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Never let the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy tale

My mom visited last weekend.  She is currently renting a room to a housemate, and it seems that the housemate is a bit inclined towards conspiracy theories.  One afternoon at lunch, mom told me that the housemate informed her that Barack Obama had just signed an executive order seizing control of all resources in the United States.

Mustering all my logical and rhetorical abilities, I decisively replied: “Uh… what?”

[…]

So she said, “It’s hard to argue with her.  She did show me the order, and it seemed pretty authentic.”  I said “Well, I’m not willing to just dismiss her claims out of hand without seeing what you saw, so let’s take a look at what we can find out.”

Being a self-styled master of Google Fu, and since my trusty Android has a good 4g connection from most places in Austin, I searched for “obama executive order seized”.  What I got back was a mish-mash of right wing and conspiracy websites with a variety of apocalyptic language.  Infowars.com.  Prisonplanet.com.    Examiner.com, which I never heard of, but the article in question had a picture of Obama making a scary face with a caption that said “Do what I say or you’ll be sorry!”  I asked, “Does that look like objective journalism to you?”

However, I did go deeply enough into the stories to find a name of the document, titled “Executive Order — National Defense Resources Preparedness.”  I tried reading it.  I started skimming it and reading possibly important paragraphs out loud.  However, not being a lawyer or a politician, my eyes started glazing over pretty quickly.

(a) identify requirements for the full spectrum of emergencies, including essential military and civilian demand.

(b)  assess on an ongoing basis the capability of the domestic industrial and technological base to satisfy requirements in peacetime and times of national emergency, specifically evaluating the availability of the most critical resource and production sources, including subcontractors and suppliers, materials, skilled labor, and professional and technical personnel;

“This is a declaration of dictatorship?” I asked.  “It sounds a lot like what Roosevelt did during World War II to supply armies with equipment.  Do you need me to go over this whole thing in detail?”

I switched to another angle; I googled for the name of the order, looking for legitimate  news sources explaining the implications.  Not a thing turned up that wasn’t yet another paranoia-spun story from blogs and tabloids.  I said “I’m not willing to say that the news is totally unbiased, but don’t you think a little thing like Obama seizing control of our national resources would be of some minor interest to even, let’s say, The New York Times?”

Finally, I said “Okay.  I’m going to roll up my sleeves and actually take a look at one of the right wing sites.  Here’s Hotair.com.  Maybe they will explain to me exactly what part of this thing is such a huge threat.”  So here’s what we read:

We’re getting a lot of e-mail this weekend about an executive order issued on Friday afternoon by President Obama titled “National Defense Resources Preparedness.”  While the timing of the EO is curious — why send it out on a Friday afternoon when an administration is usually trying to sneak bad news past the media? — the general impact of it is negligible.  This EO simply updates another EO (12919) that had been in place since June 1994, and amended several times since.

There you have it. Even Hot Air — whose own “About” page proudly boasts about being “right-wing bloggers” accused of “wild and hateful claims” — thinks it’s all a load of, well, hot air.

Case closed, I would like to think.  And in case it’s not dead enough, here’s Snopes weighing in on the matter a few days later.  This act has been in effect, in some form or another, since the Truman administration.  The latest version is at best a minor modification of the one enacted by Clinton.  It would make just as little sense to accuse George W. Bush of a military coup because he failed to invalidate it.

The Conspiracy Mindset

I hope this post is not embarrassing to my mother, since it’s not intended to criticize her.  My mother is well educated, with a Ph.D in physics, is not generally prone to conspiracy herself, and as a liberal, she’s unlikely to come up with something like this to attack Obama.  (You’ll recall, we were setting out to respond to her roommate, but she wasn’t sure how seriously to take this stuff.)

But as Michael Shermer noted in Why People Believe Weird Things, you don’t have to be a fool to find bad ideas seductive.  If anything, scientists are used to dealing with people who are nominally honest and transparent about their motives, and can have a hard time in the face of confronting flat out, deliberate lies or elaborate fantasies.  Here’s James Randi explaining how someone fooled a bunch of scientists with a simple parlor trick.

So mom asks the logical follow up question, “Why do people come up with this sort of thing?” A fair point, I said, and then I asked if she ever heard of how the country is run by lizard people?

