HYPNOTIC STATES OF AMERIKA: How the “Conspiracy Theory” Label Undermines the Truth – By Katherine Smith Ph.D

Source – wakeup-world.com

– “Conspiracy” is a real word for a real events that have taken place in human societies in all cultures throughout human history. [see Appendix A]

The assassination of the President of the United States on national television by a “lone” assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, who himself is assassinated the next day by another “lone” assassin—would cause even the most rational skeptic, or critical thinker, to question the institutional narrative of the events. [1] In other words, the institutional narrative, or official explanation, of a lone assassin who was in turn assassinated the very next day by another lone assassin, is as epistemically dubious, and as equally “silly and without merit”, as any of the conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK assassination.

The human species has evolved as pattern-seeking, cause-inferring animals. As such, our nature drives us to find meaningful relationships to understand the world. Conspiracy theories are offered as alternate explanation to an important social, political or economic event (henceforward, “The Event”) when the institutional narrative is confusing or unsatisfactory.

 

Conspiracy, originally a neutral term, has acquired a somewhat derogatory meaning since the mid sixties, for it implies a paranoid tendency to see the influence of some malign covert agency in certain events. Conspiracy theorizing has become commonplace in the mass media and emerged as a cultural phenomenon in the United States following the public assassination of JFK.

Noam Chomsky, linguist and scholar, contrasts conspiracy theory as, more or less, the opposite of institutional analysis. The latter focuses mostly on explanations based on the information found in official records of publicly known institutions, whereas the former offers explanations based on information derived from coalitions of individuals.

Most academics, or the rational community, find the conspiracy theories of popular culture to be silly and without merit, and automatically dismiss such alternative explanations as ridiculous, misconceived, unfounded, outlandish and the result of irrational thinking by paranoid schizophrenics. Some academics even contend that conspiracy theories “undermine human social and civic decency in society.” [2]

However, on closer examination, academics can see, and are forced to admit, that there is no systemic flaw to the concept of the conspiracy theory per se, because 1) there have been at least 33 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out To Be True and 2) it is in the nature of many conspiracy theories that they cannot be falsified; that is, proven to be false.

In Of Conspiracy Theories, Brian Keeley acknowledges this important point but then argues that it’s not the theory that is the problem, but rather the theorist. The theorists, we are told, display a “particular absence or deformities of critical thinking skills when they refuse to accept the institutional explanation of The Event.” He further wonders whether the problem lies in our teaching methods. [3]

Keeley refers to the numerous historically verified conspiracy theories as Warranted Conspiracy Theories (WCTs), as opposed to theories that have not, or cannot, be verified and are thus, according to Keeley, Unwarranted Conspiracy Theories, (UCTs). When all the academic terminology, doublespeak and jargon are stripped away, a UCT is simply an alternative explanation of The Event that hasn’t been verified by independent sources. [4]

Keeley admits that he and the academic community have no justification to systematically and unilaterally dismiss conspiracy theories as silly and without merit when he writes:

“There is no criterion or set of criteria that provide a priori grounds for distinguishing WCTs from UCTs. One might perhaps like to insist here that UCTs ought to be false, and this is why we are not warranted in believing them, but it is in the nature of many conspiracy theories that they cannot be falsified. The best we may do is show why the warrant for believing them is so poor.”

And the best he can show as to “why the warrant for believing them is so poor” is public trust skepticism.

“It is this pervasive skepticism of people and public institutions entailed by some mature conspiracy theories which ultimately provides us with the grounds with which to identify them as unwarranted.

It is not their lack of falsifiability per se, but a belief in an increasingly massive conspiracy theory that undermines the grounds for believing in anything. Accepting the UCT explanation requires one to question too many of the various institutions that have been set up to generate reliable data and evidence in our world.”

At some point, according to Keeley, we shall be forced to recognize the unwarranted nature of the conspiracy if we are to be left with any warranted explanations and beliefs at all.

And finally, as the theory grows to include more and more people and institutions and yet remains unverified, the less plausible the conspiracy becomes; because, it stands to reason that, at some point, someone would have come forward with the missing and necessary data.

Notice the words, “we shall be forced to recognize;” rather than, “we have proof” that the theory is false. Keeley admits that academics are entitled to dismiss a conspiracy theory if a belief in that alternative explanation undermines the grounds for believing in anything. Furthermore, we are entitled to dismiss a mature conspiracy if it involves too many people. Keeley’s take on the JFK assassination mature conspiracy might read as follows:

Even if the CIA, FBI, Secret Service, Police Departments and Coroners offices in two cities, were part of a large conspiracy to cover up their incompetence in the public assassination of JFK, “it is impossible to believe that not a single member of the any of the agencies involved would be moved by guilt, self interest, or some other motivation to reveal the agency’s role in the tragedy, if not to the press, then to a lover or family member. Governmental agencies, even those as regulate and controlled as the military and intelligence agencies, are plagued with leaks and rumors. To propose that an explosive secret could be closeted for any length of time simply reveals a lack of understanding of the nature of modern bureaucracies. Like the world itself, they are made up of too many people with too many different agendas to be easily controlled.”

