Sunday, June 6, 2021

The anatomy of a conspiracy theory

NOTE: This was a draft that I had left in my blog for ages - I think I wrote it in 2015. I think in light of the last few years, I'm going to write a sequel with an update.

I really quite enjoy conspiracy theories. I first came across them when, after lazily googling for aliens one bored afternoon, I came across the Serpo Project. The guy who ran the project was co-founder of the Project Camelot website, where the first video I saw was Dan Burish's video. I watched other videos and enjoyed the brand new perspective that these theories gave me. At the time, I was living alone in a new place and working in a difficult school. I still like listening to some conspiracy theories for entertainment and inspiration purposes.

I entered a conspiracy theory based book to the 2012 Windhammer competition called Rulers of the NOW. I intended it to be a longer book and got up to about 250 sections, but never finished it. I'm actually quite glad as I don't think I was good enough for the idea at the time and one day I intend to write it anew.

Selling a conspiracy theory seems to be a massive juggling act. You are basically trying to drastically
change someone's perspective on certain events, people and/or organisations, in some cases, making them have the opposite opinion of them. To do this, you need to work relentlessly to create a connection with the consumer to suspend their disbelief - even more so than in fiction, because you are trying to rewrite someone's perception of reality. Your story needs to be consistent with what people understand or what they could research, which is probably like trying to write an episode of Star Trek that doesn't contradict any of the canon from the past 50 years. And then, you need to have a philosophy or message to give people.

This is all something that good fiction writers do, but conspiracy theorists are doing this with the

added burden of making people reconsider what they think of as fact.

After writing this post, it appears that coming up with a good conspiracy theory and capitalising on it is actually a lot of work. The people who do this really must love it or believe in what they are doing or earn a ton of money from it as they could probably earn a decent wage with a lot less effort than this. And I don't even know how people get into conspiracy theoring. Some people have experiences that they genuinely cannot explain (such as the Paratopia guys - I would recommend you listen to this podcast as they never have some conspiracy stories and actually try to expose some of the less ethical members of the community). Some people seem to be con artists or unscrupulous and some people seem genuinely interested in researching it. Some people come from highly trained backgrounds (such as Stan Friedman) or ex-military backgrounds. However, the field is so steeped in disinformation and changing stories and accusations that peoples' past or qualifications are made up that I'm not really sure of the background on any of these people. I would like to know why some people don't just write science fiction stories.

I'd also like to point out that I'm not denying the existence of conspiracies or saying that people don't have unexplainable things happen to them. What I'm trying to do is make the distinction between people trying to tell us about real funny business (bribery, phone tapping, corruption etc.) and people who are trying to take our money by telling us about a worldwide or universe wide philosophy that the hidden elite are hiding from us. Also, I want to distinguish between people who have things happen to them and people who claim that that the spirits or aliens told them that they are the messiah or something. To me, genuine reports are usually small scale and may not offer an explanation, whereas unscrupulous conspiracy theories offer massive world wide problems along with solutions that require a lot of time and effort.

Of course, logically, I can't say how valid any story is as I don't have any info on these people. I just have their stories. What I'm saying is that some stories seem to be small scale accounts of events that people may not offer an explanation for, or they may be some exposes of small scale corruption that someone has investigated and has evidence for. Other conspiracy theories involve shadowy organisations or aliens ruling the world where their unprovable accounts are backed up with unprovable evidence or tenuous links to pop culture and then the people spreading these theories need money to continue their crusade. I am suspicious of the latter, for some reason.

Since there are so many shadowy organisations trying to take over the world, I can't really cover all
of them. If I mention a shadowy organisation, I will refer to it as the Illuminati for the sake of convenience, but I do know that there are plenty other organisations out there and I'm sorry if I've missed any out. I really don't mean to offend any members of secret organisations I haven't mentioned.

I'll also point out that I will try to link to as many sources as I can remember, but I've devoured so much conspiracy stuff that I can't remember all of it and I don't have the time to sift through reams of sources.

