Why do we flat out reject CT's? [Conspiracy Theories]

Do CT’s make people nervous, spooked, or some other feeling of insecurity that requires most (not all, obviously) to reject them out-of-hand?

On this board specifically, people are shouted down at even the slightest hint of a CT. Many of these involve our government (US). to suggest a CT meets with immediate derision, and membership into the tin-foil hat club.

There are a number of events out there that I think prove that the US govt had manipulated events for its own good (come on, now… What govt. Hasn’t?). These events, once the American people have bought into them, give the mandate for action the president or current administration desires. Two examples come to mind immediately:

The Gulf of Tonkin “incident”, and Iraq’s WMD program. Are we all so convinced that our govt wouldn’t lie to us that even these two historical events are not considered conspiracies? Why? Because they got caught?

If we accept that the govt. HAS manipulated events to pursue the unannounced goal, why are we hard pressed to believe that other things that happen are not also parts of a CT?

Is it something psychological in us as Americans that don’t want to see ourselves (and as an extension of ourselves, the goverment) as cheaters, no better than say the USSR, who were masters of propaganda and never told their people the truth? Well, what IS the truth? Only what the government is telling us?

I’m also curious if readers from other countries have the same CT phenomenon in their country as well?

I don’t accept a fantastic assertion without evidence. That’s all there is to it.

IMHO, yes. As soon as a conspiracy is demonstrated to be true, people stop calling it a “conspiracy” they call it all sorts of other things, but seldom that. Which makes “conspiracies are never true” self-fulfilling; conspiracies aren’t true because if they are, then they aren’t a conspiracy.

Firstly, I contest that people ridicule some CTs simply because they don’t want to accept a possibility that counters their perceived reality. In my experience, people mostly make fun of them then when they have a level of education or technical expertise that allows them to clearly identify the errors or non-factual claims in the CT argument.

CT theories and documented causes of events are simply not perfect equivalents that one may pick and choose to believe equally. Things like the 9/11 theories and the Birther nonsense make no logical sense, have no real evidence of any kind to support them, and rely on scientific, engineering and/or behavioral absurdities that rob them of any air of even remote plausibility. They are ridiculed because they are, at bottom, ridiculous.

Part of our problem is that we use the same term to refer to two very different things. There’s theories about conspiracies that are based on at least some genuine evidence, that make sense for the alleged conspirators to do, and that the alleged conspirators could actually have pulled off; theories that make or may not be true, but are at least rational to consider. And then there’s the quasi-religious conspiracies theories like Birtherism or Truthers or the fake moon landing, which make no sense, aren’t based on evidence, typically both couldn’t be achieved by the accused if they wanted to, and make no sense for the accused to try anyway, and are faith based beliefs for which every bit of evidence against them are typically just taken as proof of how pervasive the conspiracy is.

(bolding mine)

The classic conspiracy theory doesn’t really put forth any facts of its own, just questions based on the belief that some part of the actual events is impossible or improbable. (Oswald couldn’t have made that shot, the astronauts wouldn’t survive the radiation on the way to the moon, buildings only fall straight down in a controlled demolition. What else are they hiding from us?) But the CT is never held up to the same scrutiny. Real people can’t perform some unlikely action, but the perpetrators of the conspiracy can do anything; even events they could not predict or control happen perfectly to bring about their desired end.

For an example of a conspiracy that did come apart, read up on the tale of the Glomar Explorer.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs, and most CTs don’t even have marginal proofs, but instead rely on wild speculation and conjecture, in most cases using ignorance or lies, out right or through omission and everything in between. THAT is what gets ridiculed or dismissed around here. If you have some examples of CTs you (the OP) feel are valid pr worth a second look then by all means let’s see them. To be sure, conspiracies do happen in real life. Look at the Foed Pinto for example…or Iran-Contra. The difference is both these conspiracies actually happened, and there is real hard evidence concerning them…which is why they aren’t CTs, but instead examples of real conspiracies.


Of course conspiracies exist. That is why Anglo-American common law considers “criminal conspiracy” a crime, and that long predates American independence. But it just goes to conspiring to commit a particular crime. Conspiracy theories generally are far more incredible than that – they posit some all-explanatory underground organization or something that has been manipulating events from behind the scenes for decades or centuries. It is all bound up with the “devil theory,” that everything that goes wrong in human affairs is the work of the clever and malevolent [Communists, capitalists, Jews, Freemasons, whatever]. See “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” by Richard Hofstadter; and Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From, by Daniel Pipes.

Understand that a Conspiracy Theory, (capitalized), is different from a conspiracy. The phrase Conspiracy Theory refers explicitly to odd claims that require inordinate amounts of clandestine effort that seem to be missed by any authorized investgating agency.

To compare: there was a conspiracy (lower case) to use hijacked airplanes to attack the World Trade Center and Pentagon in September, 2001. It was a genuine conspiracy that was successfully planned and executed. We do not call it a (capitalized) Conspircay Theory because we know enough about it, (even if not everything about it), to recognize who planned the actions, who carried out the plans, and how the plans were executed.

In contrast, various Conspiracy Theories have been put forth that require secret forces to carry out improbable, (and often impossible), actions in ways that fooled every official investigator into thinking something different happened. Those various CTs require that massive amounts of explosives were planted in the WTC while no one noticed it was happening or that thermite changed its chemical properties to explode rather than burn, or that a missile was fired at the Pentagon, or that all the people on four airliners were whisked away to a secret location and held captive indefinitely in order to disguise the fact that three airplanes were flown into buildings and one into the ground rather than simply having the planes and their passengers be destroyed in the crashes for which we have numerous witnesses and quite a bit of film or video along with physical evidence.

To achieve the status of Conspiracy Theory, an idea or an odd hypothesis has to be floated and then rabidly defended, even when it is clear that it makes no sense. Once an idea has already been shown to be loony, it then becomes a CT–and those we reject out of hand.

You give good examples for the latter type of CT-the easily dismissed variety-yet you give no example of the former type of CT; of which you describe in fairly detailed fashion. What are some of these feasible conspiracy theories that you say get muddled together with the wild-eyed variety?

This is it on the nose. A CT that Oswald was payed by “someone” because of “something” is possible, though it needs to have something to back it up to be taken seriously. A CT that says that Oswald was not the shooter, however, is just silly given the huge amount of evidence that shows him purchasing the gun, posing with it in a picture, carrying a long package to work that day, etc.

I’ll throw an example out to you all that I believe has some truth behind it, and yet is lumped in with the other 9/11 conspiracies.

I’ve always believed the 4th plane, Flight 93, was brought down by the American Government, NOT by some heroic people on board.

If I get some time tomorrow, I’ll dig up the website that documented all of the local news stories and interviews from that day by the local area papers. Shanksville is not a big town, and a number of small towns that are adjacent to Shanksville had articles in their small papers by local writers of an unmarked, white plane that was seen in the area right before the crash.

According to the FAA, no other planes were in the air at the time, but the plane was seen by various people who had no reason to lie. No money inducements, no book deals, no claims to fame. Just everyday people relaying what they saw in the sky that day.

I have no problem believing this, since the plane was headed toward a large population center and should have not been permitted to reach their target. What a better way to handle the issue than to bring it down in a large field, with little to no chance of hitting anything on the ground?

Now, there may have been some people that tried to take over the plane, I don’t know. I’ve never heard any “official recordings”, although I did remember seeing a couple of the relatives of these people relating the story, the last calls, etc. Perhaps that DID happen too. But shooting the plane down was the only way to guarantee a minimal damage scenario.

Why would the government cover this up? Well, in my opinion, the story of the heroes, the everyday people willing to sacrifice their lives to save others, is great press. It also plants the seed in everyone’s mind that if another terrorist tries to take down a plane, the passengers will most likely take every action possible to wrestle control of the plane. Also, a much more cynical side of me says that the government did not want to deal with the possible lawsuits that would have inevitably sprung up as a result of their shooting down an unarmed civilian aircraft.

This coverup (if it actually was one) makes perfect sense to me. But it does fall under the definition of a CT, since this doesn’t agree with the official version of events, and it would take more than one person to keep the ‘truth’ from coming to light.

Am I a tin foil hat wearer? maybe. Do I believe all the other things that happened during 9/11 that others are pushing forward? no. Do I know the truth? No, and I probably never will.

Okay, now show us some evidence of damage to Flight 93 from guns or a missile.

I can think of a few things that make this theory unlikely. There’s evidence from the data and voice recorders of the attempt by passengers to retake the plane. Also, the data recorder shows the flight at 5,000 feet altitude, then climbing to 10,000 before the rapid descent into the ground. If another plane was in position to shoot it down, I don’t know if anyone would have seen it clearly enough to describe it as white and unmarked. I suppose the recorder data could have been faked, but you now have to bring the NTSB accident investigation branch into the cover up.

But consider that there might have been an unmarked, white airplane. There wasn’t time to paint out the markings once the hijackings started. It must have been stationed somewhere, and prepared for this sort of mission. And since the government couldn’t have known where such a plane would be needed, there must have been others stationed around the country. And they would all need pilots, maintenance, fuel, weapons, etc.

