There is something on my mind that I’m reluctant to try to write about. It’s a complex subject that would take a book to provide the necessary cited data and analysis. Besides, it’s a topic that I feel few are inclined (able? willing?) to understand. I’m not even sure what to call the subject. The term “conspiracy” may be the closest I can come to describe it.
Within human nature, there is an inherent naivete that blinds and blinders us. It takes some combination of certain personality tendencies (in particular a questioning mindset), life experiences (of the strange variety is probably helpful), suffering (to a significant degree and length), a contemplative attitude (with or without an accompanying contemplative practice), and critical thinking skills (not limited to conventional logic) – along with any number of other factors – to even begin to take this subject seriously. I sense that it may be similar to what Ligotti writes about. His pessimistic philosophy is based on his own direct experience… either you’ve had similar experiences or not, and no amount of logic or data will be convincing otherwise.
I’m tempted to theorize that this gut-level sense of “conspiracy” is something beyond the political to which its normally applied. Is it metaphysical in terms of reality being illusory, deceptive even? Is it the insight of the Gnostics? Most definitely, the pessimistic views on suffering and freewill play a part in this, and along with all of this the noir vision of life. Of course, there are various psychological and socio-political explanations one can give for this experience (subjective or objective) of conspiracy, but to me any mundane explanation can’t touch upon the mystery at the heart of the matter. I could bring up many aspects, but I’m not in the mood to philosophically analyze.
If I’m interested in the mystery more than the explanations, then why did I choose to use the term “conspiracy”? There are two reasons. I am interested in the real world correlations of this experience which would include the topics normally placed in this category. The other reason is because Ligotti uses this word in the title of his book about pessimism. Ligotti’s views are in the background of my thinking even though this blog isn’t about his ideas.
Okay, let me now get at my main point. Conspiracies in the real world are only possible because the human psyche has a natural inclination towards conspiracies. Just consider the young of our species. Children are often conspiring with their siblings against their parents or with their friends against various authority figures or even with other children against other children. Children are no innocents. Conniving little beasts is what they are. Of course, parents and authority figures likewise conspire to control and mould children towards their own nefarious ends such as making them into law-abiding citizens and obedient workers.
Conspiracies are found in all aspects of life. A conspiracy is simply anything covertly shared between two or more people toward some end. I suspect that many people dismiss conspiracy theories because they wish to deny their own secretiveness. We all have many secrets. We all withhold information and distort the truth in trying to gain advantage in our relationships and our everyday activities. In fact, it’s normal and considered acceptable (expected even) for individuals to present their best face/persona.
As for the more common definition of “conspiracy”, one could spend (and many have spent) their whole life investigating and compiling the complex webs of covert (and often illegal) activities of various people and organizations: government officials, alphabet soup agencies, military, owners and CEOs of corporations, those involved in the stock market, special interest groups, scientists, unions, mafia, etc.). The close connections between old wealth families, royal blood, political position, and corporation ownership (such as media and oil) is intriguing to say the least. In terms of the US, some other interesting details that rarely make it into the mainstream media and are rarely investigated deeply even when they do get brief media attention: election discrepancies, history of government experimentation on citizens, missing federal money and black budget, illegal activities in other countries implemented or supported by this government, large number of people who disappear every year, and on and on.
Conspiracies (and other unexplained phenomena) are happening all of the time. One just hopes that they either benefit one or at least don’t cause harm. Most people simply trust (or maybe just never think to question) the government (and other powerful organizations including the mainstream media) even though there is no clear justification for such blind faith.
I’m not recommending mistrust and suspiciousness. I’m not actually recommending anything, but I am a proponent of curiosity and critical thinking… which I perceive as fairly rare attributes. It’s understandable. Few if any would willingly choose to think about conspiracies… only those who are insane or have too much time on their hands waste their lives on conspiracy theories. Its just that, once this view has been deeply considered (however that comes about), it’s extremely hard to forget. This isn’t to imply that it is somehow important. It seems to me that it doesn’t necessarily have much significance from a practical perspective. It certainly hasn’t helped me in my life.
Conspiracies always have existed and always will; and there have always been those obsessed about uncovering them and there always will. But who cares? I’m sure most people don’t care (bread and circus I suppose). Besides, if you’re one of the lucky few in the world to live well off in a powerful country, then most conspiracies probably work in your favor. And if not, then you’re just f*cked and you might as well resign yourself to your fate. Ha! How about that for cynicism!?!
Its true that all of this is a moral issue, but morality on this scale is practically invisible to the average person. Most people are just too busy trying to get by to worry about these seemingly pointless speculations. Even if someone becomes aware of various morally questionable covert activities, it is easy to rationalize them away. Morality only matters on the personal level and it’s hard to connect to conspiracies as being a part of one’s personal reality.
I only think about this kind of thing because I don’t know how to not think about it. I’m genuinely bewildered that more people aren’t bothered by it. Despite my cynical attitude, I don’t see conspiracies as specifically negative. That conspiracies exist is simply a fact. That the world is very strange (stranger than science will ever comprehend) is simply the way the world is. To speculate any further would be to enter the realm of philosophy and religion, and that could be a very very long discussion.
