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Why people believe in conspiracy theories
Posted: 05 May 2013 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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The bottom line is that it’s all about demagoguery, not reality. The people who do this sort of thing in all candor really don’t care who dunnit. The care about making “The Guy From The Opposition” look bad.
E.O.C.

I see those trends sometimes too. The initial points Lois made in this thread are relevant to me too.  I think it is a “mental tic” for alot of people.
The psychological mechanics that were described above are definite factors.
Truth is always stranger than fiction.  Why lot’s of idiots have to go and subscribe to contrived stories or embellishments is beyond me.
Like Lois said…we know the conspiracy theories we’re talking about here.  The faked moon landings, crop circles, The Cardiff Giant, 9/11, Kennedy
assassination etc..
Are there real conspiracies?  Of course.

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Posted: 05 May 2013 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Why lot’s of idiots have to go and subscribe to contrived stories or embellishments is beyond me.

As I pointed out, government is it’s own worst enemy in this area. Since governments DO lie and mislead their respective citizens/subjects, it’s not much of a stretch to accept the possibility that they would be lying of misleading their citizens/subjects on the matters which paranoid conspiracy theorists play to.

Private corporations (Always the preferred boogey man to people of the left wing persuasion, and often for the same good reasons!) are not much of an improvement and can even be worse.

It’s not really idiocy so much as it is cynicism, and it’s not cozy to realize that the cynicism is often justified.

Make of that what you will, but it is there.

Are there real conspiracies?  Of course.

Sure are, but as I noted earlier, the people behind them often as not have a predilection for advertising their intentions.

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Posted: 05 May 2013 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 05 May 2013 11:05 AM

Why lot’s of idiots have to go and subscribe to contrived stories or embellishments is beyond me.

As I pointed out, government is it’s own worst enemy in this area. Since governments DO lie and mislead their respective citizens/subjects, it’s not much of a stretch to accept the possibility that they would be lying of misleading their citizens/subjects on the matters which paranoid conspiracy theorists play to.

Private corporations (Always the preferred boogey man to people of the left wing persuasion, and often for the same good reasons!) are not much of an improvement and can even be worse.

It’s not really idiocy so much as it is cynicism, and it’s not cozy to realize that the cynicism is often justified.

Make of that what you will, but it is there.

Are there real conspiracies?  Of course.

Sure are, but as I noted earlier, the people behind them often as not have a predilection for advertising their intentions.

No. This is a tangent.  I’m sticking with the threads original point.  That interests me.  Cynicism plays no part in someone who thinks aliens made crop circles, or the govt was behind 9/11.
The thread was about the concept of people who get “awestruck” by natural phenomena-and have to fill in the gaps, or the actual events with contrived, false stories because they had trouble processing reality.  There’s a psychological mechanic here in and of itself. Cynicism maybe a factor in some theories.
But aliens are a factor too. Or the mafia, or the Cubans. Or the jews..  Or a full moon…

[ Edited: 05 May 2013 11:32 AM by VYAZMA ]
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Posted: 05 May 2013 12:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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CuthbertJ - 02 May 2013 04:54 PM

Interesting that there are papers explaining how people must be flawed and somehow not right in the head to believe in conspiracy theories.  Did it ever occur to one of these researchers that the reason people are so paranoid is because they have every reason to be?!  Along the lines of what Equal Op said, governments, and more so powerful governments, are constantly engaged in activities that seem hard to believe but do occur. I’m sounding like a broken record, but read Overthrow and/or Shock Doctrine.  The phrase “shit happens” is accurate, or rather would still be accurate if it was “major shit happens”.  Just think of the Koch brothers and how they bend government to their agenda. So anyone suggesting there are rich folks twisting politicians arms, or bribing them, or whatever to get laws passed, to sway a judge, etc. Is that all conspiracy?

