Monday, 23 November 2009

Voodoo, Quackery, and a bad case of the CT's



'Conspiracy theorists have a grandiose view of themselves as heroes “manning the barricades of civilization” at an urgent “turning point” in history... Grandiosity is often a defense against underlying feelings of powerlessness.'

DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University, Richard Hofstadter, in his book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

Well that explains Bill O'Reilly.

Any one who's used the Web, on an even semi-regular basis (and even those who haven't), can't have avoided the utter deluge of quackery, voodoo and cant which pours forth from the space between the ears of the dedicated Conspiracy Theorist (CT) - otherwise known as a 'Tin Foil Hat Merchant'.

Incidentally, in case you weren't aware, this headgear of choice allegedly 'protects' its wearer from the sea of electromagnetic rays directed at them, and the predatory attempts of potential mind-readers; all of whom, so the theory goes, are seeking to make us all more complaint, for the day that 'They' arrive - although theories differ as to precisely who 'They' are, and when 'They' might come... Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is even a theory as to whether this is a conspiracy or not.

And so, like worker bees doing drudging duty to their queen, the sheer industry shown by the CT drones is impressive. Indeed, they put so much time and effort into trying to prove their reality wrong that, sometimes, it seems that the entire Internet, and all its resources, was created solely for their nothing-too-insane ideas to be 'researched' and then propagated 'for the benefit of Mankind'. Gee. Thanks guys.

If you've ever come across the species at close quarters, then you'll know that they'll not be persuaded that they are wrong, misguided or just plain mad in their beliefs, either: received wisdom and common-sense are for fools, apparently, whilst actual proof is either to be shunned, like daylight to a vampire, or treated with the 'What Aboutery?' clause - see below. Remarkably, it is their insistence that it is the very absence of any evidence (over and above a mixture of the outright circumstantial and the downright contrived) which just goes to prove that the conspiracy is indeed working! How is one supposed to argue with that logic? Heads you lose, tails you don't win?

Unremarkably, this double-headed coin logic is designed deliberately to be a zero-sum game. And they know it. So regardless of how irretrievably asinine the question might be (e.g. White House press conference: "Can I ask whether the President had sex with any alien life-forms at Roswell this week?"), they rely on the old "I'm sorry, we/the CIA/the NSA doesn't comment on matters of the President's or national security..." Ah, righty then. So the very fact that they refuse to comment means there is, by default, some form of on-going cover-up? Just add two sugars and stir. Instant conspiracy.

In fact, the recipe is slightly more complicated than that - but not much: just add a pinch of meagre plausibility; a willingness to believe even the most tangential of coincidence; toss in a dash of neatly-packed speculation, and there you have it. Don't wrap it, I'll wear it - conspiracy to go!

And even when you think you've nailed their 'arguments', and proved their fallacy and absurdity, they go and switch-hit and change the goalposts on you. Just when you've exploded every myth they take to be a sacred truth, they introduce the "What Aboutery?" clause - their other chief fail safe mechanism, and one which means that their world, and all its wonderful silliness, need never end - perpetual conspiracy theory; or PCT, which kinda sounds the likes meds they need to be on to control the incurability of their condition. 

And, in large part, it's the Web what's to blame; as it's the canvass on which they are allowed unfettered finger-painting time. The moment it came into being, this role of Web-trolling nutter was bequeathed to the CT - although, on the topic of the Web's 'Big Bang', they'll give you at least 20 different arguments as to when that was... and why... who wanted it kept dark - and why... etc...

Markedly, nothing is ever easy or regular in the minds of the CT; simply being straightforward is to be avoided at all cost, as they seem hell-bent on finding the most contrived explanation, the most outrageously nonsensical abstraction, and the most tinfoil-hatted method of connecting the imaginary dots they can find. You feel like you've stumbled across a race of people who've had their gullibility gene enhanced.

And to what end? How do they benefit from donning this mantle of absurdity? To be praised at the end with a universal congratulatory slap on the back for revealing some previously hidden great 'truth'? By ignoring ideas which all other evidence has utterly refuted in the past? By not painting an "I'm a Nutter" target on their backs?

Sadly, a resounding 'No' to all the above. Which brings us to cause and effect.

An inescapable side-effect of attending conventions of the similarly challenged, and the hours spent poring over obscure texts and other sources of highly questionable (to all but them) provenance, cannot make for anything like a fulsome domestic, or love life. Which probably accounts for the high percentage of being single amongst the CT brethren. How could any woman possibly measure up to their fist love and overriding passion? No doubt if she could, then she'd be considered to have something suspect about her. Precisely who put her up to being so good?! And why?! What are we not being told?!

And so it goes...

