The Truth About Conspiracy Theories Is That Some Require Considering

Seal of the Islamic State in Iraq and the LevantAs 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]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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20 Comments on "The Truth About Conspiracy Theories Is That Some Require Considering"

  1. The piece mentions four reasons for the proliferation of conspiracy theories. Perhaps I missed it, but they left out the most obvious, and that is we are fucking drowning in BULLSHIT. The media lies its ass off on a regular basis. In fact,they are allowed to lie by law. There is another factor the piece overlooked, and that is disinformation deliberately put out by various agencies for all kinds of reasons, but mostly to hide whatever horrible shit they are doing.
    I really have no idea wtf is going on viz 9-11, but am reasonably certain that the explanation given by official sources is nothing but propaganda and lies.
    They have lied about so much for so long that a person would have to be a fucking moron to believe the official version of events, about pretty much anything. No wonder we are a wash in conspiracy theories, it is people of various capacities and surely with their own gendas, trying to figure out wtf is going on, when official sources of information are clearly lying.

    • While I agree with everything you have stated, some of the conspiracy theories are just batshit crazy. You are correct, though, that there is no one to believe anymore, no “experts,” simply because so many have been bought off and we react by not trusting any of them. For me, I follow the money: who profits? When no one profits and it shows to me FYI, then it passes.

      Walter Cronkite was once the most trusted man in America: I can’t think of one msm journalist that I trust. “Shadows of Liberty” is an excellent documentary on the wholesale purchase of our news organizations.

      • Well sure, I mean hollow earth Nazis, lizard people, etc. These are best read for fun, like comic books or something.
        But as someone else mentioned, conspiracy is how the world runs. People conspire all the time for all kinds of reasons.

        • Number1Framer | Jul 22, 2014 at 1:33 am |

          Shape shifting lizard nazis from the center of the earth are real and I can prove it with this wonderful little 3 hr documentary comprised entirely of one person talking in monotone over some stock footage of a UN meeting or something.

          (*serious voice*) How do you argue with the guy who just knows something ain’t right about the day to day lives we are sold on TV, but for whatever reason gloms onto David Icke nonsense as the first point of reference for regaining their bearings on reality? Make no mistake about it, there are absolutely people who think the lizards are taking over any day now. This is far beyond being an issue of a poisoned well. At this point WE are the ones poisoned if we believe this fucking shit which is honestly no less ridiculous than stabbing your friend for Slender Mann. I think other things are more of a grey area that we are obviously not allowed to see – such as 9/11 or this Malaysian plane that got shot down. I have personal theories; but all I’m saying for sure is that we’ll almost certainly never know what happened.

        • Number1Framer | Jul 22, 2014 at 1:33 am |

          Much shorter version of my other post: “I agree.”

      • herzmeister | Jul 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm |

        maybe they put “batshit crazy” conspiracy theories out there to discredit conspiracy theories.

        ooops, that’s a conspiracy theory.

        • That totally happens. There is even a word for it, it is called . . . wait for it . . . Disinformation!
          Check out the book Mirage Men for a pretty good description of how that works.

    • misinformation | Jul 21, 2014 at 10:50 pm |

      ‘but am reasonably certain that the explanation given by official sources is nothing but propaganda and lies.’

      It also happens that, when people dismiss anything that opposes the official explanation as, gasp!, a ‘conspiracy theory’, they generally ignore the fact that the official explanation IS a conspiracy theory. The fact that it is one amongst many bullshit theories is just the proverbial icing on the cake.

  2. Liam_McGonagle | Jul 21, 2014 at 5:36 pm |

    The sad thing is that they continue to work.

    It wasn’t inevitable that 9/11 would lead to disasterous American overreach. One could just as easily have concluded that a small, targeted covert action to apprehend and bring the culprits to trial would best serve US interests.

    But as they say, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

  3. gustave courbet | Jul 21, 2014 at 11:35 pm |

    It is a sign of the paucity of societal discourse that such things as conspiracies and covert actions are seen as in need of debate concerning their factual existence. To quote RAW: ‘Everybody who has ever worked for a corporation knows that corporations conspire all the time. Politiciansconspire all the time, pot-dealers conspire not to get caught by the narcs, the world is full of conspiracies. Conspiracy is natural primate behavior.’

  4. “Conspiracy theories are damaging…” does this include the Al Qaeda conspiracy theory given to us the morning of 9/11/2001? The one about the flight school dropouts pulling off the greatest attack in history?

  5. Damien Quinn | Jul 22, 2014 at 9:32 am |

    “Could somebody in Isis, reputedly filled with former cadres of Saddam’s
    regime, have hatched a somewhat similar plot? For all those ludicrous
    theories, there are real conspiracies out there.”

    So his conclusion is that the merit which an individual attaches to any particular conspiracy theory tends to depend on how closely the theory matches their personal world view. This is hardly an revelationary observation.

    On a lighter note, “Cockburn”….. I can not imagine school was a fun place for him.

  6. Simon Valentine | Jul 22, 2014 at 9:56 am |

    the anger, fight, and win are also conspiracy.

    either God lied to the Greeks or the Greeks overpowered God and broke the rule.

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  8. Ron Chandler | Jul 22, 2014 at 12:59 pm |

    Even Dubya can tell you he be a conspiracy nutter. “Fool me once, shame on you — fool me twice, shame on…”

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