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Why conspiracy theories are getting more absurd and harder to refute
#1
Democracy requires a minimum amount of mutual trust among citizens, and conspiracism destroys it.

By Sean Illing@seanillingsean.illing@vox.com Apr 11, 2019, 8:10am EDT

Are we living in a golden age of conspiracy theories?

That’s the argument Harvard politics professor Nancy L. Rosenblum makes in her new book, A Lot of People Are Saying. And it’s not merely that conspiracy theories are thriving — they’re also getting more absurd, less substantive, and harder to refute.

In fact, what we’re seeing now, according to Rosenblum and her co-author Russell Muirhead, is more “conspiracism” and less theory. Which is to say, the purpose of conspiracy theories is no longer to explain reality or offer some account of the world; instead, the point is to erode trust in public figures or institutions.

She points to the recent Pizzagate conspiracy as a perfect example. This was a fake news story alleging that Hillary Clinton and her former campaign chair, John Podesta, ran a child sex ring in the basement of a pizzeria in Washington, DC. It was totally fabricated, but it proliferated enough online that a man eventually showed up at the restaurant with an assault rifle and fired at least one shot.

Rosenblum believes this new form of conspiracism amounts to a direct attack on the foundations of liberal democracy and what she calls “knowledge-producing institutions.” As conspiracism takes root in our politics, she says, we lose our capacity to deliberate about the direction of the country. And ultimately, democracy itself becomes impossible.
I spoke to Rosenblum about the nature of modern conspiracy theories and how they’ve evolved into an existential threat for democratic societies. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing
Why write a book about conspiracy theories now?

Nancy Rosenblum
Charges of conspiracy have in the last two years become a malignant element in public life, and I think it’s been really corrosive to our politics. But what struck me and my co-author was this intrusion of conspiracism, which we think is fundamentally different from conventional conspiracy theories.

Not a day passes without some sort of conspiracist claim about rigged elections or fake news or something absurd like Pizzagate. And the cast of characters that are engaged in conspiracy charges now ranges from a compulsively conspiracist president to public officials — elected representatives who either endorse these conspiracist claims or acquiesce to remain silent — to conspiracy entrepreneurs and their followers.
So it’s a not-insignificant part of our population, and it’s a common element now in public life.

Sean Illing
And how do you define a conspiracy theory?

Nancy Rosenblum
A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event — an event that seems otherwise unintelligible or improbable. And the explanation is that underneath what seems unintelligible is actually some sort of conspiracy or secret plot. Sometimes conspiracy theories are true, sometimes they’re false. It’s often hard to tell the difference, but in all cases, it’s an attempt at some reasoned explanation for a complicated event.

Sean Illing
So a conspiracy isn’t wrong by virtue of being a conspiracy theory, but it’s more likely to be wrong because it’s an attempt to take a complicated event and fit it into a broader narrative framework?

Nancy Rosenblum
That’s right, and I’m so glad you said that, because Wikipedia actually defines a conspiracy theory as a false threat of a conspiracy, and that’s not true. There are both progressive conspiracy theories that are not only true but have advanced American democracy, and there are total fabulations that are pure inventions.

Sean Illing
Can you give me an example of an accurate conspiracy theory and one that was totally fabricated?

Nancy Rosenblum
Examples of sheer fabulation would be the “faked moon landing” (Stanley Kubrick actually filmed it in a studio) or that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead (the Democrats found a body double to deny her death in order to prevent President Trump from filling her seat on the Supreme Court). Or, more to the point, perhaps, the recent Pizzagate conspiracy.

As far as useful progressive conspiracy theories go, a good example is the work by academics like Naomi Oreskes documenting conspiracies by the tobacco and fossil fuel industries to cast doubt on climate science, which actually refutes the climate hoax conspiracy that says global scientists are bribed to produce reports of catastrophic human-caused global warming.

