Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Lure of Conspiracy

It is said that "a lie can make it half way round the world before the truth has time to put its boots on." Mark Twain is credited with saying it. It's unlikely he ever did. It's attributed to him anyway. That attribution turns up all over the internet, which sort of makes the same point as the original quote. Now, we can forget "half way,"and truth can forget about putting on his boots; these days, lies can be instantly transmitted around the world with the click of a button, and the hope of ever setting them entirely straight is fleeting, at best.

In such an environment, it's no surprise that conspiracy theories flourish. Hillary Clinton murdered Vincent Foster, Bush blew up the World Trade Center, Obama is a Kenyan Muslim, and the Trilateral Commission, the Illuminati, the Bilderbergs, the Freemasons, and all of those other satanic commie Jewish financiers secretly run the world.

It isn't just the technology that makes this such a pasttime today, though. People are lazy. They don't like to read, certainly not to research. Education levels aren't particularly high. And in the current political climate, reality is being treated, by far too large a segment of the population--mostly, it must be said, the conservative segment--as entirely optional.

These temporal factors exacerbate the problem, but even without them, conspiracy theories have always served some very basic human needs. They give a short, simple explanation for what are, in reality, remarkably complex problems, and they impose stability--a comforting order on a world that, in reality, doesn’t have any. Even when that "order" is something really awful, like a sinister cabal of financiers secretly running the world, people still find it comforting that it exists. People have a hunger for these things. It’s why we have everything from religion to the "9/11 Truther" movement.

A lot of conspiracism begins with a strong grain of truth. It is, for example, a fact that the War On Terrorism [tm] was minted as an ideology to act as a means of getting certain things done that couldn’t be done in its absence. It was used as a means of establishing and maintaining very backwards, reactionary policies which those in power had wanted all along, without regard for the publicly-offered post-9/11 rationale for them. It was used to repress the more enlightened elements, which, of course, dissent from it. The Bush administration used it to drag the U.S. down the ugly road toward fascism, a road on which it is still frustratingly stranded. A “9/11 Truther” sees–or, at least, senses–these things, but rather than following the thread to where it really leads, he becomes lost in irrational speculation, and decides that, since the War On Terrorism [tm] was such a useful weapon for the far right, the whole thing must have been engineered by them, and suddenly you have the insistence that Bush and his thugs were behind the terrorist attacks, and actually dynamited the World Trade Center themselves, with "evidence" manufactured to support the "theory."

Similarly, elements of the current very, very bad recession–the Great Recession?–are being prolonged by elements of, broadly speaking, Big Money. While the public is suffering, U.S. non-financial corporations are, at present, sitting on nearly $2 trillion in cash, refusing to hire or use that money in any constructive way. The financial sector is sitting on an even bigger fortune. And, as was just revealed, the recession--on paper--ended last summer. This leads to speculation that, for example, this is happening because those with all the money and power are angling for a change in government in November. This isn’t unwarranted speculation–the oil suppliers, which are heavily invested in the Republican party, have done this very thing for years, and are doing it this year. The conspiracist absorbs these facts, but doesn’t really try to understand what’s actually going on, choosing, instead, to imagine backroom plots, rather than spontaneous action driven by mutual greed, and some take it even further by writing off the entire recession as some sort of manufactured thing (because it’s allowing the Big Money villains to get their way).

The prevalence of conspiracism is quite unfortunate. A mind is like a computer: garbage in will equal garbage out, and a mind really is a terrible thing to waste. Beyond the level of personal tragedy, though, it's also a loss for society. It utterly wastes energy that could otherwise be constructively used, harnessing that which could help foment constructive change and sending it, instead, careening down blind alleys that lead nowhere. There’s enough real evil out there, and it really does need to be fought. In such a fight, every warm body helps, and the more that are lost to conspiracism, the fewer there are to do what really needs to be done.



'Niceguy' Eddie said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!

Shame on you Classic! What a bait-and-switch! Seriosuly!

You start out with a very well thought out, well reasoned, highly pricipled piece on Conspiracy threories in general and 9/11 truthers in particular...

(Very well stated, I must say)

... And you end with shadowy suggestions about some Corporate consiracy, with just the hypoethsis thrown out there without any suggestions as to whether on not there is some REAL truth behind it or it's just another crackpot theory!

You did exactly what you were describing: You took a strong grain of truth, put it out there for the public to go where they would with it, without even a puch in the right direction!

Don't get me wrong, I realize there's been a ton of shenanigans this election cycle involving corporate money, but seriously... Are you TRYING to START a conspricay theory here?

...Or have you, in fact, UNCOVERED one?!

I'm not syaing this is weak or anything. This is compelling stuff. But the way you did that was... IRONIC, at best. (And spooky, terrifying, etc... but... still...) What the heck?

classicliberal2 said...

Maybe it's just because I'm in some pain right now, but I don't get what you're saying. I didn't report OR uncover some conspiracy in that piece. I was just discouraging (or trying to discourage) conspiracist thinking.

If it's a reference to the interests prolonging the recession, they ARE prolonging the recession; they're sitting on all that money, just as I said. This isn't any sort of secret. Though it isn't clear their goal is to intentionally prolong the recession, that's what their actions are accomplishing.