1. McGurnicle

    McGurnicle Member

    A lot of conspiracism is motivated by political and religious ideology. Libertarians want unfettered capitalism so it's to their advantage to vilify government. Religious fundamentalists oppose secularism so it's politically expedient for them to demonize secular culture as a deliberate construction of Satanic elites. Most of the major conspiracy theorists are from one or both of these camps. The paranoid style is effective in whipping up hysterical support for crank political theories and religious extremism. This is a standard criticism of conspiracy culture and I think it's a valid one, but there is another type of conspiracy theorist, one who doesn't hold radical or extreme views but winds up down the rabbit hole all the same. It's this type I want to focus on because I was on the path to becoming this type of conspiracist.

    I've always pretty much been a religious agnostic and a political moderate, I've never really held strong opinions in those areas and I try to be reasonable and fair minded by at least attempting to understand issues from all the relevant perspectives. I've found that on most issues every side has at least one or two valid point so it's always a good idea keep an open mind and take the time to carefully consider different viewpoints. It was in the course of researching one of these contentious issues that I confirmed a sort of shocking explanation of the structure and function of one of our major institutions. The explanation itself wasn't controversial, it's accepted by everyone who has bothered to look into it, it's just most people aren't aware of how the sausage is made and when you find out it's pretty hard to believe at first. That led me to scrutinize many other major institutions, and in most cases what I found was very disconcerting. I became disoriented, what was once for me a decent society by, for, and of the people now appeared to be an undemocratic plutocracy, a system "for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools" where everything is corrupt and nothing can be trusted.

    Now there are many prominent people on both the left and the right who have been saying essentially this for a long time and none of them could be considered "conspiracy theorists", in itself that perspective is largely legitimate. My close call with the rabbit hole came after those revelations and began with the question: If this is true, then what can't be? If people are clueless enough to allow rampant corporatism, private control of the money supply, mass consolidation of corporate controlled media, money in politics, mass surveillance, etc, with none of it ever being mentioned in school or in the media, then maybe Illuminati type grand conspiracies aren't so far fetched after all?

    I did begin to look into many of the different claims for who's behind it all and what the ultimate agenda might be and I found a lot of interesting obscure facts and footnotes that do lend support to those ideas. I won't lie, for a while I was half convinced that there was something to it although I never really settled on any one theory. I think what really saved me from full blown delusion is the skeptics and debunkers who maintain an active presence on conspiracy forums and keep blogs that show up in search results on conspiracy related queries. Maybe I encountered the skeptics just in time before the paranoia really took hold and I was still able to recognize good sense when presented with it.

    I always try to tell conspiracy leaning people that debunkers are your best friends, that if you're really interested in synthesizing the most reasonable, coherent perspective then you really do need to let honest skeptics tear into your ideas and be willing to let go of rationally untenable commitments. And for conspiracists of my type that usually works, because there the conspiriacism is just due to simple confusion or disorientation, these types really just need to get their bearings and learn to practice some critical thinking. This type of conspiracy theorist is low hanging fruit for the skeptic, they can be reasoned out of the nonsense because they reasoned their way into it. The other type is much more difficult to get through to because their conspiricism is ideologically motivated.

    Anyway, I hope that might provide a little more insight into the conspiracy phenomenon, and maybe help skeptics tailor their approach when engaging with the different types.
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017
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  2. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks for sharing, that's very interesting!

    Could you give a bit more detail here (if possible, no worries if not)? I'm guessing it's something like "Rothschilds control all banks", but was it something even more extreme? What forums were you frequenting?
  3. McGurnicle

    McGurnicle Member

    Yeah it was the Jews, The Jesuits, the 13 Bloodlines of the Illuminati. I never really took the lizard people or the aliens seriously, and even the other groups didn't really make much sense to me either. I just had sort of a vague notion that there might be a hidden power somewhere controlling a grand unified conspiracy. I figured if powerful people could get away with all the stuff that's well confirmed then there very well could be a global cabal running the whole show. The skeptics made pretty easy work of the Jews, Jesuits, and Bloodlines, there's just too many inconsistencies and contradictions once you get into actual history, and William Domhoff's work helped me understand why grand conspiracies aren't viable to begin with and in any case there's no evidence for it in the sociology of power. There are elite theories of power, but they're very different from conspiracism. The websites I mainly frequented were Conspiracy Central(ConCen)and The Info Underground, there were a couple other ones dedicated to the Jesuit theory, and InfoWars for the 13 bloodlines stuff.
  4. McGurnicle

    McGurnicle Member

    I haven't read the whole [The psychology of the CT believers] thread so maybe this has already been mentioned but from my interactions with conspiracy theorists the big takeaway is that conspiracism is a folk reaction to the ludicrous structural travesties of our civilization. The sense of alarm and outrage is understandable, the trouble with conspiracism isn't that it's wrongheaded, it's just that it's wrong in most cases.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 17, 2017
  5. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Could you give an example of the type of "ludicrous structural travesties of our civilization" you are referring to?
  6. McGurnicle

    McGurnicle Member

    An obvious one is public banking. There are no coherent arguments against it, we just don't have it. Why is that? I understand the reason why as a confluence of banal forces, but to arrive at that understanding requires a lot of intensive investigation, thought, and analysis which most people don't have the time or know-how to develop.
  7. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Why does the lack of public banking lead to conspiracism?
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  8. McGurnicle

    McGurnicle Member

    The question is extremely naive, but to answer, it leads to enormous wealth gaps that give rise to plutocracy.
  9. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    So you think conspiracism comes from wealth inequality?
  10. McGurnicle

    McGurnicle Member

    Extreme wealth inequality, among other things.
  11. Ph_

    Ph_ Closed Account

    Would you also consider people in this category that deny the 2nd World War holocaust?
    Or some Turks that i personally spoke with that deny the Armenian genocide ever happened.

