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Are Conspiracy Theories All Bad?

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posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 05:27 PM
I find it fascinating when the murky realms of conspiracy are thrust into the blinding light of mainstream media, and they don't come more mainstream than the New York Times. As part of their 'Room for Debate' series the NYT have this week focused on a very interesting question; Are Conspiracy Theories All Bad?

A few eggheads from various professions have decided to get their hands dirty to discuss conspiracies and what they have to say might be worth listening to.

The Negative Social Impact

Some level of healthy skepticism is undoubtedly important for individuals, and citizens cannot be expected to agree with everything they are told. Some conspiracy theories may even be useful in allowing people to question social hierarchies and discover new information for examination and discussion.

But many conspiracy theories seem to be dangerously subversive, undermining people’s confidence in established positions on topics such as climate change and vaccination. They appear to threaten the social systems that people rely upon and encourage inaction where it cannot be afforded. But the question remains: why are conspiracy theories so appealing to so many people?

Knowledge is power. And with great power comes great responsibility. And with great responsibility comes blind panic. And with blind panic comes retreat. And with retreat comes hacking away at my keyboard every night in the dark instead of getting off my arse and DOING something. So yeah, I can see where Karen is coming from here.

The Powerless Wield No Legitimacy

From the Latin word "conspiratio," which means "breathe together," conspiracies emanate from those who work closely and in secret for a purpose that, as the philosopher Jeremy Bentham interpreted it, is evil, unlawful or both. But “conspiracy theorist," with its implications of irrational paranoia or the inability to accept the chaotic nature of catastrophe, is an even worse label that sabotages all credibility.

Again, true. We all know the connotations that come with the term 'conspiracy theorist' and, if you're anything like me, you are loathed to be called it. Yes, we could blame the MSM for using it in such a derogatory manner. Or, we could look closer to home, at our so called professional conspiracy theorists, and ask them; what have you done!?

A Symptom of Mass Cultural Anxiety

For all its operational secrecy, covert action is a subject of intense public fascination. Twenty-five years after the end of the cold war, the U.S. has 17 intelligence agencies employing hundreds of thousands of workers at a cost of some $70 billion per year — but most of our ideas about U.S. intelligence work come from the endless stream of melodramatic entertainment in movies and on TV. The public thus finds itself in a strange state of half-knowledge about U.S. foreign affairs. When “top secrecy” and “plausible deniability” are widely accepted ideas, is it any surprise that so many people believe political power is wielded by powerful, invisible agents?

Yeah, I'm down with this too. Although I do, in this case, blame the MSM for making us all believe we are all, at any given moment, going to Hell in a hand basket. Having said that, I don't like the fact that Timmy seems to be alluding that political power isn't wielded by powerful, invisible agents. It is. It just is.

Suspicious and Paranoid Natures

One reason involves their suspicious and in some cases paranoid natures. Want to know whether your neighbors will accept a particular conspiracy theory? Just ask them what they think about other conspiracy theories. Those who insist that the Apollo moon landings were faked are more likely to believe that the United States caused the 9/11 attacks.

In fact, people who embrace one conspiracy theory are also inclined to embrace another conspiracy theory that cannot simultaneously be true. In one study, people who said they believed that Osama bin Laden is alive and well were more likely to believe that he was dead before U.S. forces invaded his compound. The belief in a more central idea — that authorities are engaged in deceptive cover-ups — supports any number of skeptical theories, even leading suspicious individuals to disregard contradictions between them.

I have to agree that conspiracy theorists do have a slightly schizophrenic edge and it is one that can, at times, mean that we struggle to juggle our ideas in the face of overwhelming information. That being said, Cass Sunstein is an ass.

A Rich Tradition of Story Telling

When skeptics look at conspiracy theorists they see pathology. When I look at conspiracy I see ancestry, a rich and powerful history of storytelling among like-minded groups of people. There have been powerful narratives among us since time immemorial and to me, modern conspiracy theories are a close cousin of science fiction. In conspiracies about aliens, mind control, the New World Order and the Illuminati, I see the works of H.G. Wells, Yevgeny Zamyatin, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley — storytellers whose powerful narratives are still in print, some even after 100 years. These are the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of how we live.

