Why don't people solve unsolved things

I was looking for some information about the Tylenol murders in Chicago from the early 80s and found very little information on the web. I also noticed there is not much out there on Anthrax. Mostly just the same facts repeated ad naseum on different sites.

But I look for the September 11th attacks, which we know WHAT happened and there are hundreds of conspiricy theory sites. Same for JKF, Princess Diana, etc.

Why do you think people like to challange things that are pretty well known while they let unknown things go buy. Sure if you could prove 9-11 was a US government conspiricy you’d be famous but you’d gain a lot more by solving a mystery that IS unsolved.

How many people have “solved” Jack The Ripper?

Why do people put their theories “out there”? Are they conspiracy buffs? Do they just want to see their names in print/online? Do they publish for the public good, or for the notriety?

I love conspiracy buffs. I like talking to the UFO buffs, who know “the truth is out there.” A co-worker told me he listens to a late-night radio moderator who encourages people with “out there” theories to call in, and they’re taken seriously.

Heck, why not listen? If you feel like laughing, laugh.

It’s a free country.

Part of the attraction of conspiracy theories is the defiance of conventional wisdom and authority. In a case with no official solution, there’s a lot less to defy.

People don’t want to change their world view, and choose their favored conspiracies according to what confirms their already-held beliefs. So people who already fear government and business theorize that the PWB conspired to knock off JFK. Blacks who already (and justifiably) fear white society’s oppression theorize that various popular consumer items are sponsored by the KKK and crack is being pushed by the CIA.

Things that would change one’s world view may not be interesting–or maybe subconciously people just don’t really want to know. That’s why the genuinely unknown makes people uncomfortable.

UFOs come to mind. I know, I know, there’s a consistent crackpot fringe who speculates on their nature, and there have been fads from time to time where they’ve been highlighted in the media, but I don’t think there’s been any serious (public) effort to investigate just what’s going on. Despite what some might say, I don’t think people really want to go there.

Missed the edit window, otherwise ETA:

Before anyone accuses me of being part of the tin foil crowd, let me clarify that I hardly ever think about UFOs, but I have to be honest that when I do hear first or secondhand stories from people I tend to believe . . . it makes me a bit uncomfortable and frankly, I’m not one for pursuing the conversation. I don’t really want to know, and it doesn’t seem to have much to do with my day to day life, so I drop it.

As someone who is extremely suspicious of the information we’ve been spoonfed about 9/11, I don’t think those “conspiracy theorists” are out to get famous. Many of them are demolition professionals and other “normal” people who think something fishy is going on and are trying to get to the bottom of it. I think you have to separate things like a distrust of 9/11 information from wacko UFO or JFK conspiracy theory proponents.

Meanwhile, what does solving a 75-year-old murder do to help anything? Would it make you warm and fuzzy? Would you feel like McGyver? Also, many individuals don’t have access to the type of information it would take to solve these long-unsolved crimes. Chances are, in the absence of any new information, it’s already been investigated to a point of stalemate.

The entire world saw the second plane hit the WTC and we all saw the buildings fall because of fires that would not burn out. Any 9/11 would have to involve thousands of eyewitnesses, millions of TV viewers and multiple television networks.

9/11 conspiracy theorists are the craziest wackos of all. There’s at least a miniscule chance that JFK wasn’t killed by Oswald or that Elvis is still alive.

And of course UFOs are out there.

There’s not discernable difference. Mostly because one aspect of conspiracy theories is the ego of the theorist. They’ve found the truth that no one else has! This means they’re smarter than most people. If they accept the reality, then they aren’t. Simple as that.

You have to be extremely naive to believe in conspiracy theories.

So there is no such thing as a conspiracy, anywhere, ever? It seems to me that this would be a necessary corollary of your flat assertion.

What if I believed back in 1972 that the break-in at DNC headquarters wasn’t a simple burglary but had actually been orchestrated by the President and his cronies? Would I have been extremely naive to believe this?

(Or is this a case of “no true Scotsman”? :wink: )

So, unless you blindly accept everything you read/hear/see, you’re an automatic intellectual egotist? :rolleyes: That’s a pretty broad brush you’re painting with, partner.

Are you talking about George Noory? I listen to him just to hear how whacked out the callers can get. It’s sort of like a train wreck; you just can’t help but look.

My favorite was when George had a guest on his show that remarked that “the average Coast to Coast listener is very involved in their community and with society; it’s not like thy just sit around drinking beer”, right as I was finishing up my 3rd beer. :smiley:

The term “conspiracy theory” has a meaning entirely seperate from the literal definition of the words. Conspiracy theorists can be completely debunked, like the 9/11 controlled demolition or the faked moon landing, and still insist that their theories are legitimate.

