BBC Asks If Conspiracy Theories Are Destroying Democracy

Secret-message-on-1-bill-conspiracy-theories-7780540-286-320Conspiracy theories destroying democracy? Yeah, well that’s what they’d want you to think.

Via BBC:

The more information we have about what governments and corporations are up to the less we seem to trust them. Will conspiracy theories eventually destroy democracy?

What if I told you I had conclusive proof that the moon landings were faked, but I had been told to keep it under wraps by my BBC bosses acting under orders from the CIA, NSA and MI6. Most of you would think I had finally lost my mind.

But, for some, that scenario – a journalist working for a mainstream media organisation being manipulated by shadowy forces to keep vital information from the public – would seem entirely plausible, or even likely.

We live in a golden age for conspiracy theories. There is a growing assumption that everything we are told by the authorities is wrong, or not quite as it seems. That the truth is being manipulated or obscured by powerful vested interests.

And, in some cases, it is.

“The reason we have conspiracy theories is that sometimes governments and organisations do conspire,” says Observer columnist and academic John Naughton.

It would be wrong to write off all conspiracy theorists as “swivel-eyed loons,” with “poor personal hygiene and halitosis,” he told a Cambridge University Festival of Ideas debate.

They are not all “crazy”. The difficult part, for those of us trying to make sense of a complex world, is working out which parts of the conspiracy theory to keep and which to throw away.

Keep reading.

41 Comments on "BBC Asks If Conspiracy Theories Are Destroying Democracy"

  1. How do you separate signal from noise when there is so much noise? It’s easy to drive yourself right over the edge trying to make sense of what’s happening.
    It feels like we really are living in some kinda Phildickean dystopia.

    • It isn’t so much the noise, but rather, the silence. When the powers that be don’t disclose all they know – conspiracy fabricators supply the gaps in information with their own speculations. If there is an official response, it is considered cover up and the “conspiracy” thickens.

      • Ted Heistman | Oct 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm |

        There is something to that.I also think the democratic process is circumvented by private policy discussions and conferences.

        • sveltesvengali | Nov 3, 2013 at 1:59 am |

          In that vein, every kitchen cabinet could be treated as a fertile place for conspiratorial ambitions to flourish.

          Of course, “legal” or “representative” occasionally just put a veneer of legitimacy on the most potent conspiracies, especially when such law or representation is only selectively applied.

    • astrofrog | Oct 27, 2013 at 12:45 pm |

      Reasoning by analogy with the methods used to discern signal in noise, there are a few things you can do:

      – increase the raw signal-to-noise ratio by binning data from multiple sources together
      – apply a filter, removing 6-sigma outliers; think of that as chucking anything that looks just plain crazy.

      – generate a model of known contaminants, and subtract it from the data: in astronomical spectra, this would correspond to e.g. generating a model of spectral lines originating in the Earth’s atmosphere, and removing them; in conspiracy theory, this would correspond to a model of official denial, cover stories, astrofoil, limited hangouts, etc., and removing anything from the data set that corresponds to this.

      – try and generate a probabilistic model of what the underlying signal is most likely to look like, for instance using Bayes’ theorem, and attempting to discern the most likely model that fits the data.

      Of course, any of these methods, handled improperly, can yield highly misleading results. No escaping GIGO.

      • Holy shit, man. That is a hell of a lot of work. What does it say about our current state of affairs when this is what is required to try and make sense of wtf is oing on?
        You mean I can’t just turn on the tv or the radio and trust that what I’m being told is true and correct? There should be an app for that. Something I can run a “news” segment through that will decode the damn thing for me. But then, could I trust the app? Where does it end?

        • astrofrog | Oct 27, 2013 at 1:16 pm |

          No one ever said denoising data was easy. Of course, you can download ready-made apps for doing this, in the form of prepackaged ideologies that perform the reality-filtering for you. Personally, I’ve found it more rewarding, and safer, although much harder, to write my own code. It’s hard work at first but once you’ve built up a decent library, it starts to get a lot easier.

