Thursday, 30 December 2010

Conspiracy Theories and Their Theorists

It is important to know and acknowledge that conspiracies do exist, often elaborate in nature and other times deviously simple. They can occur at all levels of society amongst virtually any number of people. Indeed, we ourselves can unwittingly play a part in these conspiracies. However, just because anyone may be enacting a conspiracy anywhere does not mean that everyone is part of a conspiracy everywhere.

Most reasonable people will evaluate facts as they come and attempt to make sense out of them, according to their varying abilities, cataloging them chronologically into certain genres. As these facts and evidences become abundant, they build a case for something in their own mind. This same process occurs with the fomenting of a conspiracy theory. The problem is that often benign stimulus from unrelated events, such as any fact, may coalesce with what we think we know about the nature of a given entity.

To explain what I mean in the main, imagine if you will that Adam thinks he's been ripped off by the federal government on his tax return. Later, in his Psychology class, Adam learns that the U.S. government has performed many unethical psychological experiments on their own soldiers in the past. Next, Adam sees an insurance report that says he failed to appear in court. Finally, Adam sees Barack Obama openly criticizing and censuring U.S. citizens. Adam, finally, theorizes that the government is steadily pushing the limits of what it can get away with because it wants to have control over everything.

However, Adam has made this rather life changing decision from passion and not reason. Adam fails to realize that the government took back taxes from his tax return and thus it was smaller than he expected. Secondly, he does not know that the insurance report is showing the failure of a clerk to log his payment of a citation. Adam's tax return and citation have nothing to do with each other, further they have nothing to do with the President of the United States, neither do they have anything to do with psychological experiments from the 1950's and 1960's. In fact, each of these stimuli are so insular in nature that you can not logically connect them in any fashion, therefore, they do not corroborate.

What does corroborate is the emotion. Each even would cause any reasonable person to have feelings of disgust, anger, and indignation; all these emotions that Adam felt were directed toward government. The emotions were so intense that Adam's mind did not catalog these events according to their appropriate genre, but according to the emotion solicited. Each time the emotion comes up in relation to the subject at hand, in this case the government, it reinforces his conclusion.

To call a conspiracy theory a "theory" is a bit misleading; "theory" is a safe nomenclature that saves the conspiracist shame and embarrassment. In fact, most often the conspiracist is not propounding anything at all, rather they are stating what they believe to be a fact by the presentation of evidences. Adam believes the government is evil, he knows it, and instead of coming out and saying it plainly he does as much by stating all the things that we previously mentioned.  He presents these evidences in such a fashion that will make anyone who doesn't agree with him seem unreasonable or stupid; this of course is an insecure attempt to manipulate the beliefs of others. Now, Adam is doing the conspiring.

Adam falls victim to something called cognitive dissonance, which is the tendency to accept information and ideas that confirm our beliefs, ideas, and world view, while at the same time it is the tendency to reject that information and those ideas that do not agree. Imagine that someone hears Adam's story and begins with great enthusiasm to commiserate with him and recount their own worse stories of how the government screwed them over. Do you imagine that Adam will continue with caution or will he not rather think," FINALLY! Someone who understands!" Then they get together and make even more elaborate theories and repeat them over and over until those become beliefs as well.

On the other hand, imagine that someone does not agree with Adam; instead they bring up various benevolent government programs with patriotic fervor and begin to laud the country. Do you imagine that Adam will immediately go along with them and abandon his point? No. He will attempt to point out the flaws of the person's argument and try to prove that the positives they mentioned are actually diabolical negatives designed to trick you into thinking the government is good. And if the person doesn't take what Adam says wholesale he will write them off as brainwashed imbeciles.

There is no sobriety of moderation in Adam, and in this case there is none in either of his opponents. That is the real problem with conspiracy theorists, they do not believe that what they are saying is a viable theory, but rather that it is bullet proof, ironclad, air-tight fact. Therefore, they become frustrated with anyone who doesn't agree with them. They offer their so-called "theories" with a disproportionate and imprudent enthusiasm, because to them they are factual discoveries. When they conjure up a so-called theory, it's like they are Isaac Newton having an apple fall on his head all over again. Ergo," People accepted Newton's apple, why not mine?" Which creates another conspiracy theory.

People who "live for conspiracy theories" are people who try to establish their self-worth through various substitutes, people who can't conquer reality so they criminalize it, people who are emotionally insecure, people who are lonely, people who have something to prove, who are cowardly, who worry themselves to death, or neurotic people who are bored.

Some conspiracy is real and some theorize soberly, but that is rare indeed. One should be careful not to become a laughing stock, just like one should be ashamed to make eyes roll. One should be careful not to become afraid of their own shadow.

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~

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