She hadn’t, so I pulled up a few pages on reptilians, including this ridiculous example, tracked down on the spot, about the “Photographic Evidence that Barack Obama is a Human/Reptilian Hybrid“.  True story!  Crazy, right?

In the Non-Prophets conversation Lynnea and I had with Guy P. Harrison a couple of weeks ago, Guy made an interesting point about different types of popular yet silly beliefs.  Guy said that your typical person who believes in ghosts could be described as not thinking enough.  If anything, the opposite is true of conspiracy theorists — they think way too much in order to draw connections that aren’t there.  I’m reminded of the scene in “A Beautiful Mind” where Russell Crowe as John Nash draws crazy connections all over the blackboard… or more recently, Jon Stewart mocking Glenn Beck’s tendency to do the same thing.

I explain it as follows: People with a certain mindset often feel frustrated about the fact that they don’t have a lot of power in their own lives.  The idea that the entire world is controlled by a group of elite people with a deliberate and terrifying agenda is appealing on multiple levels.  First, it is makes them feel like it’s not their fault that they aren’t more empowered themselves.  Since the malevolent forces are running everything, I can’t become as rich or famous or self-actualized as I’d like, because they don’t want me to.

Second, just “knowing” about the conspiracy is superficially empowering in itself.  I may not actually be one of the elite who pulls the levers of power.  But by God, I am one of the select few who actually knows and understands the full extent of the conspiracy.  All those pathetic sheeple out there are just living in ignorance, and that makes me so much smarter than them.  You can see how this would be seductive.

This happened to be a right wing conspiracy theory; but, I told my mom, it doesn’t have to be. It’s just that Obama happens to be the president right now, and he happens to be a Democrat, and so much more of the paranoia is focused on him.  Many of the same people who today live in fear of the scary socialist kicking in their doors were at least nominally paranoid of George W. Bush in the mid 2000’s.  Here’s Alex Jones railing against the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration.  If you listen to David Icke, both Bush and Obama are reptilians, and for good measure, so were Clinton and Bush Senior, and perhaps every other president who was ever elected.

In reality, I don’t think the people who do have power always have the best of intentions.  But the way their bad intentions manifest is far more often through a habit of grabbing as much short term advantage as they can, rather than having a long term goal to destroy everything for nefarious purposes.  Other people may get screwed over as collateral damage that the actors don’t care about, but enriching yourself by some scheme that just “happens” to steal your new wealth from the pockets of a bunch of other suckers, isn’t done with the goal of destroying the suckers; it’s just a by-product.

In other words, painting your opponents as Dr. Evil tends to be counter productive, in that it obscures their real motivations in favor of letting yourself believe an oddly comforting fiction.

Comments

  1. says

    You mean Obama is not a Kenyan Muslim who organized and led the government’s destruction of the World Trade Center that was actually blown up by space ships that have been held in Area 51 since the 1960’s and tracked by spy satellites that can count your pubic hairs through lead underwear? Well, fuck me running…

  2. Jonathon Cowley says

    After the Haiti earthquake Hugo Chavez alleged that that the US government had caused it with some secret super hi-tech space weapon. This displayed pretty much the same mindset. People and governments might do evil acts as a means to a particular end; but to believe these kinds of conspiracy theories is to believe that governments do evil as an end in itself – simply out of a desire to do evil. That doesn’t seem likely to me.

  3. Gregory in Seattle says

    No, no. Everyone knows that Obama is a militant atheist intent on putting the country under Sharia law.

  4. Ryan says

    For anyone who believes that “evil” isn’t an end unto itself (as I did for a decade), I strongly suggest reading Slavoj Zizek’s theories on envy as evil. You can read it from a number of interviews or in his book _Violence_.
    Personally, I find it beyond fascinating. When I was a teenager, I thought that, say, Sauron’s goal (from Lord of the Rings) to conquer Middle Earth seemed bogus and short-sighted: “What’s he going to do when he has all he wants and kills everyone? What’s the point beyond that?” Or, rather, I should have asked, “What’s the actual desire?” A decade later and now I understand a little bit more how desire works and how doing “evil” indeed has some powerful ends that aren’t selfish but other-regarding.

    http://www.smileyandwest.com/transcripts/?page_id=185

  5. Savera says

    Thank You! I am so sick of hearing about all this illuminati, zionist, 911, microchip, fema camp, NWO conspiracy crap! It is like a sad cult, these people call everybody sheeple for trying to jut get them to think. All anybody has to do is simply observe one of Alex Jones’ shows to see that he’s clearly either insane or a sensationalist opportunist at best.

  6. Lenoxus says

    That “photographic proof Obama is reptilian” is the best unintentional parody I’ve seen of the “enhance button” trope in TV and movies.

    Spoiler: the process on that page consists of repeatedly zooming in on a (presumably digital) photograph of Barack as a boy, then getting all freaked out by the various artifacts that always show up when you zoom in on any photograph, digital or otherwise, labeling them as sinister reptilian insignias. The punchline (at which point I find it hard to believe it’s not a poe) is when the image is so zoomed in that it looks like a computer’s attempt to figure out how best to depict a bunch of pixels, and thus eerily like bumpy reptile skin. In other words, with this technique, you can prove that anyone, everyone, and heck, everything is part-reptilian.

    In a sense, though, it’s true that all humans are “reptilian”, (depending on whether or not you’re a cladist as well as where you position the “reptile branch”).

  7. Sean says

    Obama is a war-mongering, fascist corporate rentboy just like Bush was. No need to invent any “theories” about hin. His record speaks for itself. The “conspiracy theories” are a hell of a lot closer to the reality of this ruthless careerist slimebag than the people who are still laboring under the delusion that Obama is some kind of liberal. I do think it is an insult to reptiles everywhere to call Obama reptilian. Just because you’re a ruthless, cold-blooded predator with a forked tongue doesn’t mean you’re a reptile.

    For liberals in need of a wake-up call about Obama, here are the facts:

    http://blackagendareport.com/content/why-barack-obama-more-effective-evil

  8. Kes says

    Can’t believe you didn’t post this one: http://xkcd.com/258/

    I had a roommate who was deep into Toulouse-Latrec shit, chemtrails, the Bildeberg group, the US’s secret earthquake machine, and above all the British East India Company’s plot to depopulate the earth. He is an incredibly bright guy, and he almost fetishizes the idea that he’s “awake” and we’re all willfully ignorant because we don’t buy in to his bullshit. I always point out that 1) For *any* of his shit to be true, there would be tens of thousands of people involved, and the proof would be more compelling than anonymous Internet rants or a few seconds of grainy video and 2) Who the hell benefits? If the US did have an earthquake weapon, why on earth would they use it against Haiti? And finally, if these conspiracies are so all-knowing and all-powerful, why aren’t all these conspiracy-happy bloggers dead?

  9. Mike de Fleuriot says

    “People with a certain mindset often feel frustrated about the fact that they don’t have a lot of power in their own lives. ”

    So people who do not subscribe to CT, are not worried about the amount of power they have in their lives. Because thinking about my life, and the actual lack of power I have in it, I am a pretty contented person. These folk should actually try and change their lives and not try and change the unchangeable.

    Lastly, David Icke, Alex Jones, Pat Robertson and all these types, are really not believers in the nonsense that they peddle, they are only in it for the sex, drugs and rock n roll. They make product and the sheep pay them cash money for it, demanding more.

    I am waiting for the day, one of these folk, on their death bed, says that they were faking it all, and they only did it for the coin. Just so far none has had the balls to do this.

  10. Cassie says

    Unfortunately there is a lot to feed into conspiracy theories in regards to obama. He promised to close down his orwellian torture chamber in gitmo, he didn’t. He promised to overturn the patriot act, he didn’t. What he did do is send more troops in to kill more civilians. The only difference between him and bush is his smile is more enticing.

  11. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    In other words, painting your opponents as Dr. Evil tends to be counter productive, in that it obscures their real motivations in favor of letting yourself believe an oddly comforting fiction.

    Article: George Orwell Reviews Mein Kampf (1940)

  12. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    Article: The Psychologist (British Psych Society) – An Overview of Conspiracy Mindset Research

    * You may prefer the pdf version, which has a magazine column layout.

  13. Bryan says

    @5, Ryan:

    “When I was a teenager, I thought that, say, Sauron’s goal (from Lord of the Rings) to conquer Middle Earth seemed bogus and short-sighted: “What’s he going to do when he has all he wants and kills everyone? What’s the point beyond that?””

    *puts on Tolkien dork hat*

    In the Silmarillion, Melkor’s (the precursor to Sauron, pretty much the Middle Earth equivalent of Satan) primary motivation is envy. He’s envious of all the beautiful nature, chill people, and deep wisdom that can be found on Middle Earth, and he’d rather see it destroyed than see someone else have it. According to Tolkien, at least, evil IS envy.

  14. says

    This post is a perfect example of somebody twisting facts around to fit their point. Gitmo wasn’t Obama’s “Orwellian torture chamber”, so don’t call it “his”. Furthermore, he can’t single-handedly close down Gitmo; he was blocked from doing so. Also, if you all you’ve got is, “He said he would do ___ but didn’t for some reason or another,” then that’s a pretty weak argument.

    There are people who claim Obama is MORE evil than Bush Jr. was. Despite the fact that Bush STARTED the Patriot Act, yeah let’s blame Obama for it, because he let it continue. Let’s blame Obama for all the wars, even though the Iraq war is over and the Afghanistan war is close… let’s call them “his wars” and “his torture chamber”, because those kinds of emotional arguments, while they have little to no reality backing them up, are still effective.

  15. says

    In general I thought the main idea that people are inventing a rather elaborate conspiracy of ultimate evil, potentially as a way to slip into denial but a very mundane but IMO scarier reality. Though it was said in a way to sound as crazy as possible.

    This is what always baffled me about conspiracy theorists. Even if they knew it was true, wouldn’t decades of being seen as cranks have triggered the epiphany that they really need to shore up their evidence and present as air tight a case as possible? If they want people to wake up why aren’t they even TRYING to sound sensible to the average person?

    Re-watching X-files is hilarious because it really does look like Mulder is trying his hardest to discredit himself.

  16. jacobfromlost says

    ” If the US did have an earthquake weapon, why on earth would they use it against Haiti?”

    But like others have said, if they are very smart and WANT to believe it, asking that question only fuels their narrative. Who cares if any initial evidence for it is exceedingly week or nonexistent.

    The human mind is not just a pattern seeker, but one that wants the pattern to tell a story. And if a very smart person wants this particular story to continue, it doesn’t take much imagination to say the government needed to test their weapon on land somewhere to see what kind of damage it could do. And look at all the damage done in Haiti! That’s proof the weapon works! Now they can use it strategically against their enemies when they want to keep their hands clean of any military strike! Ingenious! (How do you argue against that? You can’t, as it is all based on WANTING to spin a story to support the conspiracy.)

    Of course, the number of story elements can get tangled together. This is my favorite example: “A home health administrator turned physicist who specializes in the science of creation, and she’s the mother of a race of good aliens on earth called Pleiadians”.

  17. jacobfromlost says

    Funny you should mention this. Some theist on the net told me back in October that “Christians believe Jesus is returning on Comet Elenin”.

    So I did some google searching, and found this headline and article from a month prior: “Comet Elenin Self-Destructs”.

    When I returned to this person to inform them that Jesus exploded with the comet, thus averting Judgment Day, they simply said, “It must be another comet that Jesus will use.”

    (!!!) But five seconds before they swore up and down it was absolutely true that Jesus was riding this comet back to earth, that the Russians knew about how it had intelligently changed course, and that “Christians believe this”. But when indisputable evidence showed that this comet self-destructed weeks before, they didn’t mourn Jesus’s destruction, but instead just threw out the claim entirely for “it must be a different comet Jesus is using.”

  18. Sean says

    Is your inane response supposed to mean something?

    Hope about a factual rebuttal of my claims?

    Yeah, thought not.

  19. abusedbypenguins says

    You know that Obama was in charge of the 19 high-jackers having chips implanted in their brains. You know full well that Obama was sitting on the Statue of Liberty while he remote-controlled the high-jackers to fly into the buildings. You know well that Michelle was in a cloaked balloon over Washington so she could remote fly the planes into the Pentagon. Mission accomplished! You know that Obama had Vince Foster killed. You know that part of the second floor of The White House is a mosque. You know that in 2014 The White House will be called the mecca of the west.

