Conspiracy Theory is Not a Thing

Part One – Modeltesting

I often find myself wanting to disagree with Pop Occulture‘s Tim Boucher, although I am consistently swept along by his reasoning. The general thesis that we live in a technocratic paradigm seems pretty supportable- as are the corollaries which would logically seem to arise from it- resulting in a state of affairs in which “Technocracy exists to manage humans as though they were machines.” I also anjoy reading his essays on the blurry areas between pop culture and occult symbology. He makes some really interesting observations and does a lot of good research. But I guess what bothers me is his take on “conspiracy theory.” I often get the impression that Boucher wishes to retain the ability to distance himself from “it” as though it were an actual thing- like a physical object, or a vocation or a school of thought- to determine whether there’s any point in engaging in it.

I like your work, Tim. But “conspiracy theory” is not a thing. It is not a methodology, or a particular school of thought, or a system of belief. Everybody does it differently. There is no “body” of Conspiracy Theory, and until we’re all connected in a nanotech hivemind, you will never find two “conspiracy theorists” who agree on all the same datapoints.

In a modern techological democracy, any plans which are not revealed to a public media outlet are by definition “undisclosed” and are therefore “secret” (whether this secrecy is deliberate or not). This happens all the time of course- but it’s only really important if many people are affected by these plans, and especially if those plans happen to involve an illegal act. Meanwhile, if these plans involve any undisclosed communication between two or more parties (as well they would)- then the whole thing may be called a “conspiracy.”

The “official story” is comprised of disclosed plans and communications, which taken as a whole should yield an internally-consistent model connecting and accounting for all logically related events both observed and deduced, contradicting no observed events, and leaving out no observed events. Any violation of these standards constitutes a “missing piece” or a “loose thread.”

The Official Story CirclePeople- no matter where they stand on the scatter-grid of the population (see illustration)- are internally motivated to fill any logical gaps and connect any loose threads they observe in ways that fit their existing models. If the number of missing or loose elements in one’s model reaches a critical mass (probably differing from individual to individual) there will occur a state of cognitive dissonance which is generally perceived as uncomfortable by the individual- causing corrective action to be taken by switching to another model- one which better supports all observations (including especially those regarding elements which were originally perceived as missing or disconnected).

People also share their observations with other people in their social networks- gradually filling in the missing parts in everyone’s models- which may take some time. But when the asbestos settles and all the observations are spread throughout the entire populus, any official story which still possesses significant observable missing pieces or loose threads will generate some speculation, and the amount of speculation proferred will be in direct relation to the number of such anomalies- as observed by the population as a whole. Any such speculation which results in an alternate and internally-consistent model may be called a “theory.” Granted, many of the theories you hear are even more illogical than the stories they propose to replace, but that’s the nature of exploratory endeavors such as science and detective work. Without theories, there could be no tests, no investigations, no progress, no closure.

Paying deliberate and corrective attention to the veracity and applicability of one’s model- what some call “modeltesting”- is a fundamental trait of intelligence and a big part of what it means to be conscious. Like science itself- the ultimate embodiment of collective human intellectual power- modeltesting proceeds both deductively and inductively, projecting its hypotheses both forward and backward. Like science it is constantly “retuning” itself and receiving feedback from outside sources, simultaneously providing feedback for the models of other individuals. Such an act would only be ridiculed by an anti-intellectual, and would only be discouraged by a criminal.

[to be continued…]

NOTE TO DEBUNKERS: Instead of tossing out the attempted perjorative “conspiracy theory” all the time, the skeptical advocate might try substituting the phrase “suspicion of undisclosed communications.” What this phrase lacks in brevity- it more than makes up for in tact.


~ by theylive on August 23, 2006.

2 Responses to “Conspiracy Theory is Not a Thing”

  1. A great explanation of a Conspiracy Theory. The only problem is, that same model can work for supporting official stories. What the, in my opinion, more ignorant people tend to do with the official story, is if they find missing points, they lie to themselves and act like it’s not even there. It’s like they get a rush out of lieing to themselves. I’d like to say I take personal comfort in helping people quit lying to themselves, even if it is incredibly uncomfortable for said individual.

  2. Yes- the ring template above can be applied to any story- official or not. The center of the circle represents the source in either case- and the arrangement of points in the two rings would correspond to people’s beliefs relative to the story under consideration. We will be looking at further variations on this ring template in forthcoming installments.

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