Why I don’t believe in conspiracy theories

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories because I don’t need to believe in them. What is on the record is so appalling that so I don’t need to go beyond what is known in order to be outraged.

When I say I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, I don’t mean literally to deny that people in positions of power ever do bad things in secret or try to cover them up. I mean theories that require you to believe that evildoers (1) have near-superhuman ability to manipulate events and keep secrets but (2) act for no understandable human motive except love of evil.

Here are examples of what I mean:

9/11 Truthers. I know otherwise-sensible people who believe that President George W. Bush manipulated the 9/11 attacks, arranged to have explosives secretly planted in the World Trade Center and had the Pentagon hit with something else except a bomb. The case is based on certain technical arguments which have been disputed.  But what really defies belief is how such a conspiracy could be arranged by people who could not provide convincing evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  All such conspiracy theories rest on the idea that there is a two-track government – one of normal human fallibility, which does all the things we read about in the newspapers, and another with the capabilities of the old TV Mission Impossible team, which we never learn about.

Obama Birthers.  This is the theory that President Obama was really born in Kenya, and hence is Constitutionally unable to serve as President of the United States.  In order to believe this, you have to believe that a pregnant woman resident of Hawaii would choose to go to Kenya to have her child delivered, then return to Hawaii to plant fake evidence (a newspaper announcement and a Department of Health birth record) that the child was born in Hawaii.  What motive would anyone have to do this?  Hawaii has converted its records to electronic form, so the record of Obama’s birth is electronic rather than a written document.  The Birthers believe, or would have us believe, that Team Obama was somehow able to manipulate the changeover.

There is an almost endless list of examples – the many Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories and, before that, the many Lincoln assassination conspiracy theories; all the things that Obama is supposedly plotting to do, from death panels to abolition of sport fishing.  But of course there are such things as conspiracies – the Kissinger-CIA plot to overthrow President Allende of Chile, for example. Carroll Quigley’s hard-to-obtain history of the 20th century, Tragedy and Hope, has much interesting information about the behind-the-scenes influence of the Anglo-American financial establishment.  What distinguishes these reports from what I call “conspiracy theories” is that they provide credible evidence, not speculation, about people with human capabilities doing things for human reasons.

If I were more conspiracy-minded than I am, I would suspect the existence of a conspiracy to spread bogus conspiracy theories to distract attention from the real conspiracies.

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One Response to “Why I don’t believe in conspiracy theories”

  1. jamesrubec Says:

    I love this post. You are on point.

    http://pbjmag.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/obama-not-muslim/

    Like

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