Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's a conspiracy!

Humans are interesting. They do a lot of weird shit seemingly without rhyme or reason, but I've come to one important conclusion about people: They're consistent.

Sometimes people appear to act irrationally. "Wow, I didn't see that coming." This is probably because you're working with incomplete information, which may or may not be intentional on the part of the person in question. If someone fucks you over out of the blue, I promise you that you're not the first person they've done it to. It's even possible for a person to be consistently inconsistent, but this is rare and is a conclusion to which one ought not jump. Spend more time with a person like this, get to know more about them, and you'll see trends -- I can almost guarantee it.

Anyway, I have a buddy who, like most of my friends from the USMC, is a bit of an extremist. Whatever he does -- whether it's being a feckless layabout, being generous, violating rules, working, whatever, he does balls to the wall with generally questionable results. His biggest problem is probably because his lack of attention span or follow-through isn't safe from his overall extremist ways. He recently created a conspiracy theory website, and has enthusiastically invited me to join his cause. This blog entry is devoted to him, which he will probably read, so it may be written with kid gloves because I love this guy like a brother. But it's something I think about a lot. The topic today is:

Why I don't do conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories are fun to think about, and occur to a lot of people naturally because folks tend to be suspicious, accusatory, and like feeling victimized. The innerwebs has exacerbated the whole conspiracy craze, putting people with similar theories together and creating a lot of group cohesion vs a common enemy, whatever that may be.

That's not the real problem I have with conspiracy theories. My biggest issue (among some other smaller ones) is that they promote intellectual laziness. Here's how.

  • You can't lose

    If you end up being right about your conspiracy, you look cool, write a book, etc.. If conspiracy theories gain momentum, huge sums of money and man hours are devoted to proving them wrong. If you're completely wrong, it doesn't matter. There's no risk or accountability. Lazy.

  • Convenient Built-in Mechanisms

    By their very nature, conspiracy theories attempt to tackle issues involving "all powerful" and usually detached entities that exist above society's radar, calling them out on their shady, immoral, or manipulative activities. These entities are usually in the form of some nameless, faceless government agency, or a popularly demonized political figure. The convenient things about the idea of omniscient government agencies is that they can do whatever they want without any oversight or any restraints. This allows conspiracy theorists to say "Well, they're in on it" or "That's what they want you to believe" when their theories are categorically debunked by credible sources without entertaining the idea that there might be something to these stories. Lazy.

  • Fear-based, exploitative, and dishonest tactics

    Scaring ignorant people into believing your assertion using partial information is dishonest. Obviously conspiracy theorists aren't alone in doing this, but it's their bread and butter. This is crucial because conspiracy theorists are not there to inform, they are there to influence -- big difference. They're pushing some thing for some reason, which is annoying and insulting when it's done through half-truths or intentionally incomplete information. Just because it's not a lie doesn't mean it's not dishonest. And Lazy.

    So to recap, we have:

    a) Win-win/no accountability or responsibility for being wrong, and classic burden-of-proof shifting tactics during debates
    b) Convenient built-in mechanisms and canned responses that theorists use when faced with evidence refuting their theory which "enables" them to continue making the same assertions ad nauseum
    c) Fear-based tactics which exploit the ignorant using dishonest tactics

    Sound familiar? Maybe....Something else I "don't do"?

    wait for it.......
    waaaaaaaait for it........


    Conspiracy theories surrounding religion are brilliantly ironic. I "don't do" religion for the same reason that I don't do conspiracy theories. It hinders progress by setting up a situation impossible to disprove based on flimsy rhetoric. The burden of proof is intentionally shifted, allowing folks to make an assertions and watch the very people they are trying to convince run around and find out the truth. When faced with contrary evidence, the conspiracy theorist AND the religious zealot will cling to their beliefs -- which is what they are, beliefs -- using uncreative, canned responses which end any conversation or exploration of the truth. It's all very convenient and, I'll say again, intellectually lazy on the part of those who espouse the theories.

    And that, my frengs, is why I don't do conspiracy theories.