Four Types of Event Conspiracy Theory

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Conspiracy theories can be broadly classified into event conspiracies, systemic conspiracies, and super conspiracies. Event conspiracies are those that focus around a single event, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, or the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Systemic conspiracies are those that involve complex systems over a long period of time, such as water fluoridation, or the establishment of a dictatorial World Government by some elite group. Super conspiracies consist of multiple separate conspiracies spanning the entire spectrum of subjects, all linked together into one overarching master plan.


The conspiracy theory type that occurs in the largest numbers is the Event Conspiracy. Event conspiracies now spring up almost immediately after the event, even for seemingly mundane happenings. When the lights when out in the stadium at the 2013 Superbowl, there were almost immediate suggestions that it was done deliberately, perhaps by some shadowy hacker group such as Anonymous, in order to give the trailing 49ers a chance to regroup. This was probably reinforced in the minds of the suspicious when the 49ers managed to rally in the second half, almost defeating the Ravens.


Much more disturbingly, event conspiracy theories sprang up immediately after the shootings of twenty children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton Connecticut. A huge range of conspiracies were concocted. Most event conspiracy theories fall loosely into one of four sub-types, in increasing order of improbability:


Exploited Event - the “Glad it happened” theory. Here the events are genuine, and the conspirers are as surprised as anyone that they happened - however they immediately begin to exploit those events, and spin, lie, and distort what actually happened to further their goals. Here 9/11 was framed in such a way that many people got the impression that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attacks, and this was used to provide justification for the Iraq War. The Sandy Hook shootings were misreported and exploited in order to take away peoples guns.


Allowed Event - the “Let it happen” theory. Here the events are as they appeared to be. The 9/11 attacks were performed by terrorists hijacking planes. JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. However in this scenario, there is a set of secret conspirers (usually people in power, such as the executive branch of the government, or elements of government agencies) who are aware of the planned event ahead of time, and they could have stopped it by warning people. But they keep silent, and let the event happen because it benefits them in some way. Here George W. Bush allowed the attacks on 9/11 because they would provide justification for invading Iraq. Here the attacks on Pearl Harbor were known days in advance by the US and/or British government, but they let it happen to provide popular support for the US entering the Second World War.


Deliberate Event - the “Made it happen” theory. Here the events are real, but they were performed or ordered by the people behind the conspiracy. In this scenario the World Trade Center was hit by remote control planes, and the buildings brought down by controlled demolition. JFK was shot by a CIA sniper. The Sandy Hook children were shot by gunmen dressed as nuns who dumped Adam Lanza’s drugged and shot body after they had slaughtered the innocents.


Faked Event - the “It didn’t happen” theory. Here the entire event is a concoction of the government and the media. In this world view, we are living in a “matrix” style constructed reality. This is not to say we are living in a computer simulation, but that nearly everything portrayed in the media is faked. Nobody landed on the Moon, no planes struck the World Trade Center, no children were killed at Sandy Hook. They were all somehow staged to provide justification for some action. The 9/11 planes were computer animated, the videos are all faked, the people running in the street were all actors.


While you can usually describe any particular conspiracy theory by labeling it as one of the above four types of event conspiracies, it’s quite rare that it fits neatly within a single category. In particular the exploitation of an event is presumed to be happening regardless of the event was allowed, deliberate, or (especially) faked. Some events are supposedly half-way between “Allowed” and “Deliberate”, perhaps Adam Lanza was known to be a psychopath with access to guns, and was given drugs that made him violent, or perhaps he was brainwashed by voices beamed into his head at night. A kind of “helped it happen” theory.


It’s important when debunking to be clear which particular type of conspiracy you are dealing with. Many (if not most) people would agree that individuals within the Bush administration exploited the events of 9/11. Fewer, but still a significant number, think that Bush had some kind of foreknowledge of some kind of attack, at least to the extent of not fully acting on warnings. Fewer still think that Bush knew specifically what the attacks would be. A small percentage of people think that Bush and/or others in power deliberately engineered the attacks using the terrorists. An even smaller percentage thinks that the attacks happened, but not with terrorists, but with remote control planes, and deliberate controlled demolition. A very small percentage of people, hardly anyone, thinks that the attacks did not happen at all, and were entirely faked.

And yet the people who promote the more exotic conspiracy theories (like controlled demolition of the World Trade Center) will often use the number of people who suspect the more mundane (like Bush exploiting the events to invade Iraq) to bolster their case. They will take the fact that a large number of people are naturally suspicious of the actions of the Government relating to 9/11 and try to hijack those numbers to suggest that their own bizarre theory of controlled demolition has broad popular support. But while many people would sign a petition that called for a new and open investigation of the events of 9/11, not all, and probably not even a significant fraction of them, strongly believe that the building were deliberately destroyed by Bush administration operatives with explosives.
 
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Gary Cook

Active Member
I'm betting there are some people that say 9/11 never happened at all. Humans of just about every personality exist isn't it.

Are these something you defined yourself or read elsewhere? Just asking.
 
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Libertarian

Banned
Banned
I'm betting there are some people that say 9/11 never happened at all. Humans of just about every personality exist isn't it.