Or the Progressive movement in the early 20th century that cast corporate boardrooms and smoke-filled rooms of political bosses as potential roadblocks to democracy; the result of what they called “muckraking” reporting on this corruption was democratic reforms that are still with us, like direct democracy and referenda, etc.

https://www.vox.com/2019/4/11/18291061/c...-rosenblum
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#2
My take: a conspiracy must fit Karl Popper's concept of falsifiability to be viable, and truthful to be valid. "A lot of people are saying" reflects an echo chamber, and the distinction between people who rely upon NPR or FoX Newspeak Channel is clear. Obviously NPR's devotees are likely to start the argument with "some professor at Harvard/Yale/Princeton/MIT/Stanford/some high-profile state university says convincingly or provocatively", and some FoX News analyst has been asserting some meme among viewers that seems very real to them after copious repetition.

The conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya could never be disproved. Conspiracy theorists held that a birth certificate from Hawaii with the right time, place, and place of birth was a forgery. Some people are convinced that the Holocaust is a monumental hoax, a conspiracy of Jews to exploit gentile guilt (I am nearly half German and Swiss, and I feel no personal guilt about the Holocaust. I simply hate Nazis for exterminating people whom I consider my moral and cultural brethren, and I would have hated Stalinists had they done such instead). The passionate believer in a conspiracy theory keeps raising the bar.

There were plenty of conspiracy theories about the assassination of JFK. One crazed gunman could not have thought to go to the sixth story of the Texas Schoolbook Depository and make a perfect shot at JFK, right? Well, yes. The gunshot that killed the 35th President has been shown to have not been fired from the Grassy Knoll, most likely by Charles Harrelison, infamous for assassinating a federal judge who passed down maximal sentences to drug traffickers a few years later. The oddity was that Lee Harvey Oswald could kill with the shot, and it turns out that JFK would have ducked successfully upon hearing the shot had he not been wearing a back brace. One explanation fits reality, and others have serious faults. 

Conspiracy theories are common in free societies, but conspiracies usually involve people on the fringe between respectability and evil. To be sure, criminals are always plotting heists, smuggling of contraband, and on occasion gangland hits or insurance fraud. In a country with a shaky leader and a putrid economy, there is often some plot being hatched in the main military academy of the failed state to overthrow the current dictator. But in general, Big Business does not operate in such conspiracies. Conspiracies are inefficient ways to market a product or take down a political opponent. It is easier to fund an opposition campaign against someone pro-labor, pro-safety, or anti-pollution pol that might put someone who recognizes the necessity of putting profit first and people in a subordinate place -- someone who will do exactly as corporate lobbyists will tell him to do. It is easier to get a competitor to merge than to send some gunmen to a corporate board. Besides, conspiracies usually unravel under the attention of the FBI which makes use of the Anglo-American concept of conspiracy as a serious crime even if no crime is committed other than the conspiracy.

I have yet to be convinced that the 2016 general election was clean. There is just too much circumstantial evidence that offers amazing coincidences that could be connected in theory... but might be nothing more than coincidences. Conduct of people involved, including vehement denials with no further backing than general trust for the President and people behind him, suggest the exact opposite to me. I am old enough to remember that when Richard M. Nixon said "Your President is not a crook", I suddenly lost all faith in him. Honest people do not have to drop the moral bar for their legitimacy.

I look at the President's denial of collusion -- and the defense that collusion is not a violation of statutory law as is conspiracy. Collusion in a criminal matter is conspiracy. This is like saying that "pilferage" is not a crime in the sense that "larceny" is. The distinction is not worth making.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#3
Because today's media is unreliable. It's exaggerating or giving a false narrative a lot of the time. When you doubt the mainstream media you look elsewhere. I see the media as just a fear mongering industry designed to make money off of people's irrationality.
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#4
(04-14-2019, 07:01 AM)AspieMillennial Wrote: Because today's media is unreliable. It's exaggerating or giving a false narrative a lot of the time. When you doubt the mainstream media you look elsewhere. I see the media as just a fear mongering industry designed to make money off of people's irrationality.

Please define "today's media", and what makes them unreliable.  If your point is that all media make errors, then you can remove the adjective "today's".  Reportage is not a science, and many of the sources reporters use have agendas that are deeply hidden and hard to identify.  The good media will own-up to their mistakes, and publish corrections.  If you're being selective and only eyeballing certain media, then you should identify which media you mean.

And on the topic of money: all media have to pay to exist, so saying they impure because they serve commercial interests is pretty disingenuous.  Even PBS and NPR need to serve more than their viewers and listeners.  That doesn't make then fear mongers.  The world is already scary enough without media hype to pump it up.  That's not to say that there aren't media entities out there that specialize in fear.  There are.  They do not constitute more than a fraction of today's media, though.
Intelligence is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom, but they all play well together.
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#5
(04-14-2019, 10:32 AM)David Horn Wrote:
(04-14-2019, 07:01 AM)AspieMillennial Wrote: Because today's media is unreliable. It's exaggerating or giving a false narrative a lot of the time. When you doubt the mainstream media you look elsewhere. I see the media as just a fear mongering industry designed to make money off of people's irrationality.

Please define "today's media", and what makes them unreliable.  If your point is that all media make errors, then you can remove the adjective "today's".  Reportage is not a science, and many of the sources reporters use have agendas that are deeply hidden and hard to identify.  The good media will own-up to their mistakes, and publish corrections.  If you're being selective and only eyeballing certain media, then you should identify which media you mean.

And on the topic of money: all media have to pay to exist, so saying they impure because they serve commercial interests is pretty disingenuous.  Even PBS and NPR need to serve more than their viewers and listeners.  That doesn't make then fear mongers.  The world is already scary enough without media hype to pump it up.  That's not to say that there aren't media entities out there that specialize in fear.  There are.  They do not constitute more than a fraction of today's media, though.


Do you remember the Iraq War? Where the media praised Bush to no end and made up the fact that Iraq had WMD? Do you remember the Y2K scare where there was this big frenzy and when everyone was talking about how the world would end? Do you remember how the media said there was this giant hole in the ozone layer from hairspray and that all of the rainforests would be cut down rendering us unable to breathe? Do you remember how the media said eggs were bad for you then retracted? How it said to eat all these carbs then retracted? How it pushed margarine? Do you remember how we were told about how we would face all kinds of biological and crop warfare from terrorists and how we could be done for? How now people are saying that climate change is going to make billions of people go extinct? How 24/7 news made people afraid and thinking crime rates are going up when in actuality they're going down and the media frenzy about how everyone is in danger? I'm only a Civic born in 1986 and remember all this.
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#6
(04-14-2019, 07:01 AM)AspieMillennial Wrote: Because today's media is unreliable. It's exaggerating or giving a false narrative a lot of the time. When you doubt the mainstream media you look elsewhere. I see the media as just a fear mongering industry designed to make money off of people's irrationality.

Media is a plural or medium as a method of communication or entertainment, or source of such. Sorry, I am on the spectrum, and flawed grammar grates on me.

....

I see American entertainment as much of the problem, whether it started with minstrel shows or with P T Barnum's circus. Entertainment has widened in its scope and broken more taboos over time, with such consequences as the infamous "Burly-queue"), pornography (getting its introduction into the mainstream with Hugh Hefner offering pornography without guilt, and others since going deeper into the sleazy and salacious), radio shock-jocks, fecal tabloids, and trashy "reality television". Even sports can degenerate to the point of Mike Tyson biting the ear of Evander Holyfield.

OK, reality television, if done with an educational purpose, can be legitimately interesting. PBS once had a program that saw how modern people could live on the rough edge of the frontier, typically at the line between marginal farming and ranching with none of the modern conveniences.  Adults addressed what they most missed (like spring mattresses) and children opined that they really stretched their imagination due to the sensory deprivation.

We all know what Survivor is about: using a warm climate to induce as many people to show as much "T&A" as possible. A hint: there is no "Survivor: Quebec", no "Survivor: Edmonton", "Survivor: Fairbanks", "Survivor: Sapporo", "Survivor: Novosibirsk", "Survivor: Helsinki", or "Survivor: Innsbruck". Such places are simply too cold. In my opinion, those chilly cities have far more to offer than some boring spot in the tropics.

Yes, entertainment is a valid part of life. Comedy is often far better analysis of the news than is the deadly-serious speculation that appears on talk shows on FoX News Channel. You might as well enjoy excellent drama, comedy, cinema, symphony, ballet, and opera on television if it is unavailable elsewhere.  There's nothing wrong with putting a little showmanship into education.

Now for the news: some news sources are far more reliable than others. The good ones have journalistic standards. Unless they have definitive sources (official record or sports play-by-play), they expect journalists to get two independent sources for the same key information in a news report. Interpretations are to be valid, and not draw unsuitable inferences. There are opposite sides of most controversial issues. A great journalistic entity -- one that has credibility -- is extremely fussy about correcting even the most trivial errors, including typos. If someone feeds credible lies to a reporter and gets his lies published, only for the lies to be exposed for what they are, then the newspaper exposes the liar, as the Washington Post did with Jeb Scott Magruder. Good journalists do not plagiarize or fabricate stories, lest the journalist be fired and blackballed from the industry. One might go from winning a Pulitzer Prize (that is rescinded) to washing dishes at a diner far away from a big city.

Over time one can check unusual stories for internal consistency (thus Jews cannot be both destructive bolsheviks and rapacious plutocrats as basically the same thing). If it makes no sense, one needs stronger proof than a simple report. Extremists are obviously suspect, as with Commies, fascists, and religious fanatics. You would not trust the Korean Central News Agency that disseminates the official view of the world from the North Korean government, Inspire Magazine (a publication of ISIS that shows such 'glories' as beheading), or Stormfront (White Pride Worldwide). I question whether you would trust Answers in Genesis (a young-earth-creationist journal) for objective science. Anti-vaccination nonsense? Medical secrets (natural cures!) that Big Pharma doesn't want you to find out about? Ancient wisdom that can give valuable knowledge to the elect (by the way -- Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, and Lao-tse ar not secret knowledge) an edge in life?

In politics, one-side of the story is rarely the whole of the story. We could have incredible growth in the American economy if employers did not have to pay employees adequately, or so goes the story.

There are tricks for detecting liars (as J Edgar Hoover put it, every criminal that he ever met was a liar, and the FBI technique of getting an offender to tell a lie that evidence or other testimony discredits. The crook says that he was never at 225 Maple street, a private residence where there was a rape, but his finger prints are on the Venetian blinds when he peered through them and felt far safer after he verified that the siren was that of a fire alarm.  He claims to have never been there, but his unique finger prints are on the Venetian blinds.  As a juror I would find that damning evidence. Basic reality does not change radically unless something extraordinary happens. (Pompeii was a vibrant, thriving small city on 23 August AD 79, but it was no more on 27 August AD 79).

Liars tell falsehoods about the past when the past becomes inconvenient. Someone who proclaims how much he loved Wikileaks in 2016 who now denies such exposes a lack of truthfulness. Trump would be well served if we Americans put his loud praise of Wikileaks into an Orwellian "memory hole".

There is such a thing as objective truth, and there is no 'higher' truth beyond it. No authority can make truth out of falsehood.

I wonder what the percentage of Americans who have read Nineteen Eighty-Four will vote for Donald Trump. Obviously, getting its message requires above-average cognitive skills. People who had read it in the early 'Fifties would have largely voted for Eisenhower. Donald Trump is much less li9ke Donald Trump than is some more recent President.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#7
(04-14-2019, 02:29 PM)AspieMillennial Wrote:
(04-14-2019, 10:32 AM)David Horn Wrote:
(04-14-2019, 07:01 AM)AspieMillennial Wrote: Because today's media is unreliable. It's exaggerating or giving a false narrative a lot of the time. When you doubt the mainstream media you look elsewhere. I see the media as just a fear mongering industry designed to make money off of people's irrationality.

Please define "today's media", and what makes them unreliable.  If your point is that all media make errors, then you can remove the adjective "today's".  Reportage is not a science, and many of the sources reporters use have agendas that are deeply hidden and hard to identify.  The good media will own-up to their mistakes, and publish corrections.  If you're being selective and only eyeballing certain media, then you should identify which media you mean.

And on the topic of money: all media have to pay to exist, so saying they impure because they serve commercial interests is pretty disingenuous.  Even PBS and NPR need to serve more than their viewers and listeners.  That doesn't make then fear mongers.  The world is already scary enough without media hype to pump it up.  That's not to say that there aren't media entities out there that specialize in fear.  There are.  They do not constitute more than a fraction of today's media, though.


Do you remember the Iraq War? Where the media praised Bush to no end and made up the fact that Iraq had WMD?