They link their conspiracy to a provable conspiracy theory or piece of "funny business"

Conspiracies happen - there's bribery, corruption and lots of funny business going on. For example, the MKUltra program is real. It even passes Brian Dunning's rigorous analysis, so it must have happened. Everyone knows about Jack the Ripper, who killed people and then mysteriously disappeared and the who killed JFK debate will probably never go away. The Masons is a secretive organisation that seem to go from 'club for men who meet up and donate to charity' to 'club for men who do favours for each other, such as getting them off criminal charges' to 'ultra powerful cult that rules the world'. And all of these real life and provable mysteries or conspiracies or just secrets seem to feature a lot in the conspiracy world. H.H Holmes may have been Jack the Ripper. (As an aside, I would recommend the Binnall of America podcast for the variety of guests and stories and the laid back nature of the show). The Masons are a front for the Illuminati. MKUltra was a front for the Monarch Mind control project. Why do they do this?

1) It reminds us that conspiracies are real.
2) It's to make us think that if conspiracy A is real, which definitely happened, then conspiracy B which is their conspiracy is also definitely happening now.

They link their conspiracy theory to a disaster

People who are touting big world wide conspiracy theories like to link either man-made disasters (such as 9/11) and natural disasters (such as earthquakes) are caused by the Illuminati. The main reason is to create a problem so that they can come up with a pre-made solution and then bring people under their control. This is something Alex Jones calls the False dialectic (based on the quite useful Hegelian dialectic). For example, people say that shootings are caused by mind controlled people to make people call for gun control, because an armed population is too hard to control.

Once again, this is another method to link the conspiracy theory to something familiar to us already and also something with a lot of emotional weight.

Their assertations stand up the basic research

I ancient civilisations and their parallels with ours or how many films have alternative messages which would require good knowledge of both the film and the alternative message. It seems that conspiracy theorising requires a lot of knowledge of history, politics, economics, science and a few other random subjects that sceptical people can confirm with some research. It also requires knowing how tenacious people are willing to be.
t seems that to have a great conspiracy theory, you need to do quite a lot of research. A lot of conspiracy theories speak of

However, some of their assertations are unprovable for some reason

Despite holding up to several searches on Wikipedia and other sites, there's only so far that research can go with most conspiracy theories. There are some parts to the story that you couldn't find without putting in a lot of time, effort and money. Did Reagan really tell Speilberg that Close Encounters was close to real life? No one can know. Are their aliens in Area 51? Only military personnel who aren't going to blab know one way or the other and anyone else won't be allowed anywhere near Area 51. Did something crash at Roswell? Any evidence for that has either been locked away or rotted away. This means that they can't be proved wrong. And if someone had irrefutable proof of the existence of aliens, they probably wouldn't be on conspiracy theory websites.

They make innocuous and/or fun things more sinister

This happens all over the place, but the website Vigilant Citizen focus particularly on Illuminati
symbolism in popular culture. It's message is that a lot of media is there to control people and make them more susceptible to the plans that the Illuminati have to either enslave the world's population (by microchips us all for example) or kill most of us off (to make the survivors more easy to control).

The website does a great job in weaving a new narrative around the things presented in films, music and other popular culture. This narrative has a very sinister effect of making things you originally loved into some thing you hate. Other websites, such as this one, suggest that Disney World is built purely to abduct children. But why would they do this?

One of the reasons is that it is another way of linking the conspiracy to something you already know and feel comfortable with, so it makes the theory to something more palatable.

Well, its so you transfer your energy away from those things with the hope that you will pour it into the conspiracy community instead.

This was explained in a much better way in 1984 where the Party make sex out to be disgusting. Julia's theory is that after sex, you have no energy and don't care about anything. The Party want you to put all of your energy into caring about them.

The website does this by indicating special signals people make (such as the A-OK signal) or symbols in popular culture (such as the pyramid with eye symbol) are actually sinister signals that they are part of the Illuminati and that you should follow their example and join them.

