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When it comes to doing good, proper research the Wikipedia is not your friend. When it comes to finding out fan theories on subjects pop culture the Wikipedia is your only ally. For Conspiracy Theories… Well, Wikipedia exists somewhere inbetween.

Wikipedia’s entry on Conspiracy Theory is a funny thing. It reads badly; too much editing and it jumps about the place like a misplaced herring in heat. It’s the major reason why I haven’t even begun to contemplate making edits to it… Well, that and the fear of having said edits revoked. Still, the entry does have a links section and that is where the gold is, so to speak. By and large these links are very self-indulgent (All Embracing But Underwhelming is on there, for example) which is what makes them oh-so-interesting.

Especially for the site that I fear the most.

It starts oh-so-innocently:

As a long time academic teaching history, I have long admired Herodotos’s method. Initially called “The Father of History or Father of Lies”, recent research has shown he was more the Father of History. We get our word “History” from his work, Historia, which is Greek for “Enquiries”. There are lots of conspiracy theories in the world today, from conspiracy theories about 9/11 terrorism or synthetic terror, from aliens to UFOs, Illuminati, New World Order, Freemasons, Templars. This blog seeks to discuss how much substance, if any, conspiracy theories have.’
Conspiracy Enquiries, July 24th, 2006

Yet, in the space of one post we get a letter to an editor (of what I don’t know) ‘critiquing’ the 9/11 story. The best, though, was saved for third place, with the Mel Gibson cover-up:

‘And was Mel drugged? He has a history of being fond of a drink, and it would be no trouble to slip a drug into the water that he stated he was drinking at the time. He looked drugged rather than drunk in the released photos.’Mel Gibson is outspoken against the Bush administration and is well informed about the machinations of the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers and their fellow players -imv his arrest is all a bit too convenient for the powers-that-be.
Conspiracy Enquiries, August 6th, 2006

It’s hard to know where to begin with this. In fact, so hard is it to find the right place to lay the mighty smackdown (for the target is large and placid) that it seems all too easy and I’m just not going to. Exactly why people feel the need to excuse Gibson’s behaviour fascinates me; if Marlon Brando was still alive they could form a club devoted to making accusations against the Jewish people which they later apologise for knowing that their fans will make excuse after excuse for their actions. The mind boggles, it really does.

[Unfortunate but true: the posts onConspiracy Enquiries become a little more rational after the Mel Gibson post, although by a little I don’t mean by all that much.]

Conspiracy Enquiries seems to have been removed from the Wikipedia entry on Conspiracy Theory, which is a pity (well, not really). I suspect that it failed to ‘make the grade’ because it’s really no more than a reporting place for various conspiracy theories in circulation, which makes it a) trivially interesting and thus not worth preserving a link to and b) it’s lack of scope compared to some of the other sites makes it worthless as a reference source. The sites that the Wikipedia entry does list that are merely references to the breadth and scope of different conspiracy theories can be seen as a sampler, and you only need so many samplers. Poor oldConspiracy Enquiries just isn’t quite there. So, why the interest? Well, you already know, don’t you oh loyal reader (or readers… It’s a bit hard to tell); I’m afraid of changing from conspiracy sceptic to conspiracy believer and thus I have to harp on about this every so often to remind myself that it’s only a small step to Anorakville. But, possibly more importantly, it’s the comments sections. The people who post in support of these theories intrigue me; I want to invite them to sit in on a Critical Thinking course. I want to know if they hold other beliefs I think are incompatible with the background assumptions of our paradigm of knowledge. Do they hold only to one conspiracy or many? Do they think the Pentagon attack was American but the Twin Towers attack Middle Eastern (a fairly common belief, by the way)? Are they supporters of alternative medicine or do they think that’s wacky? I suspect that most of them are just like you and I and I find that scary.

Very scary.

My intuition of this study is that belief in conspiracy theories will turn out to be interestingly rational (and no, I can’t currently phrase that in more informative terms as I’m still trying to work out what I mean by ‘interestingly’) and quite normal. It’s the ‘quite normal’ part that I’m afraid of. I’m already seeing it in current discourse; the whole Labour Pledge Card fiasco going on in New Zealand (NB. Yes, I’m a supporter of Labour (well, more socialism in general, really) but I do think the Government is in the wrong in this matter and the longer they try to spin this out the more uncomfortable I feel about an administration I’m losing love for anyway) is a good example. The Right think it was a conspiracy to buy the election (which is a poorly reasoned conclusion as there is no proof that the pledge card itself was a deciding factor in the election (for we can form a valid counterexample where the Labour Government overspends and doesn’t win the election); the Left thinks that the Auditor-General and the Solicitor General… Well, it’s hard to know what the Left think about those two, apart from somehow having changed the rules. Whatever the case, people who normally wouldn’t believe in conspiracy theories are muttering about them on ferries and on buses or shouting at talkbackers whilst driving their cars into work.

Which has always been normal, truth be told, and probably always will be.

Except for me, of course. I’m the model thinker. Which reminds me, if you buy that then I have some reclaimed land in Bayswater I want to sell you.