Conspiracy Theorists: Paranoid Delusional, Or Logical and Reasonable?

JFKAre conspiracies real?  Well, yes. Of course, have you never conspired, or born witness to a conspiracy?  I see a lot of memes and hear a lot of talk, on social, conventional and independent media sources, so I decided to write about it.  But not to tackle any one conspiracy, for there’s literally countless conspiracies to chase down the rabbit hole and into madness, or at least prove a waste of time and a suffering of related anxiety and paranoia.  It’s more important that we can develop the tools to make our own decisions as to how far we’ll follow a conspiracy, and to learn our own limitations in our ability to determine truth from fiction on complex scales.  You can always choose to follow a conspiracy theory up to a point, and then decide to take your own detour, rather than follow the other person’s conclusions.

I typed in ‘Definition of Conspiracy’ into Google, and it came up with the below:

con·spir·a·cy /kənˈspirəsē/ Noun:  ‘A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful / The action of plotting or conspiring / Synonyms with plot – cabal – scheme – intrigue – collusion’ 

For some reason I’ve always equated a conspiracy with at least five parties involved.  I feel certain this is somehow related to The Fellowship of  The Ring.  Let’s take five, then.  At least five parties need to be involved to form a conspiracy.  We know that sporting teams, cycling for example, or those who broke Roger Maris’s record for the most home runs in one year, will often indulge in performance enhancing drugs in order to remain competitive, or simply to utterly dominate the field.  If five or more are in on the scandal, it’s a conspiracy.  They were conspiring by the measure of the standard fitting both definitions I got from Google.  I know the argument can be made that it’s not exactly the most official source to take into consideration a key definition that will shape and define the whole article.  But that argument is invalid, because it’s good enough.

Conspiracy Theorists: Paranoid Delusional, Or Logical and Reasonable

This leads to the next question; are conspiracy theorists lunatics, or paranoid delusional?  No, not always, and what do you mean by ‘conspiracy theorist?”  It’s become a loaded term, a label burdened with the baggage of being.. well, paranoid delusional.  But conspiracies happen, all the time, all around us.  On the small scale there’s the school yard – kids conspiring to bully – on the far end of the spectrum you have Impending Globalist Domination, or the 21st of December, 2012.  It’s the far end of the spectrum, the Grand Conspiracies built upon a thousand layers, that are most difficult to prove, and least likely to exist.  Is it possible they could come to pass?  Historically speaking we know there have been many – arguably most of history was draped in it – dark times throughout the world, and happening now, in present day in many places still.  So sure, unfortunately it’s possible.  But not necessarily remotely probable.  There’s a scientific way of considering this, or at least a reasonable methodology for measuring the probability of the conspiracy theory, and the credibility of the source.  It’s not necessarily the theorist’s motives, but the a measurement of how well their internal perception of the world maps onto what we know about the world, and what directions of thought are more statistically probable to occur.

The Subjective Perspective Never Yields The Full View

Admittedly I just put together this conspiracy theorist accuracy metric right now, so it’s not peer reviewed, but let’s explore it.

Let’s start with the individual and what we know about the commonalities in our nature regarding neuroscience and psychology.  We know that our experience of the world is subjective.  That is to say, you could have ten people witness the same event and get ten different accounts of the event, and be certain there was ten different unique experiences happening in each individual in terms of how they react, and what thoughts and emotions arise during the event.  Not one person’s neurochemistry or blood work is going to perfectly match up for brain activity and hormone levels, and not one person will share all the same beliefs, assumptions, ideals, and experiences as the other.

We should be able to agree based on the above, and from our own experiences in life, that people often have biases, intentions, and an objective operating either consciously or subconsciously when we are thinking and reacting, and engaged in social interaction – which is to say pretty much all of the time.  This immediately represents the problem that at the core of any conspiracy theorist is an agenda, whether they believe their theory is true based on good reasons and evidence or bad.  ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’, seems pertinent and obviously, inevitable even, concerning a large percentage of the human population.  Many people seek conflict, we all have at some level internal mental mechanisms, or ego, at play that seek to create some type of conflict.  I’ll go more into that at another time.  For the purpose of trying to be concise, you’ll just have to grant me the benefit of the doubt on anything I haven’t fleshed out or not.  Or better yet we can talk about it in the comments.

The Mind Revels In Conflict, It Strengthens Individual Identity, And More Dangerous Still, Group Identity

We don’t have to seek the conflict directly in the form of a fist fight, though that’s perfectly natural behavior for humans.  It happens on a scale ranging from a brawl to hellish warfare.  Conflict can exist in the mind just fine without having to play itself out in reality.  A conspiracy theorist can create a situation in their mind of horrible conflict that can only end disastrously, but it could be entirely fictional, built on a house of cards, and yet they might be absolutely certain they’re correct.  After a time being a conspiracy theorist can become an identity; one organically shaped by your continuous line of reasoning and focused exploration of a conspiracy, or one imposed upon you by others that you have adopted as truth, at least on a subconscious level.

