I used to frown on terms like ‘evil‘ because of how they have been abused. During my childhood in the 1960s and 1970s, such terms were used to sketch out the world in broad strokes: America, good. Soviet Union, evil. Common people, good. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, evil. Telling the truth, good. Lying, evil.
My parents had a rather unsophisticated view of the world. It was all ‘us vs. them’. ‘Light vs. darkness.’ This was made even worse by their belief in conspiracies–the Illuminati, Bilderbergers, Skull & Bones, the so-called ‘Order,’ the Trilateral Commission, multinational corporations–the list goes on. They had most people in their organization convinced of ‘plots’ and ‘ploys’ of ‘the sinister force’ that were behind everything evil. They maintained that fluoridation in the water was a secret plan to ruin people’s bodies and minds. But this was nothing compared to the grand-daddy plot of all: The International Capitalist-Communist Conspiracy.
Based largely on the work of Antony Sutton, Elizabeth Clare Prophet taught that Wall-Street financiers knowingly bankrolled the Bolshevik Revolution, and agents of their successor firms either had influence or were directly ensconced behind the scenes in the Soviet government during the Cold War. She maintained that international banks and arms merchants were profiteering at the expense of the common people on both sides.
In spite of her mostly right-wing political, social, and religious attitudes, she wound up espousing a classic leftist conspiracy theory (with her personal twist). She and Noam Chomsky would have no doubt seen eye-to-eye on a number of things. This in spite of the fact that Chomsky sees conspiracy theories as “more or less the opposite of institutional analysis, which focuses mostly on the public, long-term behaviour of publicly known institutions.” So I found it incredibly interesting, watching the documentary The Corporation, (which featured Chomsky) that IBM was implicated in providing ‘computer systems’ (actually punch-card readers) which helped the Nazis track prisoners and ‘undesirables’ during WWII. Vindication for her theory, right? Not exactly. What makes conspiracy theories attractive is that they provide a simple narrative to explain the brutal and sometimes baffling course of history. They re-cast the spontaneous confluence of interests in a sinister light. Most importantly, effects we observe are the same as if the conspiracies existed. So whether or not someone or a group of ‘someones’ at IBM really wanted to help Hitler kill Jews, we can’t say for sure. What we can say, is that they wanted to sell ‘computers,’ and this desire helped kill Jews.
It’s the same with international bankers and multinational corporations. They are looking for markets, and once a company or bank grows past a certain size, some of their customers are going to be on opposing sides of conflicts. But this is far less likely to have been planned than to be a by-product of circumstances and corporate self-interest (shareholder interest by proxy). There is no ‘military-industrial complex‘ per se–to use Eisenhower’s term–only people who want to make money. Put another way, structural ‘evils‘ in the modern world are the simple result of politico-economic evolution.
Conspiracy theorists are the political equivalent of ID (‘intelligent design’) proponents. What both fail to appreciate is the power and scope of both random mutations (effect of millions of small individual decisions on circumstances), and natural selection (decided by contests of skill in marketing, team-building, beating competitors, success in designing better products, not to mention lobbying and bribery). This is not to say that conspiracies are impossible, or that nefarious planning doesn’t exist–it most certainly does. But we also know that plans often don’t work out, less so the more complex and far-reaching they are.
The perception of conspiracies is supported by the tendency of conspiracists to conflate levels of analysis. We have to separate personal and micro-economic interests from macro-economic effects. Same with political acts. Someone shot John F. Kennedy for their own reasons. Things happened afterwards. Whether or not they were the things the assassin wanted to happen is anybody’s guess. Trying to connect the two is a fool’s errand. Only if every thought and deed connected to the incident could be analyzed would we ever know the truth. And that can never happen. Perfect fodder.
Take the stock market: As anyone who has tried to predict movements in the stock or commodity markets knows, you can’t plan them, and there doesn’t need to be an obvious reason for them. Try finding someone to blame. Absent direct causation such as when an interest rate shift, lawsuit, or important product announcement takes place, there is no such culprit. Absent a distinct ‘market mover,’ price swings are the aggregation of countless information streams. They’re the ultimate abstraction: they’re everyone’s fault and no one’s.
In the face of this complexity (in a human created system, no less) some people’s imaginations fail. They assume that there must be a reason. Like ID proponents baffled at the development of an eye, they can’t understand how it came to be progressively. (‘What good is half an eye?’ As Julia Sweeney sardonically remarked, it turns out to be about half as good and conveys a distinct survival advantage.) When economic problems arise, conspiracists look for someone to blame. The absence of a reason leads to an absence of reason. It must be those evil international bankers, evil defense contractors, or the evil multinational corporations, or China, or immigrants, or Wal-Mart–anything but what any decent economist could tell you it is: circumstances and aggregated self-interest. (In the future, we may, through agent-based modeling, gain a better insight as to how economic information aggregates, and may be able to assign fractional responsibilities.)