I think this is a really positive way of looking at conspiracies. As cultural devices to create an alternative narrative/history for future generations. We need more writers, be it fiction or non-fiction, it doesn't matter. It's all the same eventually.

Speaking of which...

Is It Nonfiction Disguised as a Novel?

Conspiracy theories play into the social fabric because they can superficially explain mysterious and sinister events, from the J.F.K. assassination to 9/11. And these theories give society a target to fight back at, shout at, point their finger at and say, “Aha, I knew it was you!” It's an attempt to rip the curtain off the puppeteer who is causing all the problems. And because we live in an “instant” information world, the zaniest of conspiracy theories can gain global purchase, which would have been unthinkable even 10 years ago. We have never been so well-informed in our ignorance.

I happen to agree with this, right up until the bit about ignorance that is. David had to go and ruin it, didn't he? But yeah, again, we have an opportunity to write ourselves INTO history, thanks to this great little gizmo called the internet, we can create our own Utopias of Information where anyone is invited to join in. Except the NSA of course. Bastards.
edit on 5/1/2015 by LiveForever8 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 05:43 PM
I think conspiracy theories are good myself. Otherwise there wouldn't be ATS and we would all be stuck on Facebook.

posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 05:50 PM

The Negative Social Impact

But many conspiracy theories seem to be dangerously subversive, undermining people’s confidence in established positions on topics such as climate change and vaccination. They appear to threaten the social systems that people rely upon and encourage inaction where it cannot be afforded. But the question remains: why are conspiracy theories so appealing to so many people?

Bolding above, mine.

Whilst I certainly don't subscribe to every conspiracy theory that exists - to me the above blatantly reads:

Conspiracy theories threaten the MACHINE that powers the economy, in turn generating a loss of money for those with the power.

When they got to the part of conspiring being "evil and unlawful" (though only for common folk, natch) it was then that I stopped reading, as each article title is but a thinly disguised hit piece on critical thinking.

edit on 5-1-2015 by MoonBlossom because: More Words

posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 05:56 PM
A conspiracy theory could only be bad in theory, right? I mean something not proven to exist out of theory cannot be quantified and therefore unable to be categorized as good or bad.

Did I overthink things again?

posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 06:04 PM
Are conspiracy theories themselves bad? No. I don't think so anyway.

What I think is "bad" is that sometimes people will cling to a theory in the face of overwhelming evidence against said theory, and do so for one reason or another.

The worst, and the most damning for the whole realm of conspiracy theories, is the lengths that some people will go to in their "quest for truth." There is such a thing as going too far, and when "they" go to that length, it makes the entire community look bad.

My two cents anyway

posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 06:06 PM
a reply to: LiveForever8

Conspiracy theories are ok IF you remember that most are fiction and created by mental people with no lives.

Take them with good humor and a pinch of salt and everything will be OK!!

posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 06:09 PM
Resistance to conspiracy theory is an attempt to promote conformation and subjugation. Anything is subject to argument, and if the one side of the argument is that your argument is 'dangerous', then it's a straw man and inherently has no validity. To argue against conspiracy theory (or conspiracy fact) is to admit that there's a conspiracy and you just don't want people to know about it.

Things that have been done in the name of government or national security have been absurd to say the least. To think there WASN'T a conspiracy or that there WASN'T some really evil stuff going on, at least in US history, is really naïve.

An agency of the US federal government decided they didn't like one of the presidents, so they assassinated him. Conspiracy to some, but it's actually fact. They'll protect the secrecy of what they did for no other than self-preservation, because if the public in general knew for a fact that the CIA organized the assassination of JFK, there would be a demand to abolish the agency.

posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 06:12 PM
Theres a few good ones .. but one must wade through alot of # to find them ...

posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 06:37 PM
By allowing an open debate about “conspiracy theorists” to emerge in the media, essentially the public is going to be able to witness that the contemporary thought pattern is still the majority… Which is a good play by those who wish to be-little anyone with a conspiracy patterned mind, considering it is still apparent that “majority consensus" matters to us in every day life more so than cold hard facts. Which is truly unfortunate.
If you wish to challenge the group consensus be careful… Freedom of speech is not so apparent anymore. What if, please just bare with me here, people started saying the Nazi concentration camps didn’t happen and it was all a lie? I imagine the response to the general public to be like my own…

“OMG that’s not right, that is so sick and racist! How could you say that? Anyone affiliated with that movement must be radical racist who needs a bullet!”

