As an example of a conspiracy theory that he deems worthy of consideration, Patrick Cockburn writes at The Independent “For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war?”:
The Greeks tell a story against themselves about their tendency to believe in conspiracy theories. They relate how God decided that he would give every nation as a gift a special national characteristic. On the appointed day, representatives of the nations of the world entered the divine presence and were handed their gifts. The Americans received optimism, the French elegance, the British stoicism, the Russians courage, the Iranians cunning, and so on.
The Greek delegation was delayed and arrived late just as the other nations were leaving. God apologised and explained to them that he was sorry but he had already given away the most desirable characteristics and there were none left. The Greeks were enraged and protested furiously, shouting “so you too, God, have joined the plot against us as we always expected you would. Go on, tell us who is paying you and why do you conspire against us?” Angered in turn, God said: “Very well, you Greeks will have a gift in keeping with your accusations. In future, it will be part of your national character to always believe in conspiracy to explain everything that happens to you.”
I was first told this story by a Greek Cypriot historian in 1975, a year after the Turkish invasion and part occupation of Cyprus. His point was that one reason for the disaster was that the Greeks and Greek Cypriots had been too prone to see politics in terms of plots and conspiracies and forgot the over-riding strategic fact that Cyprus is 600 miles from Athens and 40 miles from Turkey.
Conspiracy theories are damaging because they enable individuals, communities and governments to divert attention from their real problems and shift the blame for their failures elsewhere. Within hours of the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, such theories were swirling around about who exactly shot it down and why commercial airliners were being routed over a war zone where two military aircraft had recently been destroyed by missiles.
Go back a month and look at the capture of much of northern Iraq by a few thousand fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and its allies in June. This was one of the most shameful and unnecessary defeats in history and happened because the Iraqi army and state was rotted by sectarianism and corruption…
[continues at The Independent]