So the conspiracists demonize the corporations, failing to understand that corporations are us (both consumers and shareholders). They demonize immigration, like Lou Dobbs and his increasingly misguided populist rants. Dobbs has become the latest spokesman for a group of North Americans who don’t want to evolve and compete with hard-working and ambitious Central Americans. In other words, he thinks he is supporting people, but he is actually opposing their growth and evolution. Protectionists and anti-globalists are in the same boat. They are trying to turn back the clock to a simpler time, to protect simpler and less-efficient methods, which ultimately hurts everyone. By fighting attempts to make the economic system more transparent and efficient, everyone’s standards of living are lowered.
What works in the favor of both ID’ers and the deniers of politico-economic evolution is they offer their audience short-term or localized comfort. But this comes at the expense of real knowledge or global prosperity. Every new discovery or advance creates both winners and losers. Just as animal evolution has required the deaths of trillions of less-than-perfect specimens, politico-economic evolution requires the death of old and sometimes comfortable ways of doing things.
I’m not arguing that we should fail to preserve what is good about the past as we evolve our methods. Nor that we shouldn’t moderate the speed of change. Too much change can be traumatic. That’s why it’s called evolution, not revolution. But we must insist on objective methods for evaluating things like sustainability and progress. A few people might mourn the loss of jobs, handicrafts, or local customs. But far more will appreciate the benefits of affordable goods. Displaced workers will learn new skills and get better jobs. Handicrafts will be admired in museums after we’re long dead, while products for the living will give them better lives now. In the future, much of the uniqueness that has been lost in the commoditization of products will be reintroduced with a proliferation of custom fabrication. Food will be improved by combining the best organic and local methods with the efficiency of mass-production and global distribution.
Conspiratorial thinking is a form of intellectual inertia. The world of knowledge is moving at breakneck speed. We have at our disposal today more and better information than ever. Many people’s minds can’t keep up. Factual questions can be settled in 15 seconds or less on the net. But fewer people seem to respect the knowledge they encounter. Ten years from now, fact-checking could be automated and probably be down to a thousandth of a second and the precision of facts will be even greater. In a further refinement of hypertext, every phrase could be be color coded in real-time as to its sourcing and authenticity. An example of how this might work: if I wrote something today which referred to someone being alive, and they later died, that portion of my text would then automatically be flagged by the net as currently inaccurate–even though it was accurate when it was written. Every statement could be thus evaluated. Subjective, controversial, or scriptural-based statements could be flagged by the context engines as obvious errors. Even if religions want to use such tools in reverse, they still won’t be able to hide what they’re doing: Witness absurdities such as Conservapedia or Qube.
I can’t help but conclude that all this immediate knowledge is threatening people’s sense of control. People used to be able to walk around with their heads full of opinions, and they could insulate themselves from inconvenient information. With facts beyond dispute, there will no longer be a place to hide. As automated fact-based news analysis becomes commonplace, Drudge, Dobbs, O’Reilly, Coulter, and other demagogue pundits will finally get their comeuppance!
As the proliferation of knowledge increases, people with an agenda, whether it be religious or political, will have no choice to either evolve and change or to step up their attacks even further. Their greatest tools thus far have been post-modernism, deconstructionism and relativism in academia, as well as the kind of magical thinking which defines religion and the ‘New-Age’ movement. We will no doubt see even more of these techniques used.
But no matter how hard they try, as Philip K. Dick said. “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
Consensus society will have to abandon intelligent design and conspiracy theories. It will have to abandon religion. Those who can’t face facts will eventually be chased back into their own heads. Or into virtual fantasy worlds they create for themselves to preserve their warped realities. (Think Second Life meets the ‘second coming of Christ’).
Cognitive dissonance will clearly become far more difficult to preserve in the real world.
But still, residents of the ignorance-sustained fantasy worlds will continue their attempts to spill over into this one. There’s too much power and money involved for them to surrender quietly to knowledge. All across America, this confusion and ignorance is proliferated deliberately in the evangelical megachurches and home-indoctrination-centers, and by organizations such as the Discovery Institute. It’s also standard operating procedure for radical Islam and other backward faiths which routinely destroy schools and murder teachers.
These groups and institutions are peddling ignorance as strategy, a kind of hedge against a future they refuse to face. And that’s evil.
Note: Clearly, I saw epistemic warfare on the horizon in 2007, but I never thought it would remain this severe in the 2020s. Back then, I still held out hope that we’d turn the tide. I’m only left to wonder, how much worse can it get? Will Zuckerberg’s Metaverse be “Second Life meets the Second Coming of Christ?” Or can it be made more rational? Don’t hold your breath. –Sean Prophet, August 2022
I agree with everything you’re saying here, including your vision of the future, but how close we actually are to this future remains to be seen.
At this moment, we are so close that we can see it and smell it. Oh, sweet reason! Incontrovertible facts!
People like you and I welcome and embrace this future; a future free of ignorance, and the futile childish need for conservativism that ignorance perpetuates.
But religious people fear such a future. As much as they fear life, death, and a godless natural world.
Unfortunately, the religious people still hold sway, and like every civilization before us, we are perched precariously on the edge of destruction.
The destruction of civilization isn’t so bad; it’s an opportunity for rebirth. But it’s a disappointing setback, and one which humanity continues to repeat.
We’ll let go of religion and move forward as a species when we’re ready.
But the universe is unforgiving, and I think the chances of us evolving our technology to the point that we can move on from earth before the earth gets hit by an asteroid or something is slim to none.
We’re on a roll, though. We’ve made it this far out of the primordial ooze, and the odds have been stacked against us the whole way.
I’m just saying that I hope we evolve beyond our need for religion because our survival depends on it.
Of course, either way, I’ll be long gone, and I’ll never know if we made it or not.
I’ve got two issues with the above, one small, one general.
The small issue is the benefits of mass Mexican immigration. These people may be, on average, hard-working, but they are several other things besides:
— Mostly without health insurance, which creates a huge load of charity care and leads to closure of ER’s and entire hospitals.
— From a society which is macho and winks at dangerous and even criminal behavior such as drunk driving, creating a lot of police costs and insured and uninsured damage to citizens.
— Nationalistic, ignoring such virtues as fluency in English for both themselves and their children. This leads to high expenses for ESL in schools.
— Low-earning, so that the taxes they pay (if they pay any at all) fall far short of paying for the services they require from the above.
We have the laws necessary to send all our illegal Latin American immigrants (including the Mexicans) home. I think we should do it post haste.
The large issue is the one of flagging facts vs. errors. Who determines what is a fact? If you want to sleep badly, think of that power in the hands of something like the Bush administration. It would make the job of Minitrue almost trivial; Winston Smith would be replaced by a computer, without conflicts or scruples.
The only way to keep something like this from becoming a tool of oppression and revisionist history is to massively decentralize it, to allow people to pick their authorities. The only way to handle such things automatically is through something like trust networks. The problem there is that the very people you’d want to straighten out would route all their trust networks through their megachurches or other ideologically pure sources. They’d just use their computers to do what they do now with books and the spoken word.
Nice concept, though.
Thanks for your comment, I coudn’t agree more. We face unparalleled risks, and no guarantee of success. But hopefully we will live long enough to see some positive change. I’m counting on it.
Good comments as always. I think the key to preventing the Orwellian scenario is to be sure than any context checking would be open-source and voluntary. But good information pushes bad out of circulation. If you are a writer, you will want to subject your text to the fact-checking engine, because if you don’t, other people will. So though such a thing could be manipulated, its usefulness would be directly proportional to its openness. Like search-engine rankings, this type of fact or context engine would (or could if designed properly) represent the distillation of collective wisdom.
With regard to the question of immigration, it is ridiculous to have laws and not enforce them. I’m saying change the laws. There was a recent statistic (have to find the source) that 2 out of 3 construction jobs are now going to illegal workers. And they pick nearly all our produce. Not to mention clean our houses and mow our lawns. So if we send them home, there will be a lot of positions unfilled. Not to mention what will happen when homegrown biofuel production ramps up. There might be a labor shortage (until robotics kick in).
I think immigrants should pay their own way, in terms of taxes, health care, etc. The best way to make that happen is to give them an easy way to become legal.
Recent experience with interior immigration enforcement has shown that US citizens are desperate for some of these jobs that “Americans won’t do”. After raising their wage offer about $2 from minimum, one plant got a flood of applicants. Some of them were from released prisoners, but others were people working at WalMart!
What does it say when people employed full-time at WalMart will jump for a job in a chicken-processing plant? Could it be that wages have been bid down so aggressively by forces like illegal immigration that citizens are desperate? Do you really think it’s moral to allow unscrupulous employers like Tyson to throw citizens out of work while loading the social burden of their new workforce onto the newly unemployed? Private profits, public costs.
I’m with you on robotics, but there’s a chicken/egg problem: unless wage costs go high enough, nobody’s going to invest in the machinery to automate the scut work. I also have a moral problem with maintaining an underclass of stoop laborers. We can scrap a machine when its job is obsolete, and there is no moral problem with it. We should not be importing people just to “scrap” them when their job is done (regardless of whether they leave the country or not); it dehumanizes them.
You raise good points. Of course I don’t think companies should get away with an externality like you describe. But I am in favor of unfettered competition in the labor market. Some people think that the minimum wage itself throws people out of work who are willing to take less. For example, what about allowing guest workers to work legally for a sub-minimum wage, paying taxes.
I understand people are desperate at the low end of the wage scale. I can sympathize with them while also understanding the realities of competition.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I do think that robots will become affordable even competing with low wages once Moore’s law starts to apply to them. Wait until the robots take almost all the low wage jobs. Obviously there will need to be some new approaches.
