Conspiracy theories and official lies

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G.K. Chesterton remarked that when people stop believing in Christianity, they don’t believe in nothing.  Rather they become willing to believe in anything.

I think the same thing is true of belief in the credibility of the government or the mainstream news organizations. 

When people stop believing in the official version of events, a lot of them don’t adopt a position of skepticism.  They look for something else to uncritically believe in.

Public opinion polls indicate that barely half the American people believe that Joe Biden was legitimately elected President of the United States.

One in five think protesters were justified to storm the Capitol to prevent Biden’s victory from being certified.  Forty-five percent of registered Republicans believe this.

Why would people doubt that Biden was legitimately elected? 

Donald Trump, the previous President of the United States, says he wasn’t, and a certain number of Republicans and conservative writers and broadcasters back him up.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party, a certain number of Republicans and the overwhelming majority of broadcasters and journalists say he was.

Why would anybody automatically believe the second group over the first group?  They don’t have a great track record. 

In the runup to the election, there was a clampdown on reporting about the relationship of Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, with corrupt a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch.

After the election, I read article after article in my local newspaper stating that Trump had “falsely” claimed that the election was rigged, without any details about what he claimed or why his claim was false.  This information is available, but you have to know how to look for it.

As soon as Biden was sworn in, Trump was banned from Twitter and other social media.  Parler, a new platform for web sites, was shut down; it had attracted a lot of right-wingers and Trump supporters who’d been banned from other sites.

Silencing people is not a good way to convince them they are wrong.  What it does is make them think that you are afraid to let people hear what they have to say.

If I was told by a President of the United States whom I’d voted for and whom I trusted that the election was being stolen, I think I’d believe him.  I wouldn’t trust his discredited enemies.  I might even go to Washington to protest. 

In fact, as I recall, a lot of self-described liberals and progressives went to Washington to protest the election of Donald Trump.  They regarded his election as illegitimate.  Some talked of having members of the Electoral College violate their pledges in order to block Trump.

I wouldn’t have taken part in any storming of the Capitol, but I might be inclined to make excuses for it, just as some people make excuses for the vandalism and looting that has accompanied some of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Take something even stranger than the belief that Biden’s election wasn’t legitimate.  The Q-Anon movement believes that there is a secret conspiracy of Satanic pedophiles deep within the U.S. power structure, and a secret war being waged by their enemies.

Hard to believe, right? But who would have believed 25 years ago that sexual abuse of minors was so widespread in the Catholic Church that many dioceses would be driven to bankruptcy to pay for settlements of lawsuits to their victims.  Or that the Boy Scouts of America would be driven to bankruptcy for the same reason.

Or that famous people such as Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew would be friends with Jefferey Epstein, a pimp for underage girls (I’m not accusing Trump, Clinton or the prince of having sexual misconduct themselves), and that Epstein would die mysteriously in prison before he could reveal his list of clients.

Or that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency would run a network of secret prisons, to which people could be abducted, tortured and imprisoned for years without being charged with any crime.

Looked at this way, belief in the Q-Anon conspiracy is not that much of a stretch.

∞∞

Having got to this point, you might well wonder why I don’t believe this stuff myself.

To begin with, I try to avoid binary thinking.  There is a difference between truth and falsehood, but our knowledge of truth goes along a spectrum—

Certainties – Probabilities – Possibilities – Improbabilities – Impossibilities.

I also have learned the fallacy on thinking that when Person A and Person B hate each other, and Person A turns out to be lying or mistaken, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Person B is telling the truth.

Not trusting Rachel Maddow doesn’t mean that you have to trust Sean Hannity, or vice versa.

∞∞

It is very possible that people in high places are up to no good in ways that I’m not aware of.  But the particular Q-Anon narrative is hard to believe, and there is no evidence for it.

