Every Thursday, about 8:15am, Matthew talks with Zac about conspiracy theories on 95bFM’s “Breakfast Show”.
Yesterday I interviewed for a position in one of the country’s many Graduate Diplomas of Teaching (Primary) and then went and got drunk with someone suffering from sciatica. I mention this because it explains why I was on a bus at about six o’clock, reading tweets about Colin Craig, the leader of the Conservative Party, being outed as a conspiracy theorist on 3News.1
Being the kind of person who likes to be up-to-date about who is and isn’t a conspiracy theorist in Aotearoa, I immediately asked my Twitter followers what conspiracy theory Craig was alleged to have endorsed.
“Chemtrails” I was told.
“Huh…” I thought (I always end my thoughts with ellipses; it’s just easier that way). “He must have finally decided to come down on the side of conspiracy after all…”
My reasoning was this: several months ago someone asked Craig, on his “Ask Colin” page over at the Conservative Party webpage, the following question:
What is your position on chemtrails?
Our Party has no formal position on chemtrails.
I am aware of the theory that chemicals are being released at high altitude for some nefarious purpose but don’t know whether there is any truth in this or not.
That seemed like a pretty politic response; sure, as a leader of a minor political party, it would be good if Craig had a developed view on a variety of issues, but I suspect given the choice of boning up on whether chemtrails exist or looking into ways the housing crisis in Auckland might be solved, one’s priorities might be on the kind of issue which decide an election, rather than a minority view that suggests contrails and some forms of cloud cover are, in fact, evidence of a sinister conspiracy.
That was then: it seemed from Twitter and the way TV3 were advertising Craig’s views that he had come to a firmer decision about the chemtrail menace. Patrick Gower tweeted:
John Banks fails to escape out a side-door, Colin Craig believes in a conspiracy theory. @brooksabin and I are with both of John Key's men
— Patrick Gower (@patrickgowernz) November 27, 2013
and the 3News website claimed:
And while [Colin Craig] doesn’t believe in man-made global warning, today he wouldn’t rule out a conspiracy known as chemtrails. That’s the theory the white vapour seen coming out of planes is actually a chemical sprayed over the public for a top-secret reason.
That certainly made it seem like Craig had said something interesting about chemtrails. So, when I got home (and poured me’self a dram of whisky), I loaded up the relevant footage. [Sorry, I don’t seem to be able to embed it.]
Note that what Craig says here is perfectly consistent with his earlier position: he has no opinion on the matter because he hasn’t investigated it. Sure, he knows about the existence of chemtrail theories, and he thinks it’s possible such theories might be true, but that’s hardly an endorsement. If anything, it just shows that in the intervening months he’s gone “Should I investigate this chemtrail issue? No; doesn’t seem that important, really…” (Colin Craig, I imagine, also ends his thoughts elliptically.)) Claiming that because he has no informed opinion about chemtrail theories means he somehow endorses a conspiracy theory about them seems, well, disingenuous. I mean, there are lots of reasons to suspect Craig might be a conspiracy theorist, given his views on fluroride (a toxic poison added to our water supply), climate change (the human input is just about inconsequential) and opening up the franchise for marriage (it’s just not natural and he’s speaking as someone who could turn gay if he wanted to!), but chemtrails? Really?
What we’re seeing here is an attempt to make Colin Craig look kooky by calling him a conspiracy theorist, but we don’t have to do that. His views are kooky whether or not he is a conspiracy theorist. From binding citizens initiated referenda to wanting to bring in the Castle Doctrine, Craig has views which would make Sarah Palin smile and the average voter here frown. The fact he may, or may not, believe some conspiracy theory doesn’t change that; once you pass the kooky threshold you are in Kookstown, Kooksylvania; population, Colin Craig.
Which gets me to my sixth monthly rant: what’s wrong with being a conspiracy theorist anyway?
The problem with conspiracy theories is that some (possibly many) conspiracy theories are bad explanations, but that doesn’t tell us belief in conspiracy theories is prima facie irrational and that being a conspiracy theorist necessarily makes you a kook. Sure, many conspiracy theorists are kooky, but often that is because they have a general preponderance to believe weird things in general, some of which turn out to be weird conspiracy theories.
Hmm, with all this talk of “kook”, I think it might be apt to end on the theme tune to “The Addams Family”.