Marshall Brain has an interesting (if slightly alarmist) article on this.
Even in the my business (TV and movie), people overseas are competing directly with American professionals for editing, sound, and special effects work. How do we deal with a global market where people in other countries are willing to work for less? I’m open to suggestions.
I think the answer must be found in more competition, not protectionism. Both sides of the trade debate raise good points, but in the long run, I think we’re headed toward an open global market.
If Tyson wants to use cheap Mexican labor to process chickens, I don’t see what’s stopping them from moving the plants, poultry farms and the rest to where the labor is. Let Mexico deal with the issues of law enforcement, education, the environment and the rest.
That would be real competition. What you are describing is a situation where US citizens pick up the bill for costs they had no part in creating so that the likes of Tyson can shave 2¢/lb off the price of leg quarters. It’s also taking us on the course to where major corporations re-write the laws for their own benefit (like Carlos Slim has done in Mexican telecom) while the public pays for whatever they’re allowed to have.
I’m all for free markets, but a market controlled by a few major players which have captured the regulatory and legislative process is anything but free. That’s what we seem to have, and we need less of it, not more.
[…] BlackSun discusses how we might arrive at a meaningful definition of “evil” in Evil, ID, Conspiracies, and Ignorance at Black Sun Journal. […]
Computers to track prisoners in WW2? That’s non-sense. The few computers that existed back then were huge clumsy machines that could only do simple math. There were no databases or easy way to enter data, much less report on it.
They were punch card machines for tabulating prisoner lists. Watch the documentary!
Punch cards have been used since 1725. Check the Wikipedia article:
E-P and Blacksun:
I love a good debate, especially when each side is polite. You both made valid points.
So how do you feel about the possibility that conspiracy theories exist because people don’t realize that they can take control? WE ARE THE CORPORATION.
Some people will always prefer coincidence theories to conspiracy facts. How anyone could put Antony Sutton’s books or Gary Allen’s “None Dare Call it Conspiracy” or dozens of others down and declare them the work of fearful “theorists” i cannot fathom.
The power of these sources is found in the copious internal and public documents, records and especially the quotes from the mouths of the ‘conspirators’ themselves. They are telling us exactly what they are doing and basically bragging about it.
Sean, it may be that you agree with the objectives of the One Worlders [ who confess to the “necessary” destruction of US sovereignty ]. That’s your prerogative. But how can you deny what the Big Boys themselves are saying and doing [ continually for at least a century about their plans for America and the world ] and then denigrate those who can see it with labels and cheap shots? Mexico. the USA and Canada are merging under our noses with no authority from the people. Like Europe they begin as security pacts, common markets etc and then merge currency and political systems.
All of the major planks of the communist manifesto… A one world government, one world bank, one world currency, one world army, one world economy etc all centrally controlled is the objective. Include centrally controlled media, health etc .. In other words, absolute power over everything and everyone.
[Want to work in TV and movies? Sorry sir we have need of chicken pluckers at the moment… we’ve booked you a train ticket for 4am ].
Instead of denigrating people who bring all these facts to our attention just admit that the communist manifesto is ok by you . If it’s not ok, open your eyes Sean.
I’m not the armchair psychologist you appear to be but maybe you deny the strong inferences, factual evidence and outright confessions from the one worlders because you will deny anything if it helps puts distance between yourself and the beliefs of your mother?
You’ve quoted Phillip K. Dick… ” Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away “… indeed.
B.L … Australia.
BL, you come across as a true believer. And believers are the most easily offended when it comes to facing facts.
You mischaracterized my arguments, and didn’t address any of the most important points I made. Further, you make the classic error of lumping me in with supporting some kind of “World Communist” plot. It seems conspiracy theorists never met two patterns they couldn’t match–no matter how different they really are. Kind of a variation on counting the hits and ignoring the misses. I chalk up a lot of this fretting over conspiracies to a lack of a sense of personal power or control. If you felt empowered in your own life, you wouldn’t need to worry about finding someone or some cabal to blame. You’d also be talking about solutions, and they wouldn’t be sectarian, parochial, or nationalistic. You’d be talking about unity instead of maintaining the “us vs. them” status quo.
–For the record, I’m opposed to all forms of state coercion, whether capitalist or communist. But I’m unconvinced people could form a truly free society without order and structure.
–If the communist manifesto mentions a one-world government, and later one happens, that does not mean Marx or the perpetrators of the Bolshevik revolution somehow “implemented” their plan. What about the billions of rational actors in between whose decisions cannot be discounted?
–I’ve never understood the objection to world government. We have federal, state, and local governments now, and they manage to coexist. Why would an additional layer on the global level make such a negative difference? What would be wrong with having a world currency? It would have the potential to eliminate a lot of inefficiencies, it would facilitate trade, and improve consistency on things like labor practices and human rights. A real global government might enable us to tackle problems global in scope such as war and climate change.