So, putting aside any immediate desire to give these people some concerted 'wall-to-wall counselling', and whilst you and I toil through the blithely mundane everyday, utterly blind to the series of 'Grassy Knoll' events in life we seem to be missing; and whilst AIDS was created in a laboratory with the deliberate intention of targeting only specific ethnicities, and those with a given sexual preference; and whilst NASA patently faked the Moon landings, and  9/11 was clearly an inside job, with the Gump Bush administration's either tacit or, for the more hardcore, active blessing - fear not: the CT are on the case for us, and will publish their findings... some day... [*cough*]


So while we wait, what's next? What fresh unleavened lunacy might we expect in future from the conspiracy theory industry?

Perhaps Michael Jackson just made 'Thriller' as a diversion in order to kidnap young boys and take them back to his Neverland Ranch? Perhaps he kept having all that plastic surgery in an effort not to be recognised whilst out doing his weekly shop at Wal-Mart? Don't tell me George W Bush is straight? Maybe Elvis, Princess Di and JFK are not dead: they're all merely enjoying a well-earnt rest, a few polite medium-sweet Sherries, and their respective haemorrhoid treatments at a secluded rehab facility in Colorado? Amy Whinehouse isn't really Pete Doherty in drag?

Hey, they could be onto something here! Not everything in that list is implausible.

And it's not too much to call it an "industry", either. As you can see here, there is now 'mediation' available for those suffering from CT - although, as we can read in the blurb there, it does inform us of one very salient fact: those who suffer from the condition have, to some deep degree or another, lost some form of control over a range of aspects of their life. It's not too big a leap, nor do I think I'm being unreasonable, to see these as self-esteem issues. And I think it's perhaps polite if we ignore the reason why a CT-sufferer had to bring his attorney to a mediation session about his condition... (although, speaking of paranoia and self-esteem issues, I'd love to see figures related to what percentage of CTs are Republicans and/or Fox News Borg?)

Anyway, what's the collective noun for conspiracy theorists? Perhaps it should be just that: a conspiracy of theorists? Why not? It's just as deliciously lunatic as a murder of crows, or a flange of baboons, or a functional illiterate of Bush (or maybe that should be a 'hanging chad' of Bush? A 'Florida' of Bush?)

But then again, and to be fair, who can blame them? Are they really so bad for wanting to steer us down dimly-lit corridors to their own corrupted Twilight Zone and demand that we believe them? After all, President GW Gump Bush was responsible for some of the most elaborate deceit-based conspiracies ever exacted on a people by its leader; as he milked the fear, panic and paranoia over 9/11 for all it was worth. And it was he who lead the US in a series of laughably buttressed conspiracies about Iraq's having WMD; and not only having them, but WMD which could hit the US in 45 minutes from being launched (the fact that it's subsequently been found that Iraq didn't even have so much as a working cappuccino machine notwithstanding...)

But, and just like the poor, and the piss-poor politicians, the CT will always be with us: they share that same frailty which is common to all - the human condition. Only theirs is perhaps more pronounced than others... that, and they try and hide it under a tin foil hat.

Further Reading:

The Quackometer: On Bullshit and Mindfucking
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6 comments:

  1. Gosh, tin hat man is quite clearly schizophrenic! but I have thought of a problem with your posting - At some point, the law of probability will mean that a geniune conspiracy will occur and given the fact that the government will deny it; "no comment", it will look like a theoretical conspiracy.... ummmmmmm

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  2. Cosmic Navel Lint24 November 2009 11:12

    Hence playing straight into Tin Hat Man's hands! The conspiracy continues! ;)

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  3. It's the old, "My bull shit smells better than yours," syndrome. Are the Democratic party talking points anymore real than the Republican's?

    Bush is old news...the more you harp on it, the less credible you become...sorry to be harsh but the guy who couldn't talk is now replaced by the guy who talks too much.

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  4. When genuine conspiracies occur, such as Watergate or Iran/Contra, they're not called conspiracies, they're called scandels.

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  5. Cosmic Navel Lint24 November 2009 21:55

    <span>Susannah, with respect, I think you may have missed the point entirely and forgotten that a large part of this blog concerns itself with <span style="text-decoration: underline;">poltical satire</span>. Although, having lived and worked in the US, I know that under the strictly partisan nature of your entrenched poltiary system, which tries to pass for politics, that satire doesn't get much of a look in ;) :-P  
     
    By way of a parallel, for me to make the same mistake, I'd have to make a comment on your blog criticizing you for descrbing walking your dogs and burning soup - you see how badly I'd be missing the point and out of place that would be?  
     
    I think it's fair to say that those with the skill of being able to be impartial and even-handed can read and appreciate satire - even (indeed especially) when it highlights the shortcomings and mistakes of their perferred political party, its policies and leaders - in this case, the Republicans: and where they are concerened (when they're not still whining about losing to Obama), they keep providing plenty to write about.</span>

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  6. Cosmic Navel Lint25 November 2009 16:48

    <span>Aye, 'scandals' - </span>

    <span>... you mean like declaring "Mission Accomplished!" from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, on 01st May 2003??</span>

    ;)

    ReplyDelete

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