QotD: Conspiracism

by VorJack

Mother Jones has an article about Bob Inglis, the former US Representative from South Carolina. Inglis is a profoundly conservative Republican, but wound up losing to another Republican in the primaries because he “strayed from his conservative roots.”

Some of that may be because he voted against the Surge in Iraq, but a lot of it probably comes from his unwillingness to work with the Tea Party wing. Here’s how he describes one meeting:

I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there’s a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life’s earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, “What the heck are you talking about?” I’m trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, “You don’t know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don’t know this?!” And I said, “Please forgive me. I’m just ignorant of these things.” And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.

The thing is, there’s very little new in this. Most of the things the Tea Party is spewing date back decades, or even centuries. As Richard Hofstadter pointed out in his famous essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics, these kinds of conspiracy theories date back to before the founding of America. Sometimes it seems like the only thing that changes is the nationality of the troops that are hiding just outside of our borders and waiting to invade.

I got into a discussion once with a professor who insisted that this is a uniquely American phenomena. I’m not quite as sure. So here’s my question: Is the kind of conspiracism seen above familiar to those outside the US? Do you encounter conspiracy theories regularly in your country?

This is mainly my own curiosity, so thanks in advance for your input.

  • Mark the Pilgrim

    With regards to the UK: we have a few people believing in the illuminati here, but it doesn’t feature in politics exactly. We had quite a bit of conspiracism in the 1980s (The Sun once proposed that Britain was run by homosexual oligarchs, but no one really believed it), but most of it has died down.
    You get people believing in conspiracy theories, of course, but it isn’t something rampant that would influence voting tendencies. It doesn’t get to mind boggling irrational levels.

    • Len

      “…the illuminati…”

      Did you Mitchell and Webb the other evening, talking about the secret society that’s actually running the country, always consuming almost two glasses of alcohol? The inebriarty. Excellent.

      • Mark the Pilgrim

        Nope, but I’m on the BBC3 iplayer right now looking for it!

        • Mark the Pilgrim

          Ha! Saw it! The Inebriati sketch. Hilarious stuff. I love the dig at Dan Brown too. xD

    • burpy

      In the Uk, as in most of Europe, there was an elitite society which controlled everything whilst enslaving the masses. Bloodlines were incredibly important to them, and they conducted strange rituals in order to cement ties between elite families. They were called the aristocracy, and far from being secretive, they operated completely out in the open. Often with the support of the rest of society, who sometimes referred to them as “our betters”.

      • Kodie

        Bloodlines were incredibly important to them, and they conducted strange rituals in order to cement ties between elite families. They were called the aristocracy, and far from being secretive, they operated completely out in the open.

        I heard about their act and all their “strange rituals,” pretty sick!

  • http://woodpigeon01.wordpress.com Colm

    In Ireland we have our fair share of weird beliefs, with the inevitable conspiracy theory when those beliefs cannot be proven.

    I don’t think conspiracists are anything as widespread in society as the Tea Party people seem to be in the US. There is and ultra Catholic remnant in society who seem to think most people are ganged up against them, and, heh, maybe they are right..

  • Vastdistances

    It strikes me as a very America fear, most other nations have been bombed, invaded, terroised and generally been picked on for their entire lives. They’re used to it in an odd way, it happened and as a nation they’ve gotten past it.

    America has never faced these things and so they fear them.

  • Darwin

    In Pakistan we have conspiracy theories for everything.
    “The Holocaust was made up by the Jews to put down Muslims.”
    “9/11 was made up by Americans and Jews to put down Muslims.”
    I’ll update this if you like this crazy shit.

    • Michael

      In the U.S. the belief is that the WTC was blown up by the U.S. government (and sometimes the Jews) in order to justify an invasion of Afghanistan (or for various other vague reasons). It is frightening how many people believe this.

  • Bender

    In Spain during the Franco dictatorship everything that was wrong in the country the regime blamed on the “Jewish-Masonic conspiracy”, but nobody actually believed it, except the most brainless, fanatic supporters of the regime. In fact the phrase has become synonymous of “bullshit excuse” in common language. Interestingly, it seems it’s always conservatives that are more prone to believe that kind of drivel.

  • kjpweb

    Being born and raised in Germany and now living in the States for 12 years – here’s my take on it.
    While you have nutjobs of all varieties everywhere – how they are treated by the media is what makes the difference. While German News media still adheres to the credo of fact checking for the most part – US News media are no longer really in the news business, but merely a part of the entertainment industry. Tea Party rambles would be checked and called out for the nonsense that they produced in Germany (and then ignored) – and for that matter the same way in other European countries – in the States they are entertaining and make it to the headlines over and over again.
    People like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh wouldn’t stand a chance in Germany – for that country has its fair share of agitation, propaganda and such in the past. With that history in mind people like that are being cut to size and exposed. Same goes for the Tea Party antics.
    The US Media has long lost its way and has become an enabler for all sorts of fringe groups, instead of exposing them as what they are. Lunatics and crooks.

    • Mark the Pilgrim

      This.

    • http://slantrhyme.wordpress.com/ slantrhyme

      This is right on.

    • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

      yep

    • Olaf

      I agree

    • http://theskippyreview.wordpress.com Skippy

      Spot-on, sadly.

    • Kodie

      That explains how much conspiracism we have in the US, but not why. Some of our media tell people not to simply believe what they’re fed, and this is still a good idea universally. Where you have “fact-checking,” I think there will still be people who think there is some corrupt machinery behind it, what they present is still a skewed or false version of truth, and we all ought to be skeptical, or at least consider something other than what we’re told is true.

      While I think it is every person’s responsibility if not obligation to be skeptical what our government is telling us, I think the US has perhaps a unique approach. We come from a history of questioning the establishment, the government, we created our government on that ideal. I guess one side effect is that we’re always ready for a revolution if necessary. Our freedom of speech gives us a lot of leeway in letting others know what the government is “really up to,” vs. what they present as their policies. The word “skepticism” has two edges, they are both skeptical of claims being made. It’s no great feat to say you’re a skeptic, I think, about anything, because skeptic atheism objects to and examines claims of supernatural effects, while there are skeptics of other stripes who don’t believe what they’re being told and seek an alternate truth that is as plausible. They in turn are not skeptical of their new theory, but they tend to refuse to be sucked in and called a gullible pawn by any government or power.

      I don’t know how Germany is now, but once upon a time, they didn’t apparently question authority and look what happened. I would think it would be more vigilant today, not less, no matter how trustworthy the media is to not steer them wrong.

