If the Internet is rife with content, then when I am reading books?

Conditional statements; you’ve got to love them.

If, as some commentators believe, the history of America is the history of Conspiracy Theories then the Internet is the soil in which the modern Conspiracy Theory grows. Why then, if this is the case (and, based upon a comment of a friend’s post I’m not really in doubt about it), then why am I reading boring old print works?

It’s not just a rhetorical question, either; why am I reading history-as-it-was when the Internet is just about one giant conspiracy theory after the other?

The easy answer is that in an academic setting a book, a real thing of paper and ink, has a certain credibility to it. Not because printed works are better than their online counterparts (you can argue both ways on that one) but because printed works do not change. If I quote the first edition of Von Meiner then someone else can reference that work at a latter date and verify my citation. If I reference a blog or a website then in five years it is either gone or the author has edited the entry or the Web has shutdown under the mass of porn that threatens its very existence (which is, of course, for deseminating pirated TV).

The slightly less easy answer is that it’s easier for me to annotate books or articles whilst websites and other online materials… Well, it’s possible but awkward. It mostly requires me converting said website to a file, printing said website and by the time I’ve done that I could have interloaned a book or used the Philosopher’s Index to find something more credible to an examiner anyway.

And, of course, there’s the issue of content. If I wanted to read conspiracy theories then the ‘net is my friend. But I know enough about the kinds of things people believe; I want to know why they believe them and are these justifiable beliefs. That answer (or set thereof) isn’t really apparent online. Oh, I’m sure there are sites a plenty but they are buried under countless MySpace accounts where people claim they belong to the Priory of Sion or Livejournals about the Merovingian Bloodline. Conspiracy theories outweigh Conspiracy Theories.

Which is really just about a round-about way of mooting a possible forum for this blog, a place for people to discuss Conspiracy Theories and, hopefully, for me to find out about local (i.e. New Zealand) conspiracies (of which I know there are many but one hopes there are more that I haven’t heard about). Local conspiracies are a) fun and b) more relevant to my topic because c) conspiracies that haven’t made the literature in the past have more merit that rehashing old examples.

It’s all very weird; whilst I am interested in Conspiracy Theories I’m really not all that interested in conspiracy theories. Like a lot of people I’m just not convinced by most accounts of the fake death of Elvis or the Grassy Knoll. Yet I should be. I suppose I am, in a way. Conspiracy Theory without content is, well, not very interesting. Perhaps I’m mischaracterising the situation; I’m interested in conspiracy theories but far more interested in Conspiracy Theories. Sure, you believe X. I can even understand why, to a degree. The question is, is X a justified belief, all things considered.

Which, one day, I might be able to give an answer to. Hopefully one that is a precis of the 50,000 words it took to come up with.