Yes that is conspiracy! But it’s not a theory.  We can easily prove this. We can show that that conspiracy exists.
Conspiracy here being the simple effective definition of “more than one person engaged in planning events for a specific outcome”. It usually has nefarious connotations(and is a legal term for illegal activity).  In the case of the “rich twisting politicians arms” it is viewed as nefarious…but usually doesn’t involve illegal activities. We use the term loosely.  Crop circles are a conspiracy theory...but if there is a conspiracy it’s not the illegal kind.
Another one…The CIA’s experiments with LSD on volunteers(and possibly unwitting test subjects).
This is a conspiracy( the CIA wouldn’t consider it a conspiracy-they would consider it as business.) But it can be proven. It has elements of nefariousness and secrecy. It also probably has many embellishments and fallacies attached to it
by “conspiracy theorists”.
What about the people who claim the jews rule the world? That’s a conspiracy theory. Everything that it is founded on is so contrived. It’s just a theory.
A stupid theory.  But if you claim it stems from cynicism is that a cop out for those folks.
If I wear a tin-foil hat because I think the govt is monitoring my brain waves by remote control is my cynicism a good excuse? Hell No!

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Posted: 05 May 2013 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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No. This is a tangent.

Actually, it’s not.

I’m sticking with the threads original point.

So am I. It sounds to me like you’re not entirely comfortable with that.

Cynicism plays no part in someone who thinks aliens made crop circles, or the govt was behind 9/11.

I’ve observed exactly the opposite. “THEY are lying to us.’

“THEY are withholding The Truth from us.”

“THEY don’t want us to know.”

“Science doesn’t want anybody changing the paradigm. (Yes, some of these people are obsessed with “paradigms” I’ve seen this.)

Sound familier? It should. It’s cynicism. Granted, it’s not ALL of the problem, but it’s an important PART of the problem. It’s there like it or not. If you want to understand it, you need to come to deal with every aspect of it.

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Posted: 05 May 2013 08:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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No, I’m comfortable with your idea.  Why would you think I was uncomfortable with it?
Cynicism is not the central tenet behind this Op Ed.
The main thrust is the imbalance of cognitive power in people, or a slight to moderate psychological issue.
I think your emphasis on cynicism is partly justified. I also think you are jumping at the chance to “poo poo” govt.
Look at your signature for example….the Big Brother thing….
I get that.
Again please tell me why you would think I was uncomfortable with your idea?

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Posted: 12 May 2013 05:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Lois - 01 May 2013 05:47 PM

(excerpt):

Since a number of studies have shown that belief in conspiracy theories is associated with feelings of powerlessness, uncertainty and a general lack of agency and control, a likely purpose of this bias is to help people “make sense of the world” by providing simple explanations for complex societal events — restoring a sense of control and predictability.

That was me a few years ago.
Well entrenched in the CT way of thinking.

As Alan Moore put it…

“The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy or the grey aliens or the 12 foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control. The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.”

There’s that, and it just made life more exciting; thinking that I was in on something that the sheeple weren’t. That there was something more exciting going on other than my sh*tty job and the daily grind.

It’s a horrible head-space to stay in for too long. You start blaming “them” for that sucks in your life.
“They’re all idiots and that’s why I’m angry at the world.”
I ended up very depressed by the end of it and I think giving up conspiracies and paranormal beliefs is what saved me.

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Posted: 12 May 2013 07:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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King - 12 May 2013 05:34 PM
Lois - 01 May 2013 05:47 PM

(excerpt):

Since a number of studies have shown that belief in conspiracy theories is associated with feelings of powerlessness, uncertainty and a general lack of agency and control, a likely purpose of this bias is to help people “make sense of the world” by providing simple explanations for complex societal events — restoring a sense of control and predictability.

That was me a few years ago.
Well entrenched in the CT way of thinking.

As Alan Moore put it…

“The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy or the grey aliens or the 12 foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control. The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.”

There’s that, and it just made life more exciting; thinking that I was in on something that the sheeple weren’t. That there was something more exciting going on other than my sh*tty job and the daily grind.