      • Revyloution

        Kodie, you have some good points, but I think that kjpweb’s explanation does explain they why and the how of our odd culture. Ive lived abroad, and he is right about news outside of the US. If your’e a loon, you don’t get airtime. Compare that to the US. They have shown, on major stations during prime time, ‘documentaries’ about why the US faked the moon landings. With that kind of misinformation being played to millions of people, it’s not surprising that we saw a surge of moon landing deniers. The same thing goes for religions, government conspiracies (remember the movie about John Kennedy by Oliver Stone?), or any other conspiracy. In the US, these kinds of loons have unparalleled access to mass media.

      • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

        Right. When you examine the conspiracies that actually happened in US history, you realize that the gummint is capable of great deception. Didn’t we get into the longest war in history because of some conspiracy involving WMD? Anybody seen Green Zone?

        • Elemenope

          Good flick. Very depressing.

        • Michael

          That wasn’t so much a conspiracy as a lot of bad decisions. Hussein made the bad decision to play up his (nonexistent) weapon caches to intimidate Iran. The U.S. made the bad decision to believe him and the even worse decision to invade without any evidence of actual WMDs.

          I admit the propaganda did get pretty sketchy after a while. I don’t doubt that people realized that there probably were no WMDs long before they told the public. But I am fairly certain they did not know that before the war.

          • wintermute

            I remember quite a few pre-war editorials saying “how dare the CIA say they don’t think Iraq has weapons of mass destruction! Don’t they know it’s unpatriotic to contradict the president?” And then, suddenly, some of transparently bad intelligence (Nigerian yellowcake, aluminium tubes) started to come out of the CIA.

            The executive branch might not have believed the intelligence reports, but it was obvious that the people whose job it was to know these things knew that Iraq had no WMDs. Especially when Hans Blix was appearing on TV every evening saying “we looked at this facility, and there was no evidence it had ever been used to make weapons”…

        • Michael

          Also, the government is capable of plenty of evil without resorting to any deception, unfortunately. I think blatant dehumanization, not deception, is the American way.

          • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

            Well, okay.
            As long as it’s not deception.

            • Michael

              I’m not trying to say the government is never deceptive, just that deception hasn’t historically been behind most state-sanctioned destruction. The most horrific of all massacres have always been with great public support.

      • Olaf

        Yes conspiracy theorists all yell that the media is manipulating and lying and then they replace the media with sites and youtube that is even worse in manipulating and lying.

        • Yoav

          If you count fix noise as part of the media that covers quite a lot of manipulation and lying.

    • Revyloution

      Ill add to the long list of ‘this’.

      Spot on.

    • Elemenope

      I must confess myself perplexed that so many members of a group that until recently were considered to be fringe immoral loons (Atheists) are so quick to approve of a media ecology that excludes people so considered from access, coverage, and debate.

      Say what you will about conspiracists and tea-partiers (and I could say alot, none of it pleasant), but I cannot take it as a virtuous thing to deny people who are on the fringes of public opinion access to a forum to present and discuss their ideas.

      • Custador

        Allowing them access to express their opinions is all very well, but taking it seriously and not treating it with the scorn which it deserves is another thing entirely.

        • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

          Some deserve scorn. Some don’t/

        • Elemenope

          So should we merely have accepted that most people thought Atheists only deserving of scorn?

          • Custador

            No, but our “moral” judgements aren’t based on fairy tales.

            • Kodie

              That’s why it’s so hard to have a conversation with them over it. If you say what you think, their immediate reaction is that you’ve been sucked in, and we see that they have been sucked in. Both sides think the other side is a web of lies, it’s hard to convince the side with the actual lies that it’s lies.

              For instance, say there is a conspiracy, the established idea is an organized web of lies and the conspiracy in this case exposes the truth. It’s just as difficult to expose the conspiracy as it is to convince people who believe the conspiracy is true that it’s false. People are easily manipulated by things that seem true, and maybe are. Religion seems to be a conspiracy in itself, people who become suspicious of facts as normally presented, facts which suspiciously silence the alternatives to the accepted truth. We call them ridiculous, that’s what they expect. We’ve been fooled and we’ll be sorry on judgment day.

              Conspiracy theories that make it out for general riducule are mostly obviously false without having to dig too deep, however, the seeking of truth, the skepticism of what we’ve been told by the established authority, this is what underlies it. Conspiracies and plots happen often enough that people become jaded and paranoid over everything. When atheism debunks the established authority of religion, we’re kooks, we’re nuts. There has to be a god. I can imagine being religious and so certain that everyone who says there is no god is not only wrong and crazy, but they are seduced by satan and are going to hell when they die. There just is no convincing us that it’s true or them that it’s not true. Some people are just inclined to accept what they’re told and some people are inclined to be watchdogs, make sure to get the word out that we’re being told a lot of bunk and not to buy it, that sums it up. I sometimes feel like an alien on earth when I see regular people doing normal things that don’t make rational sense… I don’t go so far as to blame something in the water, but we’re manipulated to behaviors and purchases and consider wants as needs, so the vigilance part of conspiracism is not in itself an idea that’s bad, nor the outspokenness.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. And, as long as I’m in the cliche library, The greatest trick of the devil is convincing people he doesn’t exist. I get a little concerned when people tell me what I shouldn’t think about. That’s the implied message when something is declared a “conspiracy theory”. It’s beneath consideration. The subject is denigrated and the people who investigate it are demeaned. The use of the term itself comprises a conspiracy against conspiracy theories. And you’re all a part of it! You! You! And you too!

              I suggest maybe calling them alternative explanations.

            • Ty

              Except that then gets used for things that are flatly disproven, and do not deserve any serious consideration.

              Vaccines causing autism is not an ‘alternative explanation’, nor is ‘the US and Israel planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks’.

              No, those are just conspiracy theories. Some things do not deserve equal consideration.

            • Elemenope

              Some things do not deserve equal consideration.

              That is almost certainly true. What I question is the ability of the majority/dominant cultural forces being able to pick what should be considered and what should be dismissed. For every three or four crackpots on the fringe, there has been a genius.

              I’d rather the more permissive media environment that perhaps takes things seriously that shouldn’t be, than the restrictive one that makes the judgment before it ever reaches the audience (despite the crap flood that inevitably entails). Even considering the relatively permissive American media culture, there still remain memes that are *impossible* to challenge in the mainstream, with those challenges considered out-of-bounds and not seeing air.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              mythological truth?

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              ‘the US and Israel planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks’.
              Depends on how you frame the issue, in this case. If you proceed from a forgone conclusion, then yeah; that’s pretty wild. I wouldn’t demean it, but I wouldn’t give it serious consideration either. On the other hand there is nothing wrong with investigating the anomalies surrounding 911.

            • Ty

              See, and I would demean it, because it, be existing as an accepted alternative, creates serious problems. Very much like the vaccine issue.

              “I’d rather the more permissive media environment that perhaps takes things seriously that shouldn’t be, than the restrictive one that makes the judgment before it ever reaches the audience (despite the crap flood that inevitably entails). ”

              That’s fine, but it is the job of skeptics and people who actually understand the issues to attack this false conclusions mercilessly, not treat them with kid gloves.

            • Elemenope

              That’s fine, but it is the job of skeptics and people who actually understand the issues to attack this false conclusions mercilessly, not treat them with kid gloves.

              Absolutely. And I think there should be both types of media: the permissive what’s-new news, and the critical news-analysis news. Our problem lately has been that we have a ton of the first, and what we have left of the second is risibly bad.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              You have to wonder the kind of secrets our government is keeping. You know, like when they seal up documents to important court cases so they can’t be opened for 50 years (after everybody involved has died). I just saw a release of a Churchill comment on a UFO sighting, having been sealed for 50 years. Churchill kept the sighting secret because he didn’t want to cause a panic. You’ve got to wonder what 50 year secret is being hidden from us? I suggest looking up.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              “See, and I would demean it, because it, be existing as an accepted alternative, creates serious problems. Very much like the vaccine issue.”
              After that Tuskegee thing, this is not as farfetched from my perspective as it probably is from yours.

            • Michael

              Nomad, you are not going to get any supporters here who believe that Masonic Jews planted bombs in the WTC towers or whatever. I’m sorry, but if that is not insane from your perspective, it should be. Does our government hide things from us? Yes. Would it blow up two of its tallest buildings spurring a stock market crash and mass panic? Probably not.

              You should also know that the Tuskegee syphilis experiment was conducted from ’32 to ’72, was fed by extreme racism, and was never really kept secret.

              As for the UFO, I have no idea what you are talking about, and I am frankly not worried about alleged alien landings right now.

            • wintermute

              Nomad: No, you didn’t see “a release” of a Churchill comment. You saw Churchill’s bodyguard’s grandson making an unsubstantiated claim about what his mother told him her father (the bodyguard) had said on his deathbed. Maybe Churchill really did see some unexplained lights in the sky; he certainly wasn’t the first or the last to do so. And maybe he really did decide not to tell anyone. But this claim is not exactly proof of some long-running conspiracy.

              But, still. It’s true that small, isolated incidents that are only known to a small handful of people are quite easy to file away under the 50 Year Rule. But huge, root-and-branch conspiracies that require thousands of people to be involved in (such as the WTC conspiracy, or the vaccine cover-up)? Those just can’t be effectively kept secret. Even the absence of WMDs, or of a connection between Saddam Hussain and 9/11 were well known before we went to war, if not well reported. We *know* there was a conspiracy to engage us in a needless war exactly because the administration couldn’t keep it secret.

            • wintermute

              Nomad, again: Yes, the government did some horrible things at Tuskegee. But it’s a non-sequiteur to say that that has any bearing on the thousands of studies from around the world that say that there’s no plausible mechanism by which vaccines can cause autism, or that vaccinated populations have no greater incidence of autism than unvaccinated populations, or that autism rates didn’t start to drop when thimerisol was removed from vaccines.

              It’s like saying that because the Trail of Tears really happened, Phillip Morris must be putting asbestos in the cigarettes they sell to Native Americans, and that every shred of evidence that shows why that’s laughably false should just be ignored.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              “you are not going to get any supporters here who believe that Masonic Jews planted bombs in the WTC towers or whatever. ”

              Gee. I don’t remember saying that. Nor am I looking for your support.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              wintermute, I’ll take your word for it.

            • wintermute

              You’ll take my word for what? And why?

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              re Churchill
              “Bookmakers have been forced to slash the odds on bets that aliens exist after it emerged Winston Churchill ordered a cover-up of a Second World War encounter between a UFO and a RAF bomber.”
              http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/ufo/7929052/UFO-files-bookmakers-slash-betting-odds-that-aliens-exist-after-Churchill-claims.html

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              “You’ll take my word for what? And why?”

              For this:
              “that vaccinated populations have no greater incidence of autism than unvaccinated populations, or that autism rates didn’t start to drop when thimerisol was removed from vaccines.”
              And this:
              ” Phillip Morris must be putting asbestos in the cigarettes they sell to Native Americans”

            • Yoav

              @ Nomad
              You talk about the same government that couldn’t cover up the president boning an intern and yet you think that they will be capable of covering up all these UFOs and stuff.

            • coffeejedi

              From the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe regarding the Churhill thing:

              Hey, UFO Kooks, Leave Winston Alone!
              http://www.theness.com/roguesgallery/?p=1805

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              I’m convinced. Winston’s too great a man to have paid attention to such nonsense. All hail Winston!

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              “I’m sorry, but if that is not insane from your perspective, it should be.”
              On second read, I see this question differently. You didn’t say I said “x”. You said I should think “x” was insane. And I do. But, as I know from experience insanity does not disqualify a conspiracy from being true. Remember the Holocaust?

            • wintermute

              Re: Churchill from that article you linked to:

              The allegations involving Churchill were made by the grandson of one his personal bodyguards, an RAF officer who overheard the discussion, who wrote to the Ministry of Defence in 1999 inquiring about the incident after his grandfather disclosed details to his family.

              I’ve gone through the declassified materials they link to, and I can find no mention of the original incident they claim to be referring to. I’m sure you can find what I overlooked, though. But until that time, all the evidence we have is this: The grandson of Churchill’s bodyguard claims that said bodyguard (now deceased) claimed (to a third party when the grandson was not present) that Churchill made some comment about an unknown object in the sky. No official record seems to have been made on this subject.

              If a bookie chooses to alter the odds on discovering alien life (perhaps to play on this and encourage more people to place a wager?) that is not exactly proof of anything, is it?

              As I say, Churchill may well have seen something unidentified in the sky. He may even have thought there were good reasons not to mention it publicly (perhaps he thought it was an experimental aircraft, for example), but even if we had some evidence that he’s seen something, there’s no reason to believe it’s an alien spacecraft, is there?

              “that vaccinated populations have no greater incidence of autism than unvaccinated populations, or that autism rates didn’t start to drop when thimerisol was removed from vaccines.