I do. They didn't look beyond the official story enough in that case. I don't think it's right to forever discount them because of that mistake. And there were dissenting voices in the media, which multiplied tremendously as the war got going. Distrust of journalists is one unfortunate consequence of government lies about US involvement in wars since the sixties.

Quote:Do you remember the Y2K scare where there was this big frenzy and when everyone was talking about how the world would end?

I'm not sure who told that story, but there was some basis for concern, though not panic.

Quote: Do you remember how the media said there was this giant hole in the ozone layer from hairspray and that all of the rainforests would be cut down rendering us unable to breathe?

The ozone layer indeed had a giant hole, and regulations against hairspray and freon use allowed the ozone layer to heal. Cutting down rainforests was never said to render us unable to breathe, but it is helping to destroy our climate and kill off many species that are needed.

Quote: Do you remember how the media said eggs were bad for you then retracted? How it said to eat all these carbs then retracted? How it pushed margarine?
The media just reported what the doctors said, and doctors today have a notoriously-limited understanding of diet and health. They are getting better, but no advice works for everyone.

Quote: Do you remember how we were told about how we would face all kinds of biological and crop warfare from terrorists and how we could be done for?

There is some genuine concern if biological weapons fall into the wrong hands. Should we not be concerned about this?

Quote: How now people are saying that climate change is going to make billions of people go extinct?

This is potentially correct, although under-reported. And it has to be told correctly. If this happens, it won't be all at once in our lifetimes.

Indeed, one of the chief examples of the irrational in our society today is those who reject the findings of climate science that the globe is warming and human use of fossil fuels and other activities such as farming and lumbering are responsible. My finding is that the most fervent deniers are either paid by the industry, committed to neo-liberal "anti-socialist" ideology, or more often, both.

Quote: How 24/7 news made people afraid and thinking crime rates are going up when in actuality they're going down and the media frenzy about how everyone is in danger? I'm only a Civic born in 1986 and remember all this.

You have a point there. Nowadays the media is reporting crime rates accurately, but for many years crime stories have dominated news (especially local news), and makes us feel we are less safe than we are. It also encourages people to commit crimes in order to get noticed and recognized. Crime stories entertain, so this appeals to commercial media's need to satisfy the bottom line. I notice most of the TV network documentary shows that blossomed and boomed in the 1980s have been converted to murder stories.

I agree with David; the mainstream media makes mistakes, and doesn't look below the surface enough; but it is usually correct as far as it goes. Journalists today do generally good work. If the Network News and big time pundits were less hampered by the limits of commercial media, perhaps they might look beneath the surface of official accounts more often than they do. But still they often do good reporting that goes beyond the official story put out by the government.
"I close my eyes, and I can see a better day" -- Justin Bieber

Keep the spirit alive;
Eric M
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#8
I agree very much with brower's two opening posts. Conspiracy theories now feed the distrust of the government, and people believe in them because they want to blame the government or a secret cabal for everything, in order to foment opposition to same. Most if not all of them have little relation to reality, and feed the trends of today toward the irrational and vulnerablity to demagogues.

I've looked into a number of these. The granddaddy of modern conspiracy theory is the ones surrounding the JFK assassination. The evidence is open and shut that Oswald killed Kennedy acting alone, and there's no evidence that he was part of a conspiracy. The facts are well known, and today he would be convicted in a court of law by a jury in a matter of minutes. His fingerprints were found on the gun proven to be his, and on the boxes he used for his assassin's den. The bullets found in JFK's skull and in his car, and the shell casings found at you know where, were proven to come from that gun also found there. And so on and on. But there are mysterious aspects surrounding the case that feed the theories. The Mafia and others probably conspired to kill JFK, at least as far as the talking stage, and maybe even failed attempts. Suspicious deaths happened afterwards. And at least at first, the autopsy was inadequate. And so on. But none of these things change the basic facts about the case.

More recently, the other big one surrounds the 9-11 attacks. So far I am satisfied that the heat of the impacts melted the connections of the floors where it happened to the warped walls, and that when they fell, the upper floors collapsed on them and the buildings pancaked. The notions of small amounts of thermite metals found at the scene that supposedly indicate a bomb are explained by the composition of the building. And so on. I would have loved it if Bush could have been blamed for this, and this would have brought down his presidency. But why persist with this theory now that he's out of office? Is there really a secret cabal doing all these things?