  20. says

    For *any* of his shit to be true, there would be tens of thousands of people involved

    I always found that argument unconvincing. It’s quite easy to have a massive conspiracy where the majority of the people involved have no idea about the true purpose. All you need is a hierarchical structure with tight information control. You can easily get people to do one thing while thinking they’re doing something else.

    I think people overestimate how many people would really have to know about the end game. People act on the information they have. Control the information and you control the people.

  21. says

    That’s part of the beauty of religious belief. On the one hand, they’ll defend their beliefs to the death. On the other, once they’re finally convinced to give them up, they’ll happily switch to a different belief with no sense of discontinuity.

    It’s the same kind of thing as when they claim that the bible is absolutely, inerrantly, literally true and then in the next sentence they’ll reinterpret a story to mean the exact opposite of the literal meaning without missing a beat.

    The point, as I see it, is that they don’t actually care what they believe, as long as they, in the moment, believe it fervently and without doubt. If you convince them that they were wrong, they’ll just say “well, I was wrong, but NOW I’ve got the truth.”

    It’s more a matter of the strength of belief than the subject of it. They just want to believe in something. That also parallels their particular disgust with atheists. Better to believe in the wrong god than none at all.

  22. Art says

    The contradiction that always gets me is the space between the story line where Obama is an evil super genius, and, at the same time, a bumbling fool incapable of organizing a two car parade. Hard for both to be true unless, like W, he has an evil twin.

  23. Cassie says

    “This post is a perfect example of somebody twisting facts around to fit their point. Gitmo wasn’t Obama’s “Orwellian torture chamber”, so don’t call it “his””

    It became “his” when he took power.

    “He said he would do ___ but didn’t for some reason or another,” then that’s a pretty weak argument.”

    I am sorry you think that a person keeping open a torture chamber is a poor argument against his character, that also says alot about your character I think.

    “There are people who claim Obama is MORE evil than Bush Jr. was. Despite the fact that Bush STARTED the Patriot Act, yeah let’s blame Obama for it, because he let it continue. Let’s blame Obama for all the wars, even though the Iraq war is over and the Afghanistan war is close… let’s call them “his wars” and “his torture chamber”, because those kinds of emotional arguments, while they have little to no reality backing them up, are still effective.”

    I didn’t blame Obama for the wars, I blamed him for sending more troops in.

    I blame both Bush and obama for the patriot act, bush because he introduced it and obama because he lost all his principles and could nto or would not overturn it as promised.

    Actually the argument does have backing, he sent more troops to warzones…I am unsure why that is considered to be an emotional argument. It is a statement of facts.

    He also oversaw the limitation of abortion rights, more anti abortion rights have passed under his reign than they did under bushes. Some feminist he turned out to be.

    The problem is you appear to view bush and obama as some sort of dichotomy, consequently if I criticise obama I am letting bush off the hook in your eyes. This is nonsense, I hate them both, pretty much equally.

    Why are you getting yourself all twisted up because I said some things against obama? Is he like your god or something? You have to believe he is perfect and Bush is the evil one or your world will come crashing down?

  24. jay says

    ”It sounds a lot like what Roosevelt did during World War II to supply armies with equipment.”

    Not to defend the wacky conspiracy theorists, but that statement above is pretty scary in itself. FDR flat out trampled on the Constitution in a lot of areas, and probably more than any other president, pushed the US military deeply into its present global-footprint, interventionist, imperialist mode… a path that decades later is bleeding our country dry financially and creating enemies at a unmanageable rate.

    I would hate to see another FDR in the White House.

  25. F says

    Awesome, just the image I expected. He’s practically a Sleestak going for some grabass there. (They are far, far less limber than the average Reptilians.)

  26. F says

    Yeah, well I really like the way you entirely neglect to mention HAARP. Stay dedicated to the coverup, pal.

  27. John Kruger says

    All you need is a way to discard evidence against your claims and then it is off to the races with “you can’t prove me wrong!”

    When you can find a way to toss out any evidence you don’t like, your theory becomes unfalisifaible, and is thus indistinguishable from things that are completely made up. Such theories make no predictions that are different from the very normal explanations, and are more or less meaningless. It is a really tragic mental trap to fall into.

  28. Zengaze says

    Kazim is obviously on the payroll, how much did they buy you for? And have they got to the rest of the axp team yet? Did you see what he did he created a conspiracy theory about the actual conspiracy. It’s all reverse psychology, that’s what they do, they reverse psychology your mind.

