August 15, 2006

Caught up in conspiracies.

Glenn & Helen interview David Dunbar and Brad Reagan, the Popular Mechanics guys who wrote "Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts." I'm especially interested in the speculation about why people become caught up in conspiracy theories? Now that I look at that question, I feel that it seems to answer itself. Why am I "especially interested" in speculation... theories? The mind wants to play...

10 comments:

The Drill SGT said...

good show

JohnF said...

It would be interesting to know whether a given conspiracy theorist as to one event is also a conspiracy theorist as to others. Or is the psychological need to find a conspiracy satisfied by only one event or class of events?

So if you believe the CIA killed Kennedy, are you more apt to believe that Bush did 9/11? Or are you no more likely to buy the latter than any sane person?

I don't know the answer, but I can really hear some one saying, "well, of course Neal Armstrong was never on the Moon--it was all faked--but you'd have to be crazy to believe that the U.S. had anything to do with 9/11..."

Surely there is some research on this...

JohnF said...

Here I am again with a relevant quote on my question:

"According to many psychologists, a person who believes in one conspiracy theory is often a believer in other conspiracy theories and conversely for a person who does not believe in one conspiracy theory there is a lower probability that he, or she, will believe in another one."

That's from Wikipedia's entry on Conspiracy Theories. Regrettably, it is followed with a note that says, "citations needed." Heh.

downtownlad said...

Why is believing in a conspiracy theory any worse than believing in astrology, or even organized religion for that matter? They all require an incredible leap of faith, with absolutely zero backing in fact. I guess it makes them feel better.

Not for me. I prefer reality.

Elizabeth said...

I've known two people who became obsessively wrapped up in conspiracy theories. Their obsession shared some marked characteristics, namely that each would combine larger cultural conspiracies like assasinations, dead Beatles, World Trade Center, etc., with paranoia about conspiracies against themselves, tied into their knowledge about the larger conspiracies. Both are diagnosed schizophrenics. Knowing them has honed by kneejerk rejection of conspiracy talk. I don't even find speculating entertaining, or funny.

Elizabeth said...

jeez I can't type tonight:

"Knowing them has honed my kneejerk rejection of conspiracy theories. I don't even find speculating on them entertaining, or funny."

Kent said...

The mind wants to play...

And some minds just want to play with themselves. These kinds of conspiracy theories are a form of intellectual infantilism.

Anthony said...

I've always thought conspiracists are trying to buck up their ego, but without a whole lot of work.

Believing in a conspiracy -- or any other theory not espoused by the mainstream, such as ancient astronauts, ESP, etc. -- makes you look like the lone genius, one of the few who can see through the haze and obfuscation to the Truth.

While conspiracies can often look complex, the method of getting there really isn't because you don't have to worry about all the complicated details underneath, you can just assert that anything contrary to the conspiracy theory is. . . just another aspect of the conspiracy. Intellectually, it's incredibly lazy, because you can dismiss the life's work of hundreds of scholars just by waving your hand in the direction of, say, a hieroglyph that kinda sorta looks like a helicopter, or a couple of people who thought they heard four shots on Dealey Plaza.

ray_g said...

Many years ago, in fact pre-Internet, I became fascinated with conspiracy theories and the people who believe them. I spent a lot of time reading their stuff, listening to radio shows (for some reason there is a lot of it on short wave) and the like. There are many reasons people believe this stuff, here are what I think are the major ones: (1) as was said on the podcast, for some it is a perverse parlor game - lets see what clever ways we can connect dots; (2) an ego boost, "I know what is really going on, the rest of you are ignorant sheep"; (3) it is a way of explaining the world for those who can't believe or accept that random bad things happen, in a twisted way they find it more comfortable to believe that an evil conspiracy is in control of events rather than "stuff happens". It has been said (and I agree) that the reason so many subscribe to JFK assassination conspiracy theories is that they don't want to believe that a lone nut could bring down Camelot.

After meeting and talking to some of these people, I think that (1) is the most common, but for the true believers it is reason (3).

I gave up on this dubious hobby, because after meeting some true believers I started feeling a shame similar to when you catch yourself looking at a car accident with morbid curiosity.

For those who asked, there is a lot of cross over between various conspiracy theories, and, interestingly, the UFO believers. An example, and I am not making this up, is that some think that JFK was assassinated because he was about to go public with the truth about UFO's. Another is that there are a few conspiracy theorists who think all the UFO talk is a government conspiracy to distract us from what is really going on.

ray_g said...

My personal conspiracy theory, and I think it is original, is that the whole computer revolution was created by the manufacturers of cardboard boxes. (Just in case - this is intended as humor, or perhaps an example of reason (1) in my previous post).