For your theory to be viable, it quickly encompasses many more people than you think.

The stated aims of many Conspiracy Theories are in direct conflict with the interests of the alleged players, or require total secrecy by far too many players over an infinite duration and absolute non-verification by outside parties.

For example, rich and powerful people have zero need or desire to reduce the rest of the world to serfdom, destroying nations and economies in the name of power. Their wealth and comfort is dependent on the status quo and our ability to continue to produce the level of technology and goods that we currently produce.

There would be zero point in faking a moon landing. The point of the program was a logical extension of both the arms race with the Soviets and our interest in space technology. There was a ton of money to be spent on such a program. Faking it and declaring victory would be extremely pointless in the overall pursuit of space capabilities and would be incredibly destructive to our government, nation and reputation if discovered. It would simply rely on far too many people maintaining perpetual silence, and require that certain pieces of information never ever be verified by independent parties. (Like the fact that we have powerful enough telescopes to SEE the landing sites on the Moon now.)

What sort of “white plane” was reported? A Cessna 152 that could have taken off and landed from any number of uncontrolled airfields without ever registering on the FAA radar? So what? “White plane” is vague enough to be true. (It could even describe Flight 93, itself, given that at times it was flying well out of the usual flight paths at a much lower altitude than people whould have been expecting to see an airliner. (I know the the UAL colors included blue, but a plane seen against a bright blue sky might only show the white surfaces to a ground observer who was not familiar with watching planes.)

Then there is the matter of the crash, itself. We have all sorts of examples of large airliners being shot down, from Korean Air Flight 007 by paranoid Soviets to Iranian Air Flight 655 by the trigger-happy USS Vincennes, with any number of others. None of them flew directly into the ground, intact until the crash. All of them left debris scattered over the area below which they were hit by guns or missiles. How did we manage to bring down Flight 93 without any similar evidence of the attack?

Do you wear a tinfoil hat? It depends on whether you actually have ever bothered to look at evidence and decided to reject it or whether you just think that your scenario is plausible, but haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it.

By the time an idea has reached Conspiracy Theory status, it’s become an enormous and ridiculously complex plot supported by little or no evidence and a lot of the time it doesn’t even make much sense, and that doesn’t matter because people don’t believe in it based on the evidence. They believe in it because the truth just doesn’t feel right to them. Common sense and parsimony get thrown out the window and any evidence that contradicts the theory is simply woven into the narrative as part of the coverup. Robert Anton Wilson noted long ago that if you believe in some of these enormous plots, how can you even trust the evidence that points to the plot? If the conspiracy pulled off the coverup, they might have faked your evidence, too.

It’s not the most insane or implausible conspiracy theory out there, but it still lacks evidence.

Not true. The FAA says it asked a plane that was landing nearby to take a look at the damage.

This is naive and not really relevant, and while I’m not accusing you of anything, Conspiracy Theorists love to use these kinds of statements to disingenuous effect. You have no idea what their motivations were. They may have honestly believed they saw another plane, they may have been nuts or attention whores, hoped to sell a good story to gullible people, or any number of other things. That to the side, asserting the purity of their motives does not say anything about whether or not they are correct. Other people saw the plane crash and said nothing about seeing it shot down, and I don’t think those people had an obvious reason to lie either.

You guys are making it too complicated. Let him address the simple issue first: “Okay, now show us some evidence of damage to Flight 93 from guns or a missile.” If he can’t address that, a bare minimal standard for evidence that Flight 93 was shot down, all these other issues are moot.

Since this thread is about conspiracy theories in general, I think the other questions about this one are valid as examples of how CTs aren’t held up to the same scrutiny as the events they attempt to explain. Could the government have one unmarked plane, paid for and maintained off the books, hidden in Western Pennsylvania around the time of 9/11? Maybe. But think of all that that entails. If the theory is true, remember, the government did not know about the hijackings in advance. So, either they got incredibly lucky and their one unmarked plane was in the right place at the right time, or there must have been similar planes deployed around the country.

That’s one of the things that I think distinguishes a Conspiracy Theory; that it must be improbably far-reaching, or impossibly prepared and acting on information they couldn’t have had to manage events that they couldn’t foresee.

Specifically regarding the 9/11 attacks, I think that conspiracy theorists underestimate how hard it is to anticipate and prevent an organization from committing some act, such as an assassination, terrorist attack, and so on, and overestimate how hard it is for the assassins/terrorists, who are fanatics in their cause and need to succeed only once, to plan and execute their acts. The government needs to spread out its security and intelligence all over the possible threat space whereas the terrorist “specializes” and can identify that blind spot.