There is sometimes a surprising amount of cutting edge information in them

I first heard about 3d printers from conspiracy theorists way before they appeared in the mainstream. I first heard about bitcoin from the Corbett Report. It seems that conspiracy theorists like to keep ahead of the mainstream, probably because some of their stories are so far fetched that it helps to bridge the gap between reality and their stories by saying something slightly far fetched but true.

They might involve information overload

Information overload is a good way to slow people down or get them to make the wrong decisions. I feel that my critical thinking faculties are screwed if my brain gets overloaded with information. David Wilcock is good at providing tons and tons of information, adding new bits to the mix, answering questions, but not really answering them until your brain just gives up and says 'Fine, whatever, I agree with you, just take my money and go away.'

The people in the interviews either influenced history behind the scenes or almost did something that would have changed history dramatically

Duncan O' Finoan almost killed George Bush Jr but resisted his programming to do so. This is yet another way of making a connection to the reader/watcher.

They make 100% accurate predictions. But we only find out about them after the predictions came true

There were apparently dozens of 9/11 predictions in the media. It's just that I only found out about them after 9/11. I never once saw anything before 9/11 where someone wrote "x TV program has predicted that someone will crash planes into the twin towers".

However, after 9/11, all this symbolism became clear. The Simpsons told you about it (see below). Even the American Steve Jackson was telling you about 9/11 with his card game Illuminati. The Lone Gunmen spin off to the X Files had someone hijack a plane and try to fly it into the World Trade Centre in their pilot (shown in April 2001). However, none of these copious signals were picked up by anyone as predictions of 9/11 until after the event. It's almost like that there is so much pop culture that it would be inevitable that someone would portray attacks on the World Trade Centre or have the number 9/11 and people picked up on this after they became significant.


If they say there will be a massive disaster/apocalypse, it will happen within a certain time frame

A lot of these whistleblowers predict some kind of massive upheaval, such as the collapse of the
world economy, the government trying to exterminate 90% of the population, massive earthquakes, Planet X coming to get us etc. However, they always predict them to by from 6 months to, at most, 5 years away. Why this time frame?

My guess is that it is long enough to actually think about it and let it sink in, then do something about it (possibly by buying stuff from places they advertise?) but short enough that we will care about it. No one will care if I said that the world will end in the year 5367, as any inconceivable trace of their lives would have been long gone. Likewise, no one is really bothered that the Sun will explode in 5 billion year's time. Talk about shifting responsibility. Also, what would happen if they said that the world will end tomorrow? In 24 hours their credibility will be destroyed. At least if they have a few months, they could work out some more stories and possibly sow the seeds for a reason as to why the world didn't end when they said it would.

It also gives them time to work out what they will say when their prediction does not ring true.

They give a name to the cause of peoples' powerlessness

I latched on to conspiracy theories because I was in a stressful job, spent most of my time alone
(except when I could see my lovely girlfriend now wife in the holidays and weekends) and had nothing else to really do. As I've become happier, I've needed them less, but they did give me something at the time. However, it was nothing really concrete and I found that being constantly told that society will collapse in 6 months just got too stressful. Also, they never came true. I found out that the conspiracy circuit is just a never ending wheel of secret organisations, imminent crises and false solutions. Now conspiracy theories to me are on the same level of Dr Who or Star Trek and they provide me with ideas. Giving a name to someone's problem is no help if it is the wrong name. Also that means that the solution will be wrong. And sometimes this solution will involve giving people money.

Conspiracy podcasts I would recommend

Skeptoid - despite being a website that looks at conspiracies with a critical eye and finds almost all of them wanting, it still has a huge breadth of conspiracy theories and sometimes the 'mundane' explanation is more fascinating than the fantastic one.

Binnall of America - once again, this offers a wide breadth of theories (including some non paranormal ones such as cruise ships and basketball referees) and it does not preach too much. Binnall is a laid back guy who just lets his guests tell their stories. I get the impression that he himself gets a bit sick of big conspiracies.

Paratopia - this show has ended, but you can buy all of the episodes for $30 (very cheap). The guys here are funny, sceptical and love to debunk unscrupulous conspiracy theorists. However, they've had strange experiences of their own which they talk about.

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