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Mr. Conspiracy

January 11, 2008

In popular culture and in the media, you’ll often see the phrase “conspiracy theorist” or “conspiracy theory” used with a sense of derision.  I like to keep in mind, however, that conspiracies do exist.  If they didn’t, there’d be no need for the legal concept, after all.  As for conspiracies of the more elaborate and outlandish brand, well, anyone can look to history to find evidence of real schemes, plots and cabals of significant scale.  What you’ll find disagreement on is how loosely the term “conspiracy” is used when describing such things, as the word could literally be applied to just about anything.  From wiki:

The term “conspiracy theory” is considered by different observers to be a neutral description for a conspiracy claim, a pejorative term used to dismiss such a claim without examination, and a term that can be positively embraced by proponents of such a claim. The term may be used by some for arguments they might not wholly believe but consider radical and exciting. The most widely accepted sense of the term is that which popular culture and academic usage share, certainly having negative implications for a narrative’s probable truth value.

Given this popular understanding of the term, it is conceivable that the term might be used illegitimately and inappropriately, as a means to dismiss what are in fact substantial and well-evidenced accusations. The legitimacy of each such usage will therefore be a matter of some controversy. Disinterested observers will compare an allegation’s features with those of the category listed above, in order to determine whether a given usage is legitimate or prejudicial.

That said…

I think there is something to the idea that certain people are predisposed to look for conspiracies around every corner; those who posses a world view that is cynical to the point of paranoia.  Whether this is a “nature vs. nurture” question, I’m not sure, but I’ve come across a few people in both my personal and internet life seem to fit this description.  In fact, one of my professors in college (mid-90’s) was none other than Dr. James H. Fetzer, founder of “Scholars for 9/11 Truth“.   It was well-known around campus that Dr. Fetzer had been intimately involved with theories on the JFK assassination (in fairness, the topic never came up in his course), and years later I see that he’s also published a theory on the death of Paul Wellstone.   The conclusion might be that he either has an amazing gift for seeing right through these complex plots, or he’s off his proverbial rocker; one of those people who assumes conspiracy and desperately digs up evidence to back up his hypothesis, no matter how improbable.

On the internet, I’ve seen plenty of this kind of thing.  Unlike Dr. Fetzer, however, these netizens don’t have their personal reputation and profession on the line when wild claims are thrown out there, so they are rarely backed up with sources or evidence.  Some have even visited me here in the Chamber, and recently I’ve even been accused of being involved in a conspiracy (of sorts). 

So, in the spirit of (and as a tribute to) all the Mr. Conspiracies out there in cyberspace, I hereby unveil the sixth Chamber emblem:

conspiracy.gif

This icon is awarded whenever a poorly-sourced accusation or claim of a wild conspiratorial nature is made here in the Chamber. 

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