Well actually the movement does exist though I don’t know much about it myself. I looked into it for a couple of hours one night, just to explore the possibility and what they claim to have is huge amounts of evidence to the contrary of common belief…

“but that is sick and racist, right? Now I am internally conflicted though…. because the evidence they have does and could plausibly be real, but surely it can’t be! why would we be lied to like that?”

“Lets keep these ideas quiet because I don't want anyone else to think that I am a sick twisted racist now…”

Now please imagine if you did, have absolute evidence this Nazi conspiracy was the case? Imagine trying to expose that information which you know to be true, in a society that has been conditioned to despise it so much? No wonder conspiracy theorist appear anxious! Yet what would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, such as the gay marriage laws have now started to pass and speaking out about this now is social suicide also… you homophobe!

Essentially we have been conditioned over time so greatly not to speak out about anything that could be considered “racist, sexist, homophobic, extremist” these views are essentially socially unacceptable!

Group consensus, facts are not a democracy… No matter how hard you all band together to say two plus two equals three it simply will not be the case. These complex issues we call conspiracies are disregarded by the normal working folk… though to be honest, they have no idea what they are talking about themselves. Dismissing conspiracies as bull# with character assassination and ignorant group consensus does not change facts. You are simply stopping people from educating themselves. And you may claim we have no “facts” but if you are an uninformed person out there reading this… look yourself, I know you don’t have much time these days with this busy lifestyle and the economy going so downhill, but you simply cannot hold an opinion or shouldn’t, unless you actually know what your opinion is based on. First… Oh I see a problem starting to appear here…

My passion is forbidden archaeology, to be honest it is a conspiracy of sorts. I spend “my” time at home… not hurting people, but quietly informing myself about the ancient past and the possibilities and ideas that we have it all wrong.. Kind of like when the average person “you” sit down and watch a TV show or a movie… If after chasing proof in my own quest for knowledge I am proven wrong, how is it much different than if I wasted all my time sitting down watching TV shows? We both were no more productive than one another and at least I am still learning a lot about ancient cultures!

Considering my own what I believe to be rational chain of thought on the matter (its my own thoughts of course I am going to agree with it) conspiracy theories need to be considered and not rejected and be-little which this movement is so apparently trying to achieve. Why?

Why is this article itself trying so hard to convince people that conspiracy theories are bad?

Heres a conspiracy for you, its because there is too much evidence on our side of the argument now and they feel the only way to suppress it further is by the usual “character assassination and majority consensus” routine just like all other politics. Hrrmm could it be?

posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 07:12 PM
a reply to: LiveForever8

I think that the people who contributed to these musings, as intellectually developed in some respects, as they may be, have the distinct advantage of not being connected to the impact of some of the most manipulative and dangerous conspiracies ever hatched against the people of this planet. If they had lived different lives, but managed the same level of qualification by some miracle, I am certain that their attitude toward these things would be different.

Now, it has to be said that what they are saying in some ways is very true. The section which refers to the subversive nature of some conspiracy theories has a significant point to make, but the validity of that point depends rather an awful lot, on which specific conspiracy theory is being discussed. The might of the Military Industrial Complex for example, IS a danger to all the world, and to say otherwise means that one has no conception of the geopolitical impact of weapons sales to tinpot regimes over the decades and more since it became a big issue.

Votes being fixed, verdicts being rigged, THE NSA WHO ARE ACTUALLY, IN FACT, SPYING ON PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING ALL OF THE DAMN TIME! These sorts of things are the reason that conspiracy theorists are not bad, the reason that thinking about conspiracy theory is not bad, they are the reason that people who are prepared to accept the word of their government, only when their government gives them no reason to question it, are the most necessary people in any citizenry.

I am not saying that there are not conspiracy theorists out there who contradict themselves, because there surely are. I am not saying that there are not some kinds of conspiracy theory which border on supremacist propaganda, of all sorts of different types. There are.