What’s the big problem? How did the terms “global” and “one-world” acquire such negative connotations? Why do you think a global body would lead to “absolute power over everything and everyone” any more than the governments we have today? Doesn’t it matter more what TYPE of global government it is? Haven’t the lines been blurred anyway, with organizations such as the WTO, UN, and multinational corporations taking on some of the roles of a world government?
I think you conspiracy theorists need to ask yourselves what is being served by viewing events in the way you do. How does your viewpoint lead to improvements? Why are your culprits never ‘exposed’ except to yourselves? How does blaming specific groups relieve your own angst and become more comforting for you? What overall psychological purpose is served? Does this belief system really reduce anxiety, or does it just focalize it safely away from one’s ability to actually do anything about it?
How does seizing on a few fringe authors such as Sutton remotely pass intellectual muster? There are literally thousands of academics in universities all over the world studying international relations. Why is it that almost none of them give credence to these theories?
As for the ‘confessions’ of the supposed architects of conspiracy, are you totally naive? People bluster all the time. But mostly, their plans don’t work out.
Seeing patterns where there are none is an evolutionary leftover of what Daniel Dennett calls the “hyperactive agent detection device.” It’s what causes clams to close their shells, and flies to take off at the slightest breeze or shadow. Higher animals have learned that this is a waste of energy, and have developed the ability to distinguish false threats from real ones. But there are strong remnants of this evolutionary response which remain, and cause even humans to impose some kind of agency on elements arising from chaos and random causal chains. They create imaginary supernatural agents by the same methods. This was the point of my article.
Holding these simplistic beliefs is sure a hell of a lot less work than actually studying and understanding complex phenomena. (You have to submit to intellectual discipline, and subordinate wishes to facts, for starters). But for your own sake, I’d recommend you try.
Studying basic human nature and evolutionary psychology is a good place to start. (The Blank Slate, etc.) Then I’d move on to game theory and agent-based modeling. And then with that background, read some up-to-date undergraduate economics or international relations textbooks, (or The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman) Or maybe even take a course or two. Oh, that’s right, you can’t: the university professors are all in the pockets of the conspirators.
Give me a break.
[…] With fully 33% of Americans believing 9/11 conspiracy theories, it’s no surprise when a rational debunking draws ire. A recent commenter from Australia responded indignantly to my post on Evil, ID, Conspiracies, and Ignorance. So without further ado, I’m bumping this up: Some people will always prefer coincidence theories to conspiracy facts. How anyone could put Antony Suttonâ€™s books or Gary Allenâ€™s â€œNone Dare Call it Conspiracyâ€ or dozens of others down and declare them the work of fearful â€œtheoristsâ€ I cannot fathom. […]
Hello sean. I haven’t mischaracterised your arguments. I used a simple literary device of putting the intentions of the one worlders in your own mouth. You are after all still championing their goals in your reply to me.
You are also persisting with your derogatory phsyco-analysis of me yet loving psychology as you clearly do, you dodge the one psycho-analytical question i put to you. Aren’t you just trying to ‘blind you readers with science’. I think you are, but you use a very biased collection of theories to support your world view. Please don’t launch into a passionate defence of science… you might be dissapointed to know that i think science is wonderfull too.
However, I think you might have found many valid psychological reasons why a person might read “something” into “nothing”. Well done. But would you mind offering your readers a few valid psychological reasons why a person might read “nothing’ into ‘something” ? Sean ? I think that would give us all a more complete insight into ourselves. We’d then be better able judge if it’s the facts or ourselves getting in the way of a clear world view. But i for one am very comforted by your words. I don’t know, i just feel kinda safe. You know?
In the mean time none of the books you’ve recommended will answer the facts which Gary Allen and Antony Sutton present in their work. The sources you offer are a classic “red herring”. You would have offered the same prescription to Paul Revere no doubt and found great comfort in the words of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938…” Peace in our time” …What was all the fuss about Sean?
Naturally i can’t be as sure of your own motivations as you seem to be of mine but you are playing the role of the ‘gatekeeper’ very well… ” move it along folks… nothing to see here…”… ” look over there at those marvellous bastions of intellectual freedom… the college professions… they haven’t read Sutton’s or Allen’s work either but they’ll be able to answer all your questions… don’t worry about the that… our conventional wisdom, our psychological theories and our consensus beliefs can explain everything… always have, always will.”
Like Sean, i would also like to invite readers to inform themselves by doing a bit of reading. Start by re-reading all of the questions Sean puts in his reply to me and then actually read the sources i have recommended to see if they can present more credible answers. [ not to mention a few more glaring psychological motivations]. It’s really the only scientific approach. Then, if you still think Sutton and Gary Allen’s work is not thorough and scholarly, you are all welcome to dissagree.
