Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Conspiracy Mania

As one who still recalls the frequent bomb attacks by the Provisional IRA that were so marked a  feature of my childhood (all the more so since we lived close to a military base, though mercifully one that was never targeted), I cannot help but be variously amused and disgusted by the fact that certain persons in the US seem incapable of hearing about a terrorist outrage without immediately declaring that it is a "false flag attack". This makes no sense, of course, when no "flag" has been shown at all! So why do it? Well, the cynic in me (whom I must be careful not to feed too often) suggests that this is in order to boost ratings, but the alternative suggestion arises that in fact it is because the people who make these suggestions have so entered into the conspiracy mindset that to them all things must be linked to their notional conspiracy, in other words that they presuppose the conspiracy. It cannot be that there are real terrorists setting off bombs, it must be the conspiracy, it cannot be that anyone really decides in a moment of mental derangement to go into a school with guns, but there must be the conspiracy there behind it all.

And so begins the search for anything at all to "verify" this, anything that (to a totally untrained eye, mind you!) seems "wrong". And here we hit another problem; the "reality" that is at the back of the mind in these cases is oftentimes not reality at all, but fiction. Based upon the way well-rehearsed actors backed with state of the art special effects portray a scene, the conspiracy theorist assesses what he sees. Now reality, it is important to say, does not look realistic by the standards of Hollywood, for effects in action movies are bigger and more spectacular than the real thing, explosions are less destructive (unless they are CGI) than the real thing, while they are at the same time flashier, and guns all too often have unlimited ammo, or at least clips with wildly varying numbers of rounds in them (which is odd, as even blanks have to be fired from real guns with real magazines).

And there is another point to consider; we must postulate, must we not, that the conspirators cannot at one and the same time be diabolical masterminds and total idiots, that doesn't even work in Get Smart, let alone real life. A conspiracy that manages to fool most of the world must be very, very good. That means they will not make stupid mistakes that any fool could spot; thus anything that appears unrealistic must be considered very carefully, for it may very well be, so far from a sign that something is fake, a sign that it is not.

Not that the conspiracy maniac ever considers that, of course, for he is looking for confirmation, not for anything that could destroy his theory. And that is why the most insane suggestions have been taken up enthusiastically by otherwise sensible human beings, as witness those who bought the Sandy Hook Actors Conspiracy theory, a theory that, if thought about only works if we assume that Sandy Hook Elementary School either never existed, or that at least for the last decade the school was being set up for the shooting. For you see, whilst the TV viewer in California (say), has never been there, New England exists, Sandy Hook exists - if it did not, people would have noticed, and we would have to question the reality of everything, which way leads to madness. That means that the fake families would have to be introduced to the school as real, and so on and so forth. In reality it would have to be done in such a way that the fake families resembled real ones in every way. The alternative is only credible to someone who has not actually thought about it, or who has let Conspiracy Mania addle the brain.

And that is the real tragedy of all this - people abandoning critical thinking in the name of critical thinking.

No comments: