Friday, August 22, 2014

Why Some People have a Phobia of Conspiracy Theories

     (This article is the second version of a blog post I wrote a few months ago.  The first version was somehow lost.  No, I don’t suspect that it was destroyed by reptilian shape shifters that didn’t want you to read it.  My schedule has relaxed enough now that I’m able to write a second version of this article.  I hope it’s as informative as the first (missing) version.)

     We’ve all seen articles purporting to explain why some people are attracted to conspiracy theories.  The rationale behind the articles is that, if someone is aberrant enough to suspect that politicians sometimes have ulterior motives, this suspicion requires a socio-psychoanalytical explanation—from a safe distance, of course; and it should be performed only by someone who recognizes the danger of examining the facts for oneself.
     In a previous article, “Why Some People are Attracted to Conspiracy Theories,” I broke all the rules and presented my politically incorrect findings.  Yes, I admit it; I’m a thought criminal.
     It's highly curious that a belief in conspiracies is considered aberrant enough to warrant socio-psychological analysis; but no one seems to question why some other people are addicted to official narratives and have a phobia of conspiracy theories.  It’s as if the official narratives are the default explanation of events (like the reasonableness of wearing a hat as protection from the blinding rays of the sun), and that skepticism of official narratives is considered an oddball alternative (like wearing a lampshade over your head).
     (Actually, it’s the conspiratophobe who likes to imagine “truthers” as the sort of people who wear lampshades—probably so that people around the “truthers” will not be blinded by the dazzling light of truth.  Doesn’t it seem odd to “accuse” a political opponent of wanting to know the truth?  For what it’s worth, the opposite of truther is liar.)
     In the article, “Why Some People are Attracted to Conspiracy Theories,” I gave three commonly given explanations and showed the absurdity of all three.  To give equal time to conspiratophobes, I give three explanations for why certain other people have a phobia of anything—question, fact, or theory—that calls an official narrative into question.  Here are the three explanations:
1.    They are vain; to them, social responsibility is less important than a sense of personal reward or the approval of others.
2.    They’re either lazy or they’re moral cowards.
3.    They miss the comfort and security of their mothers’ wombs.

     They are vain; to them, social responsibility is less important than a sense of personal reward or the approval of others. This motivation is rather tricky to examine because certain virtues, such as social responsibility, are often compartmentalized.  I’ve known conspiratophobes who gave very much of themselves through organizations dedicated to helping others—deeds that brought them considerable honor and praise.  Belief in a conspiracy theory, however, calls for a similar level of commitment to the needs of others, but very few people will praise you for it.  More often, it results in disrepute and even social ostracism.
     It’s not that conspiracy deniers don’t see that there’s a problem.  Many conspiratophobes are highly intelligent, articulate people who use their intelligence in the service of self-deceit.
     Here’s the sort of example I’m sure you’ve seen:
     Let’s say the year is 2006.  You tell someone that the NSA has been conducting widespread warrantless wiretaps.  Year after year, for he automatically rejects any and all evidence you try to show him, declaring that it’s too evil to contemplate.  After all, we live in a “democracy.”  In a democracy “our” government would never do something that evil and authoritarian.  Fast forward to last year—Edward Snowden.  To the conspiratophobe, this is a recent revelation; (“Who could have known?” he says.)—notwithstanding that the evidence had been around since 2006.  Just as suddenly, the evil, authoritarian practice of widespread, warrantless wiretapping has become a good thing that is necessary to protect us from Al Qaeda or some other boogey man of the day.  All that is needed now is an extra-constitutional Presidential Directive defining the limits of a practice that has already overstepped constitutional limits.

     They’re lazy or are moral cowards.  When a citizen has a healthy skepticism of those in power, he assumes a burden that he had not had before the skepticism arose.  He’s required to use critical thinking skills instead of simply responding to spin doctor-generated stimuli—the same sort of stimuli that advertisers use to convince gullible people to pay twice as much for a pair of shoes as it’s really worth, all because it has a corporate symbol on it, or because the corporation has paid millions of dollars for a famous athlete to wear it in a television commercial.
     It’s not that they can’t get excited about something and generate energy as a result of that excitement.  They can get very excited about the Super Bowl, a rock star, the latest fad, or some other pointless diversion.  Those things don’t require taking a stand that someone else may oppose.  Those who find it fashionable to get excited about meaningless things are the very people who give the fisheye to people who display even a little passion about things that matter—such as the genocide of Palestinians (a sure ticket to being labeled anti-Semitic), the Bill of Rights (easily dismissed as the work of home-grown terrorists”), GMO (luddites), or the Bible (intolerance).  There’s always a convenient label to marginalize anyone who upsets the status quo, and to shut down a conversation so you can go back to your mindless game of moving dots around on your so-called “smart” phone.

     They miss the comfort and security of their mothers’ wombs.  An addiction to official narratives is key to their paradigm for “understanding” the world around them.  In their world, there are no stakeholders but themselves, and the world revolves around their desire for security and happiness.
     In their world, the news media have to tell them the whole truth at all times because the news media have only one stakeholder: the newspaper buyer or the news program viewer.  Like the babe in the womb, they fail to see the owners, investors, sources, creditors, advertisers, and others who also have a stake in the news media.  As often as not, the other stakeholders have interests that are completely against the interests of the newspaper buyer or television watcher.  (See here)
     In the world of conspiracy denial, politicians have only one stakeholder: the voter.  The conspiratophobe’s one measly vote (if he votes at all) is more than a match for campaign donors, high-powered lobbyists, intelligence agencies, foreign diplomats, international bankers, and many others—if they enter his thinking at all.  At the same time, politicians (most of whom have never created value in their entire lives) have the magical abilities to do things that everyone knows can’t be done—such as creating millions of jobs just by signing a name to a sheet of paper.  (See here.)  
     The world as imagined by your typical conspiratophobe is a world that hasn’t existed since he was in his mother’s womb, or in story books his mother read to him as a small child.  It’s a world populated by magical beings that exist only to perform miracles especially for the conspiratophobe.  In short, a typical conspiratophobe is someone who has an irrational aversion to reality because reality calls for responsibility and is sometimes uncomfortable.

     A conspiracy theorist, by contrast, is the following:
1.    Someone who believes that human events are caused by humans.
2.    Someone who believes that politicians sometimes have ulterior motives.
3.    Someone who believes that the assassination of Julius Caesar wasn't a spontaneous event.
4.    Someone who believes that Richard Nixon “knew something” about Watergate before he read it in the Washington Post.
5.    Someone who, when a politician says, “Read my lips,” also takes care to watch his hands.
6.    Someone who believes, as Lord Acton did, that “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
7.    Someone who believes that politics, by its very nature, is conspiratorial.
8.    Someone who, when a politician pats him on the back, is smart enough to know whether the politician is just feeling for a place to put the knife.  When a politician pats a conspiratophobe on the back, he’s attaching a sign that says, “I’m gullible. Trick me.”

     Here are a couple of videos that the average liar (the opposite of truther) dares not watch: