Note: This is Part Three of a 5-part commentary that is running each morning this week. Begin reading the series with Part One HERE.
Anatomy of a Conspiracist: Smarter Than the Average Bear?
The world can be a scary place: bad people do bad things and nature can be quite unforgiving. For those unprepared to negotiate the terrors of adult life there are two ready psychological palliatives: over-reliance on religion and conspiracy theories. Both are used to provide a comforting explanation for morally inexplicable acts and occurrences. In fact, the adoption of absurd conspiracies is, in itself, a form of religious practice where the devotee constructs a vast dogma out of disconnected facts or anomalies and thus provides a basis, however illogical, for an event that is otherwise deeply disturbing.
Ironically, conspiracists who themselves blame the public at large for being ignorant and gullible, readily shed all semblance of rationality or sanity to chase theories with less substance than thin air, literally. The assassination of a president, Pearl Harbor, and yes—9/11 reverberates through our lives requiring some to construct a set of beliefs that will allow them to understand a deeply painful event. This understanding typically insinuates that a complex master plan, such as the control of the world by a privileged few, is in play as a way of assuaging the discomfort of the chaotic occurrence.
It has been said that many conspiracists are chronically disaffected and alienated personalities who live on the fringes of society and have little or no substantive connection to the institutions or mechanisms upon which life is built. Their tenuous hold on life and the resulting displeasure it causes must be explained by someone or something and the notion that a devious master planner is at work can be effective, satisfying and frankly irresistible. It is a highly refined version of victimhood where one’s lack of self worth can be blamed on larger forces. One of the longest running conspiracist favorites is the New World Order gig where a wealthy cabal, usually Jews and bankers, or rather, Jewish bankers*, are running the World generally and the Federal Reserve specifically, so we even have a group to blame for our personal financial woes and shortcomings. (*In the strict conspiracist lexicon the phrase “Jewish Bankers” is redundant since all bankers are Jews.)
One aspect of the committed conspiracist that is especially irritating is the condescending “special knowledge” persona they display where they let you in on the fact that they have it ALL figured out and if you would just pay attention that things would be made clear. The “all figured out” is a jumble of pseudo-facts that appear to disprove a comprehensive rational explanation. Michael Shermer, writing in Scientific American, says, “The mistaken belief that a handful of unexplained anomalies can undermine a well-established theory lies at the heart of all conspiratorial thinking.” Shermer goes on to say that “Scientific theories are not built on single facts alone but on a convergence of evidence assembled from multiple lines of inquiry.” The raison d’être of the committed conspiracist is to assemble a false logic from a tangle of inane information in order to prove their worth, first to themselves and then to anyone gullible enough to believe them. Some of them are quite good at it.
Part Four, Conspiracists: Prosecutor, Judge and Jury is posted HERE.
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