    They also seem to be heavy influenced by religion or politics.
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2017
  12. McGurnicle

    McGurnicle Member

    Absolutely, racism is a huge motivator.
  13. Z.W. Wolf

    Z.W. Wolf Active Member

    I don't know anything about public banking, but I do agree that wealth inequality is a major fire under the cauldron at this time.

    It's traditional to compare the US to the Roman Empire. Decadence, bread and circuses, and all that. But I think a more apt and thoughtful comparison can be made to the late Roman Republic.

    Male citizens did their time in the army in the wars of conquest. These wars contributed to a huge number of slaves being introduced into the domestic Roman economy. Rich patrician families used slave labor on farms. They used the profits to buy more farms and more slaves. There was no stopping that cycle. Citizen soldiers found when they came back from long years of war that their land had been taken away through one means or another, and there was no way to replace it and no demand for them in what job market there was.

    Wealth inequality (and the issue of granting citizenship to Italian allies) were huge sources of discontent. As wealth gathered around a group of super rich patricians, those patricians rather than the state, became the source of political power. Pompey, Crassus, Caesar and others, had their own armies. There was civil war after civil war.

    So who are the slaves now but the machines? Who are the super-rich patricians? The billionaires, that are becoming the centers of political power. Our next president might be Mark Cuban. Billionaires that have made the billions through commerce become political power brokers. Politicians that seize power become super wealthy kleptocrats - Putin for instance.

    In the US there's seething anger. Although so far the anger hasn't been aimed at wealth inequality I think it's the major source of energy. People have just gotten side tracked into biologically based psychological things like in-group out-group dynamics.

    In Japan, where people focus their discontent inward on themselves, there's a growing ennui.

    This article: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/07/japan-mystery-low-birth-rate/534291/

    ...starts out pondering why Japanese people aren't having sex, but it soon turns to things like this...

    Sounds familiar doesn't it? There are just too few jobs to go around. It's an employer's market. It's like a million people playing musical chairs with only 800,000 chairs to go around. And the chairs just keep getting fewer and crappier.

    As robotic labor becomes more competent, and that's going to be an explosively fast trend, what's going to happen?

    In the meantime politicians are aiding and abetting the trend away from steady jobs with benefits, to part time or "independent contractor" jobs. Uber is a hideous example.

    I don't think there's one power directing this trend. It's an "unseen hand" of biologically motivated behaviors. The idea of an all powerful, tight knit brotherhood of evil, I think, itself is something based in evolutionary psychology. In a troop of primates of 100 adults, or bands of humans, there are definitely tight knit coalitions. Among primates coalition building is the primary means to the goal of social domination. I don't think that's an accident. It's a behavior that's been selected for. And the drive to be wary of a rival coalitions is just as strong. We call it "paranoia" now.

    We still do have millions of separate coalitions. Just look at any business office or high school. And there are a number of powerful coalitions. But in this world of 7 billion people a single ruling group like that is just impossible. But... this kind of thing is deep in our psyche, so it's easy to imagine that single shadowy coalition. And in that fevered dream we imagine things like this...


    Not just a powerful coalition, but the mystically tight knit, shadowy group. In the real world, coalitions are made up of self-interested individuals. There aren't any mystical ceremonies keeping the brotherhood in rigid discipline. There are just individuals that go along for various mundane, or admittedly crazy (but still surprisingly banal), reasons.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2017
  14. McGurnicle

    McGurnicle Member

    I have to disagree with you here, Occupy Wall Street was directly aimed at wealth inequality. Conspiracism is a reaction to wealth inequality, it can also be attributed to disparities of power and access.
    Similiar to Rome, the political and economic systems of our society are exclusionary, undemocratic, and elitist and that leads to unjust outcomes, and so people look for some nefarious group or entity to attribute that to. A good analogy would be how people observe appearent design in nature and conclude that there is an intelligent designer. It's the obvious inference and it's understandable why people would come to that conclusion, but after a lot of painstaking investigation it turns out that's not the case. The reason people believe in conspiracies is that there is a lot of evidence pointing in that direction, but like intelligent design that worldview just doesn't hold up when you really scrutinize it.
  15. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    There's a large number of factors, it's a mistake to generalize. Douglas, et al, surveyed the literature and found three broad classes of motives/factors:
    • Epistemic - the desire for a stable, accurate and internally consistent understanding of the world
    • Existential - the desire to feel safe and secure.
    • Social - the desire to fit into a group and boost self-esteem.
    These three factors were broken down into various examples on which research has been done. Wealth was not mentioned much, but it does not seem unreasonable that lack of wealth would be a contributing factor. The most similar things were:

    The Usciniski reference is a book: http://amzn.to/2vScbV7



    However when looking specifically at income inequality:


    Attached Files:

  16. McGurnicle

    McGurnicle Member

    I'd say it's a mistake to pathologize, but I don't think it's a problem to speak in qualified generalities.