              No, no. Don’t take my word for it. Look at the research yourself. I insist. There should get you started:
              “Essentially no correlation was observed between the secular trend of early childhood MMR immunization rates in California and the secular trend in numbers of children with autism enrolled in California’s regional service center system.” — http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/285/9/1183

              “This study provides strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism.” — http://www.contentnejmorg.zuom.info/cgi/content/abstract/347/19/1477

              “There was a steady increase in cases by year of birth with no sudden “step-up” or change in the trend line after the introduction of MMR vaccination. There was no difference in age at diagnosis between the cases vaccinated before or after 18 months of age and those never vaccinated.” — http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0140673699012398

              “Studies do not demonstrate a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and ASD, and the pharmacokinetics of ethylmercury make such an association less likely. Epidemiologic studies that support a link demonstrated significant design flaws that invalidate their conclusions.” — http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/114/3/793%29

              “The body of existing data, including the ecologic data presented herein, is not consistent with the hypothesis that increased exposure to Thimerosal-containing vaccines is responsible for the apparent increase in the rates of autism in young children being observed worldwide.” — http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=15038839

              The science is pretty solid on this one; no matter what other horrible things the government might have done, causing an autism epidemic through vaccination is not one of them.

            • Michael

              I would like to add that if you don’t feel like reading all those studies (or even if you do), here is a great video on the link between autism and vaccines by DonExodus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6AJUWFXrBI.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              Lotza assumptions being made there. No matter. I’ll take your word for it.

            • wintermute

              Feel free to enlighten me as to what those assumptions are

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              My aliens and anti-vaccination advocacy. You do get kudos for not claiming that I think that Masonic Jews planted bombs in the WTC.

            • wintermute

              Ah, I did make the assumption that you were arguing in good faith and actually meant what you said, yes. I apologise, and assure you that I won’t do that again.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              No. It was the other assumptions I mentioned. I accept your apology with all the sincerity in which it was given.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              I think the gummint can get you to believe whatever it wants.
              A conspiracy doesn’t have be a cabal meeting in secret somewhere. It can be a wink and a nod from like minded people.

            • Nox

              To be fair to theorists, I think we should keep in mind that some pretty ridiculous sounding “conspiracy theories” have turned out to be true. And our government does have a bad track record of falsifying and redacting the information it gives to the public. I don’t think “masonic jews planted bombs in the WTC”, but I do believe the government has covered up significant pieces of what happened on 9/11 (the way they set up the 911 commission was a tacit admission of this). I believe that the Zapruder film shows JFK’s head going backward, and if that were contradicted by any of the hundreds of other films from Dealy Plaza that were seized in the aftermath of the assassination, then putting that conspiracy theory to rest would be as simple as declassifying *one* of them (seriously? home video from Dallas in 1963 is a national security issue?).

              I also believe Richard Nixon conspired to wiretap the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee as part of a successful attempt to rig the 1972 presidential election. And I believe that George Bush senior was involved in a conspiracy to sell arms to Iran and use the money to fund an illegal proxy war in Nicaragua in violation of the Boland Ammendment.

              Crazy huh?

            • Kodie

              That’s pretty much what I was saying, it’s not always crazy and false, you have to weed it out and take it on a case-by-case. It’s not always safe to take what you’re told on face value. I think it’s a good thing to see what might have been hidden, sometimes it’s way off and manufactured pile of doo, but sometimes it removes the blinders from us and shows us when people are really up to no good. Nobody wants to be lied to, or at least some people aren’t satisfied with what’s presented as “true.” Some people like to, I guess, live with the easy answer and not question too much, and some people are easily sold on alternates to that truth that seem overwhelmingly convincing only to an idiot. In between that is not accepting what we’re told on face value and giving some attention to whether or not we’re being lied to or smokescreened or blaming someone who is not to blame for something. Then don’t believe it if it’s not true.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              And sometimes sounding crazy works to the advantage of the conspiracy. If it’s too crazy to believe, nobody will believe it. Hence, by Darwin’s law, craziness actually allows the conspiracy to survive. Survival of the craziest. The trouble with conspiracies that fail; they aren’t crazy enough. The lies not big enough.

  • Len

    @VorJack: Not wishing to be pedantic, but there’s a typo in the heading…

  • Tee

    the USA media is ratings driven/money driven. They also give these kooks like Beck and Rush a forum to spew their nonsense and give them credibility by the White House/politicans mentioning them.

    Here in Japan there are no real conspiracy kooks. Ok you have a few who think some Earthquakes are made by the gov’t to distract from the issues that are going on. There are a few who think the Yakuza really run Japan as well.

    But overall nothing as big as the Man on the Moon or 9-11 conspiracies

    • Siberia

      Curiosity: I’ve read books – law books on organized crime – that claim that Yakuza has a great influence in reducing the amount of crime in the streets. Is there any foundation to such claim? It’s not all unthinkable – here in Brazil we do have communities who are “protected” by organized crime, and it’s not uncommon for Italian mafias to be protective of their communities as well, as in, monopolizing the crime scene, as to speak.

      Is that true or just another theory?

      • Elemenope

        The classes I’ve taken in criminology are about a decade out of date, but yes those conceptions of crime ecologies are taken seriously. In some areas, there is a “free market” of crime, and in others an oligopoly/monopoly forms with cartels and/or mafioso. They have different and sometimes paradoxical effects on the occurrence and severity of crime in an area, as well as how hard the resulting crime is to combat.

      • Tee

        I don’t feel they do reduce crime. I mean i liken it to me having a rock and saying it prevents Tiger attacks and trying to sell such a rock for millions.

        Although I think their presence in some places prevents crime. Good example is the local waterpark used to allow all types there and then said No tattoos (which prevents the Yakuza from entering) which quite a few places have for signs here.

        But back on topic the Yakuza there although not causing trouble were also scaring away regular customers as well as trouble makers. So in some sense yea they do prevent crime as nobody wants to go there.

        What upsets me is when they want to take over a street for the night. they just hang out (could be a street with bars or arcades…etc) and let everyone else now they are not welcome.

        Also a woman I was dating/seeing had to move out of her apartment as her landlord was behind in payments to the Yakuza and they said everyone had 2 weeks to get the hell out as they were coming back and taking over the building as payment. So she had to quickly find a new place to live in 2 weeks.

        • Siberia

          Yeah, that sounds like the criminal organizations over here. Thanks for the information!

  • Mike

    Seems to me there is a correlation between religious fanaticism and conspiracism – perhaps because both require the unquestioning acceptance of stupid fairy tales over factual evidence.

