When Conspiracists Psychoanalyze

deirdre

Senior Member.
I find a common trait amoungst conspiracy theoriest, science deniers and paranormal believers - It is anti-intellectualism. Whenever I confront global warming deniers, ufo believers, Trump supporters and Brexitiers I find the same response when we argue to the point where the cold hard truth comes out. It is a denial that they are wrong and have been wrong all along.


I find a common trait amoungst men - It is anti-intellectualism. Whenever I confront them I find the same response when we argue to the point where the cold hard truth comes out. It is a denial that they are wrong and have been wrong all along.
 

Ann K

Active Member
I think we do/are a bit. One of my friends dismisses CTs out of hand and says they are all bollocks. I have spent a great deal of time looking at CTs only to conclude basically the same thing. Obviously I have fulfilled a curiosity about these things, fulfilled a need to feel right, and also learned an awful lot of stuff I wouldn't have previously, but at the same time, have I just wasted large parts of my life when I could have just dismissed it all like my friend and ended in the same position?
I think the answer is no, it isn't a waste of time to examine CTs and engage the believers, depending on the uses of the theories and the motivation of those who promulgate them. Flat earth stuff is relatively benign, and only good for an eyeroll and a laugh, but a good many, especially in the USA, are politically motivated inventions with the purpose of garnering votes and raising money. They need to be combated severely, but I'm convinced that a good many who spread the stories are not honest about really believing them themselves, and just enjoy putting a foot in the anthill.

The facts of that category of CTs might not matter to a lot of believers, but I fear more harm than good is done by ignoring those obvious fabrications. Just stating facts has little effect upon them ...but a certain amount of exposure of hypocrisy coupled with a large spoonful of ridicule makes a pretty good weapon.
 

Ann K

Active Member
Not really. He's still doing flat earth and other silly stuff. Perhaps he's weaning himself off and trying to move into a new area - but many times less views on the goldfish and ostrich videos than on his "flat earth fail" stuff so it'll be interesting to see which direction he takes now he knows what earns the money.

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Flat earth debunking, though silly, is amusing, so of course he gets more views on them. I hope you're not leveling criticism at someone for making a bit of money with his videos. It's not a moral failure, you know. :)
 

Rory

Senior Member.
I hope you're not leveling criticism at someone for making a bit of money with his videos. It's not a moral failure, you know. :)

Nope, definitely not. Just saying if I was in his shoes I'd have a hard time looking myself in the mirror. But I'm not in his shoes so it's all good (he's the one in his shoes; and I'll be in mine if I can find them).
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Just stating facts has little effect upon them ...but a certain amount of exposure of hypocrisy coupled with a large spoonful of ridicule makes a pretty good weapon.
ridicule just makes it look like you have no faith in your "facts". I guess if the bunk believer is really young, they might feel shame from ridicule and learn not share their thoughts outloud. but what does that accomplish? you can't slay the dragon if the dragon is invisible.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
Flat earth stuff is relatively benign, and only good for an eyeroll and a laugh
Though it often seems to be one of the "gateway drugs" that form the first steps down into the abode of rabbits. So even there, I think it is worth refuting as effectively as possible. I don't know how many minds can be changed, but I think some folks might be saved from falling for it, folks for whom that might not be the case if it were unchallenged.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
I don't know how many minds can be changed
i think alot of minds can be changed with that one. it's one of the 'easiest' ones because it's mostly physical based and people can do simple somewhat easily-accessible experiments themselves. (vs say understanding load distributions in engineering skyscrapers or just taking someone's word that contrails are formed when air is cool below its saturation point and the water vapor in the air condenses).
 

Vattic

New Member
ridicule just makes it look like you have no faith in your "facts". I guess if the bunk believer is really young, they might feel shame from ridicule and learn not share their thoughts outloud. but what does that accomplish? you can't slay the dragon if the dragon is invisible.
I disagree that ridicule has to make you look like you have no faith in your facts. Satire can combine both well, and even outside of satire the odd snarky comment can add entertainment value to a dry topic. You also have to consider the audience to your "debate". Not all criticism is aimed to sway the true believer. It can nudge people who are unfamiliar who might have fallen the other way, or be used reinforce existing positions. Not that the facts have to be true for this to be effective.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
i think alot of minds can be changed with that one. it's one of the 'easiest' ones because it's mostly physical based and people can do simple somewhat easily-accessible experiments themselves.

One would think so, but I think we might be hard-pressed to find even a few dozen people who had come to realise they were "wrong".

Also, thinking about what flat earth belief is built on - space is fake, history is a lie, all governments are colluding in the deception, all stories about exploration in Antarctica, etc are fabricated, reality is not what it seems - there's a lot more that needs to crumble in addition. I'm not sure I'd consider it a "gateway drug" - for many, it seems like the pinnacle.

