I’m on the Case

Haha. Bad pun. Anyway, more George Case, this time from the eSkeptic of the 30th of December, 2004.

The blunt truth is that conspiracy theories very seldom make a solid case. Either they play on pre-existing prejudices (how corrupt you already take the government / the media / big business to be), or contradict each other (if the Iraq war is all about Halliburton contracts, then it can’t be about Judeo-Christian millennial fanatics within the Bush administration; if the Mafia killed JFK, then the Freemasons are off the hook), or defy rational dispute (so the more the supposed conspiracy is denied, the more obviously there is one).

Case makes one of the commonest mistakes possible in respect to claiming that holders of Conspiracy Theories actually believe. Most Conspiracy Theorists about, say, 9/11, don’t hold all the different permutations. Whilst there is some common ground, mostly that they do not believe the official story about how the Twin Towers collapsed, they don’t necessarily believe that everyone thus cited for it really happening are all equally responsible. No, like protestant Christianity, there are a multiplicity of differing opinions and views.

Conspiracy Theorists really aren’t that dumb.

More disturbing is Case’s almost flippant dismissal of people writing on the prevalence of Conspiracy Theories. He really does seem to think that writing about Conspiracy Theories is not worth our time, which is a bit odd, given that he’s gone to all the effort to write something that tells us that.


bi -- IJI says:


Came here via your pingback to my blog — by the way, thanks!

Anyway, in the case of climate change conspiracy theories which I’ve written about, it does seem that the purveyors of such theories do believe all of them at the same time, and they even mix and stir the different incompatible theories into new, weirder theories. Sometimes the same person (e.g. Richard Lindzen) has even been spotted changing his conspiracy theory while no one’s looking. It’s painful to watch.

— bi, International Journal of Inactivism

admin says:

I suppose I’ll make a case out my claim ‘most’ here by saying that, yes, sure, some Conspiracy Theorists will mix and match. Some will do it because they don’t realise that their theories are mutually exclusive and some, like Lindzen (I suspect) do it because they don’t think people will notice. But I would like to think (and this is based upon some experience (which counts as anecdotal evidence and thus should be taken with a grain of salt)) that most Conspiracy Theorists, if they are doing this, are suffering from compartmentalisation; not knowing that their theories don’t match/are incompatible.

admin says:

I’m big on compartmentalisation; I think lots of people great and small are guilty of compartmentalising. It’s often cited as being related to the reason why some physicists are likely to be pro-ID whilst biologists are not; biologists often have to pare down their explanations and thus apply that technique to their everyday reasoning whilst physicists can postulate further entities in their explanations so ‘god’ isn’t such a step too far. The compartmental story of it is that physicists can keep their faith and their practice separate whilst biologists (normally) can’t.

But that might be a ‘Just So’ story, my other ‘big’ area.

bi -- IJI says:

Hmm, compartmentalization… an interesting word for an interesting concept. 🙂

— bi, International Journal of Inactivism