It’s a horrible head-space to stay in for too long. You start blaming “them” for that sucks in your life.
“They’re all idiots and that’s why I’m angry at the world.”
I ended up very depressed by the end of it and I think giving up conspiracies and paranormal beliefs is what saved me.

You make sense with that, King.  I do think it all has to do with wanting to feel in control of a chaotic world.

Lois

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Posted: 12 May 2013 08:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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VYAZMA - 05 May 2013 12:17 PM

If I wear a tin-foil hat because I think the govt is monitoring my brain waves by remote control is my cynicism a good excuse? Hell No!

No, no no no no!!!

Tin-foil hats are for protection against the Dark Ones.

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Posted: 13 May 2013 04:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Hello all,

This is my first post here.  I’ve been an avid listener of the podcast for some time and decided to peruse the forums for a change.  I enjoyed this article and the below excerpt really jumped out at me.

excerpt:

—The great philosopher Karl Popper argued that the fallacy of conspiracy theories lies in their tendency to describe every event as ‘intentional’ and ‘planned’ thereby seriously underestimating the random nature and unintended consequences of many political and social actions. In fact, Popper was describing a cognitive bias that psychologists now commonly refer to as the “fundamental attribution error”: the tendency to overestimate the actions of others as being intentional rather than the product of (random) situational circumstances.—

I have a friend who is deeply involved with CTs.  This seemed to have started a few years ago and while his initial focus was 9/11, it has quickly evolved into believing every possible theory that’s put forth.

Not a natural disaster, shooting or other such catastrophe exists that is random or caused by happenstance in his mind.  The moment a disaster or tragedy occurs, like the Boston bombings, I can be sure there is already a CT out there that involves some sort of cover-up or planned act. It’s as if random acts simply cannot occur.

I’m not sure why people get into conspiracy theories.  I’ve always thought part of it was boredom, the want to make the world more exciting and interesting and ego, believing that your smarter than the rest of the sheep.

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Posted: 14 May 2013 03:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Severian - 13 May 2013 04:43 PM

The great philosopher Karl Popper argued that the fallacy of conspiracy theories lies in their tendency to describe every event as ‘intentional’ and ‘planned’ thereby seriously underestimating the random nature and unintended consequences of many political and social actions.

All I can say to this is there’s no question Popper would have identified things like the WTC 7 collapse report as pseudo-science, as it fails the basic principles of scientific method he thought about so deeply: verifiability and falsifiability, for example. It was a forensic investigation that didn’t actually examine a single piece of physical evidence from the building, and based its conclusions on a computer model that can’t be verified and in any case is an extremely poor and partial representation of the facts.

Speaking for myself, I do not find it in the least bit comforting that the collapse of WTC 7 is now accepted and thought of as adequately explained by those who were even aware of it. It is disturbing in the extreme that the final report on WTC 7 is considered the last word on the subject by “most people” and I find the world to be more “chaotic” and “rudderless” that this is in fact the case. I don’t subscribe to any other “conspiracy theories” and have no idea who “they” are if “they” did it, but I don’t find that the NIST WTC 7 report adequately explains the video evidence in the slightest.

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Posted: 14 May 2013 08:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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jomper - 14 May 2013 03:02 AM
Severian - 13 May 2013 04:43 PM

The great philosopher Karl Popper argued that the fallacy of conspiracy theories lies in their tendency to describe every event as ‘intentional’ and ‘planned’ thereby seriously underestimating the random nature and unintended consequences of many political and social actions.

All I can say to this is there’s no question Popper would have identified things like the WTC 7 collapse report as pseudo-science, as it fails the basic principles of scientific method he thought about so deeply: verifiability and falsifiability, for example. It was a forensic investigation that didn’t actually examine a single piece of physical evidence from the building, and based its conclusions on a computer model that can’t be verified and in any case is an extremely poor and partial representation of the facts.