Also Sean, I am not unhappy to be tutored by Professors and the like. Some of them are very courageous and very bright. Professor Antony Sutton was educated at the Universities of London,
Gottingen and California and was a research fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford.
Gary Allen majored in history at Stanford University and later became aware that his courses had been highly slanted and that many of the most important facts had been left out.
For readers who demand academic credentials it’s as good a place to start as any.
First off, BL, youâ€™re again totally mischaracterizing my statements, especially when you say things like: â€œYou would have offered the same prescription to Paul Revere no doubt and found great comfort in the words of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938â€¦â€ Peace in our timeâ€”
Thatâ€™s utter nonsense. Iâ€™ve never been for appeasement or ignoring real threats. Youâ€™ve presented a false dichotomy: either people agree with you and accept your conspiracy hogwash, or they are perennially misinformed and would have made every mistake in the history books.
You use the phrase â€œone-worldersâ€ as some sort of knowing epithet. Well I donâ€™t know what it means in conspiracy circles. Certainly something to inspire fear and loathing. When I think of â€œone world,â€ I think of strong individuals living in peace, freedom, harmony and balance with nature, with a strong scientific understanding of themselves and their fellow humans. Those are my goals and no other.
You are the one who has proposed the conspiracy. You have the burden of proof. And no, neither Suttonâ€™s nor Allenâ€™s or any other conspiratorial whackjobâ€™s academic credentials make a whit of difference. All it means is that they once got degrees. But they are now far outside of any peer review process and are shunned by their fellow academics. Their work is less than meaningless, and it sheds no light whatsoever on the very real and daunting problems we face today.
(For further reading: Here is Robert James Bidinotto from the objectivist center, with a startlingly similar viewpoint as I outlined in my original post on this issue. Conspiracy theory truly represents the religious impulse misdirected toward the political world.)
I think my referencing Paul Revere and Neville Chamberlain is a perfectly valid analogy in the context of your unwillingness to acknowledge a present reality. 20 / 20 hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? It gives one that trancendent ability to be sure they would have made the right historical decisions.
Sean, the evidence for something is not always perfectly clear. [ i’m not saying that researchers’ assertions about conspiracy are unclear .] But try transplanting your current decision- making / problem solving processess back into historical events. Going by your dismissive characterisation of my own current concerns, your own decision-making in those historical events may surprise even you.
This argument is really becoming less about whether the said conspiracy facts are true or not. It is more about the process involved in ‘knowing’ anything. It is, as you maintain, very much about human psychology. But that doesn’t resolve any of us from a personal investigation of the core allegations of conspiracy and the facts which support it. We can then ask ourselves the questions presented by a study of psychology if we wish.
So my statements about historical events reveal something about the argument we’re having about human psycholgy verses real events… or if you like, ‘real events’ in the context of ‘human psycholgy’. I don’t present your readers with a false dichotomy at all Sean. I am not the gatekeeper for the intellectually lazy. I invite your readers to investigate the subject for themselves. If they take this basic approach to knowlege, the likelihood of them making mistakes of judgement in the present is much less likely than if they take your word or mine. Transplant that same approach to the past and it would have worked as well.
As stated, I do not ask your readers to take my word for anything. That is why i have offered a couple of sources for study. I have refrained from getting into much detail about the evidence itself [ and there is a mountain of it ] A blogg argument cannot do the subject justice so i offered a couple of cedentialled sources.
I noticed you championing your tertiary educated sources for my own study. I supposed the authors had at least undergraduate degrees and that in your mind, this qualified them fairly well. I believe you also thought i was allergic to academics in general. That is why i included the qualifications of my own sources for you.
Yet the best you can do is to slander them for no other reason than that they were dissagreed with [by some], and that they [ both now deceased ] are beyond peer review? And one’s peers are always right are they Sean ? I mean, one’s academic peers are only ever motivated by their pure love of knowlege aren’t they ? and nothing else ?
Where vested interests are concerned group-think is encouraged with carrots and sticks. There is status in the status quo… in going along to get along. It takes guts to speak up. Unless people enjoy being branded naive, a troublemaker, a traitor to some dominant faction, or worse, psychiatrically disturbed, they will have psychological mechanisms for denying contrary information even when it is true. Does that sound familiar Sean? Don’t you make the same claims yourself when justifying your own arguments about personal disempowerment in different contexts, including religion?
One’s peers have always reviewed their fellows with various degrees of rigour, especially in the fields of history and social science where facts and interpretations of facts are disputed with regularity. You will have noticed that throughout history truth has never required and has rarely recieved the agreement of peers. Majority consensus does not make something true and it does not make something false.
You have used another classic red herring of ‘Shoot the messenger’ to trash the good work of 2 researchers because they dissagree with your world view. [ whackjob academics? ] Given that you demand credentialled consensus support in order to judge the value of an idea, i will include [ at the end of this reply ] comments from just a few ‘critical thinkers’ who support Gary Allen and Professor Sutton. As you know you can’t get a degree in “conspiracy facts” so do please excuse their ‘gross ignorance’.
