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Conspiracy Theories

The use of the term "conspiracy theory" to paint someone as a lunatic without actually bothering to find fault with the specifics of their ideas is a pet peeve of mine. Given that we're so close to September 11th, that odious phrase, "conspiracy theory," and the laziness and dishonesty that go with it have really been stinking up the memetosphere in recent days.

There are three "discussion" threads that I've followed over the last few days that have me thinking about this. The first of the three continues on the C-Realm Forum over at the Grow Report. You can find that thread here:

http://www.thegrowreport.com/Forums/showthread.php?t=4629

It was there that I found this nifty graphic:





The second thread, and the one in which I have participated most, is a locked entry from someone on my LJ friends list. In that thread I posted the following:
I'd very much like to see a voluntary moratorium on the phrase "conspiracy theory." Whenever I hear or read someone use that phrase I take it that they're aiming to use ridicule instead of reason and that they have no interest in a collaborative and respectful process of truth-seeking. I associate the phrase with the sort of intellectual laziness exhibited by those who would rather bully a viewpoint out of the conversation than answer it according to the standards of honest and respectful intellectual discourse.

The third discussion thread I've been following, and to which I have not yet contributed, is taking place over on the discussion forum for the Kunstlercast:

http://kunstlercast.com/forum/index.php?topic=461.0

That discussion starts with a post in which the author clearly distinguishes the denotative and connotative meanings of the phrase "conspiracy theory." If we attend to the dictionary definition of the word "conspiracy" and the folk (i.e. "non-scientific") meaning of the word "theory" it becomes perfectly obvious that people of various stripes "conspire" ("breathe together" as they huddle to make their secret plans) all the time.

Indeed, federal prosecutors regularly charge American citizens with the crime of "conspiracy." These prosecutors have a notion that two or more people have made plans to violate some law; plans which they kept to themselves. I'd call this notion a "mental model" or an "imagining," but in the folk vernacular people regularly refer to these sorts of notions as "theories." In order to "build a case" against alleged conspirators, prosecutors seek out evidence which will bolster their conspiracy theories.

When people use the phrase "conspiracy theory" to discredit someone's ideas without actually examining those ideas for internal consistency or consistency with the available data they are attempting to utilize the connotative meaning of "conspiracy theory" which involves a deranged person who spins paranoid fantasies about malevolent and perhaps paranormal forces that operate in secret to victimize people. People whose work I admire go in for this shameful tactic, and while I still respect them, my admiration for them is diminished when they succumb to this temptation.

In the LJ entry which serves as the show notes for episode 119 of the C-Realm Podcast, a long-time friend of mine who works in the mainstream media expressed his impatience with my contention that corporate-controlled media has an agenda not shared or knowingly supported by most of the people who work in the corporate media environment. He believes that the "wall" between the news and advertising sales divisions of corporate-controlled media outlets prevents corporate interests from shaping the worldview propagated by the corporate media.

(Yes, I'm going to use the phrase "corporate media" again and again and again. At present, most people just use the phrase "the media" to refer to the corporate media, because they never encounter any other kind of media and haven't a clue as to what the words "public media" or "citizen journalism" mean.)

To illustrate a systematic distortion perpetuated by the corporate media I brought up the topic of World Trade Center building seven which, like the twin towers, also collapsed on September 11th, 2001. Rather than quote myself yet again, here is an excerpt from a post by luciddreams (who is "chillin' like an Eskimo villian) on the Kunstlercast discussion forum which makes the same point about the corporate media and WTC 7:
The thing that bothers me the most about those who refuse to even entertain the thought of conspiracy is that they also refuse to answer some very tough questions. I just want one question answered. Why was WTC7 not even mentioned in the government investigation? Huh? Just answer that one question. It was a 48 story (I believe) building!!! This building would have dominated, or at least contended with buildings in many cities. If a 48 story building collapsed due to fire in any other time in the history of MSM it would have been covered like hurrican Katrina was, for days. It was shown on television the day of 9/11 a few times and then never again, why? Further why will you who believe the official lies not answer that one question...the question of WTC7? It's the elephant in the room of your official story and everybody just ignores it and carries on with their officialness. It's easier that way because nobody will call you one of the dreaded "conspiracy theorist" tags...quacks, all of them, quacks! I already know the reply to this post, and I wonder why I even bother.

(...)

I hope for all of those who feel 9/11 truth is a conspiracy that they will pipe up and say why and not simply resort to name calling or comparing to ridiculous conspiracy theories that have no basis in reality.
Have a look at that image of the collapsing building at the top of this post. Ask yourself, "If I didn't know that this building collapsed in Manhattan on 9/11/01, if I were just shown this moving image with no context or official story attached to it, which scenario would I find more likely? Is this footage of a controlled demolition, or is this footage of a building collapsing because a fire has melted key elements of its steel frame?"