    • trj

      I think it’s mostly a one-way correlation. Many conspiracy nuts see religion as just another way the hidden powers – Illuminati / New World Order / Freemasons / aliens – are deceiving the masses. Whereas fundies of the apocalypse-yearning kind tend to see all kinds of governance they don’t like as being run by Satan, and so by extension they believe in NWO, Illuminati, etc.

    • JohnMWhite

      I think often those of a conservative religious mindset are more willing to believe in these kinds of conspiracy theories because their exclusive religion has brought about a sense of persecution in them. The world seems to be truly out to get them because 90% of it doesn’t agree with them and doesn’t let them run roughshod over everybody else. Thus it can become easy to see shadows and plots everywhere, and in the types of religions used to writing off entire sections of society as evil and hell-bound, it is no stretch to build someone like the Jews or homosexuals into a single collective boogeyman.

      • Michael

        I don’t really think so. From my experience, a large percentage of conspiracy nuts are liberal, often extremely so.

        Actually, they are pretty diverse. Many are anarchists, many are communists, and many are libertarians. Nearly all of them are opposed to big government.

        Right now we see the Tea Party as full of conspiracy nuts because they are radically anti-liberal while liberals control the government and also generally racist while the president is multiracial. It is also a party of uneducated people with crazy, extreme opinions, so they are basically the ideal group. But the same things happens with liberals and libertarians, they just aren’t as organized. A quick internet search will show this. But if there is one thing Republicans and their friends are astoundingly good at, it is organization.

    • Kodie

      More of a correlation between conspiracism and paranoia. The government has lied to us, advertisers and business lie to us. The conspiracists don’t know how to sort out reality from fakery, and think reality is faked, and they’re not buying it. Seriously, we’ve been victim to hoaxes before and important things brushed under the rug, so to speak. It doesn’t seem unusual that some people recognize this and create an alternate scenario that seems too realistic to ignore.

      What might be more religious-oriented about it is that people define other people as “sinners,” and believe satan has something to do with bad people behaving badly. Their suspicion is that all people aren’t good, we have to look below the surface. They’re just telling us what we want to hear, or what they want us to hear, and in this topsy-turvy world, this makes them less gullible. Consider how science works and how some people will always believe dinosaur bones are fake. They start off with a belief in creation and anything sensible is somehow “too neat and tidy” that there must be a conspiracy behind it, and satan has vast powers to control everyone who says the same thing, those people were fooled, but not the vigilant paranoid guy. He’s not so gullible that he’ll let satan suck him in.

      I think for the most part, it’s not so religious as satan fooling everyone, some people have a natural distrust for the government and big business. Why would anyone religious think George Bush had anything to do with 9/11? Regular people are disenfranchised from the powers that be, knowing it is capable of corruption and lies and smiling that everything’s going to be ok, somewhat in the same way that religious people have awe for the powers of god, but religious people tend to think everything god does is ok because he’s god, but the government is people capable of deception and powerful enough and organized enough to be working undercover on a plot while everyone’s smiling at this smokescreen. I’m starting to sound like one of them! I mean I understand where it might come from. People who overestimate their own intelligence but are not so skilled in understanding reality that a conspiracy theory sounds just as likely to happen. 2 steps and you’re in it, it’s plausible and then probable because the government is like that!

      I think of how the first time I saw that truth movie and how realistic it came off, later reading how it was a very involved demonstration of special effects by the movie maker who later changed his story and it’s now circulated as facts we’re all ignoring. I asked my very smart friend to watch it after me because I knew there was something wrong with it, but I’m not sharp enough to figure out what. Conspiracists are as easily convinced. It looked real and we’re being pointed details out that most of us were too emotional to notice when it happened.

      Another good example is how people think Intelligent Design is a good and valid demonstration of an alternate science. It’s as easily debunked by science but the way it’s presented is convincing to people who don’t want to just believe what they’ve been fed by the machine, the public schools who want to teach “science,” and have a stake preventing the “truth” of alternate theories to be exposed to children. In that way, science can seem like a conspiracy of “truth,” because it has a monopoly on education that some people think that it’s lulling us to believe it’s the only way things could happen, and keeping alternates silent is awfully suspicious behavior from an organized plot to keep people from knowing about god. Who would organize such a plot but satan!

  • Yoav

    Conspiracy theories are not as prevalent in Israel as in the US. There was a blip after the Rabin assassination in 1995 where people on the religious right tried to push a story about the assassination being a conspiracy of the left led by Shimon Peres aimed to stop Rabin before he announced that he saw the light and denounce his previous policy of reconciliation with the Palestinians. The conspiracy theory never become widely believed outside the insane right wing fringes. The mainstream media gave their claims a quick look which was enough to determine that it’s a complete BS and moved on. Unfortunately I’m afraid that if such a story would have come up now it may last longer since the Israeli news media have moved toward the American model of less news and more entertainment over the last decade. Another story that had some longevity is the claim that in the early 50′s thousands of babies of mostly Yemenite families that were reported as dead were really given for adoption by ashkenazi (central/eastern european jews) couples.

  • Jasowah

    I live in Canada, and I’ve only met a few hardcore conspiracy theorists. One I used to work with believed that the Illuminati were real and that the New World Order is going to happen and for some reason 6 billion coffins have been made (because apparently the Illuminati are too good for mass graves) for all the billions of people who are going to be killed.
    I loved how most of the references of the Illuminati secretly in the media were rapper lyrics.

    Other than that there usually isn’t too much, but every so often a big one shows up that strikes everyone’s fancy. Like just recently when the government was handing out vaccines to the public for H1N1. I don’t know HOW many people told me not to get it, that it was either more dangerous for you, was a trick by the government to control/poison/make you sterile, or that it was useless.

    • Mark the Pilgrim

      The rapper thing got to me too. I’m a big Jay Z and Nas fan (saw the latter in concert and there are no words to describe how sick he was) but those claims that they are illuminati are so ridiculous I try not to respond to them any more. Why would a secret organisation advertise their secret plans via two immensely popular muscicians? Isn’t a conspiracy supposed to be hidden?

      I think it started with Jay Z after he made a fairly agnostic comment which was then latched on.

      And they’re also targetting Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Rihanna.

      • http://unreasonablefaith.com luz

        Dont forget Taylor Swift, Paramore, Rick Ross Christina etc….. anyone who uses the symbols of butterflies, horns, pyramids, hieroglyphics, crosses, cover one eye are part of the ILLUMINATI.
        As A Latina most of my friends and family are Latinos and African Americans. I have notice there is a direct link between my friends religious beliefs and conspiracy theories.As an Atheist it is hard to argue about the validity of their claims whether religious or conspiracy theory because they also think Atheists are also part( if not leaders) of the NWO, ILLUMINATI ETC..

