I guess I spent some of 2016 arguing with conspiracy theorists, especially of the Alt Left variety, so I thought I would list the meta problems I experienced:
- Conspiracy theorists have a grossly exaggerated sense of how much control anyone has over events. Random path dependent accident, incompetence, kamikaze self-sabotage (like electing Trump or Brexit) are far more influential than deliberate conspiracy in most of the unfolding of events in the real world.
- Noise conceals signal.There are some real conspiracies like Nixon’s treason in the 1968 election to back channel sabotage the Vietnam Peace talks, Watergate, Reagan’s treason in conniving with Iran to keep the American hostages during the 1980 election, Bush’s Iraq War WMD conspiracy and Putin’s rigging the recent election for Trump. But conspiracy theorists drown out and discredit the real conspiracies. Benghazi nonsense conceals Putin’s play.
- Conspiracy theorists suffer from industrial scale Confirmation Bias: they trawl for evidence and only listen to that which supports their theory. I have never seen a conspiracy theorist seek counter evidence, let alone change their mind/their conspiracy theory in the light of new evidence. I ask them what evidence would make them change their mind: and they lapse into silence or repeat their conspiracy about the conspiracy or ad hominem me.
- When the evidence they present is demolished or shown to be absent, they double down by saying this only shows how deep and wide the conspiracy runs.
- They usually lack a sense of humor, especially the ability to laugh at their theories, which is a helpful quality: to not take ourselves too seriously.
- Most conspiracy theorists have never run anything or they would know just how hard conspiracies are to create and conceal. Heck running things is hard enough without creating elaborate conspiracies.
- The best way to understand the world is to look at the systemic forces at work. To map them and figure out how they play out in reality. This not only helps avoid conspiracy theories over-simplifications, but also gives us a much better grip on what to do to improve things.
- I suppose that 2016 was the most conspiracy influenced election. It’s just not the conspiracy the theorists focus on.
- I often ask conspiracy theorists for examples of conspiracy from their own lives, and I get either stony silence or paranoia
- And to role model the above humor, here is my favorite conspiracy theory mocking cartoon: yep they have gotten to me too: 🙂