Conspiracy theories – that’s a really general term.
It’s not like elves or Sasquatches or fish large enough to potentially eat a small human being.
In other words, it makes sense to me if you say that you don’t believe in elves or Bigfoot. You’ve never seen either of them, and no one has ever produced a solid photograph, film, or turd that can clearly and definitely be attributed to either one.
But if you say that you don’t believe in conspiracy theories, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.
Most of them get yanked right out of somebody’s butt, there’s no question about that. Just check out the front page of the news, think of somebody who might have benefited in any way from any story, and then phrase it in the form of a question.
Did Obama send a black ops team to sabotage the Deepwater well, as part of his agenda to stop offshore drilling? Or did the industrial-military complex do it as part of an effort to manipulate the commodities market? Or was it just a big thing that broke and wasn’t supposed to?
That’s a good spot to apply Occam’s Razor, an old phrase in medieval philosophy which was all about the inherent simplicity of explanations.
What you do, according to William of Occam – who didn’t really make up the Razor, he just went around talking about it all the time, and wound up with all the credit – is you try to pick the solution with the fewest assumptions.
For instance, we can see how things already break all the time. Especially big things – no conspiracy needed.
But you know, Occam’s Razor is not a law of physics. It’s a guideline. A general rule. Occasionally, the explanation is unbelievably complicated, riddled with coincidence, and there’s nothing Occam’s Razor can do about it.
For instance. Back in 2001, there was a nut running around Columbus shooting people while they were driving their cars. The whole city was really on edge for weeks on end, until the cops finally figured out who the guy was – pretty good work on their part, too, if I remember – and they put his face on national television.
The problem was, he figured out they were on to him and fled. In a shocking example of how easy it still is to disappear in this enormous country of ours, the guy drove straight from Columbus to Las Vegas, where he checked into a hotel.
So a couple of guys were sitting around the casino, and they saw the guy.
They said, that’s him right there. One of them went over to him and gave him a slice of pizza, said here we’re not going to eat this, you want it?
After that he was sure. He called the Feds at the number they’d seen on the news story with the guy’s picture. But the Feds were getting a lot of calls, so they didn’t necessarily believe it. So the guys hit the parking garage, and they found the sniper’s car – his license plate number was on the news story, too.
So they called the Feds again, and ultimately, that call led to the arrest of the sniper.
Then a guy calls in after the story has run for a couple of hours. He says, hey – I’m the guy from the casino to whom they gave a slice of pizza.
So think about that for a minute. In USA Today the next day, they showed the two guys’ pictures next to each other, and they looked a lot alike. But no, they hadn’t seen the sniper. They’d seen another guy who looked a lot like him.
It’s just that when that happened, the sniper by coincidence was in the same casino they were, so they found his car anyway when they went to look for it.
That’s what I’m saying about Occam’s Razor – it’s not a law of physics. What happened there was a lot more complicated than the simplest explanation I can think of. And things like that happen all the time.
But still, there’s a weird trend going on where we identify a story as a “conspiracy theory” and then we reject it out of hand. We roll our eyes at it. As if conspiracy theories are never, ever true, and never have been.
Mind-blowing, since we know that many conspiracy theories are accurate.
Take warrantless wiretapping in the Bush Administration. If I were telling you, man, the government’s tapping our phones man, they aren’t getting warrants, they’re just skipping that step all together and listening in to whatever they want!
See, that’s a conspiracy theory. It’s just that it’s also a news story from this past decade, and it’s also now common knowledge. So we don’t call it a conspiracy theory anymore – even though that’s what it was before it got on the news.
So let me get this straight – you say that you categorically do not believe in conspiracy theories. Then I point one out and you say, okay, so there’s one conspiracy, but that’s it.
Say it was Bigfoot. You don’t believe in Sasquatches because you’ve never seen one. Then one walks by and tips his hat at you, spits on your shoe. Once he’s gone, you’re convinced only that there is a single Sasquatch, and also you’re going to start calling him a new kind of bear.
It doesn’t make sense.
Also, a standard response to the conspiracy guy is that people can’t keep secrets. Yes, go ahead and pick me a up a copy of every classified CIA file then please. I’d like a rundown of everything the CIA has ever done, the names of every agent, and what they’ve all been doing since 1967.
What’s the problem, I thought the government was too disorganized to keep secrets, that coordinated activity could not physically be kept a secret? That it was outside human nature to keep secrets – like asking us to fly or lay eggs.
A conspiracy theory is usually crap – that’s what the word theory is about, dudes. It’s not a New Conspiracy Law. It’s a theory. A lot of times, a knucklehead pulled it right out of his butt for the sheer purpose of attracting traffic to his blog, sure.
But sometimes they’re real. Sometimes, a bunch of people got together and decided to do something bad just because it benefited them, and then they all agreed to lie about it.
What, exactly, in human nature makes that so hard to believe?