Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What Exactly Is a Conspiracy Nut?

Everybody has their deficiencies. If it happens to be paying attention to the news, then you no doubt hear the word 'conspiracy theory' bandied about, quite a bit. Nobody ever talks about what exactly is meant by the term. Why does conspiracy-mongering appeal to some people and not others? There are questions that are worth asking about the subject. But all you really hear is somebody using 'conspiracy' theory as a handy smear against anyone with a different political viewpoint.

Recently I stumbled across an interesting discussion on, of all things, a mountain bike forum that bears on the subject of conspiracy theories. The topic was 'Which goodie on bikes is most over-rated?" Considering the cost explosion in the mountain bike industry, it seemed like a topic that was worth reading. The discussion was better than usual: the commenters were knowledgeable, and thread-hijacking and trivial quips were minimal. 

And yet, something was missing. The discussion was mired in details. All of a sudden, a new commenter starting talking about how the industry works, instead of the merits of individual pieces of equipment. He also discussed the psychology of the customers.

What a relief the new comments were! It reminded me of the opening of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," which features the 'Sunrise' movement of Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra."

Here was somebody groping to get at fundamental truth by seeing specific details of equipment as Effects. But the Cause was the economic realities of the mountain bike industry. I'm surprised that one of typical detail-oriented commenters didn't come right back and accuse the fellow of being a conspiracy nut.

It was so refreshing to encounter an illustrative example in my daily life, free from the hackneyed milieu of politics and news.

I wonder if conspiracy nuts could be compared to alchemists of the Middle Ages. Neither one had much in the way of results, but it was certainly not for a lack of trying. Both are easy to mock. And yet, the alchemist did make progress in glass making, various techniques, and familiarity with different chemicals. Eventually real scientists came along who were able to take rapid steps forward, as in the music of Also Sprach Zarathustra. They benefited from the technical soil left by the charlatans and alchemists.

Some aspects of medieval alchemists and modern conspiracy nuts are admirable, such as the desire to understand cause and effect. But they don't know how to succeed. So they grope with trial and error. They also become trapped in a stubborn and subjective mental prison. The conspiracy nut becomes addicted to the emotional kicks he gets out of his efforts.

And yet, is the non-conspiracy-nut really more admirable?  With perfect insouciance they sit in front of the television and accept today's lies and spin as being real and important. Wouldn't they benefit from trying to understand how the world really works?

Let me leave you with a visual metaphor: think of Dorothy's dog, Toto, in the Wizard of Oz. Remember when he pulled the curtain away, exposing the Wizard racket? Does that make Toto a conspiracy nut?

4 comments:

  1. Toto was a conspiracy nut as seen by those that supported the Wizard. He was a whistleblower as seen by Dorthy, Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.

    The question remains, Why did Toto go look behind the curtain in the first place?
    I think you provided the answer: "Here was somebody groping to get at fundamental truth by seeing specific details of equipment as Effects."

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    1. Excellent comments, Ed! Especially, "..why did Toto go look behind the curtain in the first place?"

      In practical terms, a dog could smell a human behind the curtain, whereas humans can only see and hear. That is, another sense-faculty gets us closer to the truth.

      What would the supplemental sense-faculty be for a citizen watching the news?

      Delete
  2. When Toto pulled back the curtain, he exposed the Wizard as a fraud. This was the truth, not a conspiracy theory. (I had to look this up.) Conspiracy theorists are the lowest among propagandists (and human beings). Think Alex Jones. They exist only to spew forth lies, exaggerations and half-truths to promote their pathetic self interests. They prey on the minds of those who can't think for themselves and thrive on confirmation bias. A quote from The Guardian: “Conspiracy theory is how idiots get to feel like intellectuals.”

    Chris

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    1. Chris, I barely know who Alex Jones is.

      But I am familiar with The Guardian. I don't read it frequently. But I'll bet they are big supporters of the 'Russians stole the election' conspiracy, which would belie the quote that you gave.

      Delete

Comments are appreciated. Feel free to disagree as much as you want with any idea in the post or other comments, but resist the ad hominem approach. Please don't be discouraged if I don't respond to every one of them.