Them: Misadvertising the Extremists

I’ve just finished Jon Ronson’s ‘Them: Adventures with Extremists.’ Thoroughly enjoyable, rollickingly quotable and yet… Well, there’s a nagging feeling that the book is a bit… fictional.Ronson is a UK-based humour writer who produces material for the Guardian (who seem to have a thing for humour writers, as I found out whilst living in London). He admits this early on in the book when he tracks the Bilderberg Group to Portugal and finds himself the subject of some very overt surrveillance. The chapter reads well; jumpy reporter, a riling mark and strange, secret group of pan-government-cum-capitalists spying on each other. It reads rather too well, as if the events have been carefully restructured to provide the best in written entertainment.Which I think they have. Continue reading

Regarding the Past and How Knowledge of it affects the Future

Carla Binion is a right-wing reporter who, in the context of her article ‘Conspiracy theories and real reporters’, attacks left-wing ivory tower liberals for not buying into the conspiracy theories surrounding the CIA and 9/11. Let me repeat that; a right-winger attacking the left for NOT buying into conspiracy theories. Admittedly, she isn’t making the bold claim that 9/11 was an American plot, only that it seems possible that the CIA knew about the attack in advance and let it occur so to create a situation to their advantage.Whether or not you believe that there was some kind of conspiracy on the part of the American government in re 9/11 you might think that it is justified to suspect that the CIA could know more than it has let on. Binion says: Continue reading

Finding It

When I’m not uncovering the conspiracy theory on conspiracy theories I can often be found teaching. It’s an enjoyable job; well, both of them are, and rewarding in their own special ways. When the two perfectly harmonise… Well, cliches such as ‘a joy to behold’ et al begin to creep out.

Over the last few years I’ve been able to structure a few classes around Conspiracy Theories (although my favourite ‘success’ in a related vein was teaching Forteana to Medical School Students; few people can ever have claimed to have done that). This has recently lead, or so I am assured by a colleague, by a surge of Conspiracy Theory treatments of common philosophical subjects. Due to the fact that we really can’t reveal the contents of student essays to outsiders I’ve just now removed the amusing reference to a certain Classicist-turned-Philosopher everyone has heard of being given the Conspiracy Theory make-over. Pity really; it’s very funny.

The point of this is, and it’s a major concern, that people who set out to find conspiracies always locate them. Actually, that statement is patently false; a lot of CT skeptics set out to find evidence of conspiracies and don’t find them. What I should be saying is that if you think there is a conspiracy at work the evidence of it becomes apparent. I’ll have much more to say about that in the coming months. The worry is that most of the people who end up studying Conspiracy Theories end up as believers. Kevin Thornley, one of the principal writers of the ‘Principia Discordia’ ended up as a Libertarian Conspiracy Theorist who believes Lee Harvey Oswald and himself to be the result of a pre-Nazi Occult Breeding Programme (‘Conspiracies, Cover-ups and Crimes,’ (First Edition) Jonathan Vanakin, Paragon House Publishers, New York, 1991, Chapter 1). This from the man who wrote ‘Oswald,’ a book in support of the Warren Commission findings.

So, will I end a believer? At the moment I’m most likely to call myself an agnostic; I can happily go either way but I’m not currently holding on to any hypothetical global conspiracy theories (although I know of some interesting local ones about my University). Still, lots of former agnostics are now in the camp of believers…

Time will tell. Until then I still have the fun and frolics of a book claiming to give a ‘good, Bible-centric, reading of conspiracy theories’ to read. Remember; I read this suff so you (hopefully) won’t have to.