7 thoughts on “Conspiracy: Experience and Reality”
So you haven’t entered yet those realms huh? lol. Good conclusion.
Hello, pochp! By any chance, do we know eachother? I meet so many people online that it gets confusing, but your name doesn’t sound familiar offhand. In case we haven’t ever met, nice to meet ya!
Well, I guess I did take a few steps into those realms, but not that far. This is me speculating and wondering which is different than when I get in all out philosopy mode.
These are just the ideas on my mind, but I’m not sure how well I explained them. The blog feels slightly disjointed. I suppose it’s good enough for a quick blog about a complex subject.
First time we met. And don’t worry, the post was clear and good enough.
A recent email discussion of mine seems pertinent here:
“A friend of mine, who I saw recently, is heavy into the conspiracy theories (CT). So he planted, or maybe I should say watered, some seeds in my mind. My issue is this, how is a person, unless he happens to be some sort of renegade journalist, ever supposed to know the truth on these matters when there seem to be excellent arguments from both sides? In my view at least, the CTs have some pretty good arguments and what seems to be, at minimum, some provocative circumstantial evidence. Most people don’t have the time or desire to really sift through things thoroughly enough to arrive at a conclusion based on real evidence. So what do we do? We go with our gut, perhaps going with what we want to believe to the case.
At times, I am able to quell my CT attraction with something like the following: “If it is really true, then a “real” journalist or popular author would surely write about it.” However, the fact is, that these same “real” journalists (or their employers) can quickly lose their status if deemed to be chasing CTs. This seems similar to the science vs pseudoscience debate. If a “real” scientist suddenly decides to study something typically deemed pseudoscientific and eventually deems it scientifically valid, then he is quickly relabeled as a pseudoscientist. In other words, his colleagues will assume he had some sort of religious experience or smoked a few too many joints, causing him to abandon ship and join the lunatics on the other side.”
“I can definitely relate to your two sides, and your explanation of the quandary surrounding conspiracy theories is lucid. The media could easily be suppressed, or in on the con, or simply duped like the rest of us. What mechanism is there to prevent us from erroneously dismissing some imminent danger because it sounds too much like a conspiracy theory?
There are two kinds of cynicism that duke it out for me: there’s the cynicism of seeing conspiratorial forces at work, but then there’s the cynicism that says this is giving someone too much credit. Or to put it differently, I’m perfectly willing to believe that there are malevolent forces seeking to control our destinies, but less willing to believe that any of them are terribly successful.
There’s also a bit of an Occam’s Razor dynamic to my thinking; often, human greed and/or ineptitude seem perfectly capable of explaining phenomena without reaching for more elaborate theories.”
I’m of the opinion that the existence of conspiracies is beyond dispute. There is no end to historical evidence about various conspiracies where individuals and groups manipulated politics, markets,and the media.
Just look at the history of CIA (paramilitary, drug and arms sales) and FBI (COINTELPRO). It’s not exactly a secret now because those operations are in the past and the documents were released, but at the time they certainly were conspiracies. But COINTELPRO, for example, was seemingly still in operation illegally into the 1990s (Judi Bari case). I just now noticed an article about the FBI breaking the law for years to obtain phone records.
The problem is that we usually only learn of conspiracies long after they’re over or when someone is caught. Nixon and Watergate is an example of a failed conspiracy, but then some claim a further conspiracy that was behind that one. The problem with conspiracies is that you never know what is actually true even when they come to light.
In general, the media only focuses on conspiracies when it can’t ignore them. The media couldn’t ignore Watergate. However, the media used to do a lot more investigative journalism which involved uncovering conspiracies. There is a long history of corporate conspiracy involving various governments, paramiitary groups, circumvention of laws, bribes, pollution, etc. I’m reading The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen and he covers many examples of this.
Most conspiracies aren’t nefarious on the largescale. Most people aren’t seeking world domination. However, people do seek to make alliances with those of like minds, with those that have common interests. People tend to give money and favors to people they know, with companies they’ve worked with or for.
A conspiracy is simply the attempt to influence some situation by working with one or more people. A secret birthday party is a conspiracy. When two workers do something they shouldn’t and don’t tell their boss… well, it’s a conspiracy. Conspiracies may involve violence and murder, blackmailing and threats, but most of the time they don’t. Most conspiracies are small, but often large conspiracies are nothing more than the longterm accumulation of many small conspiracies.
I was just listening to an interview on NPR. The topic of discussion was a rather mild form of conspiracy.
Clarence King was a famous man in the late 19th century. He was white, but led a double life as a black man married to a black woman. He kept his double life a secret, and after his death others kept his wife and children a secret. Even though the wife was still alive, a biographer of Clarence King was uninterested in her.
To me, it’s just human nature to be prone to keep secrets, one’s own and others. There are some facts that no one wants to know. There are always those who know, but if no one cares to listen to their story it doesn’t really matter. A conspiracy can exist even when it’s an open secret. Derrick Jensen writes about the psychological and social reasons for why people deny the truth (to themselves and others) and why people remain silent. Human nature is endlessly fascinating.