Well, not really–that’s just what I am called because I actually believe conspiracies are an important part of our socio-political reality–so I will cop to the plea no matter how bad it sounds. Of course, we have all seen conspiracies in our lives and no one doubts it. What we have trouble is understanding that those in power are in power largely because they are part of groups or cliques that work together often in conspiracy to gain and maintain power. We seem to be of the opinion that things just “happen” and that things are unconnected. We are surprised when we find our government lies to us. Why that surprise exists has always astonished me–government always lie, always will lie, and currently lie. If they did not they would lose power. What we have to do is understand how power works.
The prejudice against “conspiracy theories” comes from two sources, at least in my lifetime. One is from the desire to get to the heart of the Kennedy Assassination and “get it behind us” as quickly as possible without disrupting the social peace. They created the Warren Commission to allay public fears and they found a killer very quickly and had his full life story available within a few hours and then he was killed and that’s the end of it–the rest was mopping up. People who did not go along with the government story were “kooks” (Jim Garrison is still viciously attacked in the press to this day). The other source was from an essay that came out in Harpers in 1964 by Richard Hofstadter (Howard Bloom’s Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century)), about how evolutionary biology meets social psychology. Conformity enforcement is strictly necessary for any organism or social structure (they operate along the same dynamics). Even science ignores evidence if it falls outside the current mythological framework (paradigm) as documented by Thomas Kuhn in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions where he introduced the concept of paradigm shift. Conformity enforcers work up to a point because if they always worked then evolution could not occur at all–we could never change so there are always forces within any system that create enough chaos to allow a new equilibrium more in line with reality outside the organization, society or organism so that that particular entity can continue to thrive. Too much chaos the system loses integrity, too much order and the system loses its ability to deal with changing conditions.
Back to conspiracy theories–if most people believe the government killed the Kennedy’s and/or caused 9/11 then society would probably break down or at least change in a revolutionary way. Few people want such an unpredictable thing to happen because history has shown that drastic change could mean the careful security we have built could be undermined by destructive forces that could hurt our friends and families. So even if the theories were true it would make sense to believe they weren’t (from an evolutionary and systems-theory standpoint) at least until the point is reached wherein believing the government’s story may actually be destructive to friends and family. Also we have to look at social-psychological research going back over a half-century that shows people will go very far to avoid cognitive dissonance and clearly will wish to avoid evidence or ideas that go against the grain. If you grow up with the notion that Communism is a recipe for a perfect society and you’ve believed this most of your life you are going to avoid evidence to the contrary; we might also note that we will avoid evidence that the Bush administration is not lying about everything. This refusal to face the evidence is what conspiracy theorists are blamed for by the rest of society (since, “reality-based” or evidence-based thinking is the dominant American ideology at least among the educated elites).
As for the major “conspiracy theories”, I don’t want to get into any one of them about anything only that I have seen no “place” where ideas and facts can be laid out, examined, investigated, talked about and so on. If you have doubts about the government’s story about 9/11, for example, you are put in the 9/11 Conspiracy Nuts ghetto and anything you say is clearly an indication that you should take medication-you are simply a raving lunatic. The same goes for any one that speaks up for non-official realities unless they are recognized by the state as religion. Weird shit can happen as long it’s in the class called “religion”.
I believe that until we are ready to be a bit more venturesome and realize that there is something beyond the surface analysis (like Bush/Cheney are “bad” or the Democratic Congress is “weak” and “spineless”) we are not going to have any idea of the political dynamic in our country. Some of this is a seemingly inborn incapacity for the left to understand that there are large groups of people who relentlessly jostle for even minute advantage and will use any means, including mass-murder, to get power, money, sex. Thus, if I say to a “liberal” well, man, if you want to know why we went to war in Iraq and why it continues you have to look at who is benefiting and follow the money at least for starters just as any detective, when confronted with a crime, will draw up a list of suspects among those benefited from that crime. Why is the left incapable of that?
What I’d like to see is a “place” on the internet sort along the lines of a Wiki but much more complex and difficult to set up that can do some fact-checking that most people accept on standards that most people would accept and at least make tentative judgments on what the essential arguments and counter arguments are and the likelihood of it being true using a logic-based algorithm on the great political issues of the day from 9/11 to nuclear weapons in Iran. We are kind of stuck form an intellectual point of view and we are not getting any smarter. People are dumbing down-there has to be a counter-movement. I leave you with this poignant story.