What I am saying, is that being prepared to look at a topic with both eyes wide open, learning to question the things which make no sense, learning to understand the guts of the beast that is the human condition, these are things which those who find themselves able to do, have a duty to do, if not for themselves, then for all humanity. Without people thinking this way, we would never have had the Snowden releases, because no one would have cared enough to speak to him about the matters concerned, and less people than that would have read the data on the net. And yet, his were some of the most important revelations ever made about the operations of the NSA, illegal ones no less, which impinge on the most basic freedoms of citizens both of the USA, and indeed of any person attached to the net!

If we are not thinking and observing, and looking to hold governments, companies, and organisations to account, to catch them when they lie, and refuse to stop asking why they have to lie at all, if we are not always demanding as much honesty from those who consider themselves above the law, as they expect from those they believe to be under its thrall, then what freedom, what truth, what justice can there be in the world? We ask these things and we think our thoughts, and despite it the worlds governments are corrupted all to buggery, so can you imagine what it would be to live in this world, but have NO ONE question authority? Can you imagine what it would be to have NO ONE keeping an eye on the powerful?

I reject the tone of the musings of the cross section of intelligentsia sampled in the source material used by the OP, utterly. Conspiracy theory is like any other mode of thought. If approached rationally and in a healthy manner, with rigour and with clarity, then it is capable of being a vital tool to ensure the future freedom of the species, from those who would seek to enslave or blind us. I can think of few things more positive than that.
edit on 5-1-2015 by TrueBrit because: Grammatical error removed

posted on Jan, 5 2015 @ 07:18 PM
a reply to: LiveForever8

The very term and usage of "conspiracy theory" is used to discredit the theory, or more accurately the "accusation" against someone, and is seen being verbalized by government officials and their propaganda agents the main stream media as "crazy", "unfounded", or ridiculous accusations by anti government extremists, when the truth is something else indeed.

The truth more often than not, is that these "accusations" are being said because the corrupt and above the law senators, congress-people, representatives, corporate enabled government agents that didn't cover all of their tracks very good, or like now, in your face and totally visible criminal conduct being done like our current administration, Eric Holder, Obama, Harry Reid and the BLM, Fast and Furious causing murders of Americans by the guns that Obama sent to them knowing that would likely happen, and it has; The IRS targeting people that Obama doesn't like, or those who have the audacity to expose real criminal conspiracies against these charlatans of the law and the constitution.

Look at how main stream America "paints" conspiracies and their theories (by the way, theories are always supported with some or many known facts, or they can't be a theory).

They always make mistakes when hiding criminal conduct as Obama has done almost every time, and even proven their own criminal conduct was done knowing it broke the law, like Fast and Furious proves because they tried hiding it using the secret classification system illegally. (most here know that classifying information only to hide criminal conduct is highly illegal). Felony level illegal.

Conspiracies and theories that are untrue or false are easy to expose by examining all the known facts about it and observing those who the conspiracy targets to note their behavior as stonewalling investigations, or being unafraid and transparent to investigations of criminal conspiracies,-(something Obama and friends can't be credited with).

So, in light of that, I would say that all conspiracy theories HELP America and liberty by allowing those by way of free speech and the 1st amendment be spoken without fear of government reprisal, (but that doesn't work so well with Obama, Bush, Boehner, Reid, Eric Holder and others who spit upon free speech because it can expose and punish corruption with the truth.

But, When conspiracy theories are NOT TRUE and are used to bring knowingly false accusations against someone, this could easily be proven by a slander or a libel case, but we don't see too many conspiracy theories being refuted in a court of law do we? That's because they usually have a lot of truth to them. When they don't, it is usually plain enough to see.

Our elected hate the 1st amendment because of these things and every democrat voted to repeal the first amendment recently. That right there is a conspiracy in "TRAITORS 101" The only prerequisite to that class is a willingness to do criminal things against your countrymen which sadly, ALL democrats and many republicans agree with.

If you know of a single democrat who didn't vote to repeal the guts of the 1st amendment, please call any MSM news agency and tell them they reported it wrong.

