Kunilou's rules of conspiracies

In a couple of recent Conspiracy Theory threads, I’ve mentioned my rules of conspiracies. I thought it would be a good idea to let the collective wisdom of the board discuss, debate and, if necessary, add some additional ones.

Rule #1 - Somebody always talks

Drilled into me by my late father, it’s simple human nature that someone will invariably shoot their mouth off. Whether the motive is money, revenge, making a deal with the prosecutor or simple bragging rights, somebody will talk. To minimize this, it’s important to involve as few people as possible and give each as little information as possible.

Rule #2 - The pieces have to fit together

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. A diversionary feint here or there is acceptable, but if I want to boost the price of oil, I won’t accomplish it by sending out my black helicopters to mutilate cattle.

Rule #3 - Follow the money

People need to be taken care of. Expenses need to be paid. It takes money to do this. It has to come from somewhere, and it has to go somewhere. Remember, when the Feds couldn’t get Al Capone on anything else, they got him on tax evasion.

Rule # 4 - The end has to justify the means

I don’t mean this in a moral sense, rather a practical one. Like Rule # 2, it makes things so much easier if I just do what I need to do to get what I want.

Rule #5 - Involve competent, trusted people and stay away from nutjobs

Judging by how many plots have been undone by incompetents/ nutjobs/ blabbermouths (they may have succeeded in killing Lincoln, but they never even got close to Seward or Grant) evidence suggests it’s really, really hard to find good co-conspirators. Despite the lowering of the talent pool, however, any conspiracy that stoops to using both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby as trigger men deserves to be uncovered.

I don’t claim that every Conspiracy Theory has to satisfy all five of these rules to be valid, but any Theory which grossly ignores any of these rules is probably bunk.

Open for debate.

I think I would add:

6: Speculation is not as good as hard fact.

I can speculate that maybe British secret services manipulated the South into seceding from the Union because maybe they were trying to secure a source of plentiful and cheap cotton for their textile industries and that maybe they financed and otherwise supported the abolitionist movement to provoke the South and maybe they secretly encouraged Southern political leaders to believe that Britain would support the South in a war–but unless I can come up with some hard facts to support any of this I’m just blowing hot air.

I’d add #7 : ( related to # 1 ) Grandiosity and secrecy don’t go together. Conspiracies that involve things like nationwide networks of Satanic child molestors, governmentwide plans for takeover by the UN; they are just too big to stay secret.

It’s a very intriguing list, but I’m a little confused by what it’s a list of. Is it a hypothetical list of rules for folks wanting to set up a conspiracy, or a list by which we should evaluate conspiracy theories for truth? The two lists are similar, but have some important differences.

For example, the Strange Loop concept that Robert Anton Wilson came up with is an excellent tool for eviscerating bad conspiracies. Essentially, it suggests that if the evidence in favor of the conspiracy’s existence is smaller than the evidence that the conspiracy has supposedly manufactured, then there’s no reason not to believe that the conspiracy manufactured the first pile of evidence as well, so why should you believe it, or anything? This is a very powerful argument against 9/11 conspiracies: any organization that can manufacture all the evidence of 9/11’s actually having happened could also have manufactured the evidence by which you reached that conclusion.


Well, #1’s the kicker, isn’t it? That’s the one you either buy or don’t. Mostly I buy it; however, with a very disciplined (threat of punishment, perhaps) group, you can manage a larger group than otherwise.

Fact is better than speculation is self-evident, no matter the situation. I wouldn’t include that in rules.

I would add that corroboration is important. If a conspiracy is built on a hundred individual witness stories, but no two of them are about the same event (ghosts, satanic rituals “uncovered” by hypnosis), you have no evidence of a conspiracy.

I think #1 has a problem. People “always” talk with respect to outed conspiracies, but secret conspiracies that stay secret obviously do so by keeping the members silent. I’d alter it to say that the more people involved, the more likely someone will talk.

A conspiracy of 4 maybe stays silent, a conspiracy of 100 will not. This is similar to #7 mentioned above.

In fairness to my late father, he was talking about the particular Vast Conspiracy type so beloved by the theorists. You can put together five people to rob a bank, and if everyone keeps their mouth shut, avoids contact with each other and doesn’t start spending the loot, there’s a pretty good chance they can get away with it.

On the other hand, you take a half dozen top government officials, throw in their staffs and families, the people who actually carry out the orders and all the other drones and dupes who sold the supplies, installed the detonators, shredded the incriminating documents and so on, there will be a loose thread in the sweater somewhere.

Perhaps we can change #1 to

The more enormouse the crime, the greater the chance someone will talk. With a big enough conspiracy, the odds approach 100%.

7 - Physical Evidence is NOT Relative

Physical evidence must be scientifically verified/proven to exist/actual possible outcome. It’s not relative to what the CT wishes to prove. “It’s all relative” is just bluster and is, essentially, a claim that one refuses to accept facts as facts.

Not that I believe in conspiracy theories, but the idea that no giant conspiracy could remain secret can be countered with, “Well, how do you think we know about these conspiracies?”

#9 - If you think it’s obvious, it probably isn’t true.

CTs always seem to say “It’s so obvious that i’m right!”. No. If it was obvious, everyone would agree with you. If it was obvious, people would likely already know. If it was obvious, it would be a very incompetent conspiracy. Now, if you admit there’s some doubt to what you say, as opposed to a 100% certainty you’re right, people might be more prepared to listen.

My rule is tied to both rules 1 (in original and revised form) and 7.

There must be some sort of an economy of scale with a conspiracy. There should be as few people involved in a conspiracy as possible, and those who are part of it must have clearly defined and necessary roles. No one should know about it who doesn’t absolutely need to know about it.

Rule 10 - Rule 8 is a cruel hoax launched and then suppressed by a callous government bent on installing tyranny, or maintaining the tyranny thy already have and which the population has been fooled into thinking doesn’t exist, like Rule 8, thus proving my argument.

Or, you know, there were two rule 7’s, so I just skipped one. :stuck_out_tongue:

My God. You’re in on it!
We’re through the hourglass, people…

Look, I know what Rule 8 is. Are you telling me you don’t know what Rule 8 is? Maybe there IS no Rule 8. Maybe Rule 8 isn’t written down. Maybe Rule 8 was repealed. Maybe Rule 8 is all the other rules put together.

The lack of proof of the existence of Rule 8 proves that Rule 8 exists.

A conspiracy could find a way around Rule 1 by disinformation/obfuscation: Deliberately leak several different versions of the plot, make some of them outlandish and incredible, and nobody will be able to pick the true story out of the confusion – and, if someone does, it will be automatically discredited by association with the false ones.

That’s why we need more than one all-purpose rule. Combine Rule 2 and/or 3 with Rule 1 and it gets much easier to pick out the true version.

I like George Will’s take on it. He was talking about historical Afrocentrism but it applies to anything someone desperately wishes were true, despite all evidence: “Lack of proof constitutes proof; proof of a successful conspiracy to destroy all proof.”

I’ve heard it called “Grand Conspiracy” Theory, as opposed to run-of-the-mill conspiracy.

There is another part that I’m not sure if it should be one of these rules, or a rule to apply before we even get to these ones:

**If the alleged “conspiracy” involves all the key figures of the power establishment of your society/corporation/religion/bridge club, getting together to to set policy according to their interests, it’s not a “conspiracy”, it’s the *&^%$ *government (or management) *, you just found out how it really runs and you don’t like it. **

Unless it’s a really big conspiracy. I remember a line from some novel I read once about a uber-secret group that controlled the government, and someone asked how they funded themselves. The answer: “We control the Federal Reserve, the General Accounting Office, the Treasury Department, the IRS, and the Bureau of Engraving. If we say we have thirty billion dollars, we have thirty billion dollars.”