Speaking for myself, I do not find it in the least bit comforting that the collapse of WTC 7 is now accepted and thought of as adequately explained by those who were even aware of it. It is disturbing in the extreme that the final report on WTC 7 is considered the last word on the subject by “most people” and I find the world to be more “chaotic” and “rudderless” that this is in fact the case. I don’t subscribe to any other “conspiracy theories” and have no idea who “they” are if “they” did it, but I don’t find that the NIST WTC 7 report adequately explains the video evidence in the slightest.

There is no rule that if you—or anyone—can come up with scientifically sound refutations of the “final report” that “the government” will not allow it to be considered.  It sounds as if you are suggesting a conspiracy behind the acceptance of the report.  No one has been silenced, that’s obvious.  But I, for one, am tired of the constant stream of conspiracy theories that have no scientific evidence behind them and are nothing but mindless blather.  Get some scientific support and intelligent people will listen. Or are you suggesting that a majority of respected scientists are in on the conspiracy to prevent a real investigation and conclusion? if so, you still need empirical evidence to draw that conclusion and I maintain that you don’t have any.

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Posted: 14 May 2013 10:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Lois - 14 May 2013 08:36 AM
jomper - 14 May 2013 03:02 AM
Severian - 13 May 2013 04:43 PM

The great philosopher Karl Popper argued that the fallacy of conspiracy theories lies in their tendency to describe every event as ‘intentional’ and ‘planned’ thereby seriously underestimating the random nature and unintended consequences of many political and social actions.

All I can say to this is there’s no question Popper would have identified things like the WTC 7 collapse report as pseudo-science, as it fails the basic principles of scientific method he thought about so deeply: verifiability and falsifiability, for example. It was a forensic investigation that didn’t actually examine a single piece of physical evidence from the building, and based its conclusions on a computer model that can’t be verified and in any case is an extremely poor and partial representation of the facts.

Speaking for myself, I do not find it in the least bit comforting that the collapse of WTC 7 is now accepted and thought of as adequately explained by those who were even aware of it. It is disturbing in the extreme that the final report on WTC 7 is considered the last word on the subject by “most people” and I find the world to be more “chaotic” and “rudderless” that this is in fact the case. I don’t subscribe to any other “conspiracy theories” and have no idea who “they” are if “they” did it, but I don’t find that the NIST WTC 7 report adequately explains the video evidence in the slightest.

There is no rule that if you—or anyone—can come up with scientifically sound refutations of the “final report” that “the government” will not allow it to be considered.  It sounds as if you are suggesting a conspiracy behind the acceptance of the report.  No one has been silenced, that’s obvious.  But I, for one, am tired of the constant stream of conspiracy theories that have no scientific evidence behind them and are nothing but mindless blather.  Get some scientific support and intelligent people will listen. Or are you suggesting that a majority of respected scientists are in on the conspiracy to prevent a real investigation and conclusion? if so, you still need empirical evidence to draw that conclusion and I maintain that you don’t have any.

You put too much on empirical evidence. We’re not necessarily dealing with purely physical systems here, like a chemist or a physicist would be. For example, there is a video of the owner of WTC7 saying to someone on a phone, shortly before WTC7 went down, to “pull it” (or whatever the phrase is in demolition parlance).  That in itself makes any conclusion about the building “just collapsing” suspicious.  There are many many other examples, but there’s a whole thread on this. My point is, it’s easy to say “empirical evidence” as if there’s some super duper gold standard of what that is, but in reality things aren’t so clear cut.

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Posted: 14 May 2013 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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CuthbertJ - 14 May 2013 10:45 AM
Lois - 14 May 2013 08:36 AM
jomper - 14 May 2013 03:02 AM
Severian - 13 May 2013 04:43 PM

The great philosopher Karl Popper argued that the fallacy of conspiracy theories lies in their tendency to describe every event as ‘intentional’ and ‘planned’ thereby seriously underestimating the random nature and unintended consequences of many political and social actions.