Sexual abuse by Catholic priests was revealed by investigative reporting by the Boston Globe Spotlight team, and then confirmed by a multitude of lawsuits by families of the victims.  Atrocities committed by the U.S. military and intelligence agencies were revealed by whistle-blowers who had proof of what they said.

If “Q” were to reveal his (or her) identity with proof of what he said, or if parents of the alleged victims were to file lawsuits, then I would take it seriously.  Until then, not.

Likewise, what is the evidence of massive Democratic voter fraud in 2016 or 2020, as charged by Donald Trump?  He is not a credible source.  He has a record of making false statements about things so easily checked as the size of his inaugural crowd.

His basic argument is that massive voting by non-citizen immigrants could have happened.  My answer to that is the same as the physicist Richard Feynman when asked whether he denied the possibility that UFOs were extraterrestrial visitors.  Feynman’s answer was that he wasn’t interested in what was possible, he was interested in what was so.

Greg Palast is an investigative reporter who for years has documented vote rigging, some legal and some not, mainly by Republicans.  I’ve followed him for years.  If there is somebody who has documented supposedly equivalent Democratic vote-rigging, I’d be willing to consider their evidence.

Also, Palast never proposed that the results of an election be over-turned after it was held.  It would like demanding the results of a baseball or football game be changed because the umpire or referee supposedly made a bad call.

Senator Josh Hawley refused to certify the Pennsylvania vote count as correct because he believed that the state government did not have authority under the state constitution to expand mail-in voting the way it did. 

For all I know, he’s right.  But that’s not grounds for canceling the vote because neither he nor anybody else knows what the outcome would have been without absentee voting.  The only remedy is to fix things in the next election.

∞∞

It’s hard to know who to trust to provide accurate information.  I trust certain bloggers, including Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi and the crew at Naked Capitalism, because they have good BS detectors, and they manifestly tell the truth as they see it without fear or favor.

Some of my friends think I’m a crackpot.  I don’t think I’m a crackpot, but I could be wrong.  Time will tell—maybe.

LINKS

QAnon and the Fragility of Truth by Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs.

The Value of Truth by Michael Patrick Lynch for Boston Review.  Why political commitments cause people to believe Big Lies.

Interview with Martin Gurri, ‘a Short-Term Pessimist and Long-Term Optimist,’ on TK News by Matt Taibbi.  Reasons for the break-down in trust in authority in the 21st century.

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2 Responses to “Conspiracy theories and official lies”

  1. Susan Pfeiffer Says:

    Hello Phil. I’m amazed that you would direct your readers to the Bezos-owned Washington Post for (no) evidence of election fraud.
    Those who are paying attention to this issue must rely on other sources. Here in Wisconsin https://wisconsinspotlight.com/special-investigation-infiltrating-the-election/
    Mark Zuckerberg paid millions to five Wisconsin counties for “election assistance” contingent on the election officials receiving “special training” and disregarding Wisconsin election laws-including the use of dropboxes for ballots which should legally have been mailed via USPS or delivered in-person to election sites. No chain of custody for these ballots. In Wisconsin 20,000 votes were Biden’s margin of victory.
    As I understand it Zuckerberg “contributed” in excess of $30 M to selected locations in battleground states around the country. Additionally more than 1000 regular citizens submitted affidavits (under penalty of perjury) swearing they observed improper election activities, including shutting out legal election observers, suspension of counting in the wee hours of Nov 7 which flipped the states, and reported deliveries of trunk loads of ballots. In some districts there were more votes cast than registered voters! In the end Trump got more votes than any other sitting president, and still lost to Joe Biden who is demonstrating signs of dementia and is suspected of massive fraud and corruption involving his family.
    The election fraud court cases were dismissed because our judiciary would not hear the cases and rule on the merits. It’s a tragedy for America. And a lot of Americans know it as your graphs demonstrate.

    Like

  2. Word from the Dark Side – Blue Anon, bellicose Dems, boxed-in thinking and bloody Cheapoair | SovietMen Says:

    […] left wing view on possible election […]

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