Conspiracy Round-up, Post-September 11th Edition

This week on the Podcaster’s Guide to the Conspiracy, we discussed Building 7, one of the lynchpins of Truther Movement at the moment. Here’s another 9/11 story, the subsequent invasion of Iraq for those pesky Weapons of Mass Destruction. Or was it all just a pretence to secure the oil?

Last week I wrote about the DUE AUTHORITY conspiracy theory; the claim that changing our flag changes our constitution. There are other flag referendum conspiracy theories in the offing, some of which are summarised here.

Actually, talking about me, I was interviewed for this article on conspiracy theories in the Florida Weekly.

You may have read recently that a group of psychologists tried to replicate a series of findings in their field, and the results were… Not great. Here are two pieces on issue. The first is from Daily Nous. The second from Crooked Timber. It’s a bit of fodder for some work Lee Basham and I are doing, looking at what social psychologists have said about conspiracy theorists.

Talking about social psychologists, here’s Daniel Jolley discussing how people who feel that they have a measure of control over a situation are less prone to think said situation is the result of a conspiracy.

Here’s another social psychologist talking about his recent research into belief in conspiracy theories. He mentions both the conjunction fallacy (something a colleague and I have been writing a piece on), and the fundamental attribution error (which Steve Clarke wrote on about a decade ago, and has since revised his views). What’s interesting about the piece, despite many reservations, is this:

Psychologists who study conspiracy theories do not investigate whether or not a particular conspiracy theory is true. Rather, we are interested in the social consequences and the psychological nature of widespread conspiracy ideation.

Moreover, it is a mistake to assume that these type of studies imply that believing that someone is conspiring against you means you must be crazy. That’s not what this line of research suggests. Clearly, people and governments have conspired against each other, throughout human history. Healthy skepticism lies at the very heart of the scientific endeavor. Yet there is something fundamentally dangerous and unscientific about the nature of conspiracy theorizing.

It’s that last sentence, “Yet there is something fundamentally dangerous and unscientific about the nature of conspiracy theorizing”, which troubles me. It’s a case of “Have your cake and eat it!”, where conspiracy theory theorists are perfectly happy to say “Look, conspiracies occur, but don’t dare theorise about them, because that’s bad, okay?”

Still, if we want to talk about dangerous conspiracy theories, you might be interested to know that on the 23rd of this month, a comet (or possibly a nuclear strike disguised as a comet impact) will cause North America and Europe to explode in a volcanic apocalypse.

And if apocalyptic scenarios are not to your liking, then there is always Alex Jones’ claim that the refugee crisis has been manufactured to oppress white people. Makes Donald Trump seem like a delightful dinner companion in comparison.

Talking about Trump… If you believe the British Press, either Jeremy Corbyn is the best or worse thing to happen to UK politics. In the States, however, the press by-and-large seems to be totally onboard the “Donald Trump sucks!” express. This Rolling Stone article certainly makes a case for Trump playing the “White victimhood” conspiracy theory card as an easy (and terrible way) to get into the Whitehouse.

Very soon the new series of Doctor Who starts. Someone asks the sensible question: Is the Doctor a Freemason? Now, the last time I poked fun at this kind of thing (and the writer of the article I’ve linked to is having fun with it, I should add), a gentleman by the name of Aspen came along and told me he would delight in bringing me down. Still waiting, Aspen. Still waiting.

In news “They don’t want you to know…” you may have heard the French courts have ruled that electromagnetic sensitivity is a thing. Except they kind of haven’t…

Finally, who wants to give me some money to send me on this conspiraSea cruise? Although there are a lot of alternative health practitioners going, I suspect attendance would cause me a certain amount of stress and maybe lead to heart palpitations.

About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.