        • Yoav

          As an atheist of jewish decent I’m supposedly doubly controlling the world and yet I can’t find all the cash influence and evil minion who do my every bidding I supposedly have. I must have dropped them behind the sofa or something.

          • Ty

            If you were gay you’d hit the secret agenda trifecta.

          • trj

            From what I hear that’s a common problem with the Zionist Overlords. Have you considered changing secret society? Personally, I’m very satisfied with the Bilderberg group. The monthly check always arrives on time, and I can choose from a wide catalogue of politicians to do my bidding. Also, we have a great annual picnic.

            • Yoav

              After 2000 years in the secret world domination business you would think we could at least have got the administrative stuff sorted out.

            • trj

              Yeah, it’s sad, really. We’ve faked putting a man on the Moon, but we still can’t handle the paperwork. There are some things even we can’t change, I suppose.

    • Peter Cross

      One I used to work with believed that the Illuminati were real…

      We can’t have that. He must be silenced and marginalized. Get on it, comrade.

      • Jasowah

        Well, I didn’t care that he believed it. It was just that that was ALL HE DID. I don’t know how he wasn’t fired because all he did was look up stuff on the internet about the NWO and Illuminati and Jesus’ secret [insert whatever you want] and pro-weed sites.

        He also tried to inform me about all this, as if he was letting me in on a big secret. I think he’s 42.

        • Peter Cross

          all he did was look up stuff on the internet about … Illuminati

          What an idiot. We do a good job of keeping our stuff off the Internet.

          Oops.

          • Jasowah

            Without tone, I’m really not sure what you’re saying. Oh well.

            • Michael

              He is pretending to be an Evil Alien Satanic Illuminati Jew Overlord controlling the world from the center of the Earth.

              Yeah, just pretending . . . nothing to see here . . .

  • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

    Yeah, but…
    Not all conspiracies are created equal.

    • Michael

      Word.

      Lincoln would not be happy with us all dismissing conspiracies so quickly.

  • http://gatoprecambriano.wordpress.com Gato Precambriano

    In Brazil not natively, but I’m affraid such (ir)rationale is slowly been imported.

  • Lexrst

    There is a fantastic book by George Johnson called “Architects of Fear” that illuminates the parallels between conspiracy theorists, the religious right, conservative political movements, etc. Groups which you would normally not associate with one another have strikingly similar ways of looking @ the world.

    It was published in 1982 but seems like it could have been written in 2010.

    The book is out of print, but can be found for a reasonable price on Amazon or via an Inter-Library Loan.

  • nazani14

    Just for fun: Japanese Glam-Goth band’s tribute to the illuminati. NSFW!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eByt9h97xvY

  • http://sinewave42.com/ sineWAVE

    The only conspiracy theories of any note here in Britain are that global warming is a myth (an American import), and that Princess Diana was murdered, which even the Daily Express and Mohammed Al Fayed are getting tired of.

  • Wareq

    Latin America is brim-full of conspiracy theories about supernatural/omnipresent foreign intervention and invasion, even above and beyond the centuries of genuine European/American meddling. 9/11 conspiracy theories, projections that the U.S. will invade to gain control over water supplies, HAARP ‘earthquake generator’ theories (applied to the Haitian earthquake among other things) – the list goes on and on.
    If you really want a good take on the whole conspiracist mindset through a novelistic lens, read Umberto Eco’s master work Foucault’s Pendulum.

    • Siberia

      The only one I can recognize here in Brazil is the whole “the Americans are after the Amazon forest”. Even so, I don’t think it influences the politics or the reality of the country any more than any other wild idea does. I’ve surely never seen it talked about seriously in the media. In fact, there seems to be a lot of crazy ideas about Americans in general.

      I never heard of 9/11 or HAARP theories. Maybe I’m just mingling with the wrong sort…

  • http://bossstation.dnsalias.org/ errdos113

    In Poland currently there currently two main conspiracy theories:
    1) in 1989 the fall of communism was actually bogus, and through a secret pact former communist secret police/party officials still rule the country from behind the scenes
    2) Russians (impersonated by Putin and Polish Prime Minister Tusk (who’s grandfather according to another theory was in Wehrmaht)) are responsible for presidential plane crash near Smolensk, theories range from artificial fog created to limit visibility to electromagnetic impulse weapon (think Bond villain style) that disabled the instruments. One of the trees that damaged the plane is said to be planted by Stalin and Beria themselves

    Of course Jews and masons are involved in all of that.

  • Michael

    I think the government (of the US at least) is substantially responsible for the popularity of conspiracy theories in the US.

    We KNOW they lie to us (Wikileaks having demonstrated that again, recently, if the whole lead-up to the war against Iraq wasn’t enough). After you know someone lies willfully and repeatedly you can’t from that point reasonably expect them to be telling you the truth about anything, and everything becomes a possible truth, especially the things they deny.

    In that perspective–when you’re being constantly fed lies and have no means to sort lies out from truth, truth and fiction are functionally the same.

  • Arie

    Interestingly enough most of the one’s I’ve encountered in Australia are about the right, and the fear of the right. these include:

    1) That the NSW Liberal party is controlled by Opus Dei. (There is at least one powerful party member who is also a member of Opus dei, but keeps a fairly low public profile).
    http://www.bewareofthegod.com/?p=112

    2) That the Family First Party is a Religious party http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_First_Party#Religious_affiliation . (They have certainly had their share of nutjob candidates (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Nalliah) and there 1 federal senator is a Young Earth Creationist, or at least he refused to deny that he was). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhhEeI3K7GU

    Personally I think the first if false and the second is true.

  • Jordan

    Although I know that there is no real overarching conspiracy in America, I do believe that there are several networks of gentlemen’s agreements and what-not among politicians, and also some sneakiness within the bureaucracy.

    When it comes to politicians, it is near impossible for an single party to get together and agree on anything, so there probably aren’t any big conspiracies like that. However, certain things, such as the Bohemian Grove, presidential nominations of the past, and the power of lobbyists: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/us/politics/15health.html (About the biosimilar speeches)

    Not only that, but in the bureaucracy, there are myriad real conspiracies that have been committed by the CIA in the past, and have only relatively recently come to light. There are also various controversies and scandals that I am not old enough to recall, such as Watergate and the Iran-Contra affair. It seems that Americans haven’t been able to trust the government since Watergate.

