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Thread: Why Conspiracy Theories?

  1. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by droid
    Hmm... seems a little sensationalised and hardly incontravertible... Alex Jones is a serious freak as well...

    Anything you find on his site needs to be triple checked - you cant take it at face value IMO.
    Here we go: http://www.snopes.com/computer/internet/dellbug.asp

  2. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by DigitalDjigit

  3. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by matt b
    be realistic- demand an apology?
    Be realistic, apologize for the impossible!

    I'm sorry I made a square circle in art class in primary school. On reflection it was wrong of me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sherief
    Be realistic, apologize for the impossible!

    I'm sorry I made a square circle in art class in primary school. On reflection it was wrong of me.
    I apologize for not having been born. It was wrong of me not to reflect on it.

  5. #50
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    Default theory or probability

    One mans' theory is another womans probablity, at best an attempt to ascertain what happened from an examination of the symptoms of an event or series of events, and their consequences.. at worst an attempt to shift responsibility away from either oneself, or one's heroes, leaders, nation, religion, gender etc.,

    Are we not all conspiring to feel good, whilst war, pollution, profits, insecurity and reckless greed continue unabated .... Does our individual and collective inaction become the compliance that allows these things to occur? Is that what we are avoiding when we suscribe to 'conspiracy theroies'?

  6. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by corneilius
    Are we not all conspiring to feel good, whilst war, pollution, profits, insecurity and reckless greed continue unabated .... Does our individual and collective inaction become the compliance that allows these things to occur? Is that what we are avoiding when we suscribe to 'conspiracy theroies'?
    Yes, while the actual conspiracy authors (Bush, Blair, etc and their cabal of pathological advisors), of the "war on terror", of the "evil other", are all active.

    Yes, while the conspiracy theorists "proper", those who effectively attribute reports of their [the authors, the agents] actions to delusion, the easier for them to retreat into an imaginary world (their nostalgic idealisations of a mythological "self", their "inner being", their"precious self", their "inner child" etc) of subjective, solipsistic narcissism ... so creating the very conditions of possibility for the continuation of the Authors' conspiratorial actions. Oh, but doesn't it feel sooooo GOOD!

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    This discussion has been damn-near insightful.

    PS. I apologize for my perpetual motion machine.

  8. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by sherief
    This discussion has been damn-near insightful.
    I agree. I've found myself thinking about this subject a lot (more) since this thread started.

    I'm wondering to what degree the prevalence of easy conspiracy theories is an inevitable result of how much of the West's experience of the world is mediated. Mediation creates for us the illusion of understanding 'how things work' on a macro-level, but the process of mediation (especially where mass media are concerned) typically - inherently? - involves the subject matter being wrapped up into a tight story, with beginning, middle and end, good guys and bad guys etc. This makes the message that much more palatable (and impactful) - but it generally doesn't have that much to do with the real world.

    A story is defined as much by what it excludes as what it includes, and real life tends to be rather more subtle than an episode of 24. It's usually the absence of these shades of grey that makes most conspiracy theories ring fairly hollow for me; it's their very consistency and narrowly-defined coherence that makes me doubt their veracity.

    I think Alasdair Spark summed up this idea best at the event I mentioned upthread. He concluded his part of the evening by saying: "I'm not sure I believe in 'truth' at all; which is not to say that I don't believe in reality." How often have I thought the same; but seldom expressed it so well

  9. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by blunt
    I agree. I've found myself thinking about this subject a lot (more) since this thread started.

    I'm wondering to what degree the prevalence of easy conspiracy theories is an inevitable result of how much of the West's experience of the world is mediated. Mediation creates for us the illusion of understanding 'how things work' on a macro-level, but the process of mediation (especially where mass media are concerned) typically - inherently? - involves the subject matter being wrapped up into a tight story, with beginning, middle and end, good guys and bad guys etc. This makes the message that much more palatable (and impactful) - but it generally doesn't have that much to do with the real world.

    A story is defined as much by what it excludes as what it includes, and real life tends to be rather more subtle than an episode of 24. It's usually the absence of these shades of grey that makes most conspiracy theories ring fairly hollow for me; it's their very consistency and narrowly-defined coherence that makes me doubt their veracity.

    I think Alasdair Spark summed up this idea best at the event I mentioned upthread. He concluded his part of the evening by saying: "I'm not sure I believe in 'truth' at all; which is not to say that I don't believe in reality." How often have I thought the same; but seldom expressed it so well
    Yes, the "perplexity" of the conspiracy "phenomenon", its structure of belief, does have implications at the narrative (and postmodern) level. We can dismiss conspiracies as literal impossibilities but nonetheless an unresolved tension remains which suggests that simply rejecting them outright as obscurantist delirial raving is also reactionary.

    And isn't what you define as "mediation" above another term for culture generally, actual social quotidian reality, itself a mere cultural construction? And if you believe that all of this is mere illusion [as you suggest above], a dream world, that serves to mask a real world behind it [quote: "but it generally doesn't have that much to do with the real world"], then don't YOU TOO believe that the everyday social world we inhabit is a manufactured conspiracy serving to hide the really real (eg the world of power and capital) that lies behind it (analogous, for instance, to The Matrix narrative, among numerous other pomo conspiracy film narratives: the list, in fact, is endless)?

    The problem here is that one cannot actually or simply separate fantasy from reality (and say, for example, that "this here is fake, that there is real" etc): reality is dependent for its very consistency on fantasy, on phantasmatic support - if you "remove" the illusion, reality too collapses, and vice versa. In other words, "real" reality is structurally inaccessible in and of itself - the closer you get to it the more it distorts [this impossible-but-true phenomenon of the nature of reality, of course, has been well known in science since the discovery of Quantum Mechanics and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, and in psychoanalysis since Freud's and Lacan's theories, and, incidentally, Marx's analysis of the unrepresentability, the abstract nature, of power and capital].

    So the paradox of conspiracies [and debates about them] is that they establish an ontological conflict between, on the one hand, a reality in which the sources of power, capital, corruption, etc is revealed, and on the other hand, a reality in which a perceptual obsession with secretive cabals and subterranean forces behind the everyday experiences is evidence of paranoia, hysteria, insanity.

    Conspiracy stories and narratives endeavour to map the "unrepresentable negative sublimity of Capital" (Jameson), so invoking a tension between an analysis of the impersonal forces of power and capital, and an "explanation" of power that concentrates on the actions of a mysterious, specific group or cabal.

    [And isn't Sparks' sentiment, which you quote above, the ultimate in postmodern disavowal of belief, viz "I know that there is no ultimate truth or reality, but nevertheless I privately believe that there is ..."??], ie. he too believes in the notion of an underlying conspiracy in spite of his "disavowing" of it.]

    The rational difficulty that arises with the outright rejection of all conspiracies of whetever ilk - because they're too "simple" or too "ridiculous" or just downright paranoid and devoid of "common sense" (another ideological construction) - is that the very power relations that conspiracies hint at or point to are also rejected, the world of social relations are depoliticised, the real of social power is rejected outright: such a reactionary move is thus away from the collective-political and towards the personal-subjective - one seeks refuge in personal fantasies, which then become the "real" while the "outside" world itself becomes a "fantasy", a dream, a crazy hallucination of meaningless phantasms, appearances and floating signifiers. The result of such a retreat into "solipsistic narcissism", into a limitless fantasy Ego, is the pathology of dissolving all analyses of actual power relations in the external world into mere "subjective neurosis", a reversal of the true state of affairs.

    The world of power and capital, however abstract, is real. It is contemporary, postmodern culture, and the ideology underlying it, that seeks to "normalise" itself, this culture (rendering it "natural" and "common sensical": we have to face facts, we have to recognise limits, we have to play the game, this is all there is, etc). Conspiracies about the power relations underlying that culture serve to challenge and undermine it, and so are therefore attributed to delusion.
    -----------------------------------------------

    And at a time when a majority of, for instance, Americans, now believe that they were betrayed, manipulated, misled about the illegal invasion of Iraq, among other things, the Bush Admin using the pretext of 9/11 and the resulting paranoid, permanent "war on terror", isn't it only inevitable that a growing number of them will seek out a "conspiracy theory" when their Hollywoodized fantasy world starts to collapse??

    CNN POLE:

    Do you agree with Charlie Sheen that the U.S. government covered up the real events of the 9/11 attacks?

    Yes 82% 11,337 votes

    No 18% 2,501 votes

    (Total: 13, 838 votes )

    Charlie Sheen has at least one thing in common with George Bush: His father played the president on TV for a very long time.

    But Charlie Sheen is not afraid to question the official story of September 11th as endorsed by George Bush. Sheen's words - and four years of hard work by 9/11 skeptics - are making a difference. It is suddenly allowable to voice your suspicions about September 11th. The official mythology is losing its sway with the American people. Suddenly, a 911Truth.org spokesperson is invited to appear on CNN…

    Martin Sheen's son, Charlie Sheen: "We're not the conspiracy theorists on this particular issue. It seems to me like 19 amateurs with box cutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75% of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory. It raises a lot of questions."

    "It feels like from the people I talk to in and around my circles, it seems like the worm is turning… It is up to us to reveal the truth. It is up to us because we owe it to the families, we owe it to the victims. We owe it to everybody's life who was drastically altered, horrifically that day and forever. We owe it to them to uncover what happened."