          • Of course, I’ve been writing “my own code” as you suggest. In a sense, that is a big part of “the work” I’ve been doing/inflicting on myself for years. Yes, it does get easier. It also gets weirder, more alienating and challenging to integrate information that is so at odds with what passes for “consensus reality.”

        • Calypso_1 | Oct 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm |

          “What does it say about our current state of affairs when this is what is required to try and make sense of wtf is going on?”

          Efforts such as these (and beyond) are required by those that study any aspect of the universe in general.

          • astrofrog | Oct 27, 2013 at 2:55 pm |

            Precisely. That is why I felt that experience analyzing noisy astronomical data, and attempting to pull meaning out of it without fooling myself, can be drawn upon as a very apt analogy to the rigorous practice of conspiracy theory.

          • Down the rabbit hole we go . . .

      • InfvoCuernos | Oct 27, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

        Now THAT was a “Phildickian” response.

    • Taan Maat | Oct 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm |

      it’s easy, just put these sunglasses on.

    • The Scientific Method is how you seperate signal from noise.

      For example, someone shows you that Jet A fuel can’t melt structural steel, That’s basic physics you can prove conclusively in any High School Chemistry lab. The fuel that was in tanks of the planes that hit the Twin Towers is essentially kerosene. Light some kerosene and hold it under a sample of structural steel. Let it burn as long as you like A day, A week, A year. Kerosine does not burn hot enough to alter structural steel.

      • Of course, for some things the BS and propaganda are obvious to anyone with more than a quarter inch of forehead. Like those planes allegedly bringing down the towers, for example. Or the bullshit farce of a “political process” in the US. For other stuff, it gets much more complicated. Like how dangerous is it to go into the ocean on the west coast of the US? Is all the fish pulled from the pacific since the accident at Fukushima radio active and not fit for human consumption? I’m betting the fish is not safe, and so, as much as I love it, I won’t touch it. But maybe it is safe and I’m missing out for no good reason. As far as how much harmful radiation I am exposing myself to by going in the ocean, I have no idea. I’m going anyway, but I would like to know wtf I am exposing myself to and what the risks are.

      • Science is the biggest conspiracy. It aims to keep people from believing in spiritual possibilities. Take allopathic medicine, for example. Much of alternative healing is effective because of the faith one has in it. If you only believe in the materialist reality we’re sold by pharmaceutical companies, spiritual healing loses its potency. Same can be said about much of shamanism.

  2. Astrofoil is destroying democracy.

  3. Robert Mac | Oct 27, 2013 at 11:26 am |

    No UK Gov & other Govt’s are killing democracy

    employment rights watered down in UK , NHS England almost privatised , no right to appeal ESA , over 10.000 disabled killed off by UK Gov/ Atos Healthcare Looking now at how to end Judical Review ! So called Democracy is only for the rich

  4. luther_blissett5 | Oct 27, 2013 at 11:50 am |

    By that author’s logic, leaks from whistleblowers are also destroying democracy.

    • Speaking of destroying democracy (for those who still believe such exists):

      (A real conspiracy)

      The Government Shutdown Recap

      Some years back, the top banksters (JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Citigroup, et al.) funded the ELX Futures echange, an exchange focused on trading (speculating upon) US Treasury futures.

      After the MF Global debacle (where Jon Corzine and friends pilfered around $1 billion from investors and are still roaming the streets) GS and JPMC essentially became silent partners (please see referenced links below).

      After the founding of that exchange, we then observe the various attempts to shutdown the US government, with the recent successful shutdown.

      The point man (and I use that word, “man” advisedly) was Ted Cruz, who is married to a Goldman Sachs V.P. of their southern Private Wealth Management Group (private banking/investing for the super-rich), who is supposed to be a structured finance/derivatives expert.

      Of course, as the price of gas/oil was falling a few weeks prior to the gov’t shutdown, the price of US Treasury futures was rising, along with activity in the stock market (spread shorting of the indexes, etc.) — speculation funds transferring from speculating upwards the price of oil, to speculating on Treasury futures and the stock market!

      Next, after the reopening of the US government, we observe record openings (highs) of the S&P 500, or the stock market in general.

      Note the pattern here?

      They set up the speculation funds — they create the event to churn their investments upwards — then spin everything in the political theater of the absurd to suggest everything derives from politics, and please don’t follow the money!

      The only proper response (other than insurrection, which is waaaaay overdue):

      (special thanks to artist, David Černý)

      Reference links:,_L.P

      “ELX Futures” is the formal and most recent name for the exchange; it had several previous working and informal titles, including Four Seasons, the ESX and the Electronic Liquidity Exchange. The founding partners include Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, Breakwater, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase,BCG Partners Inc., Deutsche Bank A.G., Barclays PLC, Credit Suisse Group, Getco, Peak6, Royal Bank of Scotland PLC.[27] and Goldman Sachs, who ELX announced on June 1, 2009 would join as a founding partner.

      On Oct. 29, 2008, Citadel, a founding partner, said it would pull its board member from ELX, according to a source close to the matter. Citadel said it would retain an equity stake and would use the still-to-be launched ELX platform, which aimed to challenge the CME’s dominance in Treasury futures. However, the firm planned to focus on the credit-default swap trading and clearing platform being developed with CME.

      [becoming silent partners]

      Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and other major banks are cutting their ownership stakes in the ELX Futures exchange after trading volumes declined following the collapse of MF Global. ELX is seeking fund managers and other end users to be partners in the exchange so it can rely less on dealers, says CEO Rich Jaycobs.

  5. The lack of credibility from our government (either party) has led to suspicions about their public statements. If any department of the government were a witness in a trial, a jury probably wouldn’t believe their testimony because of this credibility gap. Why be surprised that people don’t trust the things they are told.

  6. liquidself | Oct 27, 2013 at 1:15 pm |

    Seems more sensible to to say the erosion of democracy is giving rise to conspiracy theories. The other way around it becomes itself a {tautological} conspiracy theory.

  7. Gee whiz, why would anyone ever suspect anything related to a criminal conspiracy anywhere, even though thousands every year are convicted of criminal conspiracy.

    Why, just because John J. McCloy, along with Rockefeller stooge, Allen Dulles, headed the Warren Commission (on the JFK assassination), was simultaneously (this was back in 1964 I’m speaking of) the chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Ford Foundation, and Chase Bank, and a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, has to be a coincidence, plus he was formerly a partner in the Rockfeller-supported law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

    Surely, that had nothing to do with his — and Dulles’ — heading that commission?

    Recommended reading: Lance DeHaven-Smith’s Conspiracy Theory in America (or don’t the Brits read anymore?).

    • sveltesvengali | Oct 27, 2013 at 4:26 pm |

      I’m not saying that the g’vmt did it or that it was an inside job or any such thing, but is it any wonder there are 9/11 conspiracy theories when Henry Kissinger was briefly on the Commission?

      I mean, that guy is like walking, talking conspiracy bait.

      • I would never say the government did it either, simply that several elements within the government colluded with several private equity firms and one major global insurer to make it so.

        All one need ever do is research the backgrounds of the passengers aboard those four airliners that day. Among the pax one finds three unique groups spread among those four airliners: (1) developers of remote piloting hardware/software (Raytheon Aerospace and subcontracting firms); (2) the creators of the original counterrorist scenario which appeared remarkably similar to the 9/11 attacks (the retired Navy type who as one of the pilots of FLight 77, the Israeli counterterrorist expert, et al.; and, (3) investigators of Flight 800 “accident” — also three unique individuals aboard that day, one may have been inadvertently involved, the other two murders of convenience (a wife of a Bush administration official, wife number three of this fellow, who would immediately move on to wife number four once the insurance settlement arrived — a very attractive lady attorney who worked at the law firm of a senior married partner whom she was rumored to be having an affair with, the law firm being a major donor to the Bush campaign, and litigated on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in their successful federal litigation to fictionalize the news (said law partner was also involved in the investigation of Flight 800); and the head of the directed energy section of the Naval Surface Weapons Center).