But firstly, I would point out that i have used the term ‘one worlders’ with a basic explanation of what i am referring to. Would you have me explain the whole subject each time i reference it? You don’t know what the term means because you prefer to psycho-analyse those who use it rather than properly investigate it yourself. The whole burden of proof is not upon me Sean, it is upon every individual to undertake a simple process of enquiry for themselves. A process that you claim to champion. That is the only way your dream of a world full of “strong individuals with a strong understanding of themselves and others” can materialise.
Referring to Gary Allen’s book “None Dare Call It Conspiracy” … [It’s availiable as an e-book if you google author and title together.] :
” I wish that every citizen of every country in the free world and every slave behind the Iron Curtain might read this book”
Ezra Taft Benson. Former Secretary of Agriculture.
“No higher praise is possible for this book”.
Norman Dodd. Chief Investigator of ‘Reece Commitee to Investigate Foundations.
” This book concerns the way in which our nation and other nations are actually governed. As Benjamin Disraeli said [ ex British Prime Minister ] this is not the way most people think nations are governed. The whole subject of the insiders who so largely control our political and economic lives is a fascinating mystery. For the intelligent but uninitiated reader in the literature of superpolitics i can think of no better introduction to the field.”
Dr Medford Evans… Former Chief of Security for the Atom Bomb Project.
“Whatever one dares to call the apparatus described and documented in this book, he will ignore it at his peril.”
Dean Clarence E. Mannion… Former Dean, Notre Dame Law School.
BL, your arguments are a perfect example of why conspiracists are so hard to pin down. You’ve accepted a world view which is so amorphous it can be stretched and expanded to include any subsequent event as having been predicted. It’s almost similar to a philosophy of predestination.
The only way to ‘know’ something is to get rid of subjectivity and concentrate on empirical facts. And conspiracists classically avoid being pinned down to anything that can be verified or disproved. Because they largely purport to establish motives, which are impossible to measure. They extrapolate back from every event, giving extraordinary power to individual “planners” or “architects.” These are the ‘gods’ of the false conspiracist cosmology.
If we want the truth, what we can do is insist on a higher standard of evidence for what constitutes “conspiracy.” To prove such a point, you would have to document 4 things:
1) a prior plan, including the identities of all participants
2) malice & secrecy
3) mechanism of implementation of the plan
4) result in accordance with original plan
The statistical improbability of large numbers of people acting in concert under total secrecy is mind-boggling. (And if they kept it secret from everyone else, how would anyone find out enough information to document it?) As I already stated in the original post, most of what may appear to you to be ‘conspiracy’ is in fact simply aggregation of shared interests and unspoken cooperation based on common goals. You cannot go back in time and establish motive. The secrecy part defies all reason, when we see how often governments and corporations fall prey to leaks and defections, and how rumors move both diplomacy and the financial markets.
I could find all sorts of ‘evidence’ and support from fringe academics for Holocaust denial. Conspiracy theory smacks of the same revisionism and wishful thinking. And of course, it’s a tremendous waste of time and effort which could be focused on getting real information and solving real problems. I see these tendencies as a social phenomenon which is an offshoot of relativism, postmodernism, and the general devaluation in the popular culture of objective knowledge. (The success of shows like the “X-files” would not be possible without it.)
BL, my patience for this discussion is over. All you are doing is restating your opinions and throwing out the same obscurantist rhetoric. I’ve heard it all before. It’s very similar to the weak theistic defense: “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist.” Of course, we can’t prove a negative. We can’t prove there’s not a teapot from the Ming dynasty currently orbiting Mars. But we CAN establish probabilities.
You are clearly invested in the conspiratorial mode of thinking and you find it emotionally satisfying. You think like-minded fringe academics actually lend some kind of credence to one another? Well, they don’t. It’s like theists quoting scripture and calling it an argument.
There’s a reason intelligent people rely on mainstream consensus: it weeds out the bad ideas. Sure, majorities are often wrong. But academic consensus is not a simple majority. It relies on peer-review by people who deeply know their subject. By keeping the standard of proof high, we can eventually arrive at a closer understanding of the truth.
The conspiracy arguments don’t help with this process. They arise, zombie-like, every time the world is confronted with a traumatic event, and grip about a third of us in their paranoid delusions. Like our concepts of gods, we manufacture these explanations in our brains to reduce our anxiety. The process is an evolutionary leftover and a malfunction in our cognition.
BL, I’m going to have to ask you to take YOUR specific paranoia elsewhere. You don’t seem to be subject to reason in these matters, and I’ve pretty much said all I’m going to say.
You raise some interesting points there Sean which i would have loved to reply to but it appears you have banished me.
Read your response and the subsequent discussion. Quite interesting and informative.
