From 9/11 to the Paris attacks, from Ebola to Isis, every major global event attracts a corresponding counter-narrative from the ‘truthers’ [this is good news], some so all-encompassing that they take over people’s lives [probably not healthy unless focused on real investigation and action]. Are our brains wired to believe, as a new book argues? [Wired to believe authority, perhaps] And could such thinking actually be beneficial? [For the healthy among us.]
It is interesting that this comes from the Guardian – the news source that has gained some credibility with anti-state / anti-empire types due to reporting such as provided regarding Snowden, as one example (not that I am advancing a conspiracy theory or anything). The author does tread lightly and respectfully.
The author of the piece, David Shariatmadari (I won’t type the last name again), begins with some testimony from a recovering conspiracy theorist, one apparently previously obsessed with 911 conspiracy theories. How does David respond?
Elliott’s reaction to the trauma of 9/11 was far from unusual. The attacks were so unprecedented, so devastating, that many of us struggled to make sense of them. Early reports were confused or contradictory: as a result some treated the official version of events with scepticism. A proportion of those in turn plumped for an explanation that would require fakery and coordination on a massive scale.
The official narrative of 911 involves “an explanation that would require fakery and coordination on a massive scale.” If we are to dismiss every theory of 911 based on this criteria, it is the official narrative that is the most preposterous and therefore must be the first to go.
Setting this aside, it seems to me unnecessary to come up with an alternative theory, at least as a starting point; the official narrative is so full of holes – and questioned by numerous architects and engineers, pilots, etc. – that it is sufficient to acknowledge that we have been fed a massive lie, and one that has resulted in the needless death of millions and the trashing of liberties for billions.
Within a day of the terrorist attacks on the French capital, blogs had been published arguing that they were the work of the government – a so-called “false flag” operation.
I have no idea if the recent attacks in Paris were a false flag operation (although the apparent perpetrators were well known to French intelligence agencies); however, no one with even an ounce of curiosity could conclude it was the first one ever in history. Questions should be raised, if for no other reason than to call into question the spending of countless trillions of dollars spent to spy on everyone in the world, resulting in the stupendous failure of Paris (or San Bernardino, or whatever).
Belief in so-called conspiracy theories has been pretty consistent, according to Viren Swami, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University:
What has changed, however, is the speed with which new theories are formed. “It’s a symptom of a much more integrated world,” he says. The internet speeds everything up, allowing conspiracy-minded individuals to connect and formulate their ideas.
This is to the benefit of us all: no matter how quirky our ideas – not only regarding such events, but also (in my case) regarding economics, liberty, etc. – it has become much easier to find community and to build on the learning of others. We are no longer confined to work colleagues, the neighborhood bar, a church social group, or postage-sized ads in the back of some obscure magazine or another.
Social psychologist Karen Douglas agrees:
It’s very easy to go online and find other people who feel the same way as you.
Returning to Viren Swami:
In contrast, it took months for theories about Pearl Harbor to develop.
And such theories about Pearl Harbor turned out to be true.
It turns out we are not alone:
“Recent research has shown that about half of Americans believe at least one conspiracy theory,” [Douglas] says. “You’re looking at average people; people you might come across on the street.”
Half down, half to go.
Karen Douglas is wary of rubbishing all conspiracy theorising as dangerous. “Thinking in that way, it must have some positive consequences. If everybody went around just accepting what they were told by governments, officials, pharmaceutical companies, whoever, then we would be a bunch of sheep, really”.
Would it be a conspiracy theory if one suggested that the entire premise behind government education and control of mainstream media is to turn us all into sheep? Swami offers:
For him, this hints at an important potential role for education. “The best way is, at a societal level, to promote analytical thinking, to teach critical thinking skills.”
How much critical thinking does it take to question something very simple: say building 7, for example? If furniture fires can bring down a modern high rise, why hasn’t every building over three stories tall been condemned as unsafe?
In any case, they don’t want to teach critical thinking (wait, another conspiracy, perhaps?).
Returning to the recovering conspiracy theorist noted at the beginning of David’s piece, describing his liberation of being set free from critical thinking:
“That was the epiphany, really. I was free. I was happy. None of the doom and gloom predicted and promised ever came.” For Ryan, by then 27, the bizarre ride was over.
And this is the hope of those who spoon feed us (is that another conspiracy theory?): it certainly makes life simpler to just believe what we are told.
All is for the best
Believe in what we're told
Blind men in the market
Buying what we're sold
Here is my own list (not only conspiracy-theory type items, but also an examination of the false history we have been fed). It is over a year old; I suspect a few links may be dated or dead. I have also written more on such topics since then; I intend to update this list in the next month or so, but it will do for today.
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
We are clearly somewhere between steps two and three.