There’s an element of paranoia in it, but you wouldn’t chastise a sane person for insisting that there’s nobody out to get him. You wouldn’t embrace the paranoid person’s insanity after his fears are shown to be unsubstantial. Why would you embrace a paranoid conspiracy theorist who’s convinced that his ideas of mundane things being coverups for elaborate and clandestine sinister plots are reality?

To propose a situation that’s famous, but no where near as emotionally charged as many more modern conspiracy theory magnets, take a look at the story of the Marie Celeste.

The short, bare bones version, for those of you who don’t recall the name, the Marie Celeste was a merchant sailing vessel of the nineteenth century. She sailed from New York Harbor to the Med, and then was found near the Straits of Gibraltar, under sail, but with no sign of her crew. She was taken in tow by the crew of the ship that found her, and brought to the British authorities in Gibraltar, where the conspiracy theories began building, and have been going strong ever since.

At the time that the ship was brought to harbor in Gibraltar the proceedings to have the ship claimed for salvage began. Because the Dea Gratis had been moored next to the Marie Celeste one of the officers at the Admiralty Court decided that it had to have been an act of piracy, not misadventure, that dealt with the crew of the Marie Celeste. In the end the Admiralty Court found no evidence of a crime and had to award the salvage to the master of the Dea Gratis. But the Admiralty Court also dropped the award, as punishment for the unnamed and unproven crimes that the Court seems convinced must have happened, anyways.

Since then such lights as A. Conan Doyle, and others have tried to prove what happened to the Marie Celeste. The theories, as the wikipedia page says, range from the plausible, and rational, to the absurd, the insane. The Occult theories actually are some of the less wild theories for the loss of the crew.

It is my opinion that the cause of the loss of the crew of the Marie Celeste, while chilling, and tragic, requires no extraordinary explanations. For whatever reason, the ship showed signs of having been hastily abandoned by the crew. Her cargo holds were opened for maximum ventilation. And one of her small boats was missing as well.

This adds up to a simple scenario: She was shipping industrial alcohol, a cargo that if it started leaking, could build up explosive fumes in her cargo hold. At Gibraltar it was found that one of the casks was broken, and had leaked into the hold. A number of researchers have suggested this is the ultimate cause of the fate of the crew. Having opened the hold for an inspection, the crew assumed that they had a larger problem with potentially explosive fumes building up in the hold than a single breached cask would have caused. To vent the hold, all the accesses were opened, and then the crew debarked to the hastily lowered missing small boat, so they could tie off the small boat, and ride out the ventilation in relative safety away from the ship.

Alas, in such circumstances, it’s easy to believe that the person who was meant to tie off the small boat did a slip-shod job of it. At which point, the small squalls that are common near the Straits of Gibraltar probably came up, and in the resulting blow, the small craft’s painter came undone - and the crew was doomed to watch as their ship sped off, with the wind, while they could do nothing but watch.

It’s a conjecture, of course, since several key points of the theory are based solely upon deduction or suppositions. I think it’s solid, but it’s not something that could be categorically proven. And anyone familiar with sailing operations will find the sequence of events to be horribly possible.

And that still doesn’t stop the theories from being promulgated. Piracy, aliens, The Bermuda Triangle, insurance fraud (made a bit harder to dismiss out of hand, given that a latter owner of the Marie Celeste did try to sink her and her cargo for the insurance money.), disease, suicidal cults, occult worship and others have all been proposed, with apparent sincerity, as explanations.

And, really, the cause of this whole industry is that officer back in Gibraltar who was originally convinced that things couldn’t possibly be as simple as the facts presented in court, which the same court ruled on, could be the truth. It’s the triumph of theory over evidence.

Aye, as I suspected: “no”, “true” and “Scotsman” has an entirely different meaning than the literal words. Why, if that weren’t the case, the subject of our discourse could hardly be a true Scotsman, now could he?

ETA: IOW, “Conspiracy theorists can be completely debunked”. Why, if they can’t be completely debunked, now that’s not what we really mean by a conspiracy theorist, now is it?

Because solving an unsolved mystery is hard. Whoever was sending out the anthrax, for example, can be presumed to have gotten rid of any evidence by now if he or she wanted to do so. People who may have seen something relevant to the case have had time to forget.