Chemtrails and geo-engineering is another big one, promoted mainly by a guy in Shasta County CA named Dane Wigington. But when you examine this, the supposed increase in chemtrails is explained by planes using more water in their exhaust to reduce pollution. But believers say that the contrails we see are made of aluminum and barium deliberately being used on us to reduce the population. But there's no evidence that these metals are falling on the ground all over the country, or that people are spraying them from planes. The theorists have expanded the fact that such spraying is being considered as an answer to global warming, to a supposed fact that it is actually being done for about 30 years now. And they actually blame global warming on the supposed spraying.

Other theorists go way beyond reality to say that the UN through "agenda 21" is spreading disease and abusing children in order to reduce the population in the name of environmentalism. But Agenda 21 has no power to do any of this.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of today's conspiracy theory jungle. I don't even have to mention the harm anti-vaxxers have done. It behooves us to do our own research, and look at the facts before believing this stuff. I used to believe in a lot of these, but now I see no point in using fantasies to discredit an oligarchic power structure that needs nothing more than its own actual misdeeds to discredit it.
"I close my eyes, and I can see a better day" -- Justin Bieber

Keep the spirit alive;
Eric M
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#9
(04-14-2019, 11:04 PM)Eric the Green Wrote: I agree very much with brower's two opening posts. Conspiracy theories now feed the distrust of the government, and people believe in them because they want to blame the government or a secret cabal for everything, in order to foment opposition to same. Most if not all of them have little relation to reality, and feed the trends of today toward the irrational and vulnerablity to demagogues.

Just to make clear -- the first is an essay off the web, and the second is my analysis.


Quote:I've looked into a number of these. The granddaddy of modern conspiracy theory is the ones surrounding the JFK assassination. The evidence is open and shut that Oswald killed Kennedy acting alone, and there's no evidence that he was part of a conspiracy. The facts are well known, and today he would be convicted in a court of law by a jury in a matter of minutes. His fingerprints were found on the gun proven to be his, and on the boxes he used for his assassin's den. The bullets found in JFK's skull and in his car, and the shell casings found at you know where, were proven to come from that gun also found there. And so on and on. But there are mysterious aspects surrounding the case that feed the theories. The Mafia and others probably conspired to kill JFK, at least as far as the talking stage, and maybe even failed attempts. Suspicious deaths happened afterwards. And at least at first, the autopsy was inadequate. And so on. But none of these things change the basic facts about the case.

I suspect that one area of investigation would have been a plot by the KGB  against President Kennedy as revenge for his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Such, if so, would have had to be suppressed were there to be no World War III that would have involved nuclear weapons obliterating cities from Tokyo to Tokyo by way of San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Montreal, Madrid, Munich, Prague, Warsaw, Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev, Beijing, Shanghai, Pyongyang, and Seoul. Much was left out. Was Oswald serving the Soviet Union?

Need we know now?

Quote:More recently, the other big one surrounds the 9-11 attacks. So far I am satisfied that the heat of the impacts melted the connections of the floors where it happened to the warped walls, and that when they fell, the upper floors collapsed on them and the buildings pancaked. The notions of small amounts of thermite metals found at the scene that supposedly indicate a bomb are explained by the composition of the building. And so on. I would have loved it if Bush could have been blamed for this, and this would have brought down his presidency. But why persist with this theory now that he's out of office? Is there really a secret cabal doing all these things?

...or that at high-enough temperatures typical of a jet-fuel fire, steel loses its tensile strength and hence its ability to bear loads, hence collapsing even if it does not melt. All the explosions? There was much water enclosed in rigid containers from toilet reservoirs to drain pipes to soft drink bottles and cans. Add to this, there are good reasons to not dispose of spray cans with compressed propellants in fires. Water going from room temperature or ice-water temperatures to a sudden boil is itself explosive. Add to this there were plenty of stories in which an owner tried to commit an insurance fraud  -- nope, the insurance companies were satisfied with the official explanations as definitive. Incompetence and dereliction of duty are very different from conspiracy, even if as devastating in effect.