    • nazani14

      I’m old enough. The Vietnam War was one rude awakening after another. We found out how rich and influential people kept their sons out of the draft, that American boys could behave as ruthlessly as any Nazi, and eventually we found out that LBJ had gotten us into the war on false pretenses. Not even our hallowed JKF was free of taint. Watergate was simply the last straw.

    • Olaf

      Oh I have no doubt that there are real conspiracies.

      But the real conspiracy theorists all manage to see conspiracies when there is nothing out there and they all fail to see the real conspiracies.

      One real conspiracy is the music industry trying to rip of the customer by forcing the DRM on us on everything. OS, HDMI cable computer hardware….
      Another real conspiracy is those creationists trying to infiltrate science through education.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    There are conspiratorialists all around the globe, and they’ve existed in all periods of history. If you need examples, perhaps the most obvious ones have anti-Semitic roots, and first appeared in Europe. The hoax known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was likely a Russian invention, but it inspired many years of conspiratorial thinking in many parts of the world other than the US.

  • Capt’n John

    It has not seemed that way in the past, however, our current government seems to be doing everything that it can to develop that attitude on the part of Canadians. I hope I am reading the situation here incorrectly, but I am afraid I am not.

  • Omar

    In Venezuela is the government that pushes conspiracy theories, everything that goes bad from an accident in the subway to electricity shortages they blame the CIA, the oligarchy, Colombia, USA ….

  • Peter

    Only in America is this kind of paranoia seen. Other countries may have very small groups that believe this way but this major paranoia is a peculiarly American thing.

    Get used to it, you are a failed country !

  • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

    I love the skeptics logic when it comes to somethings. Now don’t get me wrong. This is a meta-question. I’m not trying to convince anybody that there are little green men from alpha centauri tooling around the earth in flying saucers. The fact remains that people have sighted these objects throughout the ages. You ridicule those poor ignorant people who deny the moon landing. And yet there seems a bit of the same thing happening among skeptics. The line of reasoning seems to go something like this: There are no UFOs because there could not possibly be UFOs.

    • Bill

      As a skeptic I disagree. I think the skeptical view of UFOs is the similar to that of god. I see no evidence of them, and until I do I don’t believe in their existence.

      • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

        Because there is no evidence.

        • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

          I really need an irony emoticon. There is plenty of evidence. It’s just all relegated to the realm of hoax, i.e.: Since there can be no UFOs, all evidence thereof must be hoaxes. There are no UFOs because there could not possibly be UFOs. Better yet, “There are no UFOs because I don’t believe in UFOs”.

          • Bill

            OK – enlighten me. What is the evidence?

            • Siberia

              Actually, there are UFOs – as in, unidentified flying objects. What there isn’t is alien spaceships cruising the Earth for the lulz.

            • Bill

              Yeah – I assumed “UFO” meant alien spacecraft, not undisclosed millitary aircraft.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              Now we’re getting somewhere. Someone actually admits there are UFOs. And if they are UMA (undisclosed millitary aircraft), that stills means there is an actual conspiracy to hide this from the public. UMAs to someone with high security clearance are still UFOs to the rest of us.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              “What there isn’t is alien spaceships cruising the Earth for the lulz.”
              And you would know this how?

            • Bill

              Well Nomad, if what you are saying is that the millitary tests new aircraft in secret, and sometimes the public gets a glimpse at it and doesn’t know what it is, this isn’t really earth shattering news. Yeah I suppose it’s technically UFOs, but hardly newsworthy, Nor does it really qualify as much of a “conspiracy.” It’s a pretty basic security measure to keep that kind of thing secret.

              If you are saying there is actual evidence alien life forms have visited us in spacecraft, I would really like to hear what it is. I think this falls in to the category “extrodinary claims” on which the proponent bears the burden of proof.

              I have to say, I’m confused as to why an alien life form – so advanced as to be capable of reaching earth from outside our solar system – would travel all the way here and not reveal itself in a public way. It’s almost like they would be trying to make us think they don’t exists, Which sounds a lot like another famous entity we talk about a lot here.

            • Siberia

              @Bill – I know; I just find it kind of amusing how UFO suddenly became a synonym for alien spacecraft.

              @Nomad – I don’t. Neither do you. That’s the whole point. Knowing all that we do know about physics, we know it’s very, very unlikely. Now it’s up to you to prove it is indeed happening.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              “I don’t. Neither do you. ”
              My point exactly. The difference is I never claimed to.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              “If you are saying there is actual evidence alien life forms have visited us in spacecraft, I would really like to hear what it is.”

              If I were saying that I’d want to hear it too. Assumptions can be misleading.

            • Bill

              “Assumptions can be misleading.”

              Perhaps you can clarify what it is you are saying then.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              I am not offering explanations for the phenomenon of UFOs. What I am saying is that the phenomenon is real. If you can’t say what the cause of the phenomenon is then neither can you remove the “bizarre, unheard of, weird, impossible because it doesn’t conform to my worldview” from possible alternative explanations.

            • Bill

              “If you can’t say what the cause of the phenomenon is then neither can you remove the “bizarre, unheard of, weird, impossible because it doesn’t conform to my worldview” from possible alternative explanations.”

              This just isn’t true. Not knowing the cause of something does not make all potential causes equally plausible. Yes – I can’t with 100% certainty eliminate any cause, but some are much more likely than others.

            • nomad

              Obviously. On that we can agree. To rephrase my point. The reality of the UFO phenomenon cannot be denied. It is the explanation of the phenomenon that is in dispute. To be objective, you have to examine the evidence. And if you insist that even credible witnesses are perpetrating a hoax then that is the same category of denial as those who don’t believe the moon landing was real: it can’t possibly be real because it does not conform to my world view.

            • Michael

              If by “The UFO phenomenon” you mean that people frequently see things in the sky that they cannot identify, then that obviously happens. It happens a lot. If I hadn’t heard of UFOs and you asked me if this happened, I would still say, “Sure, it’s bound to happen.”

              But that’s not what you mean. You clearly are suggesting that there is or likely is some extraterrestrial explanation. At the very least, you are rejecting the claim that these are not alien spacecraft.

              But the fact is that there has never been what could conceivably be considered reliable evidence for this. Of course there are sightings, but no more than there were sightings of demons or bigfoot. Of course there are some pictures, but none that look at all inexplicable or alien.

