Philosopher: Some Conspiracy Theories are all too real

We have talked of this before. We all believe conspiracy theories. Some are true, some are false, many are judged legitimate or false without investigation. You may be judged a dreaded ‘Conspiracy Theorist’ if you openly suspect a conspiracy not openly supported by the government and the corporate media.  A new article add some significant straight talk to the discussion.

From David Coady at the Conversation: We Shouldn’t Assume All ‘Conspiracy Theories’ Are False — Some Are All Too Real (“Conspiracy theories” are presumed to be, by definition, untrue.)  <read>

Yesterday’s conspiracy theories often become today’s incontrovertible facts…

To characterise a belief as a conspiracy theory is to imply it’s false. More than that, it implies people who accept that belief, or want to investigate whether it’s true, are irrational.

On the face of it, this is hard to understand. After all, people do conspire. That is, they engage in secretive or deceptive behaviour that is illegal or morally dubious.

Conspiracy is a common form of human behaviour across all cultures throughout recorded time, and it has always been particularly widespread in politics.

Virtually all of us conspire some of the time, and some people (such as spies) conspire virtually all of the time. Given people conspire, there can’t be anything wrong with believing they conspire. Hence there can’t be anything wrong with believing conspiracy theories or being a conspiracy theorist…

[Conspiracy Theory is] a function similar to that served by the term “heresy” in medieval Europe. In both cases these are terms of propaganda, used to stigmatise and marginalise people who have beliefs that conflict with officially sanctioned or orthodox beliefs of the time and place in question…

One bad effect of these terms is they contribute to a political environment in which it’s easier for conspiracy to thrive at the expense of openness. Another bad effect is their use is an injustice to the people who are characterised as conspiracy theorists…

When professional psychologists imply these terms it can constitute a form of gaslighting; that is, a manipulation of people into doubting their own sanity.


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