‘What a Conspiracy Theorist Believes’

The-New-Yorker-Logo-1Another day, another smug, politically-motivated take on the beliefs of others. One man’s conspiracy is another’s truth.

Via New Yorker:

But, over all, the trends were clear. The more people believed in free-market ideology, the less they believed in climate science; the more they accepted science in general, the more they accepted the conclusions of climate science; and the more likely they were to be conspiracy theorists, the less likely they were to believe in climate science.

These results fit in with a longer literature on what has come to be known as “motivated reasoning.” Other things being equal, people tend to believe what they want to believe, and to disbelieve new information that might challenge them. The classic study for this came in the nineteen-sixties, shortly after the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and lung cancer, which suggested that smoking appeared to cause lung cancer. A careful survey revealed that (surprise!) smokers were less persuaded than nonsmokers were. Nonsmokers believed what the Surgeon General had to say. Smokers heaped on the counterarguments: “many smokers live a long time” (true, but ignores the statistical evidence), “lots of things are hazardous” (a red herring), ”smoking is better than being a nervous wreck,” and so forth, piling red herrings on top of unsupported assumptions. Other research has shown a polarization effect: bring a bunch of climate change doubters into a room together, and they will leave the room even more skeptical than before, more confident and more extreme in the their views.

Keep reading.

24 Comments on "‘What a Conspiracy Theorist Believes’"

  1. Wait, are you saying that this isn’t true?

    This seems pretty reasonable to me.

  2. Sounds about right

  3. >” The classic study for this came in the nineteen-sixties, shortly after
    the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and lung cancer, which
    suggested that smoking appeared to cause lung cancer. A careful survey
    revealed that (surprise!) smokers were less persuaded than nonsmokers

    Aren’t we forgetting something here? Like all the resources the cigarette industry utilized in order to hide the evidence that smoking was directly related to cancer?

    The Cigarette Controversy

    “The tobacco companies knew and for most part accepted the
    evidence that cigarette smoking was a cause of cancer by the late 1950s.
    The documents also reveal that the tobacco companies
    helped manufacture the smoking controversy by funding scientific
    research that was intended to obfuscate and prolong the
    debate about smoking and health”

    And when it comes to climate change, are we to dismiss the fact that oil companies & the carbon industry regularly financed scientific studies with the clear intent of countering the evidence for global warming?

    If we’ve come to live in an age where the public’s distrust in governing institutions & scientific authorities is in an all time low, it’s the end result of said institutions & authorities abusing the trust of the citizens far too many times.

    • “If we’ve come to live in an age where the publics distrust in governing institutions & scientific authorities is in an all time low, it’s the end result of said institutios & authorities abusing the trust of citizens too many times.”
      Exactly! I would include the media as well. When we’ve been lied to for so long, about so much, it’s no wonder we are swimming in conspiracy theories. This is just peope of varying capacities trying their best to figure out WTF is going on when faced with a fucking tsunami of constant bullshit. You’d have to be a brain dead moron to believe any of the dominant narratives floating around.

      • Agreed.

        And to me it’s a worrying matter, because I really don’t think any civilization could last a long time with such a high amount of mistrust.

        I keep imagining that if next week NASA held a press conference announcing the detection of a massive asteroid that would collision with Earth in 20 years, I’m sure that after 15 years we would have wasted all our preparation time with mindless debates about whether the story was a pure fabrication or not.

      • kowalityjesus | Apr 13, 2013 at 9:36 am |

        This is an anomaly in terms of historical content of the NYT. This piece is a direct reaction to the rising tide of alternative media that demands attention at the threat of making the publication moot. Its has a tone of dismissal for now, but they will change their tune as long as their comptrollers don’t try to foil the entire internet.

        • Well, I kinda see it in context, seeing how the PPP caused a lot of interest when they did a poll about ‘conspiracy theories’, which resulted in a lot of news outlets running stories like “ZOMG! 12 million Americans believe in Lizard people!!”

          And then we see VP Biden calling for a “new world order”, with alternative news sites wondering whether this was yet another SNAFU, or if he really knew the full impact of those words.

          So what’s with all this recent simultaneous belittling of conspiracy theorists –not that it’s something new, I know– in a time when the public is fully aware of all the under-the-table scheming by those in power, like the recent Monsanto Protection Act & the myriad of Wikileaks documents that keep pouring out into the web?

          Oops! looks like I myself I’m running in full conspiracy theory mode. Better lay down my tinfoil hat for a while 😛

          • Biden’s remark was an example of Obama’s promise for more transparency in gov’t. 😉
            The media and exoteric gov’t is the means of altering the consciousness of the Masses. All of it is. Whether its conspiracy theories or mainstream news. Subcultures included. If you really want Truth you gotta find it within by withdrawing yer attention to the farce of the outer world. All of it.
            GNOTHI SEAUTON

          • kowalityjesus | Apr 13, 2013 at 8:16 pm |

            yes, it is certainly a hat to don at appropriate moments. Many, many people have no capacity to deal with conspiracies and it is nearly always a mistake to try to ‘break them in’ with an assault of anomalous facts. It just results in ostracism. Know your audience!

