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On conspiracy theories


Jack White
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By Jonathan Elinoff

Most people can't resist getting the details on the latest conspiracy theories, no matter how far-fetched they may seem. At the same time, many people quickly denounce any conspiracy theory as untrue ... and sometimes as unpatriotic or just plain ridiculous. Lets not forget all of the thousands of conspiracies out of Wall Street like Bernie Madoff and many others to commit fraud and extortion, among many crimes of conspiracy.USA Today reports that over 75% of personal ads in the paper and on craigslist are married couples posing as single for a one night affair.When someone knocks on your door to sell you a set of knives or phone cards, anything for that matter, do they have a profit motive?What is conspiracy other than just a scary way of saying “alternative agenda”?When 2 friends go to a bar and begin to plan their wingman approach on 2 girls they see at the bar, how often are they planning on lying to those girls?“I own a small business and am in town for a short while.Oh yeah, you look beautiful.”

Conspiracy theory is a term that originally was a neutral descriptor for any claim of civil, criminal or political conspiracy. However, it has come almost exclusively to refer to any fringe theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot by conspirators of almost superhuman power and cunning.To conspire means "to join in a secret agreement to do an unlawful or wrongful act or to use such means to accomplish a lawful end."The term "conspiracy theory" is frequently used by scholars and in popular culture to identify secret military, banking, or political actions aimed at stealing power, money, or freedom, from "the people".

To many, conspiracy theories are just human nature. Not all people in this world are honest, hard working and forthcoming about their intentions.Certainly we can all agree on this.So how did the term “conspiracy theory” get grouped in with fiction, fantasy and folklore?Maybe that’s a conspiracy, just kidding.Or am I?

Skeptics are important in achieving an objective view of reality, however, skeptism is not the same as reinforcing the official storyline. In fact, a conspiracy theory can be argued as an alternative to the official or “mainstream” story of events. Therefore, when skeptics attempt to ridicule a conspiracy theory by using the official story as a means of proving the conspiracy wrong, in effect, they are just reinforcing the original “mainstream” view of history, and actually not being skeptical. This is not skeptism, it is just a convenient way for the establishment view of things to be seen as the correct version, all the time, every time. In fact, it is common for "hit pieces" or "debunking articles" to pick extremely fringe and not very populated conspiracy theories. This in turn makes all conspiracies on a subject matter look crazy. Skeptics magazine and Popular Mechanics, among many others, did this with 9/11. They referred to less than 10% of the many different conspiracy theories about 9/11 and picked the less popular ones, in fact, they picked the fringe, highly improbable points that only a few people make. This was used as the "final investigation" for looking into the conspiracy theories. Convenient, huh?

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Just like (just about) everything else from “truthers” Elinoff’s essay is bull. He only make one serious claim:

“In fact, it is common for "hit pieces" or "debunking articles" to pick extremely fringe and not very populated conspiracy theories. This in turn makes all conspiracies on a subject matter look crazy. Skeptics magazine and Popular Mechanics, among many others, did this with 9/11. They referred to less than 10% of the many different conspiracy theories about 9/11 and picked the less popular ones, in fact, they picked the fringe, highly improbable points that only a few people make.”

This is simply not true. Though it’s true a few of the claims in the PM article were not that popular at the time most still are central tenants of “the movement”. One or two have since become marginal.

They examined the following claims:

The Planes
- Where's The Pod?, No Stand-Down Order, Flight 175's Windows, Intercepts Not Routine

The World Trade Center
- Widespread Damage, "Melted" Steel, Puffs of Dust, Seismic Spikes, WTC 7 Collapse

The Pentagon
- Big Plane, Small Holes, Intact Windows, Flight 77 Debris

Flight 93
- The White Jet, Roving Engine, Indian Lake, F-16 Pilot

There was a stand down / intercepts are routine, WTC did not sustain enough damage to collapse, pools of molten steel in the basement, squibs (puffs of smoke) and the seismic evidence are proof of CD, WTC 7was CDed, the Pentagon hole was too small, the widows were intact, there was no 757 debris, the white jet over Shanksville, debris was found fall from the crash site are still common truther talking points, most are stillcited by Gage, Griffin, Jones and/or Fetzer. The pod theory seems to have been dropped but is still cited by some but was once quite popular and was once in Loose Change. IIRC Flight 175 being windowless and the pilot who supposedly shot down 93 being ID weren’t major stories but the former made it to Loose Change and the latter to the Alex Jones show.

Similarly most if not allthe 9/11 myths debunked by Skeptic magazine were cetral thruther theories. Unfortunately they didn’t conveniently list the claims they refute but I didn’t see anything in the article that weren’t mainstream truther tenets at the time.

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/06-09-11

I have no idea how he calculated that “they referred to less than 10% of the many different conspiracy theories about 9/11”but obviously space limitations prevented the editors of either publication from covering every point raised by truthers. The problem is that every truther group has there own mix of theories they think are valid and important and thus will never be satisfied with any compendium of points drawn up by debunkers.

Edited by Len Colby
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They got what a skeptic is wrong, too:

What Is Skepticism?

To quote Dr. Shermer: Skepticism is not a position; it's a process.

The popular misconception is that skeptics, or critical thinkers, are people who disbelieve things. And indeed, the common usage of the word skeptical supports this: "He was skeptical of the numbers in the spreadsheet", meaning he doubted their validity. To be skeptical, therefore, is to be negative about things and doubt or disbelieve them.

The true meaning of the word skepticism has nothing to do with doubt, disbelief, or negativity. Skepticism is the process of applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It's the process of finding a supported conclusion, not the justification of a preconceived conclusion.

It's thus inaccurate to say "Skeptics don't believe in ghosts." Some do. Many skeptics are deeply religious, and are satisfied with the reasoning process that led them there. Skeptics apply critical thinking to different aspects of their lives in their own individual way. Everyone is a skeptic to some degree.

Skepticism is, or should be, an extraordinarily powerful and positive influence on the world. Skepticism is not simply about "debunking" as is commonly charged. Skepticism is about redirecting attention, influence, and funding away from worthless superstitions and toward projects and ideas that are evidenced to be beneficial to humanity and to the world.

The scientific method is central to skepticism. The scientific method requires evidence, preferably derived from validated testing. Anecdotal evidence and personal testimonies generally don't meet the qualifications for scientific evidence, and thus won't often be accepted by a responsible skeptic; which often explains why skeptics get such a bad rap for being negative or disbelieving people. They're simply following the scientific method.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, particularly in claims that are far fetched or that violate physical laws. Skepticism is an essential, and meaningful, component of the search for truth.

http://skeptoid.com/skeptic.php

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