1. Clock

    Clock Active Member

    10 characteristics of conspiracy theorists
    A useful guide by Donna Ferentes

    1. Arrogance. They are always fact-seekers, questioners, people who are trying to discover the truth: sceptics are always "sheep", patsies for Messrs Bush and Blair etc.

    2. Relentlessness. They will always go on and on about a conspiracy no matter how little evidence they have to go on or how much of what they have is simply discredited. (Moreover, as per 1. above, even if you listen to them ninety-eight times, the ninety-ninth time, when you say "no thanks", you'll be called a "sheep" again.) Additionally, they have no capacity for precis whatsoever. They go on and on at enormous length.

    3. Inability to answer questions. For people who loudly advertise their determination to the principle of questioning everything, they're pretty poor at answering direct questions from sceptics about the claims that they make.

    4. Fondness for certain stock phrases. These include Cicero's "cui bono?" (of which it can be said that Cicero understood the importance of having evidence to back it up) and Conan Doyle's "once we have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the truth". What these phrases have in common is that they are attempts to absolve themselves from any responsibility to produce positive, hard evidence themselves: you simply "eliminate the impossible" (i.e. say the official account can't stand scrutiny) which means that the wild allegation of your choice, based on "cui bono?" (which is always the government) is therefore the truth.

    5. Inability to employ or understand Occam's Razor. Aided by the principle in 4. above, conspiracy theorists never notice that the small inconsistencies in the accounts which they reject are dwarfed by the enormous, gaping holes in logic, likelihood and evidence in any alternative account.

    6. Inability to tell good evidence from bad. Conspiracy theorists have no place for peer-review, for scientific knowledge, for the respectability of sources. The fact that a claim has been made by anybody, anywhere, is enough for them to reproduce it and demand that the questions it raises be answered, as if intellectual enquiry were a matter of responding to every rumour. While they do this, of course, they will claim to have "open minds" and abuse the sceptics for apparently lacking same.

    7. Inability to withdraw. It's a rare day indeed when a conspiracy theorist admits that a claim they have made has turned out to be without foundation, whether it be the overall claim itself or any of the evidence produced to support it. Moreover they have a liking (see 3. above) for the technique of avoiding discussion of their claims by "swamping" - piling on a whole lot more material rather than respond to the objections sceptics make to the previous lot.

    8. Leaping to conclusions. Conspiracy theorists are very keen indeed to declare the "official" account totally discredited without having remotely enough cause so to do. Of course this enables them to wheel on the Conan Doyle quote as in 4. above. Small inconsistencies in the account of an event, small unanswered questions, small problems in timing of differences in procedure from previous events of the same kind are all more than adequate to declare the "official" account clearly and definitively discredited. It goes without saying that it is not necessary to prove that these inconsistencies are either relevant, or that they even definitely exist.

    9. Using previous conspiracies as evidence to support their claims. This argument invokes scandals like the Birmingham Six, the Bologna station bombings, the Zinoviev letter and so on in order to try and demonstrate that their conspiracy theory should be accorded some weight (because it's “happened before”.) They do not pause to reflect that the conspiracies they are touting are almost always far more unlikely and complicated than the real-life conspiracies with which they make comparison, or that the fact that something might potentially happen does not, in and of itself, make it anything other than extremely unlikely.

    10. It's always a conspiracy. And it is, isn't it? No sooner has the body been discovered, the bomb gone off, than the same people are producing the same old stuff, demanding that there are questions which need to be answered, at the same unbearable length. Because the most important thing about these people is that they are people entirely lacking in discrimination. They cannot tell a good theory from a bad one, they cannot tell good evidence from bad evidence and they cannot tell a good source from a bad one. And for that reason, they always come up with the same answer when they ask the same question.

    A person who always says the same thing, and says it over and over again is, of course, commonly considered to be, if not a monomaniac, then at very least, a bore.

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  2. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    I'm not sure it's actually a "useful" guide. I mean, what can you use it for? It seems more like a set of sweeping generalizations, many of which are not true for many conspiracy theorists. It's just amusing to debunkers, and alienating to conspiracy theorists.

    What would actually be useful would be some tips on how to deal with each aspect.
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  3. Pete Tar

    Pete Tar Moderator Staff Member

    The trait most common to conspiracy theorists seems to be logical and cognitive fallacies.
    It's educational to watch, especially as it makes one keener to not exhibit the same failings.

    Most of the above characteristics can be reduced to basic arrogance and self-righteous zealotry, something capable of being exhibited by both 'sides', and comes about from the belief in any one side's 'cause' giving rise to contempt for the other side.

    The balance of arrogance does tend to fall onto the CT believers' side more often than not though, often because of the perceived 'urgency' of their issue, but contempt is not in short supply for anyone.
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  4. Clock

    Clock Active Member

    Do you want me to delete this thread? Mick, you have the mod powers here, so I guess you can do your magic
  5. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    No, it's still useful as a discussion point. What DO we do if we encounter points on the above list?
  6. Shaman

    Shaman New Member

    1. Arrogance: Ask for strict facts. Point out their bias and ask them to step outside of their own issue for the time being and explain calmly why they believe what they believe. (I'm not sure of many other ways to deal with egotism unless the person rectifies it themself)

    2. Relentlessness: Remind them to keep it short and sweet. Most people have short attention spans. Tell them to list their most important points first so that we can start there. If they don't oblige, little can be done. We can do what is in our own ability after all.

    3. Repeat the initial question a few times. If not addressed, treat as an attention seeker?

    4. Facts please? What else is there to say? While intuition may be a useful tool, it is most useful for finding more facts. It seems to be that many conspiracy theorists deal with speculation (a product of the intuitive mind). However, they lack enough facts to come to a more logical explanation. Rectify this.

    (Not sure if any of that is even remotely useful. I just wanted to give it a shot.) Feedback please?
  7. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    I'd go further, and ask for their one most important point. Multiple points just degenerate into whack-a-mole. You need one thing that you can address in a comprehensive manner.
  8. Grieves

    Grieves Senior Member

    This isn't a 'guide', it's a blatant effort to insult/cause contention. It further solidifies the 'us and them' mentality that makes meaningful discussion that much more difficult. Donna Ferentes needs to re-examine her own bias on this issue. That or take a big ol' bite of my ass. Either works for me.
  9. David Fraser

    David Fraser Senior Member

    To fair it is useful if you look at it from the broader aspect of CTs in that many if the aspects are applicable to some debunkers as well.
  10. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Many of the aspects are applicable to people - well, some people. And then again, many of the aspects are NOT applicable to SOME conspiracy theorists. It's a list of gross generalizations. It does, however, describe some aspects of some people that one occasionally has to address. I'd still hesitate to call it useful though (in net), as I think the polarizing nature of such labeling outweighs any insight you might get.
  11. Clock

    Clock Active Member

    Like I said Mick, why don't we just call it quits with this thing?