Pay Attention And Value Statistical Analysis And Sound Methodology

When listening to a conspiracy theorist explain their theory, it’s worth paying close attention.  They might be right, in case damn, it’s a good thing you’re now in the know.  Or you might decide ignorance would have been bliss.  But they might also be wrong.  And the more mind blowing, the more intense and multilayered, the less likely the theory is to be true.  I had a teacher once that asked the class, what’s more likely to happen, a nuclear war, or a nuclear war involving Russia.  At the time we weren’t thinking about Iran, and given our history, many people thought it was more probable we would get into a nuclear war with Russia.  What they were missing was the fact that the first choice encompasses the second as one of countless scenarios of nuclear warfare unfolding.  Some of those possibilities are more likely than others, but still, no matter how likely it is we’re going to have a nuclear war with one particular country, we can be certain it’s far more statistically probable we’ll have a nuclear war, period.

Not All Roads Lead To Rome

Every layer you put atop a proposition or theory not only statistically reduces the probability of your final assumption being correct, but it requires that credible evidence to make each new step.  Be wary of a leap in logic that isn’t firmly established in its own right.   Just because A leads to B does make it easier for B to reach C.  For instance, a conspiracy theorist will start with something we can pretty much all agree on, but every step you follow them down the rabbit hole is another that requires further skepticism into to the accuracy of the connecting claims veracity, for if any claim or assumption prior is incorrect, anything thereafter is not following a logical baseline and is going to steer you off a cliff.

Pattern Seeking Minds Filtered Through Biases, Motivations, Objectives, And Our Internal Conceptualization Of The World

Our minds are pattern seeking and need to be in order for us to make sense of the world.  It is possible for someone to be intelligent, intellectually honest with themselves, and thorough enough in their investigation as to present a perfectly legitimate conspiracy theory.  Many conspiracies on a Government scale have been, and are true.  I’ll just use the Watergate scandal as an easy example.  There’s a proven conspiracy.  It’s true that you might be right about your conspiracy despite not being able to prove, step by step, with logic, reason and evidence, your final assertion of the conspiracy.  But the more grand the conspiracy, the less chance your mind has of reaching the correct conclusion, evading all of your biases, motivations and objectives, and everything that makes up your ego and subjective experience of reality.

Your mind takes in information and it makes sense of it as best it can.  There are good, in the sense of skill, conspiracy theorists who are able to convincingly demonstrate why there’s good reason to believe in a conspiracy, past or present.  Then there are poorly skilled conspiracy theorists who don’t understand scientific principles or have a broad perspective of the nature of Man beyond the sphere of directly experience they have had with the world.  Observe the conspiracy theorist, or pay attention to their writings – whatever sense organs you have at your disposal in which to measure them – and gauge how deep their biases run, what their motivations are and objective is.  The metric is simple, the deeper those run, the less likely they are to follow the evidence with logic and reason, and the more likely they are to make false leaps and assumptions to the next tier of their theory.

Us In The Equation

And then there’s you and I, having to decide what or who  to believe.  Or as I would prefer, ascribing probability and not definitive truth.  We can never really know, one way or another, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a guess that is more informed, and more likely to be correct and demonstrable.  We take in the information from the person and filter it through our own biases, motivations and objectives.  Often it’s not the better argument we adopt, but the one that favors our preconceived view of the world.  We like our assumptions reaffirmed, not discredited.

Conspiracy Theories: One That I See As Highly Probable

By Google’s definition I am a conspiracy theorist, and so are you, if you’ve ever tried to put two and two together, or five and five.  I believe that the Government of the US is no longer a Democracy as we would like to believe.  It is a Plutocracy, where corporations and the wealthiest four hundred families control our politicians through campaign donations.  A system has been set up where 93% of those who win congressional elections are backed by more money.  If you don’t play ball, you don’t get more money for the next election, and you don’t get an extremely well paying job as a lobbyist when you decide to cash in.  This creates a difficult atmosphere for an honest politician, since by nature, if they really are honest with our best interests at heart, they would not appeal to big campaign donors.  They would not be able to leverage their financial support enough to influence the ‘honest’ politician to make a decision that would go well for them, but poorly for the people the politician represents.

Corporations are considered people and thanks to Citizen’s United can freely bribe politicians with campaign donations or the promise of a financially secure future.  In order to address any issues honestly we must first excise this cancer from our democracy.  If I could, I would make the elections publicly funded so politicians would not be influenced by special interests, banks, massive corporations, and the top four hundred wealthiest families.  This would need to be strongly enforced; if you’re a politician and you’re caught taking money which influences the forming of decisions that are not in the best of interests of your constituents,  then you should lose your office, and go to jail.  There are activist groups working on the problem, but it is gargantuan.  One possible solution is a Constitutional Convention followed by the desired fall out.  This could be tricky.

That’s one example of a conspiracy I think is plain to see.  I welcome arguments against it in the comments, which would make for stimulating debate.  All the above really comes down to how good your critical thinking skills are.  You need to analyze the information, the sources of the information, the way the information is shaped and communicated to you by the individual, among many other variables.  If you have a high aptitude in the areas involved in deducing a conspiracy and can to some degree remain objective with your methodology in reaching a conclusion, you might be good at it and make accurate assessments of past and current conspiracies.  But to reiterate one last time, the more complex the theory, the more layers, the less probable.

An Excellent Example Of Two Conspiracy Theorists, Their Layers Remain Consistent, Then Diverge Sharply.  Which Theory Is More Probable?

Alex Jones, from Info Wars, hosts Cenk Uygur From The Young Turks as his guest. I recommend watching the interview for more insight, both into how to measure the validity of a conspiracy theory, and because you might learn something – that is to say, adopt a new conspiracy for yourself.

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