    Our only hope is the lords return. It says in the knights of the round table he’ll return when we are in most danger and need him most,. Since he hasn’t come back yet we can safely say that we’re still okay.

  29. Kazim says

    Maybe they wouldn’t have to know every detail, but certainly there would be grounds for strong suspicion. Consider, for example, the guys who supposedly set up the explosive charges inside Building 7. Were they in on the plan? If not, don’t you think all the goddamn people asking “Wut happened to building seven?!?” in every medium all the time would trigger something?

    Bear in mind, if the techs planting explosives didn’t know what they were being asked to do, then they have no incentive to keep it a secret, since if they were being bribed or threatened or whatever, no one could have said anything like that to them. So do we hear people coming forward saying “Hey, I don’t know for sure what happened, but I had this weird work order to fulfill on September 5 which seems kind of creepy in retrospect…”?

    OF COURSE NOT. The only people who seem to admit that know a shred of anything substantial about the conspiracy are those who are in no position to know anything at all and must rely on wild speculation and imaginative physics simulations.

  30. Kes says

    Yeah, except no. Consider the Manhattan Project. That actually was a vast, top-secret government program to create a super-weapon. And it worked. And we know all about it, directly from the many, many scientists involved. (Not to mention the fact that it was penetrated by Soviet spies, and that we knew about and checkmated a similar initiative by German high command.) That was a real project that produced real results during a real war, and was really secret, and it *still* got leaked.

    To pick just one, a US “earthquake weapon” would require a project at least on the scale of the Manhattan Project if not greater. Where are those scientists? The geologic experts? The guys who handled the maintenance orders on the labs? And on and on and on. We’re not talking about a bunch of button-pushers who don’t need to know what they’re doing to do the work (but while we’re considering that, remember that all those guys in missile silos during the Cold War were told *exactly* what they were doing and *why*. And they literally didn’t need to know anything other than how to initiate the launch-sequence to do their jobs.)

    When it comes to these vast conspiracies, I don’t care how good your information control is, it will leak. That’s why half of espionage is involved with creating counter- and cover-stories, in the hopes that the enemy will be unsure what’s actually going on and what you just made up to confuse them.

    Wait a minute, what if all these conspiracy theorists are actually CIA operatives tasked with convincing the rest of the world that the CIA is waaay more competent than they actually are? (Q: How do you know the Kennedy Assassination wasn’t a CIA plot? A: He’s dead, isn’t he?)

  31. Hunchback Jack says

    What intrigues me about the whole reptilian conspiracy is how sophisticated and complex it has become. And how it’s become so.

    Take Peggy Crane for example. She believes that reversing recordings of people’s speech tells you what they’re *really* thinking, and reveals truths of which even they are not aware. So she’s “reversed” politicians, celebrities, her friends and herself to “uncover the truth behind the lies”. Of course, most people can’t hear any speech at all in these reversed recordings, but she says that’s because you have to “develop an ear” before you can understand it.

    Needless to say, the “truth” she’s uncovered from listening to this gibberish is complex, many-layered, and thirty-four kinds of batshit crazy.

    What I find interesting about it, though, is that it demonstrates how, when you have what you consider a source of Ultimate Truth that is open to interpretation, and a tendency toward confirmation bias, you can pretty much convince yourself of *anything*.

    Religions based on sacred ancient texts are actually not that different in nature.

    HBJ

  32. George From NY says

    Or they have plenty, but die as they lived: True Believers.

    Just because a man’s worldview is pants-on-head stupid or downright crazy doesn’t mean he’s insincere.

    It can be very dangerous to pretend the enemies of science, reason, modernity and all that cool Enlightenment stuff “don’t really mean it.” Most of them absolutely mean it. Their leaders mean it.

    Writing them off as frauds and scoundrels is emotionally comforting in the way CTs themselves are: We feel clever, in-on-the-joke and “meta.”

    We are also relieved that we won’t actually ever have to FIGHT these folks; we can expose them, buy them off, wait for them to grow bored, etc.

    Which is nice, when it’s true…

  33. George From NY says

    President Wilson was no civil rights hero, either.

    He was a strong leader and did a lot of worthwhile things.