It gets worse for a historical case like Jack the Ripper. Anyone who saw anything directly relevant to the case is dead by now. What their grandchildren or great-grandchildren remember hearing from them about it may or may not be accurate.

The thing about conspiracy theories is, getting rid of them is like the time my dad tried to get rid of some daffodils in our garden with a rototiller. Not only did they come up just fine the next year, there were more of them. If you present some evidence that disproves one element of a conspiracy theory, either you must be part of the conspiracy, or the conspiracy theorists just look for some other “evidence” that their theory must be right. Conspiracy theories seem to be immune to common sense and Occam’s razor, so they can just keep getting more and more elaborate.

Isn’t that what conspiracy theorists are doing? The blindly accept “evidence” that has been debunked many times.

For instance, the claim that the steel at the World Trade Center melted. No one other than conspiracy theorists have ever made that claim, and the first mention of it was years after the event. All the reports indicated that the heat weakened the steel. Yet conspiracy theorists only believe reports from other conspiracy theorists (who usually didn’t visit WTC at a time when they could gather evidence) that the steel melted.

Every conspiracy theorist (and, actually non-conspiracy theorist like ID proponents) follow the exact same pattern: anything anyone says to support their theory is quoted, and any debunking is ignored. So you have JFK conspiracy theorists who continue to quote “evidence” from eyewitnesses who have been conclusively proven to not be there at all, or who made one statement at the time and, years later, suddenly changed their statement to fit in with the conspiracy. If I were to claim I saw Oswald in Fort Worth at the time of the assassination, it would be written up in many conspiracy books, even though I was only 12 at the time, and have never been to Fort Worth in my life.

In addition, the laws of physics are often ignored. People complain about the “magic bullet” at JFK, but if there was a shooter at the Grassy Knoll (a bit of obfuscation on the part of the theorists — the Warren Commission used a different term for the area, so the conspiracy theorists can argue the Warren Commission never looked into reports of people at the Grassy Knoll – it’s not mentioned!), the bullet would have to have made a right angle turn in its flight (take a look at a map). This is somehow more believable to JFK conspiracy theorists that the idea that a bullet might change course while traveling through a body. (The also argue the “magic bullet” was “pristine,” though all reports indicated it was flattened.)

Incidentally, the definition of conspiracy theory is simple: a belief that a group of people planned and achieved some goal – usually something of historical importance – and managed to keep it secret from everyone years after the event. The tactics are the same for all conspiracy theories: raise objections to minor points and claim this disproves the entire “official” explanation; ignore any debunking of your own claims (I’ve rarely seen a conspiracy theorist even try to reply to debunking); do nothing to positively prove your own position (again, with the JFK conspiracy, people concentrate on disproving the Warren Commission report. But you notice that, other than agreeing the Warren Commission report, conspiracy theorists can’t agree on who actually did it. They will argue Oswald acted as part of a conspiracy, that he was used by the conspiracy, or that he had nothing at all to do with it. If there is a a better reading of what happened, why can’t JFK conspiracy theorists agree on it? And the various theories keep diverging.)

But, as I said, conspiracy theorists are very naive and know nothing about human nature.

But the are fun to play with. The most popular page on my website is my page on the Kennedy Assassination, something that pissed off JFK conspiracy theories mightily when I first posted it. And I still maintain that my version is as accurate as any other JFK conspiracy theory.

You are right about that. 9/11 conspiracy theorists make me extremely uncomfortable. They are so far out there and completely illogical yet many seemingly normal people take them seriously. I think they heard the phrase “keep an open mind” too many times and think that is always a virtue.

JFK conspiracy theories aren’t completely out of the question. However, some people will honestly entertain the idea that four planes took off, two hit the World Trade Centers as a diversion so that explosive charges could be set off, one plane crashed in Pennsylvania as another diversion. The capper is that the fourth plane was taken to a secret location where it remains today along with the passengers, it never existed, or it was used as a diversion as well so that a missile could be launched into the Pentagon. The mind boggles. I actually respect the people that made up the 9/11 theories much more than the people that entertain them at all. Making them up required some absurd imagination. Anyone in the general public that doesn’t die out laughing at first exposure has something extremely wrong with them on many levels. I honestly don’t know how they live on a day to day basis with intellectual and logic skills like.

Unless I’m misunderstanding something, this definition would include virtually every major covert OP ever performed by any intelligence agency or underground group in the entire world.

Is the belief that someone tried to kill Hitler with a bomb in a briefcase a “conspiracy theory” as you have defined the term?

Given that it’s a historic fact, isn’t the word “theory” incorrect in its application here?