Are these something you defined yourself or read elsewhere? Just asking.
I suspect they came from one of the books in his pile. He had a good few debunking books in there. I was really impressed with his dedication in looking at the book stack actually. I don't remember what thread it was in...I'll look and report back in an edit.
 

NoParty

Senior Member.
I suspect they came from one of the books in his pile. He had a good few debunking books in there. I was really impressed with his dedication in looking at the book stack actually. I don't remember what thread it was in...I'll look and report back in an edit.
Since this post comes only about 50 days after Sandy Hook, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess Mick didn't get them from his big stack o' debunking' books. ;)


(also a quick google search of the 4 key terms shows nothing prior to 2/4/13)
 

Josh Heuer

Active Member
@Mick West , would you say that this breakdown also applies to actual conspiracy?
I noticed you've put a lot of thought into conspiracy theory, but you hardly seem to mention actual conspiracy. I know they're somewhat distant topics, but they have their obvious relations, and I'm surprised that you don't seem as fascinated by legitimate conspiracies.
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
I'm not Mick but the title seems quite clear in its intent. Focus on "theory".

Understand the meaning of actual verified past conspiracies in a historical context, though. But, that isn't up for debate, or is it?

( By "conspiracies" I am immediately reminded of HBO's program "Game of Thrones". Just as an example.....Those would perhaps be better described as "machinations" in a political sense. (??) )
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
@Mick West , would you say that this breakdown also applies to actual conspiracy?
I noticed you've put a lot of thought into conspiracy theory, but you hardly seem to mention actual conspiracy. I know they're somewhat distant topics, but they have their obvious relations, and I'm surprised that you don't seem as fascinated by legitimate conspiracies.
I was under the impression he was fascinated with bunk.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
My thoughts here were mostly about the theories that spring up very shortly after an event, and generally before the facts are established.

But yes, my focus is on debunking things, so if a conspiracy is established and proven, then what is there to debunk?
 

Josh Heuer

Active Member
I was under the impression he was fascinated with bunk.

Yes, and conspiracy theory is largely filled with bunk (as far as we are concerned), I get that. But conspiracy theory is very obviously similar to conspiracy, minus the bunk. It has all of the same aspects except it is conspiracy theory proven true.

This topic specifically is not so much about the broad topic of bunk as it is the more focused topic of conspiracy theory. One thing to keep in mind is that not all conspiracy theories turn out to be bunk, even if 99% of them do. And that's the aspect I'm speaking of, the things which turn out to be real cover ups. When speaking so much about the theories out there, you can't dismiss the fact that some of these things turn of true.
If there's so much time spent examining conspiracy theory, for the sake of completeness, shouldn't there be equal focus on real conspiracy? Wouldn't that also give a better understanding of how/why these theories pop up?

My thoughts here were mostly about the theories that spring up very shortly after an event, and generally before the facts are established.
Hmm...I'm not so sure I agree with that. Yeah, in this day and age, it seems a majority of conspiracy theories pop up immediately after an event, but there are some that pop up well after the facts.


But yes, my focus is on debunking things, so if a conspiracy is established and proven, then what is there to debunk?
Nothing, but if you've taken an interest in conspiracy theory, then why not understand conspiracy as well? There's an obvious relation.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Nothing, but if you've taken an interest in conspiracy theory, then why not understand conspiracy as well? There's an obvious relation.

Because the real conspiracies are adequately covered elsewhere, and usually in great detail.

But again, my primary interest is in bunk, and debunking that bunk so the real issues get more appropriate attention. I wrote this little taxonomy of conspiracy theories because, as you say, they are a common source of bunk. But it was initially triggered by me recognizing this range of theories in the theories that sprang up around Sandy Hook.
 

Gary Cook

Active Member
I cant say I necessarily agree with this completly as there are really people who conspire for selfish reasons and that wasnt mentioned but then again thats maybe because it wouldnt be a conspiracy theory then I guess - it would just be a fact. I am grateful there is least one forum where people still apply science. Its not nice to be told you are talking rubbish by a conspiracy theorist who hasnt really put any real study in to the claims they are making. Not that I think all conspiracies are bunk though.
 

Svartbjørn

Senior Member.
There's a difference though, Gary, between Conspiracies and Conspiracies Theories. Mick's talking about the Theories themselves not any actual Conspiracies that have been proven (and there have been plenty). 99.99% of all Conspiracy Theories do actually fit into one or more of the four categories Mick listed.. very similarly to the Three (or 4?) reasons Neil DeGrasse Tyson lists as the motivators behind exploration and invention. They're not the 100% be all end all of the motivations and reasons behind them (theories or motivations respectively) but they do cover the vast vast majority of them fairly effectively.. and thats the point Mick was illustrating.
 

David Coulter

Senior Member.
Mick, this is a great summary and should be part of every 6th graders social studies class!

I am convinced that in a free society there is only one type of conspiracy - an unorganized "conspiracy of common interest". These occur when diverse people with similar special knowledge or information exploit something that they can use to their own benefit without physically colluding. The junk mortgage derivatives are a primary example. It is the nudge-nudge, wink-wink type of conspiracy. Ultimately these are always exposed as the free market will generate counter parties that recognize there are naked/unhedged players.
 

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