Thursday, March 07, 2013

Conspiracy Theory: Infamy! Infamy! They've all Got it in for Me!

Carry on Conspiracy Theorising!

In order to expand my background  knowledge of conspiracy theory a friend very helpfully lent me his box set of History Channel DVD's entitled "Conspiracy?" (See below).  The subject of conspiracy is also proving to be very relevant to my study of strict and particular religious communities, sects, cults and wackos. Such groups have a way of marching very close to the conspiracy theory mindset, if not being fully paid-up conspiracy theorists themselves. The contents of the  DVD set are as follows:

Disc 1  
TWA Flight 800. Was this airline crash due to malfunction or missiles?
Majestic Twelve: UFO cover-up: Did this top secret committee exist and cover up Roswell?
FDR and Pearl Harbour  Did Roosevelt know that this attack was coming but deliberately did nothing to stop it?
Area 51: Did Bob Lazar work on an alien flying saucer?

Disc 2
Who Killed Martin Luther King JR?: Was James Early Ray a patsy? Was King's death the work of a conspiracy?
Lincoln Assassination:  Was Confederate President Jefferson Davies behind the assassination?
Oklahoma City bombing:  Did and Neo-Nazi's and Middle East terrorist help Timothy McVeigh with his bombing?
The CIA & The Nazis: Did the US use ex-Nazi War criminals in intelligence, science and engineering?

Disc 3
Jack Ruby:  Did Jack Ruby act alone when he killed Lee Harvey Oswald?
The Robert F Kennedy Assassination: Did Sirhan Sirhan act alone when he killed Robert Kennedy?
Kecksburg UFO: What was the UFO? Was there a cover up?

Actually, most of these conspiracies were of the plausible variety in that they left one wondering "May be, may be not!".  Even the Kecksburg "UFO" may have had an unremarkable explanation; it could have been a piece of secret military kit that went astray.

As I have said in my piece on the Kennedy assassination human beings are built to be reactive animals. Their chief intellectual strength is in retrospectively adapting to a changing environment. Human beings are poor planners because they don't find themselves in a planner friendly world; chaos ensures that! Outside of war-time, cover ups are in most cases likely to be due to the retrospective cover-up of faux-pass connected with one or more of the following: Incompetence, ignorance, pride or moral sleaze. 

However, I don't think the foregoing remarks apply to the Majestic 12 conspiracy and the Bob Lazar conspiracy.  Here we are being asked to swallow boarder-line crackpot conspiracy narratives. This prompts a tricky question: How does one distinguish between a plausible conspiracy theory and the crank variety?  That question can at least be partly answered if one is able to identify the motivational complex that keeps multiplying entities/players/adjustable variables so that the theory may be saved as a workable explanatory narrative.  And the reason why the theory has to be saved is to satisfy the ego of the conspiracy theorist: Any insecurity that belief in a malign conspiracy bring the theorist is offset somewhat by the comfort and consolation in knowing that he is important enough to be targeted by a mega-conspiracy and/or sees himself as clever enough and moral enough not to have been taken in by the conspiracy. In fact the conviction that one is fighting a grand, totalising and immoral conspiracy registers as having cracked the meaning of life and becomes an all-consuming purpose. Egocentricity and moral pride are the most resilient of human sins!

Fascinating Stuff, but probably not crackpot enough for the kooks!

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