The challenge to me is, on one side, to demand from the constructors of grand conspiracy theories to formulate them in a more rigourous hypotetico-deductive form so that they can be tested (many of them are already refuted because of their flimsiness, but many remain worthy of furher pursuit), and on the other hand, demand from social scientists to look deeper into actual political conspiracies and secretive long-term policy plans in connection with the nature of political power and social networks. You might apreciate the comments on ‘power structure research’ from a Britsh academic looking into the Bilderberg group at http://www.bilderberg.org/bildhist.htm#The.
The crux lies in developing appropriate scientific concepts, hypotheses and methodologies, which are thoughtfully calibrated to the complexity of the issue of political conspiracy at hand. Making anti-conspiricist deductions from a Darwinian paradigmatic view on the nature of micro action and macro effects is an interresting, but in the end un-scientific bilologistic substitute. Meanwhile you do concede to the possibility and actuality of conspiracies, and from another post I learned that you consider reflection and planning as a sane way of being in this world.
Ergo, I think there can be a common ground between conspiricists, anti-conspiricists and social researchers if only the nature of metaphysical claims, social research and the mechanism of reductionism are understood. What I like to see is a metaphysically neutral, phenomenologically enlightened, inter-disciplinary research project named ‘conspirology,’ which will draw on the best in the sociology of power and networking, the politicological insights in long-term policy planning, the history of failed and succesful political plots, juridical concepts of raketeering and corrupt organizations, psychology of certain psychopathologies, etc., but will develop its own appropriate scientific concepts, hypotheses and methodologies. The obvious pitfalls to be evaded are the making of premature conclusions driven by considerations of a metaphysical, religionist, ideological or scientific-reductionist nature.
On the other hand it is ok to be motivated in ones research by such considerations, but that has to be clearly understood as belonging to the context of discovery, which can be very non-scientific, and not to the context of justification, which is strictly scientific. This differrentiation is a very common notion in the philosophy of science.
It is also ok to evaluate ones research in the light of ones metaphysical convictions, but again, one has to differentiate between the kind of conclusions derived from such evaluations, which are still metaphysical by nature, and the conclusions derived from strict scientific research, which are by nature non-metaphysical.
Having said all that, I think your anti-conspiricist stand is still as metaphysical as the one of conspiricists for you are mixing science with Darwinism and then make anti-conspiricist deductions topped with some choice ad hominems and psychologisms. Very scientific. 8^)
P.S.: The article on the Bilderbergers is by Mike Peters and is tilted “The Bilderberg Group and the project of European unification.” (The link didn’t work) The point is basically about methodology and the role of overarching conceptual framworks. The subject matter used for illustration, the Bilderberger network, is of course also of importance, for both ideological conspiricists and scientific conspiratologists alike.
It’s not metaphysics to require strong evidence. Your argument sounds very similar to the one which claims you “can’t prove God doesn’t exist.”
True, but there are many other things for which there is insufficient evidence we don’t accept, and the burden of proof is squarely on the claimant.
I think there is already plenty of research on this subject going on all over the world: it’s called Political Science.
I don’t recall admitting that conspiracies exist. What I said was:
What I meant is that sometimes people do successfully carry out plans to further their own interests at the expense of others. But they equally often fail in their goals. Keeping their actions secret is harder still. Assigning “them” enough power to carry off 9/11 as an “inside job,” or to orchestrate an overarching and ongoing cooperation between American bankers and the leaders of the former Soviet Union during the cold war is far beyond reason.
Truth and lies ultimately are subservient to the accumulation of power, which is the most basic human drive. This goal often transcends nationalistic loyalties. It also has very little to do with academia, which can only sit back, watch, and analyze.
A very astute blog about power you might appreciate is Power, Seduction, and War, by Robert Greene.
When you concede that conspiracies do exist, what is the evidence for you to come to that statement?
Sure, science can’t verify, nor falsify, the existence of God, nor can it, indeed, verify nor falsify metaphysical conspiricist notions of the nature of politics. What science can do, and that was the whole point of my post, is something like ‘conspiratology’ along the lines of the generally accepted canons of the human sciences. This would be a space where you and I and social scientists could meet.
I have no problem with subsuming ‘conspiratology’ under political science. The problem is that academia itself has been subverted by the aggregated influence of many personal and institutional micro economic and political interests, whether by design or not. Especially sociologists and philosophers of science are quite aware of that, though insufficiently so.
You might be ok with that state of affairs so long as that kind of subservience of academia to economic globalization would strengthen the overall Darwinian health of the system, where truths and lies seem to be merely commodified items. I hope you have a more exalted notion of academic truth.
Meanwhile, with academia subverted, it behooves citizens to take up the torch and do their own research. Sure, it will not be as rigorous as academic research, but it will be less suppressed or manipulated, as is the case in academia and the press. In this line I do appreciate your own sense of citizenship in this.
I hope you see my point