The legitamacy of conspiracy theories.

Good day good dopers,
to quote a certain Donald Rumsfeld:
‘There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know’.

So, how can an individual be totaly certain of the verity of a ‘conspiracy’ theory when she/he has neither the personal or collegiate contacts to check the facts.

As an example, at the BBC I personally was asked to change the Sound Mix for a Current Affairs programme about the ATF storming of David Koresh’s compound in Waco. This erroneusly gave the impression that he had very much larger calibre weapons than the Branch Davidians actually had. I wasn’t happy, and had my name removed from the credits but it did re-inforce a lie.

Read and inwardly digest!

And there are also unknown knowns. Rumsfeld didn’t know that.

Simple answer, they can’t. However, many people really WANT to believe in their favorite CT so they will insist that they do know all the facts, or they’ll ignore/handwave away any and all evidence that goes against their theory and so on. If you search some of the past threads on things like the collapse of WTC1/2/7 and TWA flight 800 you’ll see some prominent examples of this type of behavior.

I suppose every individual has to try to judge the LOGIC of the event for himself.

Consider the turbine car that almost won the Indy 500 in 1968. Turbines were then banned from the race. What was the LOGIC of that? Suppose turbines had been allowed. Wouldn’t consumers eventually want turbines in their own cars. But what since did it make to ban the fastest technology from an auto race?

But don’t turbines last longer with less maintenance than piston engines? There was even a movie made with Doug McClure about turbine engines.

I would be much more interested in knowing the true story about the banning of turbines than the assassination of JFK. But I don’t hear any conspiracy theorists making a big deal about not having turbine engines in consumer automobiles.


Conspiracy theory advocates are acting on an emotional level, and only recognize or quote logic and facts which seems to reinforce their existing conclusions. It is a faith, not a knowledge.

They can try and go in with an open mind, look at the various sides, check the facts as best they can, and then consider things from a big picture perspective…does the overall even actually make any sort of logical sense? Does the story hang together when you don’t focus on a detail here or detail there but take a step back and look at everything together? Does it make logistics sense, if it’s a big event like 9/11 or the moon hoax conspiracies? Is the even large enough that it would take a lot of people being in the know…and if so, how much sense does that make in realistic terms for no one coming forth to squeal?

Looked at with even a modicum of logic, most conspiracy theories simply can’t hang together. What you get instead is some people focusing on some aspects of an event that are gray areas, or don’t make sense to an individual CTer because, sadly, they are ignorant of things like physics or the accuracy of a certain type of rifle, etc etc. In any large event there are always going to be aspects that are just unknown…chaotic events that no one was there to witness, or that are little understood by any but experts in very vertically oriented fields…folks who generally don’t get involved in CT debates.


Well, now I know Donald Rumsfeld to be a dingbat.

Of course, he also is the guy who invented aspartame in a scheme to depopulate the earth, but that actually makes sense in an idiotic way.*
Google “Donald Rumsfeld” and “aspartame” and you get 471,000 hits, all the proof you could want.

You can be “totally certain” by being irrational.

That said, not all conspiracy theories are equally implausible. Just as believing wildly implausible or outright impossible theories is ridiculous, its also ridiculous to automatically dismiss a claim just because someone slaps the “conspiracy theory” label on it. Watergate really happened. The Bay of Pigs really happened. Conspiracies really happen, even if we try to ignore that fact by labeling them anything other than a “conspiracy” once it becomes obvious they are real. Real conspiracies get called “scandals”, “hoaxes” or get the suffix -gate attached to them.

AFAIK, there aren’t a lot of folks who don’t believe that the Bay of Pigs or Watergate never happened. That WOULD be a CT, in a backward sort of way. No doubt conspiracies happens…but there is a difference between a conspiracy and a Conspiracy THEORY.


That’s an important point to consider when thinking about conspiracy theories. You felt strongly enough to protest and you’ve gone public with your unhappiness on this issue. It’s not easy for governments to keep their dirty laundy hidden these days, many people are motivated to disclove unethical behaviour, and it’s easy to publish in the internet age. Something to bear in mind when considering whether a conspiracy theory is plausable is the number of people who would have to be in on the secret.

And in those two incidents, the difference is that the people involved got caught. If they hadn’t they’d still be conspiracies - and people would probably be handwaving them away as ridiculous. What I’m saying is that people often insist that a conspiracy theory is ridiculous just because it is a claim of conspiracy - as if such things never happen.

They got caught because in the real world when you do stuff on those scales you inevitably get caught. Someone squeals, someone grows a conscious, someone decides to try and get even…someone talks. It’s silly to think that Watergate or the Bay of Pigs would have been covered up to the point where they were just CTs. The timing of Watergate might have been such that it didn’t come out and force Nixon out of office, but it would have come out…to many people were involved for it to have remained a secret forever. Same for the Bay of Pigs. Or Reagan’s arms for hostages thingy.

Small stuff like Clinton’s blowjob might not have ever come out because only he, the Secret Service and the chick knew about it…but big stuff involving more than a few people? The more people you have in on something the more chance there is that it’s going to come out. Multiply that over time and after a certain point the probability that it will come out is pretty much 1, if it’s a juicy enough story.