    He was also the closet we’ve ever come to having an actual, no-kidding, capital-F Fascist in the Oval Office.

  34. anssij says

    Well i am guessing this is not related to the NDAA by any chance? If not then its most likely just yaawoo :P

  35. says

    Perhaps a lot of people are just allergic to chaos. I think the same feeling motivates conspiracy theories as motivates belief in a higher power. The need to feel that someone or something is in control. It’s much more reassuring to think that we just don’t understand the plan, rather than the fact that there is no plan. A conspiracy theory is a bit more down-to-earth and concrete than the vague “god’s plan,” but either one relieves the individual of responsibility for attempting to understand life.

  36. says

    I think it might be a good idea to start off with a clarification. I don’t buy the conspiracy crap. I just think this is a bad argument and I’d wish people would stop using it. Keep that in mind, because I can’t be bothered to stop and clarify every two seconds.
    Also, sorry for the long rant, I was having fun.

    Consider, for example, the guys who supposedly set up the explosive charges inside Building 7. Were they in on the plan?

    The people who actually set up the explosives, sure. But that’s maybe a team of 8 guys. That’s it.
    The driver doesn’t need to know. He’s told that they’re there to do some important, national securityish stuff. The engineer that determines the weak points of the building doesn’t need to know. He thinks he’s helping to prevent a terrorist attack. The security guard that let’s them in doesn’t need to know. “We’re just here to double check the security.” The guys who supply the tools and explosives don’t need to know. We’ll tell them that it’s needed for an army exercise. And so on.

    if the techs planting explosives didn’t know what they were being asked to do, then they have no incentive to keep it a secret

    Not true. You don’t just tell a person to do something. You give them a plausible reason for why it needs to be done and why it’s essential that they don’t tell anyone, ‘cos it might get back to the terrorists. You don’t just leave them in the dark, you give them a cover-story. They’ll keep quiet if they think their national security depends on it. So we’ll just convince them of that.

    For example, once we’ve blown up the building, we don’t just let the security guard run around telling people stuff. We pull him in and pretend that we’re very concerned that the terrorists have penetrated our security. We ask him lots of questions and finally tell him that he’d better keep quiet about the whole thing. We don’t want to spook the terrorists before we have a chance to catch them, right? Better leave it to us.

    To tie this back to the opening post:
    You don’t just tell people any old story. You tell them what they want to hear. You don’t tell the security guard to keep quiet or else. You tell him that his silence is essential for the safety of our nation. You make him feel important, as if the lives of everyone around him depends on him keeping quiet. As if it’s his patriotic duty to keep his mouth shut.
    You paint the kind of scenario that they want to believe and let their brains do the work for you.

    Consider the Manhattan Project. That actually was a vast, top-secret government program to create a super-weapon. And it worked. And we know all about it

    Did we know all about it at the time? Or only afterwards, when the bombs had been dropped and there was no more reason to keep it quiet?

    To pick just one, a US “earthquake weapon” would require a project at least on the scale of the Manhattan Project if not greater. Where are those scientists?

    Ok, let’s use that as an example. It’ll be helpful to explain what I mean.

    First thing, forget the idea of a major project. We’re not doing a major project, we’re doing a secret project. We’re not going to have people working in a big lab for a specific purpose. We don’t want them to know that there’s even a project going on and we certainly don’t want them talking to each other.

    What we’ll do is form contacts at several universities and similar institutions and offer grants for the study of seismic activity. We’ll start similar grants for the study of hypersonic thingymajigs and long-range whatchamacallits. A person in one project should not be allowed to communicate with or even be aware of the existence of any of the others.

    We don’t tell them that we’re studying seismic activity because we want to make an earthquake weapon. We may be evil overlords, but we’re not stupid. Instead, we’ll set up a control group of, let’s say, 10 of our top scientists, who we let in on the idea. They’ll look over the work of the grunts and guide their research.

    Whenever one group comes up something, they file a report with the control group (though, naturally, they don’t know that it exists. They just file their report for grant-renewal). The control group extracts the relevant data and feeds it back to the other groups, telling them only as much as they need to proceed with their research.

    If the seismic group finds out that certain vibrations can weaken the earth’s crust, we ask the hypersonic guys to look into ways of making those kinds of vibrations. Once they’ve figured out how, we ask the next group to figure out how such vibrations propagate over long ranges.
    No single group should be allowed to proceed too far in their research. You set a milestone, and once they reach it, you pass it on to the next group. You might even have multiple groups working on the same subject, just to be really sure.