    • BuzzCoastin | Apr 13, 2013 at 4:23 am |

      caveat emptor was used long before it became a Roman proverb
      Americans have been lulled into complacency
      deferring their right to be suspicious
      to their Nanny gruberment

      of course they’re lying cocksuckers
      take everything with a grain of salt
      they’re always selling something

      don’t assume Uncle Homeland’s got your back
      always assume you need to watch Uncle Homeland’s ass

  4. jasonpaulhayes | Apr 12, 2013 at 5:21 pm |

    Always with the “Belief” … that word is a weapon. This is a Rhetorical fallacy at best and fascinatingly naive. Belief and Theory are being used interchangeably (when they definitively cannot be) the same way its been tried again and again with evolution.

    Conspiracy Theory (Postulates) > Conspiracy Belief (Unsubstantiated Hunches)

    “Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by
    scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by
    agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought,
    ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that,
    ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these
    qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted &
    carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter
    & remain in them. –Buddha

  5. I’m not sure if anybody else is seeing this, but there are huge quotation marks on my screen on every single page of this site. I can barely read half of these articles.

    • BuzzCoastin | Apr 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm |

      I agree, the new fonts are a point or two smaller than the old design
      and the quotes on this & other pages are huge in comparison

  6. BuzzCoastin | Apr 12, 2013 at 8:31 pm |

    beliefs are absolutely worthless
    this article was written for believers
    people who buy into anything without having any experience of it
    Jesus, 911, JFK assassination, the moon landings
    all of which are designed to distract them from noticing
    that they been born into a Huxley/Orwellian dystopia
    That! they will never believe

    • LifelongLIb | Apr 13, 2013 at 2:16 am |

      I wasn’t BORN into a Huxley/Orwellian dystopia. That’s just what it changed into later.

      • BuzzCoastin | Apr 13, 2013 at 2:21 am |

        unless you were born in 1775
        you were born into the Fictional Free States of Amerika – Disney Inc.
        which later merged with Nazi Germany GmBh
        and eventually reincorparted as
        Der Homeland of Den Frie – Halliburton LLC Inc GmBh
        but right on, at least you see it now
        not many even get that far

        • I think that from a historical point of view, the assassination of JFK was a watershed moment for the American people (and the world at large). It was a ‘loss of innocence’, when implicit trust in the government started to fall apart.

          • BuzzCoastin | Apr 13, 2013 at 8:10 pm |

            my suspicion is that
            you were alive during the Kennedy murder
            and therefore assume that was the beginning of
            The New Whirled Disorder
            but there were plenty of people by Lincoln’s time
            that knew that America had jumped the shark
            and was rapidly becoming an oligarchic dictatorship

          • Actually I was born in 73 😉

            But at any rate, IMO it was because JFK’s assassination that the culture of conspiracy theory became more visible, and people started to investigate things done by the US government way before Kennedy’s time.

  7. a nother stripe on a nother flag. a nother star a nother triad. a nother pink fish, and it’s twin, i wish, were to be found among resound, counter class mantra mandates mixing with me anyhow; quantum grammar post as a noun; adjective correspondence reflected as actually deflected as a probability profown. looking all for answers where none all can see, imitatively egyptian as far as a mind con-be, ancient tutankhamun bariel tree, union, obelisk, totem, Ni. beconsensual imMortalities mingling with carbon rings. still she sings famine. valence equines as rampants lamb horn. king born. god scorn. unicorn. forelorn. shadowed by a thorn. lots of roses names’ hazards are non-polynomially hazardous hazard light modules at a severely over-priced conversion tool tool, and god isn’t anything more or less than a black hole. a psi ren omega hole. pigeon bole. crow spoil. undefined toil. kAbraxis.

    • kowalityjesus | Apr 13, 2013 at 9:40 am |

      quoting? or original?

      • orig. though clearly all knowledge is not solely my Athena. sorry for cpt. obvious : <3 there's a certain same-'ol'grass sen#iment in this stuff that provides a large pool from which to drink. i did construct this in response, in part, to the doc, in part, to myself, in part to my experience, in part, to art. so much excitement over what may be ancient trifles

  8. Frank_Black | Apr 13, 2013 at 9:02 am |

    This is retarded. I read about criminal conspiracies all the time, and so does the FBI. No one is calling he FBI conspiracy theorists, but that is what they are. The term was developed in the 60’s to off set the move to uncover corruption and malfeasance in the police and government during the civil rights era and the protest era of Vietnam. I also KNOW (not believe) that climate science is most likely correct, and I still read about the criminal conspiracies of NATO, P2, etc. It would seem I don’t’ fit their silly model.

  9. Frank_Black | Apr 13, 2013 at 9:12 am |

    To bad you couldn’t use this as a defense when you get dragged into court for possession of a couple grams of cocaine, and they tack on intent (conspiracy) to distribute because you happened to have the in separate bags. The label of conspiracy theorist is a tag given to marginalize people and dismiss them as crazy.

Comments are closed.