I disagree that ridicule has to make you look like you have no faith in your facts.

I would agree with that, and I've also seen studies where ridicule showed promise in reducing CT belief. Though, on the other hand, apparently "fat shaming" has been shown to make people fatter.

As far as CTs go, though, can we agree that pretty much nothing has been shown to work? :D
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
One would think so, but I think we might be hard-pressed to find even a few dozen people who had come to realise they were "wrong".
you could, of course, be correct. although i dont think i'd personally go around advertising "i used to be a flat earther", once i realized i was wrong. but that's me.

there's a lot more that needs to crumble in addition.
those are the reasons i think its easier. it was easier to totally collapse the Twin Towers because they were ridiculously big and heavy. a smaller building (conspiracy theory) doesn't have all that xtra weight. ??

As far as CTs go, though, can we agree that pretty much nothing has been shown to work? :D
conspiracy belief will never be completely eliminated from the face of the earth. we are humans.
just like religious or spiritual belief will never be eliminated. we are human.
or fun beliefs like bigfoot and lake monsters etc. we are human.

i used to believe there were monsters in my closet and under my bed, but i dont go around announcing it to the world. Many jobs are productive and hugely beneficial to others to perform, but most of the time we get no direct validation of this. and the numbers don't seem to change because new people with problems keep popping up. but that doesnt mean you haven't greatly helped a large number of people.

or you're right and it is all worthless. :)
 

Mythic Suns

Member
You don’t need to do nice things in secret.
And yet it happens all the time; people open doors for other people, people give money to the mostly ignored homeless guy, and people make anonymous donations to various charities. Yet i’ve never seen anyone accuse those people of conspiring to make the world a better place.

Having said that I guess there are the occasional business people who might get accused of conspiring to do something nice for the world; Steve Jobs for example was often, and probably still is, praised by people as someone whose only goal was to make technology better and more accessible to the general public, so in a way they were suggesting that he was conspiring to make technology better for everyone. Obviously there were, and still are negative things said about him but the positive stuff was there as well.
 

Mythic Suns

Member
There's a narrative pushed upon many conspiracists that they are the "good guys", the "ones who know the secret", the "true patriots". Everyone likes the idea of being in on a secret, and when it is a "secret" no longer as it is spread to millions, that just vindicates the believers and gives them the warm fuzzy feeling that they belong to the group who knows "the truth". They become the "righteous ones" in their own eyes, even while others see them as deluded and manipulated.
This kind of ties in to what I mentioned in post #5 ; a lot of the films i’ve seen and heard conspiracists reference mostly centre around the good guys fighting an insanely strong enemy.
 

Henkka

Active Member
And yet it happens all the time; people open doors for other people, people give money to the mostly ignored homeless guy, and people make anonymous donations to various charities. Yet i’ve never seen anyone accuse those people of conspiring to make the world a better place
Well, sure, but there’s no issue or anything to talk about really when it comes to ”positive conspiracies”, like people making anonymous donations to charity. The issue is whether or not rich and powerful people sometimes conspire to hurt the average person in order to benefit themselves.

I think non-conspiracists believe that while mistakes and the occasional corruption happens, by and large powerful institutions are still working as intended, while conspiracists are skeptical of that. For example, the Iraq WMDs thing, was it just honest mistake based on faulty intel? Or did multiple people deliberately conspire to lie to make the war happen, because it served whatever interests they had?
 

LilWabbit

Senior Member
I think non-conspiracists believe that while mistakes and the occasional corruption happens, by and large powerful institutions are still working as intended, while conspiracists are skeptical of that. For example, the Iraq WMDs thing, was it just honest mistake based on faulty intel? Or did multiple people deliberately conspire to lie to make the war happen, because it served whatever interests they had?

Any reasonable observer who is interested in objective evidence would never claim conspiracies don't exist. He/she merely asks for the evidence demonstrating a given conspiracy which is often either entirely absent or sketchy. A CT -- such as a secretive and well-organized military-industrial complex -- implies a range of testable observables that are usually absent after a more-than-cursory analysis.

He/she may still accept that, by and large, modern Western (as well as non-Western) governments and many of their influential officials act in highly selfish, unabashedly nationalistic and even dangerously narcissistic ways while pursuing seemingly virtuous and high-minded objectives as their pretexts. The search for WMDs may also have been prompted by such self-serving interests coupled with reliance on poor intel fed to a gullible head of state. But that doesn't mean there's ample evidence of a conspiracy. Or that the said leaders didn't believe on some level that they're doing something good.

It's always possible that a rubber duck is in fact an extraterrestrial in disguise. But as long as the evidence for the more extraordinary claim is lacking, regarding a rubber duck a rubber duck remains the far more reasonable conclusion.

To heavily lean on a conspiratorial explanation despite poor evidence bespeaks, imo, of (1) a naive over-estimation of the intelligence and capability of powerful governments (the longer you've served one at a high level, the less naive you are about their omnipotence) and their sponsors and (2) a tendency to expect the worst of people in power (cliches like 'power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely' taken as a hard and fast rule). Both 1 and 2 can be fuelled by popular fictional literature/movies as well as political forces wanting you to think that way.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
I've read a few mainstream articles on why people believe in conspiracies, and one claim that puzzles me is that they give people a sense of security. I don't understand this. Why would believing that powerful people are doing nefarious things outside your control give anyone a sense of security? Isn't it the complete opposite?

An anecdote that I consider one of the more interesting tidbits I've come across in this area: I once asked a conspiracy theorist who seemed to believe everything was a false flag/media lie if there were any events he considered had actually happened. After careful consideration he told me the shooting up of a Planned Parenthood/abortion clinic. It became apparent that this was because he could understand why someone would do this, given his views on abortion, but couldn't understand why someone would, for example, shoot up a school or crash planes into "innocent Americans".

Perhaps that's another aspect of what brings security: wishing away the bad guys and pretending the world is a place where people don't do things we can't comprehend.

Someone who believes the mainstream view thinks it was just a group of ragtag jihadists, and the US army went over there and kicked their asses.

You were probably just being poetic here - but I doubt whether everyone who believes the mainstream view would characterise the perpetrators of 9/11 as "ragtag jihadists" or agree that the US Army "kicked their asses".

Which brings us to the Skeptic's Paradox whereby many skeptics also espouse a metaphysical belief that produces an emotional payoff which precedes any and all intellectual argumentation while seeking intellectual confirmation (i.e. intellectualization). It goes something like this:

The skeptic espouses an unscientific metaphysical belief that science is the only reliable means to acquire knowledge.

What a magnificent sentence (according to my bias).
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
recently a debunker just called everyone who voted for a candidate "paranoid lunatics".

That sentence cannot be supported with evidence, and is you either mis-remembering, or mis-understanding, what was actually said.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
...we would if we could! :D

That's a joke - I'm assuming that's where your dots were heading - but there may be some out there that think that way.
they would if they could

Georgia monument blown up
Austrian physician driven to suicide by threats from anti-vaxxers
etc.

not a good thing to joke about, and the wrong direction to take it
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
. A group effort to build a cohesive story is made, and anything that goes against the cohesive story is dismissed. System 2 thinking is only used to construct sophistries to defend the core belief, or to originate schemes to harm someone who questions it.

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"cohesive story" is a better description of what I termed "sense of security", it minimizes cognitive dissonance—and the pathologizing of the others is in service of that. ("this could happen to me" is not a comfortable thought to have)

if we can't construct a cohesive story rationally, we do it irrationally—and down the rabbit hole we go (often with external "help")
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
I doubt whether everyone who believes the mainstream view would characterise the perpetrators of 9/11 as "ragtag jihadists"
the 9/11 commission report makes it clear they weren't (depending on the definition if "ragtag")

I feel that what CTists call "the mainstream" may not really be an accurate representation of it (same goes for "mainstream reporting"). It's a distorted image of what these are like, in accordance to the outgroup attitudes @Z.W. Wolf referenced in his post
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
It became apparent that this was because he could understand why someone would do this, given his views on abortion, but couldn't understand why someone would, for example, shoot up a school or crash planes into "innocent Americans".

Perhaps that's another aspect of what brings security: wishing away the bad guys and pretending the world is a place where people don't do things we can't comprehend.
my take is different: if you accept that the school shooters or aircraft hijackers are intelligent people with reasons for their grudges, you can't uphold the belief that "innocent Americans" don't cause harm to others; but when "my attitudes don't cause harm" is a core belief, you have to

@deirdre I'm aware that jihadists and school shooters also target Europeans
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
or maybe some skeptics are embarrassed of the terms "mainstream", (ie not hip, not deep) so THEY have a distorted image of what these are like, in accordance to outgroup attitiudes.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
my take is different: if you accept that the school shooters or aircraft hijackers are intelligent people with reasons for their grudges, you can't uphold the belief that "innocent Americans" don't cause harm to others; but when "my attitudes don't cause harm" is a core belief, you have to

Same take, not different.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
or maybe some skeptics are embarrassed of the terms "mainstream", (ie not hip, not deep) so THEY have a distorted image of what these are like, in accordance to outgroup attitiudes.
that's where evidence comes into play (like me referring to evidence that the official explanation does not depict the 9/11 terrorists as a "ragtag band")
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
that's where evidence comes into play
how are they/we supposed to evidence what the mainstream idea is?