All I can say to this is there’s no question Popper would have identified things like the WTC 7 collapse report as pseudo-science, as it fails the basic principles of scientific method he thought about so deeply: verifiability and falsifiability, for example. It was a forensic investigation that didn’t actually examine a single piece of physical evidence from the building, and based its conclusions on a computer model that can’t be verified and in any case is an extremely poor and partial representation of the facts.

Speaking for myself, I do not find it in the least bit comforting that the collapse of WTC 7 is now accepted and thought of as adequately explained by those who were even aware of it. It is disturbing in the extreme that the final report on WTC 7 is considered the last word on the subject by “most people” and I find the world to be more “chaotic” and “rudderless” that this is in fact the case. I don’t subscribe to any other “conspiracy theories” and have no idea who “they” are if “they” did it, but I don’t find that the NIST WTC 7 report adequately explains the video evidence in the slightest.

There is no rule that if you—or anyone—can come up with scientifically sound refutations of the “final report” that “the government” will not allow it to be considered.  It sounds as if you are suggesting a conspiracy behind the acceptance of the report.  No one has been silenced, that’s obvious.  But I, for one, am tired of the constant stream of conspiracy theories that have no scientific evidence behind them and are nothing but mindless blather.  Get some scientific support and intelligent people will listen. Or are you suggesting that a majority of respected scientists are in on the conspiracy to prevent a real investigation and conclusion? if so, you still need empirical evidence to draw that conclusion and I maintain that you don’t have any.

You put too much on empirical evidence. We’re not necessarily dealing with purely physical systems here, like a chemist or a physicist would be. For example, there is a video of the owner of WTC7 saying to someone on a phone, shortly before WTC7 went down, to “pull it” (or whatever the phrase is in demolition parlance).  That in itself makes any conclusion about the building “just collapsing” suspicious.  There are many many other examples, but there’s a whole thread on this. My point is, it’s easy to say “empirical evidence” as if there’s some super duper gold standard of what that is, but in reality things aren’t so clear cut.

Which is exactly what every conspiracy theorist says about his favorite conspiracy.  No facts, just suspicions and a few ambigious statements. That’s all conspiracy teorists need, according to them.

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Posted: 14 May 2013 12:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Severian - 13 May 2013 04:43 PM

Hello all,

This is my first post here.  I’ve been an avid listener of the podcast for some time and decided to peruse the forums for a change.  I enjoyed this article and the below excerpt really jumped out at me.

excerpt:

—The great philosopher Karl Popper argued that the fallacy of conspiracy theories lies in their tendency to describe every event as ‘intentional’ and ‘planned’ thereby seriously underestimating the random nature and unintended consequences of many political and social actions. In fact, Popper was describing a cognitive bias that psychologists now commonly refer to as the “fundamental attribution error”: the tendency to overestimate the actions of others as being intentional rather than the product of (random) situational circumstances.—

I have a friend who is deeply involved with CTs.  This seemed to have started a few years ago and while his initial focus was 9/11, it has quickly evolved into believing every possible theory that’s put forth.

Not a natural disaster, shooting or other such catastrophe exists that is random or caused by happenstance in his mind.  The moment a disaster or tragedy occurs, like the Boston bombings, I can be sure there is already a CT out there that involves some sort of cover-up or planned act. It’s as if random acts simply cannot occur.

I’m not sure why people get into conspiracy theories.  I’ve always thought part of it was boredom, the want to make the world more exciting and interesting and ego, believing that your smarter than the rest of the sheep.

Good points.  I would add a possibly evolved tendency to over-attribute threats.  e.g., Our ancestors who interpreted the wind rustling in the grass as a lurking predator, and took evasive action, may have survived to reproduction better than their contemporaries, because every once in a long while, there actually was a lurking predator making the rustling sound.

[ Edited: 14 May 2013 01:00 PM by TimB ]
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