Conspirators in pajamas
There is nothing wrong with the word conspiracy. It just means ‘to breathe together’.Janeane Garofalo
Conspiracies have always allured human imagination. There is something seductive and endowing about plotting against fate as to shape reality and take destiny into one’s own hands.
A conspiracy to be successful, however, has to be secret and very well planned. We are talking about overturning, subverting the established order or system, after all.
(…) For the difficulties that confront a conspirator are infinite. And as experience shows, many have been the conspiracies, but few have been successful; because he who conspires cannot act alone, nor can he take a companion except from those whom he believes to be malcontents, and as soon as you have opened your mind to a malcontent you have given him the material with which to content himself, for by denouncing you he can look for every advantage; so that, seeing the gain from this course to be assured, and seeing the other to be doubtful and full of dangers, he must be a very rare friend , or a thoroughly obstinate enemy of the prince, to keep faith with you.Niccolo Machiavelli – The Prince
Exactly for these reasons, conspiracies are not as frequent, not as successful, not as secret and not as robust and mighty as we fancy them.
For the same reasons, conspiracy theories can proliferate, grow and corrupt, since there is no substrate to prove them right or wrong and in speculating rejoices the mind.
In speculating rejoices the mind…
I think that one of our big mistakes when dealing with conspiracy theories is trying to rigidly label them as evildoing. This Manichean perspective obscures a deeper comprehension of what they actually are and how to identify them.
In order to understand the framework behind conspiracy theories, we need to understand what in anthropology or psychology is called magical thinking.
Magical thinking is the idea that our thoughts, beliefs, or our interpretation of the world can interfere with the objective reality, without acting on it; or inversely, that the observed reality can be explained through personal beliefs, theories, interpretations and assumptions in a deterministic way.
Magical thinking is the basis of all religious and ritualistic credos and now it can be contemporaneously renamed as conspiratorial thinking because it seems to have gained new colours.
It remains, however, that someone does not necessarily create a conspiracy theory to propagate lies or to do evil.
These ill intentioned individuals are common nowadays, but this aspect is something relatively recent in the natural history of human thinking.
The human mind believes in conspiracies to escape randomness and the sense of fatality, to soothe the frightening existence of the unknown and the unpredictable.
The human mind believes in conspiracies to control, explain and accept reality.
This is ancestral to Science and archetypical, which means we all have conspiratorial tendencies and we are all more or less susceptible to credit theories about them.
We must, obviously, consider the fact that conspirations and conspirators do exist, but the perspective we give to conspiracy theories and theorists is exactly the fanciful aspects and the absurd ideation related to them.
About half of Americans believe in one or more of the common ones. Belief is more widespread among the less-educated, but is by no means confined to them. Educated people are also susceptible if a conspiracy theory fits with their pre-existing world view.
Whenever the human mind cannot understand, accept or cope with reality, it uses magical thinking to have a sense of control, of power over external forces or even resignation to them.
We conspire against loneliness, randomness and fate.
Enemies of my soul,
Conspirators in pajamas
Who exchange deep kisses for passwords.
Pablo Neruda – Caballero solo – To read the original in Spanish – https://www.poemas-del-alma.com/pablo-neruda-caballero-solo.htm
As a matter of fact, evidence suggests that the aversive feelings that people experience when in crisis—fear, uncertainty, and the feeling of being out of control—stimulate a motivation to make sense of the situation, increasing the likelihood of perceiving conspiracies in social situations. 1
Conspiracy theories and Science
Can Science debunk conspiracy theories?
Is Science the perfect antidote to conspiracy theories?
Can Science be used to create conspiracy theories?
What is the role of Science and how does Science aid humanity?
Science is a method to decode Nature.
We, living beings, are all subject to natural phenomena, natural causality, natural interdependence, natural laws. But, Nature is a mystery to our minds. Nature uses a “coded language” that is unintelligible to us.
Through our intellect, we created a method to decode Nature and make it intelligible – the scientific method.
Science is a method to decode Nature, to read natural laws, to understand causality, interdependence and to use this knowledge to predict, to control, to alter, to manage natural phenomena and circumstances we are all subject to.
If we compare these tools – Science and Magical thinking – they serve the same purpose.
Science substitutes Magical thinking, as a more accurate approach to reality. Science can debunk conspiracy theories.
Still, Science – and especially the scientific method – is not a perfect tool to decode Nature. It is very frail and limited, actually; what is worse, it can be very rigid.
Science can be very rigid when we submit scientific analysis to scientific paradigms.
A paradigm is a set of concepts or thought patterns that include theories, postulates, methods, standards that do not necessarily correspond to reality, but that frame your observation, your analysis and your understanding.
Science unfortunately is built upon scientific paradigms, and it means that many times Nature and reality are forced, caged, boxed into rigid frames.
By consequence, Science is not the perfect antidote to conspiracy theories and can even be used to create them.
If we use an imperfect method to explain everything we can’t understand, with no possibility of doubt and review, we are again conspiring against loneliness, randomness and fate.
Based on this argumentation, it becomes clear that we cannot eliminate nor totally suppress the creation of conspiracy theories because magical thinking is inherent to the human mind, but we can be more substantiated in understanding and identifying them.
Conspiracy theories are not sinless either and some individuals are masters in producing content aimed to manipulate the public opinion.
The realm of conspiracism advances to the next level. The plot is not against the Prince or the system anymore; the plot, now, is against the people.
Vulnerabilities based on fear, prejudice, ignorance, outrage are exploited, through a narrative that meets ingrained or instilled world views and expectations.
It is evident that these dark psychology techniques require some knowledge, some real access to information, social visibility and funding, which means they are mostly developed by those who own the productive resources and the means of production.
This next level, where conspiracy theories are created and used as instrument of social control, then, belongs to the state and/or to the capital; they are mainly designed for political and/or economic purposes.
And these are other important considerations in identifying and unveiling conspiracy theories – arguments matter more than facts, and… which interest groups take advantage or benefit from them.
Indeed, conspiracy theories can be conceived and created as de facto evildoing, as authoritarian tools of power and subjugation; driven by insatiable greed and ambition; gross distortions of reality that distract and alienate us from legitimate issues and concerns about the collective well-being.
1 – Conspiracy theories as part of history: the role of societal crisis situations, by Jan-Willem van Prooijen and Karen M. Douglas.