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Current Conspiracy Theory

Current Conspiracy Theory

Written by Alfonso Elizondo

 

One of the first thinkers who used the term ‘conspiracy theory’ was the brilliant sociologist and philosopher Karl Popper in his work entitled The Open Society and Its Enemies. Popper used this term to critique the ideologies that led to fascism, Nazism and communism because he believed that totalitarianism was founded on ‘conspiracy theories’ that resorted to imaginary plots occurring in paranoid scenarios that are predicated on racism or tribalism.

 

In his critique of 20th-century totalitarian states, Popper says ‘I do not want to imply that conspiracies never occur, but that they are typical social phenomena’ and he proposes the term ‘conspiracy theory of society’ as a set of falsifiable hypotheses, whereas those theories that do not admit any possibility of being falsified are considered metaphysical or non-scientific. This happens very often and is a consequence of the logical structure of certain conspiracy theories.

However, the use of falsifiability as a criterion to distinguish between science and non-science is criticized by many academics who argue that no theory is falsifiable in Popper’s sense, and that he is referring erroneously to the process of scientific discovery.

Conspiracy theories are not taken seriously very often since they lack verifiable evidence. This leads to the question of what mechanisms may exist in popular culture that lead to the invention of and discrimination against conspiracy theories.

This has become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists and folklore experts since the 1960s when John F. Kennedy was assassinated causing an unprecedented public response in the US directed against the official version of the crime presented in the Warren Commission Report. The report of that commission was contradicted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations established in 1976. Its final report concludes that Kennedy was probably killed as a result of a conspiracy. In other words, it found that in that particular case, those who rejected the Warren Report were the ones who were right.

The term ‘conspiracism’ was popularized by Frank P. Mitz, a brilliant scholar of the 1980s, as well as others no less brilliant such as, Richard Hofstadter, Karl Popper, Michael Barkun, Robert Alan Goldberg, Daniel Pipes, Carl Sagan, George Johnson and Gerald Posner. According to Mintz, conspiracism denotes the belief in the primacy of conspiracies throughout history, and it satisfies the needs of different political and social groups in the US and other regions of the world, identifies elites, blames them for economic and social catastrophes, under the assumption that things will be better once popular action can remove them from positions of power. In other words, conspiracy theories are not typical of a particular era or ideology, but have always existed. Throughout history, some political and economic leaders have caused huge amounts of death and misery and in some cases were involved in conspiracies. Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin would be the most prominent instances in the 20th century but there are many more.

Another criticism of conspiracy theories is that they are based on a certain view of the world that may or may not be correct. Political scientist Graham Allison points out several facts about conspiracism, such as the following:

1.- Many theories are based on the assumption of rational expectations on the part of groups and individuals. 2.- Groups and individuals do not always act rationally. 3.- Using rational thinking, individuals take a ‘black box’ approach to problems and concentrate on available data and results, but do not consider other factors such as bureaucracy, misunderstandings, disagreements, etc. 4.- Rational thinking violates the scientific law of falsifiability, because according to the rationality theorem, there is no event that cannot be explained rationally.

From that ‘black box’ perspective Allison argues that the US had clear evidence of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the real reason for what happened in that attack that unleashed World War II was a combination of bureaucracy and misunderstandings. Allison says that when theories are put forward as official statements they are not considered conspiracy theories. It has been pointed out that the official versions are often conspiracy theories even if they are not recognized as such. On the other hand there is ambiguity in the term ‘theory’, since in popular usage it refers to unfounded speculations that lead to the idea that there is no conspiracy theory when it does not exist in reality.

 

Addendum: At the moment there is an overemphasis on conspiracy theories throughout the world that could lead to a large-scale world war and it seems that a new world order will begin that will include a large number of nations with different conceptions of reality. Fortunately, the bankruptcy being experienced by the great military powers – with the exception of China – will prevent, for the first time in history, the outbreak of another World War.

One of the first thinkers who used the term ‘conspiracy theory’ was the brilliant sociologist and philosopher Karl Popper in his work entitled The Open Society and Its Enemies. Popper used this term to critique the ideologies that led to fascism, Nazism and communism because he believed that totalitarianism was founded on ‘conspiracy theories’ that resorted to imaginary plots occurring in paranoid scenarios that are predicated on racism or tribalism.

In his critique of 20th-century totalitarian states, Popper says ‘I do not want to imply that conspiracies never occur, but that they are typical social phenomena’ and he proposes the term ‘conspiracy theory of society’ as a set of falsifiable hypotheses, whereas those theories that do not admit any possibility of being falsified are considered metaphysical or non-scientific. This happens very often and is a consequence of the logical structure of certain conspiracy theories.

However, the use of falsifiability as a criterion to distinguish between science and non-science is criticized by many academics who argue that no theory is falsifiable in Popper’s sense, and that he is referring erroneously to the process of scientific discovery.

Conspiracy theories are not taken seriously very often since they lack verifiable evidence. This leads to the question of what mechanisms may exist in popular culture that lead to the invention of and discrimination against conspiracy theories.

This has become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists and folklore experts since the 1960s when John F. Kennedy was assassinated causing an unprecedented public response in the US directed against the official version of the crime presented in the Warren Commission Report. The report of that commission was contradicted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations established in 1976. Its final report concludes that Kennedy was probably killed as a result of a conspiracy. In other words, it found that in that particular case, those who rejected the Warren Report were the ones who were right.

The term ‘conspiracism’ was popularized by Frank P. Mitz, a brilliant scholar of the 1980s, as well as others no less brilliant such as, Richard Hofstadter, Karl Popper, Michael Barkun, Robert Alan Goldberg, Daniel Pipes, Carl Sagan, George Johnson and Gerald Posner. According to Mintz, conspiracism denotes the belief in the primacy of conspiracies throughout history, and it satisfies the needs of different political and social groups in the US and other regions of the world, identifies elites, blames them for economic and social catastrophes, under the assumption that things will be better once popular action can remove them from positions of power. In other words, conspiracy theories are not typical of a particular era or ideology, but have always existed. Throughout history, some political and economic leaders have caused huge amounts of death and misery and in some cases were involved in conspiracies. Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin would be the most prominent instances in the 20th century but there are many more.

Another criticism of conspiracy theories is that they are based on a certain view of the world that may or may not be correct. Political scientist Graham Allison points out several facts about conspiracism, such as the following:

1.- Many theories are based on the assumption of rational expectations on the part of groups and individuals. 2.- Groups and individuals do not always act rationally. 3.- Using rational thinking, individuals take a ‘black box’ approach to problems and concentrate on available data and results, but do not consider other factors such as bureaucracy, misunderstandings, disagreements, etc. 4.- Rational thinking violates the scientific law of falsifiability, because according to the rationality theorem, there is no event that cannot be explained rationally.

From that ‘black box’ perspective Allison argues that the US had clear evidence of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the real reason for what happened in that attack that unleashed World War II was a combination of bureaucracy and misunderstandings. Allison says that when theories are put forward as official statements they are not considered conspiracy theories. It has been pointed out that the official versions are often conspiracy theories even if they are not recognized as such. On the other hand there is ambiguity in the term ‘theory’, since in popular usage it refers to unfounded speculations that lead to the idea that there is no conspiracy theory when it does not exist in reality.

Addendum: At the moment there is an overemphasis on conspiracy theories throughout the world that could lead to a large-scale world war and it seems that a new world order will begin that will include a large number of nations with different conceptions of reality. Fortunately, the bankruptcy being experienced by the great military powers – with the exception of China – will prevent, for the first time in history, the outbreak of another World War.