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Speaker: Why we should not dismiss conspiracy theories

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  • HORansome, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Part of the attraction of apparent conspiracy theories seems to be that they give an illusion of power to the powerless – the eureka moment of “I was right, everything I knew was wrong!”

    That's true of some conspiracy theorists but I'd hesitate to define a set of beliefs which range from the plausible to the implausible with reference to just one kind of conspiracy theorist. Also, after the Snowden revelations, et al., it seems some of those conspiracy theorists might well have known something was up.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to HORansome,

    ... terrorist rather than freedom fighter in order to win a PR war in the eternal war on terror

    'The eternal war on freedom'
    was always gonna be a hard sell,
    but often closer to the truth...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to HORansome,

    I’d hesitate to define a set of beliefs which range from the plausible to the implausible with reference to just one kind of conspiracy theorist.

    Like, perhaps, the kind that commented on YouTube claiming that yesterday’s mass booing of Tony Abbott at the NRL Grand Final would be studiously glossed over by the Murdoch Press. They even ran the video.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Well, yes. Once again, that's one kind of conspiracy theorist. The members of the Dewey Commission were called conspiracy theorists for their belief Stalin and his cronies had manufactured the verdicts of the Moscow Trials. Turns out the members of the Commission were right.

    The actual issue here, surely, is the claim about whether those in power will ignore or hide evidence which reflects badly upon them, or even disseminate disinformation (a term invented by the Stalin regime to "describe" the Dewey Commission's report)? However, that's an issue which isn't unique to claims of conspiracy.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Trevor Nicholls,

    Conspiracy theorists treat facts as artifacts of reality.
    "Conspiracy theorists" treat facts as artifacts of a conspiracy.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    in the Limelight...

    ...and becomes a conspiracy (or, it was always a conspiracy, but now we just know about it).

    and then comes the 'Whitewash'

    :- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Trevor Nicholls,

    Conspiracy theorists treat facts as artifacts of reality

    Reality theorists treat artifacts
    as fields in collusion
    & particles in collision

    everything is connected...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Since Mar 2010 • 380 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Colon Pal: Weapons of mass destruction.......hahahaha.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • CJM, in reply to william blake,

    What are the odds that there'll be an SIS operative under cover with those police digging around for any Snowden or Greenwald correspondence on Hagers computers? And no, I'm not a conspiracy theorist.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2014 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to CJM,

    What are the odds that there’ll be an SIS operative under cover with those police digging around for any Snowden or Greenwald correspondence on Hagers computers? And no, I’m not a conspiracy theorist.

    That's a great example of what I call the "I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but..." fallacy, where people are happy to put forward what are, to them, plausible conspiracy theories but don't want to be labeled as a conspiracy theorist. I say own the term: I'm happy to be called both a conspiracy theorist and a conspiracy theory theorist.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    All the specific examples given are fairly negative ones.

    A few more, not limited to ‘theories’ and with a little bit of overlap both here and there, but some successes, some mixed bags, some ongoing, some quickly digestible, some commentery. From that first link:

    One of the more surprising revelations was that the KGB was actively involved in an extensive campaign to spread misinformation about the Kennedy assassination and undermine the U.S. government. In short, there was a KGB-led Kennedy conspiracy… to spread conspiracy theories!

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    and when is belief in conspiracy theories, in general, pathological?

    So jonkey calling Hager a CT is a some kind of pathological lie?
    Not that Im calling jonkey a pathological liar,(but he does like to shade words in his favour)

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • william blake, in reply to CJM,

    Odds on there being an security service operative working with the wallopers? 1 in 5, probably.

    Since Mar 2010 • 380 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to andin,

    I think it's fair to say that John Key is a bit of a conspiracy theorist about the work of Nicky Hager. So was Helen Clark.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    I forget who said it in the pre election media storm, but I enjoyed the comment that Nicky isn't a conspiracy theorist, he's just very good at uncovering conspiracies.

    Since Mar 2010 • 380 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to HORansome,

    Excerpt from the Forward to Nicky Hagar’s Secret Power,1996:

    There are also many things with which I am familiar. I couldn’t tell him which was which. Nor can I tell you. But it is an outrage that I and other ministers were told so little, and this raises the question of to whom those concerned saw themselves ultimately answerable. It also raises the question as to why we persist with the old order of things. New Zealand doesn’t have much in common with Major’s Britain and probably less with Blair’s Britain. Are we philosophically in tune with Clinton’s USA? Is he?

    Does all of that prejudice our new orientation to Asia? There will be two responses to this book. One will be to take the easy course of dumping on Hager. He is quite small and can easily be dumped on. The other will be to challenge the existing assumptions and to have a rational debate on security and intelligence. I have always enjoyed taking the easier course but we may have been the poorer for it.