Could you expound on this? Amongst the weapons recovered were at least two .50 caliber semi-automatic rifles. 12.7mm BMG is pretty much the top end of small arms calibers. Any larger caliber and you’re generally talking cannon instead of small arms.

I don’t see that happening “often”; in fact I can’t recall anyone here ever arguing that conspiracies are impossible.

What generates immediate and profound skepticism is promotion of conspiracy theories that are 1) based on wildly improbable premises, 2) involve the participation of large numbers of people, all of whom keep absolutely quiet about the conspiracy, 3) are intricately and skilfully executed by geniuses who also manage to commit stupid errors that expose their actions to conspiracy theorists, and 4) survive and are circulated endlessly by the credulous no matter how thoroughly they are debunked by good evidence.

It would not surprise me to find out that executives at a corporation are conspiring to pay less than their fair share of taxes. Tell me that there’s a industry-wide conspiracy involving thousands of people to suppress a hugely effective, inexpensive cancer cure with no side effects, and you get :dubious::rolleyes::smiley:

Bay of Pigs would have been almost impossible to hid, although if it had been successful there would have been less motivation to hide it anyway. But if Liddy and company had succeeded in planting bugs and the bugs never found then it could have gone on for years before someone found out. COINTELPRO lasted from 1956 to 1971. The Tuskagee syphilis experiment lasted for 40 years. Conspiracies happen and can stay undercover for a long time.

The Tuskagee syphilis experiment didn’t stay hidden…it just didn’t come to the public’s attention for that period. People knew about it…it wasn’t a conspiracy. As for Watergate, I suppose if no one was ever caught then it wouldn’t have ever come out, true enough…it probably wouldn’t have been a Conspiracy Theory then, however, since no one would have cared or known anything about it.

There is no doubt that there are conspiracies in the world. It’s like crime…sometimes you get caught and everyone finds out the details, sometimes you get away with it. Sometimes it’s the ‘perfect crime’ and no one ever knows. The more people who do know about it, however, and the more sensational the conspiracy is, the less likely it is to remain undiscovered. The big Conspiracy Theories that are out there would all involve hundreds if not thousands of people (9/11 would have involved many thousands, if not 10’s of thousands), and are so sensational that anyone with personal knowledge could easily go public.


COINTELPRO doesn’t fit the definition either - unless we want to dramatically expand the definition of “conspiracy” to “any classified government program that did Bad Things/Stuff I Don’t Like”.

If we look for true conspiracies that remained hidden for long periods of time, only to be unearthed by dedicated conspiracy theorists who were harassed and ridiculed constantly for standing up for the Truth until one fabulous day they were revealed to be correct and their enemies made foolish, the pickings are incredibly slim. The only example I can think of is the Dreyfus Affair. Everything else that’s been standard conspiracy fare in recent years stands as a monument to obsessive illogic, paranoia and bigotry.

It was kept form the public until a whistleblower exposed it in 1972.

Unless someone later found the bug and started accusing the government of spying on political enemies. Without the smoking gun of White House aides caught trying to break in it would have been nothing more than a CT to many.

There is a current CT that the CIA introduced crack cocaine to the inner cities to destroy the black community. How is that theory different than a CT that the FBI is infiltrating left leaning organizations and trying to destroy them from the inside by inciting violence and criminal activity?

If government sanctioned secret operations can’t be called conspiracies, then we need to find a new word for those that think that 9/11 was a U.S. operation since that wouldn’t be a conspiracy. How about Classified Government Program Theorists?

Suppose that someone claimed that the FBI, CIA, and the state police of all 50 states were working together to secretly drive anyone with psychic powers not working with them insane. Would that be a conspiracy theory? Other than the goal, how is that different than COINTLEPRO?

Conspiracy theories are popular because they provide an explanation (however bizarre) for events of deep significance.
Take the Kennedy Assassination: you had a popular president killed by an obscure nutcase (LHO), who was able to kill Kennedy with relative ease (despite all the security details and Secret Service stuff). Having Oswald as part of a mysterious cabal of assassins provided a much better explanation of what happened.
The fact is, this event was a confluence of mythologies:
-the Kennedy family was a noble, whiter than snow, good folks (they were not-Jack Kennedy was one of the worst presidents of modern times, his father was a corrupt manipulator).
-the USA was the incorruptable leader of the free world (we were not, we indulged in all kinds of nasty wars and propped up dictators)
-evil Cubans and Mafia types wanted to kill JFK (Kennedy had the CIA attempt several times to kill Castro, and the Kennedy family worked with the Mafia on many occasions-most notably in getting ot the vote in Chicago).
Having the truth come out would be highly damaging to the Kennedy mythology-which is why the conspiracy crap flourished.

Until someone has been cleared and is free of all schizo-affective, narcissistic and personality disorders, I’m gonna have to say…


Yeah, that pretty much sums up conspiracy theorists. A conspiracy theory is something that is not logical and somehow depicts super evil bad men working together against humanity and all that is good in the world. For example: Obama is secretly a Muslim terrorist who was not born in the United States…and so forth.