SR-71 for millions, if not billions of dollars to the Soviet Union, China, or any other country that wanted to know about the most advanced spyplane in history. On the face of it, like most conspiracy theories, the George Bush-Iran conspiracy makes no sense; but then, few of them do.
The conspiracy theories are lies scaffolded upon lies with one tiny grain of truth at the bottom that has been blown so out of proportion that it might as well be telling people that eating raw turnips can cure cancer. Cancer, as the conspiracy theorists postulate, is just an invention of the doctors who make money treating it. There’s been a cure for cancer, the conspiracy theorists say, but the doctors are withholding it. I really love the cancer cure conspiracy. If anyone had a cure for cancer, they could make enough money to make Bill Gates look like a hobo. Just human greed alone prevents anyone from keeping something like a cancer cure a secret. But conspiracy theories defy logic, human behavior, and for the most part, reasoning and critical thinking. The conspiracy theorists should have a warning before you watch or listen to them, asking you to suspend all reasoning and critical thinking before you proceed.
I didn’t want to use Gary Sick’s name here. I don’t want to make public any names of unbalanced idiots who are making outrageous claims in the name of truth, which of course, is their insane subjective and distorted truth. What the conspiracy theorists are doing is making excuses for their disbelief in the events of the world. The cognitive dissonance has set in, and they’re so disturbed, so troubled, that there must be another explanation. Conspiracy theorists claim the mainstream people are the foolish ones, the ones who believe the media pablum that they are fed, while the conspiracy theorists grow hoarse telling us their distorted “truth.” The conspiracy theorists offer truth that doesn’t stand up to simple reasoning, truths that never have anyone come forward and admit that they were part of the conspiracy, because there was no conspiracy. The conspiracy theorists are inventors of fairy-tales for people who cannot accept what has happened, or for political reasons refuse to acknowledge events. My favorite is Holocaust denier and all-around whack-job Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, who denies what thousands, nay millions witnessed. It was all just a misunderstanding, don’t you see. Yes, I see who is misunderstanding, and someone who is a deranged, mendacious power-hungry con artist.
The 9/11 conspiracy. Yes, there were bombs planted throughout the building, and whoever did it has been kept silent. The people who ordered it have kept silent. The people who supplied the explosives have kept silent. The neoconservatives who suggested it in position papers aren’t raising one decibel of hurrah that they, by their insistence that we need a Middle East war, made it happen. Nope. Everyone is silent, except for Al-Qaeda, who admitted to it, admitted to have planned it, admitted to have trained the terrorists, who did it, and tried to do something similar in 1993. Nope, it wasn’t them, they’re just in the right place at the right time to take credit for it. Everyone involved in the 9/11 conspiracy has been able to keep silent, something I find not only truly amazing, but in contrast to almost every human behavior pattern known to psychologists.
But that’s the great thing about conspiracies, they disrupt all the other theories, no matter how scientific they are, and no matter how many years of research and how many experiments and actual incidents have validated the theory. If the aforementioned people have been kept silent, it is the most successful conspiracy in recent history. I say recent history because there was the JFK conspiracy, and many more of which I am painfully not aware and I admit my ignorance of such truthful and rational things, but I also admit my ignorance is no excuse, just as the explanation of cognitive dissonance is an explanation for the belief in conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories cause the critical thinking skills to be put on overtime, for all the wrong reasons. The critical thinking skills are critical of the reasonable explanation, like yes, they took over some airplanes, (more than one) and crashed them into buildings, and some true heroes prevented some of what their plan was trying to accomplish. Well, yes, they crashed that plane in Pennsylvania, but the twin towers thing is a conspiracy. There were orders, there were bombs, there were neoconservative position papers encouraging people to do it, and no one is owning up to it, even though something the size of the twin towers bombing would take a lot more than just a few people to pull it off. No matter, it’s a conspiracy, case closed. Microscopic evidence in dust contains chemicals that could be used in explosives, also probably found in things like office equipment. But, to be honest, reason and critical thinking have no place in conspiracy theories.
What I find most disturbing about the conspiracy theorists is the energy that could be used to reveal some of the real-life conspiracies of the world. Like a government agency accused of harassing upstart political parties who then conveniently loses hundreds of emails that would be, as matter of protocol, backed up on the disc drives of servers. Like a bank in Basel Switzerland that almost no one has heard of that has actively participated in financial scams and helped finance the Holocaust. Of course, you would have to believe that there was a Holocaust to suspect a conspiracy that financed it. Like the incestuous relationship between regulatory agencies and the industries they oversee, especially in the financial sector. Like corporations that socialize their costs and privatize their profits. There is enough truth in the world that needs to be revealed, but the “Truthers” aren’t seeing any of it. And so the cognitive dissonance, along with the fairy-tales, rages on.