        Just research the backgrounds of those passengers and the full background of Ted Olson.

        Always keep in mind that on 9/10/01, the Pentagon’s comptroller mentions that their auditing team (DIA’s Financial Management staff) uncovered that $2.3 trillion of DoD funds cannot be accounted for, while on the morning of 9/11/01, almost all of the DIA’s Financial Management staff are killed, with the survivors severely injured due to Flight 77 crashing into the west wall of the Pengaton where they were notified at the very last minute by email (sent at 2:00Am on 9/11) to attend a morning emergency conference.

    • Gee whiz, heard of Federal RICO Laws? Special laws the US Federal Government specifically created to attack CRIMINAL CONSPIRACIES?! Are FEDERAL RICO laws “destroying democracy’ too?

  8. How can you destroy something that doesn’t exist?
    The headline itself is a conspiracy theory.

  9. Rhoid Rager | Oct 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm |

    Conspiracies destroyed democracy already. The theories about them are just echoes resonating in passive minds.

  10. These scumbags never face accountability for their slanders. The media loves guilt by association, the idea that you can smear people by pairing them against other people, as if the two are linked simply because you typed it that way. So, scumbag pseudo-journalist gets to approach the topic of conspiracy with descriptions of “swivel-eyed loons,” as if that was a legitimate thing to say. If they can find one ranting lizard overlord spewing “swivel-eyed loon” then they can smear a majority of the population who has bothered to keep tabs on official criminality.

    The topic is official crimes, not theories about them. A legitimate journalist would seek to investigate the official crimes, not the “swivel-eyed loons” he can search for on the Internet. The clear implication of these articles (hundreds of them) is that it is not a legitimate pursuit to keep government accountable and within the law, because as soon as you speak about government crimes you are the mythical “conspiracy theorist” that has been so well demonized.

    This is a strategy of control. These assholes play their part because their bosses approve. Their bosses approve because their bosses approve. That is the nature of hierarchical institutions.

    • Why is calling them scumbag pseudo journalists any more legitimate than calling people swivel eyed loons?

      • Because they’re mercenaries. They are paid handsomely for these insidious political attacks. They abuse the public trust and are a malicious force in society. Is that enough reason?

        If they were honest journalists, they would approach the issues like honest journalists, as I made clear.

        • Who are they, and how do you know all this? Do you have empirical proof?

          From my perspective, It seems absurd to decry a conspiracy theory with another conspiracy theory.

          Preemptive: I am well aware of the several plausible, and discovered nefarious intrigues. I also feel that there’s a lot of chaff cascading from the minds of the deranged and those willing to take advantage.

          • > From my perspective, It seems absurd to decry a conspiracy theory with another conspiracy theory.

            Which is why astrofoil works so well. It turns the rabbit hole into an infinite regression black hole. Who says the truth can overcome an infinite number of lies?

          • ‘I see’ said the blind man to his deaf and dumb daughter as he picked up his hammer and saw.

  11. BuzzCoastin | Oct 27, 2013 at 8:08 pm |

    they are absolutely correct
    the elites fear a conspiracy of the people to overthrow them
    so the arm the police like an army
    and take away the people’s civil rights

    they are reportedly afraid of small groups of poorly armed Arabs
    who they fear want to kill or convert all non-Arabs to Islam
    so they invade small kunteries &
    arm themselves to the teeth in the process
    and spy on everyone
    just in case

    conspiracy theories are ruining republican &
    parliamentary forms of government

  12. Not one mention of the fact that the US government classifies more information now than it has in the entire history of its governance?
    These researchers are morons if they don’t acknowledge that fact.

    ETA: And… what “age of government openness?” what the hell are they talking about?

  13. Jean-Baptiste Joulé | Nov 6, 2013 at 3:12 pm |

    This starts with the assertion that democracy still exists.
    I am not convinced.

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