Fact: the fuel-burning components of jet engines do not use steel that would disintegrate at such temperatures.  They use superalloys with refractory metals such as tungsten, molybdenum, niobium, tantalum, and ceramics and ceramic-metal mixes. Steel is an excellent structural material at temperatures up to about the temperature of ordinary house fires; above those it wilts, as happened in the Twin Towers. 

Quote:Chemtrails and geo-engineering is another big one, promoted mainly by a guy in Shasta County CA named Dane Wigington. But when you examine this, the supposed increase in chemtrails is explained by planes using more water in their exhaust to reduce pollution. But believers say that the contrails we see are made of aluminum and barium deliberately being used on us to reduce the population. But there's no evidence that these metals are falling on the ground all over the country, or that people are spraying them from planes. The theorists have expanded the fact that such spraying is being considered as an answer to global warming, to a supposed fact that it is actually being done for about 30 years now. And they actually blame global warming on the supposed spraying.

Yes. First of all, aluminum powder combusts with great heat to form aluminum oxide, a nearly-inert substance except in strong acids or alkalies, so it is hard to see what effects such could have. Barium salts are toxic, but they are also heavy. The airlines operate on razor-thin margins both for profit and for weight, so I can't imagine them dumping any chemicals other than exhausts from the sky.

So where is the toxicological evidence? No, Wigington probably can't even spell 'toxicology'.


Quote:Other theorists go way beyond reality to say that the UN through "agenda 21" is spreading disease and abusing children in order to reduce the population in the name of environmentalism. But Agenda 21 has no power to do any of this.

Contraceptives and abortion would be far more effective. A paradoxical way to reduce population growth is to get teenage girls to stay in school so that they do not marry at age twelve and start popping out babies for a lack of anything better to do in life. But such is as much a question of the quality of life, and countries near the middle in economic results (the biggest two such countries are China and Mexico) and almost everything richer, and even such poor countries as India and Indonesia are doing such.

Overpopulation creates mass poverty and the risk of famines and catastrophic wars. There may be an effect, but it is gtod social policy to raise ages of marriage above adolescence and to promote formal education.

Zero population growth is still a good idea for maintaining the dignity of labor, preventing urban sprawl, reducing pollution, and protecting natural resources while keeping the world livable.

Quote:This is only the tip of the iceberg of today's conspiracy theory jungle. I don't even have to mention the harm anti-vaxxers have done. It behooves us to do our own research, and look at the facts before believing this stuff. I used to believe in a lot of these, but now I see no point in using fantasies to discredit an oligarchic power structure that needs nothing more than its own actual misdeeds to discredit it.

And then one goes to the most egregious conspiracies that have racist connotations. Modern antisemitism as shown in Protocols and Nazi bilge is racist. It often contradicts, and any time I see contradictions I see a proposition (Jews are both destructive Bolsheviks and the most rapacious of plutocrats and as such they are the same thing or in concert)that one must reject promptly.

The problem with any conspiracy is that someone eventually 'rats' on it. Establishment figures typically find means other than conspiracies to achieve legitimate objectives. Public relations and lobbying, loathsome as their objectives might be, are not conspiracies. The usual conspiracy is by losers whose plot disintegrates after the fact after the police start grilling 'persons of interest'. Oh, so you are living very well with your no-account boyfriend after your husband died under suspicious circumstances and you collected on a life-insurance policy? You have made some strange cash withdrawals  from your bank account... and some no-account loser with connections to you and your boyfriend has bought an expensive car, clothes, and electronics. Double Indemnity, anyone?

I do not attribute to conspiracy the damage that stupidity, laziness, and incompetence can't explain. Stupidity, laziness, and incompetence  can all have devastating effects without complex explanations.

...We can blame the educational system all that we want, but:

1. The people who believe this stuff typically have not been in a learning institute except as 'defensive driving' to set aside a traffic ticket.
2. Vulnerability to conspiracies seems to increase with age, which means distance from K-12 education.
3. K-12 education teaches formal logic only in a course called geometry, the course that most defines who goes to college and who doesn't. Other than geometry, the course that teach formal logic are all college-level. Even at that, it is possible to graduate from college without learning formal logic.
4. Many people now confuse news with entertainment, and are unable to detect propaganda. Note what I said about reading Nineteen Eighty Four. But that at the least is for sharp high-school kids of the sort who took or are taking geometry and are headed to college.
5. There really are people with messed-up lives who would rather cast blame upon distant people than solve such a problem as drug use, alcoholism, or lacking a high-school diploma -- or not giving up on rural Appalachia and heading off to Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, or Atlanta to get a crappy job. Sure, American capitalism and its political flunkies circa 2020 impose a raw deal on us all, and I don;t need Thomas Piketty to confirm that. (He confirms it, but he isn't easy reading).

So how am I not a conspiracy theorist? It's simple: the economic elites are cheating us all. They are using dumbed-down entertainment as the opiate of the masses; the promises of a better world through high technology ignore the harm of monopolized, centralized, bureaucratic organizations whose internal elites excel at denying opportunity to people other than themselves. Our democratic institutions seem to have their predication upon most people being artisans, traders, and yeoman farmers and not as employees of monopolistic behemoths that control the opportunity for anyone not in the elite. Amoral and immoral people with great power have always used power to enrich and indulge themselves and immiserate everyone else.

No President ever needed a long talk with Billy Graham or even Jerry Falwell than does Donald Trump. Neither Graham nor Falwell is available.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#10
(04-14-2019, 10:32 AM)David Horn Wrote:
(04-14-2019, 07:01 AM)AspieMillennial Wrote: Because today's media is unreliable. It's exaggerating or giving a false narrative a lot of the time. When you doubt the mainstream media you look elsewhere. I see the media as just a fear mongering industry designed to make money off of people's irrationality.

Please define "today's media", and what makes them unreliable.  If your point is that all media make errors, then you can remove the adjective "today's".  Reportage is not a science, and many of the sources reporters use have agendas that are deeply hidden and hard to identify.  The good media will own-up to their mistakes, and publish corrections.  If you're being selective and only eyeballing certain media, then you should identify which media you mean.

And on the topic of money: all media have to pay to exist, so saying they impure because they serve commercial interests is pretty disingenuous.  Even PBS and NPR need to serve more than their viewers and listeners.  That doesn't make then fear mongers.  The world is already scary enough without media hype to pump it up.  That's not to say that there aren't media entities out there that specialize in fear.  There are.  They do not constitute more than a fraction of today's media, though.
I assume they were referring to the blue media/news outlets of today.
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#11
(04-14-2019, 02:29 PM)AspieMillennial Wrote: Do you remember the Iraq War? Where the media praised Bush to no end and made up the fact that Iraq had WMD? Do you remember the Y2K scare where there was this big frenzy and when everyone was talking about how the world would end? Do you remember how the media said there was this giant hole in the ozone layer from hairspray and that all of the rainforests would be cut down rendering us unable to breathe? Do you remember how the media said eggs were bad for you then retracted? How it said to eat all these carbs then retracted? How it pushed margarine? Do you remember how we were told about how we would face all kinds of biological and crop warfare from terrorists and how we could be done for? How now people are saying that climate change is going to make billions of people go extinct? How 24/7 news made people afraid and thinking crime rates are going up when in actuality they're going down and the media frenzy about how everyone is in danger? I'm only a Civic born in 1986 and remember all this.
Almost everything you cite is the media reporting results obtained from others, mostly in the government.  Some of the issues were intentionally hyped,. like the Iraqi WMDs.  Others were inflated due to a lack of knowledge or poor analysis (i.e. computing power -- yes, that was an issue in the not so distant past). Some were results not suited to analysis, like health risks.  Health risks tend to be guesses that are validated over time, or not.  Science isn't perfect, just sequential.  Things are studied, and evaluated, then restudied.  Expect changes as issues are more fully understood.  That's not a conspiracy.  I'll disagree on Y2k, which was hyped, but fairly I think.  The massive response made the issue a ho-hum transition.  Other issues are hyped to generate a similar response, noting how well it worked for Y2k.  That doesn't make them unimportant; they were resolved too.
I'm shocked you mention margarine, since it was already on the decline when you were born.  Margarine was a commercial product that never lived up to commercial claims.  I fault business and the FDA for that, not the media.
Intelligence is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom, but they all play well together.
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