    David Lange
    Prime Minister of New Zealand 1984–89

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to HORansome,

    That's a great example of what I call the "I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but..." fallacy, where people are happy to put forward what are, to them, plausible conspiracy theories but don't want to be labeled as a conspiracy theorist. I say own the term: I'm happy to be called both a conspiracy theorist and a conspiracy theory theorist.

    And some of their best friends happen to be Jewish.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5430 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    The thing about secret conspiracies, is that the CIA and various other spooks are massive public organisations which have been proven to do really horrible things, including murdering people who challenge them in the courts. And they're not secret organisations, there's a line in their government's budget for them, it's just that most everything they do is legally secret, to the point of torturing people for years who tell anyone.

    Like how we have monopolistic supermarkets that drive up prices and drive down service. Monopolistic power supply arrangements that drive up prices and drive down service. Monopolistic telecommunications companies that drive up prices and drive down service. Dairy, fuel, fertiliser, etc. Those are all massive public conspiracies in NZ, taken part in by government as a stealth poll tax, that are still basically secret in their internal workings. There's not a lot about that stuff in the newspapers, they don't teach it in school, but you might find it in a blog comment on occasion.

    The funding arrangements for the National party, through the "secret" trusts, where all their ministers are obviously just selling policy for donations (hello Sky City) and you can't prove that because it would be illegal to do so, and they'd just deny it anyway.

    The thing with Peter Jackson where the unions got ambushed with a massive publicity campaign for National's surprise new labour laws and then the company got $30 million dollars of public money for no reason at all (what law does Bill English even use for those?). I mean, the history of that story was the company wanting to shift the movie for years and the rights holders saying it had to be made in NZ by Peter Jackson or not at all, and then we just all pretended otherwise for a while so Peter could un-lose his court case and treat his workers like shit again. Gigantic conspiracy, in plain sight, for obvious reasons, never quite see it expressed that way on the news, because they're part of it.

    Where private information about people who complain about this government keep getting illegally leaked via bloggers to the press. Where the press are openly threatened for reporting things about the government they'd rather stay quiet.

    Māori TV, holding government to account: suddenly former National party ministers put in charge, troublesome award-winning newsfolk suddenly demoted and removed from programming control. Focus returned to, basically, faff and nonsense. Key has openly threatened TV1 with the same whenever they dig too hard at his government, and people very tight with National have been involved in their programming for ages now.


    I mean, you see a news article about some new policy, it's been floated by a secret donor, taken up by their pet minister, pushed through the ministry, market-tested with polling to get the sales pitch right, there's pet reporters to talk up the good it'll do, there's attacks on the character of people pointing out any flaws carried out and printed happily by certain journalists. That's not exactly secret, any of it, but no one really sees it that way.



    A conspiracy is just a few people doing stuff out of public sight that's deniable and for personal gain. Huge numbers of things are that. The risks that big banks get into when they know the government will always bail them out if things go wrong, the ratings agencies who get paid handsomely to downplay those risks, the brokers who get crazy kickbacks to pile it all up higher, the regulators who still work for the fucking banks.

    Maybe they don't even need to conspire, maybe their perverted interests just naturally align, but a bit of a wink and a nod go a long way when there's a few thousand dollars come with it. "Everyone's doing it" don't you know, it's just, they weren't always doing it, it started somewhere, with people talking about doing it, as a conspiracy.

    Since Nov 2006 • 610 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to tussock,

    Monopolistic power...

    Gimme a dipole any day,
    just look at all the creative (and useful) ways the water molecule can put itself together in all kinds of states...

    Without it we wouldn't be where we are!
    (or who we are...)

    :- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

  • william blake, in reply to tussock,

    All that and Jim Mora.

    Since Mar 2010 • 380 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to tussock,

    A conspiracy is just a few people doing stuff out of public sight that’s deniable and for personal gain.

    I'm with you up until that point, and all I want to say is that I don't think we need to bake into the definition of a conspiracy theory that it's for personal gain or anything vaguely nefarious or malevolent. I think there can be conspiracies of goodness where people act in secret towards some public good. After all, one story as to why Brutus and his associates assassinated Julius Caesar was to rid Rome of a tyrant (it's not the only story, admittedly), and activists who plot in secret to disrupt some meeting or stop some event from occurring (which is a kind of conspiratorial activity) often do it because they consider it to be the best outcome for all.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to HORansome,

    ...conspiracies of goodness where people act
    in secret towards some public good

    Isn't that Religion?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    You'll need to be a little more specific, I'm afraid, Ian.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Ah, but that only works if you implicitly accept that the term “conspiracy theory” isn’t really a pejorative marking out irrational beliefs.

    I think it needs to continue to well and truly cover the "the GCSB are spying on us" claims, as well as the "the royal family are all aliens" claims.

    If conspiracy theory gets claimed only to include the wacky claims used to put down the person talking, then we'll lose the use of a particularly useful phrase.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

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