Another huge example of why CONSPIRACY theories, (or more accurately phrased, "freedom to accuse politicians with wrongdoing when they have done wrong", is a good thing:

Schumer (D-N.Y.) has announced that Senate Democrats are scheduling a vote on a constitutional amendment to give Congress the authority to regulate political speech, because elected officials have decided they don’t like it when the citizenry has the temerity to criticize what they’ve done. (makes you wonder what they have done that we don't yet know about)?

And for all the crybabies who have a need to say that Republicans also are guilty of many illegal things, they really are, just look at the last majority republican whip who CONSPIRED often with Harry Reid behind closed doors to cheat the citizenry, otherwise the illegal things that democrats do just don't count unless you can accuse a republican of something in the same sentence.. Well, I am adding this in for them. :LOL:

When conspiracy theories are silenced, you know that you now live in a totalitarian regime like NORTH KOREA, China, and CUBA, or under the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION! But the only difference in America is that we can still Speak of them openly, (sort of).

Even ATS is subjected to very powerful propaganda from every corner, that conspiracies are the work of the crazy, and the ignorant, not the work of those who are exposing the truth and shining a bright light on criminal wrongdoing.

posted on Jan, 6 2015 @ 12:59 AM
a reply to: rickymouse

Oh no, there would still be an ATS, it just wouldn't be anywhere near as interesting as it is now and wouldn't be called ATS, it would be called something like FOX.

posted on Jan, 6 2015 @ 06:35 AM
a reply to: MoonBlossom

While I agree with you in part I also think that particular point is true, regarding inaction on the part of the conspiracy theorist. If you believe that manmade global warming is a lie and part of an agenda to enslave mankind then you are less likely to take ecological problems in general as serious. Even less likely to act upon it. This has been proven on ATS in the past.

posted on Jan, 6 2015 @ 06:44 AM
Sometime I get sick of people using terms like illuminati to explain the power structure of the world. There is a power structure in the world that can be explained without using the term illuminati. It would be far more worthwhile to examine the real power structure and how it's made up than to replace that examination with a fictitious organisation as the illuminati. Good thread though and interesting read from the source you provided

posted on Jan, 6 2015 @ 09:06 AM
The question isn't really whether they're bad or good, though, is it? The question is whether they're true or false.

I once had a thread closed by Skeptic Overlord for going there, though, so perhaps we shouldn't discuss it.

posted on Jan, 6 2015 @ 10:17 AM
I think that, with conspiracy theory becoming SO mainstream in recent years, that it actually hurts any validity that any given conspiracy may actually have - and if I was "them" I'd really, REALLY want it that way.

With the digital age shoving so much information and emotion into the human brain 24/7/365 - I don't think it's doing much but contributing to the overall discord. It's getting harder and harder for the average person to focus on what's actually important because there's just SO MUCH STUFF available.

I view as part of a complex universe that seems to want to create complexity - to what end I'm not sure.

posted on Jan, 6 2015 @ 10:24 AM
Conspiracy theories aren't bad. They are a great way of looking at a situation outside the box or viewing it from another angle. But the problem with CT's is that many theorists correlate belief in CT's with open mindedness. That isn't the case. One must be able to analyze a conspiracy theory with the same level of suspicion as one does with the mainstream account. If one cannot do that, then that person is just as close minded as the mainstream believer who refuses to entertain any CT's.

Confirmation bias is STRONG in the conspiracy realm, and frankly it ruins real conspiracy research.

posted on Jan, 6 2015 @ 12:35 PM

originally posted by: eisegesis
Did I overthink things again?

Yes you

posted on Jan, 6 2015 @ 04:35 PM
a reply to: Shamrock6


Although I believe the damage may have already been done and that what we have unfortunately inherited is an epistemological parody, I do think that there may yet be redemption. I think as a community we are far too kind to feeble ideas and what we need instead is a mentality of 'Nil satis nisi optimum', that is, "only the best will do."

No more faces on the moon or alien probing or reptilian royals, all that needs to be ignored. I just think we need to stop peddling this bull crap or face an eternity of alienation.

There is a reason why, after everyone else has had their say, people turn to us for ideas, always prefaced by under-their-breath mutterings of "send in the clowns..."

posted on Jan, 7 2015 @ 06:29 AM

originally posted by: projectbane
Conspiracy theories are ok IF you remember that most are fiction and created by mental people with no lives.

Ah, how could I forget!?

Silly me.

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