Henkka said:
Someone who believes the mainstream view thinks it was just a group of ragtag jihadists, and the US army went over there and kicked their asses.
I'm someone who believes the mainstream view and i think it was just a group of ragtag jihadists and the US [military] went over there and kicked their asses.

I agree that SOME conspiracy theorists may misrepresent mainstream from time to time, but i just feel you are all being a tad bit pedantic over Henkka's simple comment. Just my opinion.
 

Rory

Senior Member.
I can't describe my take as "wishing away the bad guys".

Your take was what one would get from reading in between the lines of what I wrote (there's lots implied in that anecdote, but obviously no need to spell it all out).

I agree that SOME conspiracy theorists may misrepresent mainstream from time to time, but i just feel you are all being a tad bit pedantic over Henkka's simple comment. Just my opinion.

Agreed. :)
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
I think alot of minds can be changed with that one.
In my experience, that is sadly not the case. My experince is, of course, limited.

You also have to consider the audience to your "debate".
And whether your goal is to convince your "opponent," or to prevent your opponent from convincing the crowd. If the later, humor can be useful if used carefully. I think the trick is to make ridiculous claims look ridiculous, while avoiding going after the person to the extent you can keep the two separate.
 

LilWabbit

Senior Member
Which other reliable means of acquiring knowledge would you suggest?

Yours and mine shared ability to know without a shadow of doubt that you're asking me an epistemological question for starters. Your ability to strongly intuit a mind-independent reality is another one. Prove them to me scientifically or demonstrate to me the universe is not a very persistent and consistent dream. You cannot. And yet both pieces of knowledge are reliable, and in fact form the basis of scientific activity.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
Not really. He's still doing flat earth and other silly stuff. Perhaps he's weaning himself off and trying to move into a new area - but many times less views on the goldfish and ostrich videos than on his "flat earth fail" stuff so it'll be interesting to see which direction he takes now he knows what earns the money.

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SciManDan "earns his money" by catering to a group that thinks of themselves as science-literate. That's why his channel shows science and also science denial. I think it is somewhat valuable to show what science denial is and how it operates, so that his audience knows not to trust it when it comes knocking at their door, in an "inoculation" kind of way, by defining science deniers as the outgroup.

Unlike Rory, he doesn't really try to reach Flat Earthers; they're his material, not his target group.
 

Mauro

Active Member
Yours and mine shared ability to know without a shadow of doubt that you're asking me an epistemological question for starters. Your ability to strongly intuit a mind-independent reality is another one.
Is that your answer? Are you maybe saying 'intuitions' are a reliable meaning of acquiring knowledge?

Prove them to me scientifically or demonstrate to me the universe is not a very persistent and consistent dream. You cannot. And yet both pieces of knowledge are reliable, and in fact form the basis of scientific activity.
Why should I? I only asked to know which reliable means of acquiring knowledge, apart from science, you can suggest. The 'metaphysical' (whatever that may mean) underpinnings (or lack of) of science (or of any of the means you may suggest) are wholly irrelevant to the question.

Now to go back to the original question: which other means of acquiring reliable knowledge [apart from science] would you suggest? I don't care if it has shaky 'metaphysical' foundations or not, I'm only interested in it being able to acquire reliable knowledge, an important enough thing. Is 'intuitions' your answer?
 
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LilWabbit

Senior Member
Is that your answer?

Yes, and it's far more specific than any vague reference to 'intuition' or 'metaphysical' that can mean many things.

I suggest you think about the answer further in order to fully grasp it before repeating the same question as if it wasn't answered. It's not a glib, sarcastic, hostile or an irrelevant answer if that's what you think I was being. It's a very serious answer and it demonstrates reliable knowledge that's not scientific by nature. A type of reliable knowledge which is sometimes so mundane and obvious that one doesn't even realize it's reliable non-scientific knowledge in addition to not being a physical observation. It's considered so reliable and evident that virtually nobody ever seriously doubts it.

In this case specifics take us much further than arguing about broader theories and psychological concepts subject to all manner of misunderstandings unless we agree on precise definitions. Which I doubt we do, and the hairsplitting on which would derail us.
 
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Mauro

Active Member
... it's reliable non-scientific knowledge in addition to not being a physical observation. It's considered so reliable and evident that virtually nobody ever seriously doubts it. ....
Really? Intuition is reliable? Even more than that, it's as reliable as science? Some intuitions may be reliable, just as a stopped clock, the big problem being you then need a means to tell which among the innumerable intuitions are the reliable ones. That is to say, science.

Btw: we're drifting much off-topic. This exchange would be better moved to rambles I think.
 
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