    "There was a feeling, it just didn't look any commercial jetliner I've flown on any time in my life and then when the buildings came down later on that day I said to my brother 'call me insane, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition?"

  10. #55
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    You've made quite a number of points here. Will try and get back to them in due course, but in the meantime...

    Quote Originally Posted by Padraig
    We can dismiss conspiracies as literal impossibilities but nonetheless an unresolved tension remains which suggests that simply rejecting them outright as obscurantist delirial raving is also reactionary.
    Personally, I'm not referring to any specific conspiracy theories. I think the idea behind this particular thread was to discuss the hallmarks and significance of conspiracy theories in general.

    Quote Originally Posted by Padraig
    And isn't what you define as "mediation" above another term for culture generally, actual social quotidian reality, itself a mere cultural construction?
    Is culture a soical / cultural construct? Yes. But specifically, I was referring to cultural artefacts such as stories (written, pictorial, performance-based, whatever) - not social behaviours. The kinds of things I'm talking about are inherently, and for the most part explicitly, manufactured ('news' services are obviously exempt from the explicit part). And I don't believe that these things are necessarily intended to mask the real world (as you put it). I think that, most of the time, people tell stories to try and illuminate something.

    Quote Originally Posted by Padraig
    The problem here is that one cannot actually or simply separate fantasy from reality [...]
    Well, there is a degree to which that's true. We can attempt to come very close to a sense of reality by means of empirical study. We fall short when the questions we ask, or the investigative methods we employ, are lazy or conceal (consciously or unconsciously) preconceptions about the subject matter; or the test sample is too small. I'm sure there are other variables, but these two a biggies as far as I'm concerned. Maybe this is what you're talking about here:

    Quote Originally Posted by Padraig
    So the paradox of conspiracies [and debates about them] is that they establish an ontological conflict between, on the one hand, a reality in which the sources of power, capital, corruption, etc is revealed, and on the other hand, a reality in which a perceptual obsession with secretive cabals and subterranean forces behind the everyday experiences is evidence of paranoia, hysteria, insanity.
    Or not, as the case may be. I've not doubt you'll clear that one up

    Quote Originally Posted by Padraig
    (And isn't Sparks' sentiment, which you quote above, the ultimate in postmodern disavowal of belief, viz "I know that there is no ultimate truth or reality, but nevertheless I privately believe that there is ..."??], ie. he too believes in the notion of an underlying conspiracy in spite of his "disavowing" of it.)
    I'm not sure how interesting - or helpful - it is do discuss whether it's postmodern of not. And indeed, how you paraphrase his sentiments (or my own) is fairly wide off the mark. He states (explicitly) that he does believe in reality; but that he is aware that there are limits to what he can actually know. Which, in turn, is not the same thing as never truly being able to know anything (see above). He is merely acknowledging the limits that human subjectivity impose, and I regard this as highly significant because it's the necessary first step towards properly consensual politics and non-violent conflict resolution.

    Quote Originally Posted by Padraig
    And at a time when a majority of, for instance, Americans, now believe that they were betrayed, manipulated, misled [...]
    Woooooaaaah... I think this belongs elsewhere - but if you must make assertions like this, you're going to need to find something a little more compelling than a CNN internet poll. Especially one that is linked to via the homepage of 911truth.org.

    Quote Originally Posted by Padraig
    [Charlie Sheen: ] "There was a feeling, it just didn't look any commercial jetliner I've flown on any time in my life and then when the buildings came down later on that day I said to my brother 'call me insane, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition?"
    Padraig, you're joking, right? You make some interesting points, and you surely cite all the 'right' people, but peddling this kind of coke-addled garbage suggests your critical faculties need some serious bolstering...
    Last edited by blunt; 27-03-2006 at 09:31 AM.

  11. #56
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    Blunt, my post above was an attempt to analyse the phenomenon of conspiracies in all their structural complexity. Your response is to present a series of unexamined announcements and simple rejections based on arbitrary value judgements, as well as an empiricism devoid of any theoretical foundation. Furthermore, I was using the example of Charlie Sheen on 9/11 as an example of a conspiracy theory [so much for your appeal to empiricism, then!] to illustrate some of the points I was making, not trotting it out as unembellished "truth", but its interesting to witness your knee-jerk dismisssal of it, as though you had privileged access to the truth and to, as you call it, "a sense of reality."

    Blunt: Personally, I'm not referring to any specific conspiracy theories. I think the idea behind this particular thread was to discuss the hallmarks and significance of conspiracy theories in general.
    Nowhere in your response do you do this, and why is it only possible to "discuss the hallmarks and significance of conspiracy theories in general" without actually mentioning any? From your post it is implied that you dismiss them all outright [with the consequences I referred to in my post re: the depoliticising of social reality]. What is your basis for doing so, as you don't provide any?

