23 August 2007

Conspiracy Theories And Their Believers: My Response

Just got through responding to an op-ed piece on the Socialist Standard's MySpace blog, which is by one Paddy Shannon, entitled "Conspiracy of Dunces", as part of the Standard's "Pathfinder" column, and reproduced below is my response to that column's assertions about conspiracy theories and their believers.

The reason I've re-posted my response to that column is because have been doing a lotta thinking about conspiracy theories and those who believe 'em, and just how heartily sick I am of them, and of bad information from various sources in general, "mainstream" or not.

So, here's my little rant, which considering that the editor at the Socialist Standard's blog has to approve the comment or not, may never be seen there, but which, for better or worse, can and will be seen here.

If you want to see the original article, just go to http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=4018139&blogID=302696155&Mytoken=4DBFD8FD-6B5A-48A2-9A2AAFD68153E6AF11930059 to see for yourselves.

And remember, Folks, if you decide to post a response of your own there, the blog owner there has to approve the comment, so keep it reasonable and relatively sweet.

Be seeing you.

Personally, I tend to be far more of a subscriber to the "Peter Principle" than I am to any conspiracy theory, simply because from I've read, heard, seen and experienced in my life, it seems to explain a Helluva lot more about how and why people in positions of authority make decisions and act than any grand conspiracy theory involving the Illuminati, Freemasons, Jews, the Trilateral Commission, etc, etc, etc.

By that last bit, you can undoubtedly make the guess that I am pretty tired of conspiracy theories and their believers. I am.

I haven't entirely worked out why, and probably never will, but, part of it for me, at least, is that have got sick and tired of being pushed junk information and speculation from just about every corner of the political spectrum and the media landscape.

The JFK assassination conspiracy theory, the various 9/11 conspiracy theories(In fact, I recently had quite a tiff with a local anti-war activist who'd become a convert to one of these theories about that, and why I thought it was a steaming pile of crap), the Trilateral Commission-Bilderbergers-Council for Foreign Relations-Jewish-Freemasonry conspiracy theory pushed by such far Right media entities as the late, unlamented Spotlight, to which my dad had a subscription back in the late '70's, and so on, I've grown up with, in one form or another, and have either generally rejected or had no interest in, partially because of the groups that were pushing them, and because of the individuals I knew who were pushing them to me, and who had and have agendas of their own.

Does that mean that those individuals I mentioned are themselves engaged in some sort of "conspiracy"? Nope, just that they, like everyone who's human and alive, have their own points of view on how and why the world works, and how the world SHOULD work in their eyes.

For a lot of people, especially working-class and poor people who don't generally have the greatest of educations, especially here in the States(If you've not already guessed, I'm a Yank), and whose general access to anything but either the dumbest of "mainstream" media outlets or to the kinds of heavily biased, partisan screeds like the Spotlight isn't great, well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that, combined with the feeling that many working-class and poor folks have that they are mushrooms, kept in the dark and waitin' to be shat on, it's a Helluva lot easier to either be a-political, a defender of whichever powers that be, or a believer in one conspiracy theory or another, than it is to try and work somethin' out for oneself.

The last-named road takes a certain amount of time, and especially time spent in researching and reading, and working issues out in one's head, and that's not easily done when much of one's time is spent either getting the bills paid or engaging in the usual leisure activities that a lot of working-class and poor folks like to do, when they're not struggling to pay the bills.

Ain't sayin' it can't be done, just that it takes time, especially in research and reflection on issues, and a certain amount of grounding in history, economics, and, yep, even psychology, among other subjects, to get to something of a point where one starts understanding, within the limits of current knowledge, how and why the world works as it does, or doesn't.

In contrast, depending on whatever existing cultural, social, religious, racial, ethnic and other biases one already has, plus some smatterings of information here and there about various subjects, it's far easier to go down the conspiracy theory route and stay there.

Just as it's easier for some folks to go down the race-baiting route, or any other pseudo-intellectual quick fix that you can think of.

That's can-opener history and politics, Folks;just open of a can of whatever theory you like, shlump out the stuff into your head, and, Presto!!!, there you are.

Now, that doesn't always mean that every question and everything conspiracy theorists and their ilk believe are wrong. Sometimes, they can be right on some details and some aspects of given issues.

But, it's in the over-all conclusions they arrive at, based on at least partially errorneous premises, that the conspiracy theorists and those like 'em fall down, and fall down hard.

That's why it's important to get one's info from a variety of sources, not just the ones that one likes(will admit to a bit of hypocrisy here, though, as I don't generally go for conservative or far Right publications, on-or off-line, very much), as much as one can, compare the info being given with other info from other sources, and from one's own experiences, and decide for yourselves what and who's right, wrong, or just plain confused.

One last bit, and that's at times, when one doesn't know anything or enough about a subject to make a decision one way or another, to simply say, "Y'know what??? I don't know.".

Better to admit that ya don't know than to pretend ya do, and end up lookin' like the Biggest Fool On Earth since the first guy that bought the Brooklyn Bridge.

1 comment:

lasvegan2007 said...

Don, my contention with respect to conspiracy theories (which I tried to express, to no avail, to our old friend Jeffrey P. many times), is that reality is bad enough without introducing conspiracies into the picture.

In other words, as you wisely use the Peter Principle, I subscribe to Occam's Razor. There is no reason whatsoever to posit reptilian space aliens taking on human form to influence events throughout history, in order to enslave the human race, in turn explaining every event from 9/11 to an outbreak of salmonella at the local Jack-in-the-Box.

(For the uninitiated, Occam's Razor states that the simplest explanation for seemingly complex events is USUALLY the correct one; or at least, should be the first one considered.)

Instead, take a good look at REALITY and realize the mundane, humdrum, everyday evil banality of corporate lobbyists, politicians, industry trade associations, oil companies, and the military-industrial complex -- composed entirely of normal, if greedy and misguided HUMANS -- is responsible for the vast majority of our woes, past, present, and future.

If you can wrap your head around that set of facts, then you have a much more powerful, enduring, and compelling explanation for everything than any grandiose conspiracy theory will ever provide.