If you didn't know that the footage was captured in NYC on 9/11, would you invoke notions of tin foil hats and orbital mind control lasers to smear the reputation of someone who thinks that this looks like a controlled demolition?

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
toucansanctuary
Sep. 14th, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)
As you noted in your podcast on 9/11, it's important to understand who gains from 9/11. The same people who use the "conspiracy theory" term to isolate and discredit people are the same one who benefit from the event. Much of the frustration that we feel towards government officials is their seeming inability or unwillingness to use logic, or even make an attempt to understand the bigger picture. When you realize that their position and their livelihood are contingent upon them not understanding the big picture and by not using logic, you start to see them for what they really are.

The corporate media is our dominant mechanism for information distribution. The failure of the media to report the pertinent information, and also to deliberately omit information is how these government officials can continue to operate covertly and clandestinely. This happened because the public has lost control of the media. The media is bought and paid for by the powers that be. The only way to open our collective eyes to this situation is to open up the media. Today's media is so fortified that it's probably easier to start a media outlet from scratch. I think this is basically what Earth Intelligence Network is trying to accomplish. I listened to the first MP3 link that you posted over on the grow report forums about "open source." I remember sending an email to my mom about a year ago when I started using Linux and reporting just how robust and stable the operating system was and how many "free" software choices were out there. What's better is you have the freedom to make changes to the code. It's very similar to your creative commons license. I remember telling my mom that I wish we could import this open source framework over to our general way of living. I didn't learn about EIN until you brought it to my attention, but this is an organization that I can support and I hope it can supplant our corporate way of doing things. Ultimately, Americans are not free people. We are slaves to the rat race because we need money. Without money it's diabolically hard to meet our basic survival needs. "Property Rights" have evolved to the point where the intent isn't so much to give someone possession of an item or resource. Instead the intent is now to give someone the right and ability, under law, to preclude others from using this item....unless they pay money for a limited scope of "user-ship" rights. Have you ever actually read the license agreements for corporatized software? You paid all this money for software and ultimately, you still don't "own" it. You only have a limited right to install it on your computer, and only one machine at that. You can't make changes to the code or share it with others. For this meager ability to use this software, you pay a hefty amount of money. That system is garbage.

Wow, I've sure digressed here! Bringing this back to the main topic, open sourcing our lives and our society looks to be the best way to organize a sustainable future. As long as this movement can truly keep this "open," the government will have a hard time proving that it is a conspiracy with a threat to national security. Once this movement is large enough, it won't matter what the government thinks. I'm reminded of the movie "Serenity" (based on the TV series "Firefly"). Towards the end, we learned about the struggle of the masses to keep the "Signal" alive. This signal was an outlet for truth. Perhaps the first steps towards getting our own "signal" is by developing an open source media outlet. From what I know, the only one I'm aware of that comes close is "From the Wilderness." If you're aware of others, please let us all know.

TS
mungojelly
Sep. 17th, 2008 03:28 am (UTC)
What I find odd about the 9/11 conspiracy movement is that there's this air about it as if 9/11 (were it proved) would be the first heinous thing the U.S. Government ever did! God, let's make the circumstantial case. Apparently for many people it still needs to be made. People are rejecting conspiracy theories on 9/11 based on a general presumption of innocence that they grant to the U.S. Federal Government! That shows that we have a major education gap!! Tuskegee came up in the corporate media cycle during the primaries (brought in quite forcefully, if senselessly, by Reverend Wright) and that too was treated with the "conspiracy" kid gloves (anyone who says that is craaaaazy), even though it's simply accepted history. But you just can't believe in the things that happened, or care, or you're part of the psychic tumor they're trying to remove.

I have a countermeme to what Keith Olbermann has recently & brilliantly entitled "9/11tm", the use of 9/11 as a totemic brand name for militarism and oppression. What I am doing is to respond on some level every time I encounter the date 9/11 with the story and the memory and the soul of the man Salvador Allende. He was martyred on 9/11 you may know, killed in a coup supported by the CIA. The eleventh was the date by the force of Allende's will: Since he knew of the plots against him, the twelfth was the date on which he was calling for a referendum to prove that the people still supported him, that they still supported the mandate they had given him in his democratic election. Rest in peace, Salvador Allende, and long live your memory!
kmo
Sep. 17th, 2008 11:48 am (UTC)
a link for them what care
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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