    If you want to get really devious, you set up extra groups that work side-by-side with the project groups, but on completely unrelated topics. That would create the impression that it’s really about something else entirely.
    E.g. have the seismic group work together with people working on the ecological implications of tsunamis or something. Naturally, that research is completely useless to us 33rd degree freemasons, but it’s just there to provide cover. Have those groups mimic the behavior of the real project group, i.e. submitting reports, getting feedback information etc.

    At some point, further progress will require researchers with full knowledge, but by that time, we’ve already gotten a lot of the basic work done by the avid, in-the-dark postdocs that apply for our grants. We’ll have gotten a huge boost in productivity and nobody’s any wiser. The control group, who by the nature of their position is fully up-to-date on all the research done by the minor groups, can take over and finish the weapon.

    We don’t need to secure the labs because nobody there has any clue that they’re working on a doomsday weapon anyway. We don’t need to secure the control group because they’re already in on it. You could have a group of hundreds of researchers with only a fraction of them in on the secret.

    Once you start firing up your magma displacer, none of them gets suspicious because they don’t see the connection between their work and the weapon. They never knew they were involved in covert research at all. Obviously the grants were not given out in the name of Illuminati Inc. We use a series of front companies, managed by our university contacts.
    We could probably get by with 20-30 people on the inside, managing ten times that number of researchers.

    The only really tricky part of this scenario is the management of information. If the researchers get too little, they won’t be able to proceed, but if they get too much, they’ll figure out what’s going on. That could be a real problem.
    Other than that, we’re good to go. From the outside this will look like an unconnected series of completely harmless and innocent research projects, trying to prevent ecological disasters and such.

    Returning to the original issue. Granted, leaking is a problem. I just don’t think it’s anywhere near as big a problem as it’s cracked up to be. This is often framed as the hundreds or thousands of people who would know about this and that, and I just don’t buy that. As such, I don’t think that the “loads of people would know about it” argument is all that strong. Sensible organization of the conspiracy could circumvent that.

  37. Mr. Dave says

    I think many of the conspiracy theory fans are pretty much that, just fans. The stories can often be quite entertaining and sometimes quite scary. Ghost stories are scary and entertaining too, which is why there are what seems like limitless numbers of “paranormal research” groups on television and the internet. There is a point when the fan gets too involved and starts believing the claims, which I have once experienced to be harmful.

    I shared a house with a friend who was a regular listener to “Coast to Coast with Art Bell” which was in my opinion, sort of a radio complement of the then-popular “The X-Files”. (My housemate was a big fan and never missed a show.) I had a census worker show up one day at our doorstep and I had no issues with answering her questions. I told my housemate about it when he came home later that day and he went utterly ballistic, cussing up a storm and kicking the kitchen chairs around, calling me an idiot. He frothed at the mouth about the census being a government tool to round up the citizenry when it decided to become not so democratic any more and other ideas of the like. He did cool down later, but I still did see evidence of his paranoia in other ways from time to time.

  38. Aquaria says

    Maybe they wouldn’t have to know every detail, but certainly there would be grounds for strong suspicion.

    Not necessarily.

    This is fallacy of division.

    The person who made the individual electronic components that my former megacorporate employer ordered probably had zero idea why we needed X chip or capacitor or resistor. They would have zero idea what we were using it for. They just knew the government called for X widget, and they could have been going to the Hubble (something that the company contributed to). Or it could have been going to the nuclear missiles that we also worked on. Or it could have gone into an airplane. We did those, too. The people who made the components probably didn’t even care what we were going to do with their stuff. Somebody was buying their widget, and it’s all they cared about.

    So you don’t even need to know. Someone could be pushing paperwork that is related to a huge plot, and have zero idea of what they’re doing any of it for. I mean if someone’s having me order X number of suitcases for a company, I don’t need to know why. It’s weird, but the person above me says that’s what corporate wants, do it, so I would think that the executives will be using them for some kind of giveaway–to clients or themselves, rather than that the suitcases might be for a bunch of suitcase nukes. It’s suitcases. How would I know what 50 of them are for?

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