              The one thing that sets the aliens apart from these other myths is the frequent claims of actual contact with aliens (abductions), but there has been a lot of research into these claims with unsurprising conclusions. In particular, there is very little agreement between reports of any of the details of the abductions except for specific popular sci fi memes (e.g. little green men, anal probes, flying saucers). Stories change dramatically over time, beyond just minor embellishment. Many stories come from “hypnotic regression therapy,” wherein a hypnotist attempts to reconstruct lost memories through hypnosis. However, there is no evidence that such therapy does anything other than confabulate new memories. Furthermore, initial descriptions of encounters generally strongly resemble the descriptions of succubi and incubi from the middle ages, and also strongly resemble the symptoms of sleep paralysis.

              So I think there is pretty good reason to discount this testimony and pretty decent evidence to suggest the following explanation for “the UFO phenomenon”: People sometimes see lights in the sky and also sometimes have sleep paralysis, and due to popular media icons, they sometimes misinterpret the former as alien spacecraft and the latter as an alien abduction. Throw in the hoaxes and the loons and you have a cultural phenomenon that seems to fit the evidence perfectly.

              No conspiracy required.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              It’s all over the web.

            • Nox

              “UMAs to someone with high security clearance are still UFOs to the rest of us.”

              I’ve long suspected that a lot of the “UFO” sightings in the southwest have been tests of classified military technology (in the case of “Area 51″, that’d be the “stealth” bomber in my opinion [and I have some documentation to support this opinion]). As in the case of several other conspiracy theories the government would rather let some people believe something far from the truth which can never be proven than set the record straight and reveal their hand. Especially when you are dealing with an expensive and classified new fighter jet being developed during the cold war. From a tactical perspective it is safer to have rednecks in Arizona thinking they saw an alien than to have generals in Moscow finding out about your shiny new toy.

            • Daniel Florien

              Just like evidence for god is all over the web?

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              “Just like evidence for god is all over the web?

              ‘pends on what you call evidence.

              In other words: no.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              Evidence would be things like credible eye-witnesses. A trained military aircraft crew will do. Maybe an astronaut or two.

            • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

              Yeah, that shoulda been here. (It’s all over the Web.)

      • Jabster

        I don’t believe that they (belief in UFOs and gods) are particularly similar as the first, although having no real evidence, doesn’t fundamentally change what we already know and fits into a fairly logical scenario i.e. if there are other lifeforms out there why wouldn’t they, or be capable of, exploring the own environment as we are. Belief in gods (in particular mainstream gods) is very different; it breaks many things that already believe to be true and instead of having evidence in its favour, has strong evidence against their existence.

        • Bill

          Given the sheer size of the universe, I think the odds are good that other lifeforms exists out there. Some may be highly intelligent and capable of space travel.

          That speculation is a long way from evidence supporting the idea that alien life forms have or are secretly visiting earth.

          • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

            Good thing no one is supporting that idea.

  • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad

    About skeptical “overconfidence”:
    The chief deficiency I see in the skeptical movement is its polarization: Us vs. Them — the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are morons; that if you’re sensible, you’ll listen to us; and if not, to hell with you. This is nonconstructive. It does not get our message across. It condemns us to permanent minority status.

    - Carl Sagan, Wonder & Skepticism

  • nomad

    Obviously. On that we can agree. To rephrase my point. The reality of the UFO phenomenon cannot be denied. It is the explanation of the phenomenon that is in dispute. To be objective, you have to examine the evidence. And if you insist that even credible witnesses are perpetrating a hoax then that is the same category of denial as those who don’t believe the moon landing was real: it can’t possibly be real because it does not conform to my world view.

    • Michael

      And to restate my point from above (because I can’t delete or move it :( ):

      If by “The UFO phenomenon” you mean that people frequently see things in the sky that they cannot identify, then that obviously happens. It happens a lot. If I hadn’t heard of UFOs and you asked me if this happened, I would still say, “Sure, it’s bound to happen.”

      But that’s not what you mean. You clearly are suggesting that there is or likely is some extraterrestrial explanation. At the very least, you are rejecting the claim that these are not alien spacecraft.

      But the fact is that there has never been what could conceivably be considered reliable evidence for this. Of course there are sightings, but no more than there were sightings of demons or bigfoot. Of course there are some pictures, but none that look at all inexplicable or alien.

      The one thing that sets the aliens apart from these other myths is the frequent claims of actual contact with aliens (abductions), but there has been a lot of research into these claims with unsurprising conclusions. In particular, there is very little agreement between reports of any of the details of the abductions except for specific popular sci fi memes (e.g. little green men, anal probes, flying saucers). Stories change dramatically over time, beyond just minor embellishment. Many stories come from “hypnotic regression therapy,” wherein a hypnotist attempts to reconstruct lost memories through hypnosis. However, there is no evidence that such therapy does anything other than confabulate new memories. Furthermore, initial descriptions of encounters generally strongly resemble the descriptions of succubi and incubi from the middle ages, and also strongly resemble the symptoms of sleep paralysis.

      So I think there is pretty good reason to discount this testimony and pretty decent evidence to suggest the following explanation for “the UFO phenomenon”: People sometimes see lights in the sky and also sometimes have sleep paralysis, and due to popular media icons, they sometimes misinterpret the former as alien spacecraft and the latter as an alien abduction. Throw in the hoaxes and the loons and you have a cultural phenomenon that seems to fit the evidence perfectly.

      No conspiracy required.

      • http://agnosticism2010.wordpress.com/ nomad

        UFO hoaxes throughout the ages:
        http://www.rense.com/ufo4/historyofufo.htm

      • http://agnosticism2010.wordpress.com/ nomad

        “People sometimes see lights in the sky and also sometimes have sleep paralysis, and due to popular media icons, they sometimes misinterpret the former as alien spacecraft”
        By this standard all eye witness accounts no matter how credible the source (trained pilots and astronauts) are mistaken. That standard would have to be applied to all eyewitness reports about any event, in which case the whole field of history is invalid.

        • http://agnosticism2010.wordpress.com/ nomad

          And, oh yeah, what were these sightings due to before there were popular media icons?

  • http://agnosticism2010.wordpress.com/ nomad

    “But that’s not what you mean. You clearly are suggesting that there is or likely is some extraterrestrial explanation. At the very least, you are rejecting the claim that these are not alien spacecraft.”
    Thanks. If it wasn’t for this I wouldn’t know what I mean. Way to shift those goal posts. The only part that reflects what I actually said is “the very least”. I never said it was likely. And where did I mention alien abduction?

  • http://agnosticism2010.blogspot.com/ nomad
    • coffeejedi

      ZOMGWTFBBQ!!!!1
      Mylar balloons!!!!!!!112 We’re dooooooomed!!!!!!11one

    • Custador

      What were we supposed to be looking at in that video? Other than really shit camera work?


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