    Blunt: Is culture a soical / cultural construct? Yes. But specifically, I was referring to cultural artefacts such as stories (written, pictorial, performance-based, whatever) - not social behaviours. The kinds of things I'm talking about are inherently, and for the most part explicitly, manufactured ('news' services are obviously exempt from the explicit part). And I don't believe that these things are necessarily intended to mask the real world (as you put it). I think that, most of the time, people tell stories to try and illuminate something.
    What, cultural artefacts are not cultural constructs?

    All cultures are "inherently, and for the most part explicitly, manufactured". But for some mysterious reason, you wish to exempt "news services"! Fabulous ... People telling stories! Fabulous ...

    Sorry, but what is this real world you mention, and how does culture relate to it?

  12. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Padraig
    I was using the example of Charlie Sheen on 9/11 as an example of a conspiracy theory [...] to illustrate some of the points I was making, not trotting it out as unembellished "truth" [...]
    What? Charlie Sheen as exemplar for the American people? To support your point that the majority of Americans now believe Bush & co. blew up the WTC?

    Quote Originally Posted by Padraig
    Nowhere in your response do you do this, and why is it only possible to "discuss the hallmarks and significance of conspiracy theories in general" without actually mentioning any?
    It is not. And I did not say that it was. But you seem to want to talk only about 9/11 related theories, and it's my personal feeling that it's just derailing this particular thread. I am on the record as regards my own thoughts on that particular event. See page 1 of this very thread. I'd include a link to it, but I know you like to do your own research

    Quote Originally Posted by Padraig
    What, cultural artefacts are not cultural constructs? [...] All cultures are "inherently, and for the most part explicitly, manufactured". But for some mysterious reason, you wish to exempt "news services"!
    Right. It is by now clear to me that you haven't actually read my post properly. Or maybe you're quoting me deliberately selectively. Now try again.

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    Blunt: What? Charlie Sheen as exemplar for the American people? To support your point that the majority of Americans now believe Bush & co. blew up the WTC?
    Who is saying this other than you?

    To repeat: ... at a time when a majority of, for instance, Americans, now believe that they were betrayed, manipulated, misled about the illegal invasion of Iraq, among other things, the Bush Admin having used the pretext of 9/11 and the resulting paranoid, permanent "war on terror", isn't it only inevitable that a growing number of Americans will seek out a "conspiracy theory" when their Hollywoodized fantasy world starts to collapse, the "real" of such a conspiracy serving to prop up [suturing or quilting] or regenerate such fantasies??

    How could that possibly be construed as "supporting" Mr Sheen's fantasies. Do ya think I'm part of some conspiracy or sometin'?

    In fact, I first wrote about 9/11 - on usenet - shortly after that event, here:
    Full Metal Jihad (dualities of foreign-policy short-termism)


    where I argued that 9/11 was blowback for a murderous foreign policy ...

    Excerpt: Such [US] wars always follow the same insular, short-term, hysterical logic: You announce your resolve to rid the world of some terrible perceived menace that poses a threat to all of "civilisation." Then you turn the other cheek and enter into pragmatic alliances with all manner of thugs, despots, and fanatics because, right now, they help you to achieve your immediate goal. But all the time, in your eagerness to act, you remain oblivious to the reality that such actions have totally unpredictable
    consequences, and you are caught completely off-guard when confronted by the resulting macabre ironies.


    The CIA, during the Afghan-Soviet war, created Al-Kaida, branded it, trained it, financed it. 9/11 was blowback ...


    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Padraig
    Nowhere in your response do you do this, and why is it only possible to "discuss the hallmarks and significance of conspiracy theories in general" without actually mentioning any?


    It is not. And I did not say that it was. But you seem to want to talk only about 9/11 related theories, and it's my personal feeling that it's just derailing this particular thread.
    Your "personal feeling" or your fantasy? Again, the example, being topical (and referenced throughout this thread), was used to illustrate a point. Clearly, You are - like most people - confused about 9/11, not knowing what to believe.

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    Erk. Maybe we're both guilty of misunderstanding the other. For my own part, I think maybe I interpreted rather too much of the cut & paste from 911truth.org to be your own views. If so, please accept my (genuine) apologies... But you could have saved us both some hassle if you'd just said as much yourself. Instead, you're just really aggressive, as usual. I meant it when I said that you made some interesting points, and I agree with many of your opinions. But you make these discussions near impossible by being so fucking angry all the time!

    Anyway... cattle mutilation, anyone?
    Last edited by blunt; 27-03-2006 at 07:18 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blunt
    Anyway... cattle mutilation, anyone?
    Thats an easy one. Government sponsored autopsies designed to measure the effects of the clandestine testing of radioactive, chemical and biological agents.

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