Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What do we 'do' about conspiracy theories?

'Governments do sometimes lie, and the "official theories" often turn out to be wrong. So where do we draw the line between healthy critical oversight and corrosive conspiracism?'


Interesting ommission from this article: Anthropogenic Global Warming. For many people with a good high school or first degree level of education, AGW sounded bogus from the very first. The idea that within a few years of first having the possibility of studying the global climate we would identify a man-made apocalypse-in-the-making seemed both highly unlikely, and just too convenient given the policy prescriptions required by the theory. The fact that these policy prescriptions were identical to prior policy prescriptions of 1970's enviro/lefties didn't seem coincidental at all.

And once ClimateGate broke, and the modus operandi of the AGW cabals became public knowledge, public trust in AGW was demolished. It turned out that the conspiracy theorists weren't the Global Warming Deniers but the AGW propagators in the universities, research labs and NASA. And interestingly, genuine scepticism, supposedly the bedrock of science, was shown to be almost entirely absent from the AGW cabals.

And yet... it doesn’t warrant a mention here.

Let us for a moment consider the wider view. In the contest between utopian idealism and materialist empiricism, the former seems to be winning. There 'ought' to be AGW, so that the socialist utopia can be brought into being. And if the evidence can't be found, it must be manufactured.

I believe utopian idealism, especially that implacable enemy of classical liberalism, progressivism, is bound inextricably to conspiracy theories like the Jewish Plot for World Domination, and the 9/11 Plot to Blacken Islam and Steal the Oil.

Because utopian fantasies are impossible to bring about on earth, there must be some deep underlying conspiracy (or conspiracies) to cause their failure; the alternative, that utopian fantasies are self-defeating and fail because the world obeys its own internal logic without regard to the wishes of utopians is just too hard to bear.

That is why utopian idealists like Obama switch with blinding speed to enraged conspiracists- because it just can't be true that with no help from the International Jewish Plot or The Rage Filled Tea Partyers or the Glenn Beck Fascists or the Rush Limbaugh Nazis America is spurning his New New Deal.

The lefties take on America at the moment, and I would include the article quoted above, is confused. And that is because their premises are so, so wrong.

Premise number one: Nazis are a right-wing phenomenon.

Premise number two: Rallies by white people against a black president are inherently racist, and can't have anything to do with public policy

Premise number three: Not only are Progressive economics the only true economics, the evidence from the twentieth century supports that

Premise number four: Most conspiracy theory kooks are on the right

Premise number five: Our consipiracy theories are healthy scepticism, your conspiracy theories are deranged kookiness

Everywhere recently-scalded idealist utopians are found, conspiracies abound. I'm not sure why, but the name Charles Johnson suddenly sprang to mind.

One very large constituency seems to be permanently uninterested in, and unpersuaded by conspiracy theories- classical liberals. The messy, disorganised, often random world observed by classical liberals militates strongly against conspiracy in favour of chance. Classical liberals understand that there are conspiracies, occasionally, but because of the aforementioned character of the world (messy, disorganised, random) they mostly backfire, or fail, or are pyrrhic. Lets take the CIA assassination of the Iranian Prime Minister Mosaddegh in 1953. How well did that work out? Yeeeeeeessssssssssssss. Let's take another example- the assassination of Hafizullah Amin, Afghan President by the Soviets in 1979. That turned out well. Or the British assassination of Rasputin in 1916. I could go on.

But the point is obvious. Mostly, when conspiracies do occur, their outcomes are abysmal and very often militate directly against the ends desired. So don't bother.

Conspiracy theories are not just about ignorance. Many ignorant societies exist without discernable conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories are about frustration and disappointment, of a heavy feeling of having been denied; of having the good stuff withheld.

Is regular history boring to you? Do you feel that out there somewhere the historians and past-merchants are keeping the real stories about how the world works to themselves, and laughing at you? Same with the scientists who have the keys to the cupboards where the alien bodies are sitting? Same with the politicians who take all the big decisions in the back of their Rolls Royces, while you vote for nothing like a schmuck? Or the Republican oligarchs who keep all the money between themselves, and never let a poor guy have a break?

Conspiracy theories can fix that fer ya! In a second, there you are, in the know, sitting at the big boys table. Important because you are a Truth Bearer. You hold the sacred chalice of REAL KNOWLEDGE. A schmuck no more.

Are conspiracy theorists dangerous? Occasionally. Timothy McVeigh comes to mind. Are they dangerous to democracy? Only when progressivism dominates. Then they absolutely are, as the Nazis demonstrate most effectively. In a country demographically and electorally dominated by classical liberals, no.

Britain, America, Australia and New Zealand have been dominated through most of their history by classical liberalism, and it shows by their unmatched success on the world stage. Living in the real world, messy and random and disorganised though it might be, has huge payoffs.

Britains decline is in perfect correlation with its abandonment of classical liberalism in favour of utopian idealism and collectivism. To the extent that the other three have done so, decline has been evident.

Freedom is messy, disorganised, random- and spectacularly fruitful. Utopian idealism has a fantastic brochure and millions upon millions of PR agents, but when you get there it seems awfully like a stuffy depressing poverty-stricken dictatorship. But that doesn't stop people from dreaming- and ignoring all the evidence from around them.

I still think there is no gain from engaging with conspiracy theorists. Utopean idealists are psychologically incapable of realistically judging evidence. Have you read Paul Krugman? You are far better off trying to guaranteeing the presence of at least some classical liberals in the next generation, and ignoring utopean idealists completely.

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