Keeley asserts that, “we do live in an open world, but only because to think otherwise would lead to disastrous skepticism.” For Keeley, the theorists lack critical thinking skills because they don’t recognize that a belief in a UCT invalidates every other social belief they need to function in society.

In his attempt to prove the theorists are guilty of too much skepticism, Keeley overlooks the implications of the nature, logistics and institutional narrative of The Event. Everything that can be shown to be true about the mature conspiracy theory—unfalsiabiality, skepticism, epistemically dubious—applies to the narrative of The Event.

A close look at the JFK assassination mature conspiracy will illustrate my point.

The JFK Assassination: A mature conspiracy theory case study

Is the institutional narrative of the Oswald lone assassin theory, any more epistemically dubious, or any less “silly and without merit,” as the JFK tin-foil hat conspiracies?

The CIA killed JFK; the Mob killed JFK; the CIA and the Mob working together killed JFK; last but not least, Fidel Castro contracted with the KGB to have JFK killed.

Neither the institutional nor the conspiratorial explanation of the event is a warranted belief and should be dismissed on epistemic grounds. That is, there is sufficient reason to believe that the institutional view, just like the conspiratorial view, of the JFK assassination is false, yet neither view can be falsified.

A conspiratorial explanation of the nature and logistics of The Event is really no more or less rational and logical as the institutional narrative. Thus, Keeley should have written:

“There is no criterion or set of criteria that provide a priori grounds for distinguishing warranted conspiracy theories (WCTs) from UCTs or the Institutional View.’ One might perhaps like to insist here that warranted conspiracy theories, UCTs and the Institutional View ought to be false, and this is why we are not warranted in believing in any of them, but it is in the nature of many historical events that they cannot be falsified. The best we may do is show why the warrant for believing in either the conspiracy or the institutional explanation is so poor.”

Errant Data and The Conspiracy Theory Paradox

No discussion of conspiracy theories would be complete without a discussion of errant data. Anomalies and discrepancies surface immediately upon the announcement of The Event and increase as the conspiracy matures. Errant data, or data that cannot be reconciled with the official explanation of the event, is the chief tool of the conspiracy theorist.

Again, the JFK Assassination illustrates my point. The rational community ignores the details of the rifle, the bullet and the witnesses who heard other shots from other directions (errant data) on the grounds that there is no reliable way to gather social data, as opposed to scientific, data about the human world. [5]

Furthermore, when pressed, people will be ready to admit that the anomalies and inconsistencies (errant data) in the institutional view could never be chance occurrences. They escape the obvious improbability question by correctly pointing out that the errant data, even if true, does not constitute proof of anything, especially that the event was a conspiracy.

Related to errant data is what we shall refer to as the Conspiracy Theory Paradox.

Why would the conspirators, with the ability to plan and manage a conspiracy involving the CIA, FBI, Secret Service, Police Departments and Coroners offices in two cities (e.g., the JFK assassination), come up with such a convoluted senseless plan riddled with so many mistakes, anomalies and discrepancies (errant data)? And then, inexplicably, that same errant data is ubiquitously exposed in the media for everyone to question. [6]

  • Neither the rational nor the conspiracy community have an explanation for why the conspirators would come up with such a convoluted senseless plan when a much simpler plan would accomplish the same goal. Why not have a rogue agent, in the CIA, FBI or Secret Service shoot the president in the middle of the night?
  • Neither the rational nor the conspiracy community have an explanation for why the conspirators would allow the mistakes, anomalies, discrepancies and the holes in the “official story” (errant data) to find it’s way into the official institutional record and then allow that same data to be aired on national television for all to question. [7]
  • Neither the rational nor the conspiracy community have an explanation for how trivial it would have been for the conspirators to change or falsify the alleged discrepancy or anomaly and avoid the stupid “mistakes.” Consider how easy it would for the master criminals to just keep the Errant Data from being aired on national television compared to the magnitude of the criminal acts they are alleged to have committed.

Although the existence of a Paradox or Errant Data could never be offered as proof that the Event was a conspiracy, they are none the less consistent, though not proof, with a conspiracy to make you believe the event was a conspiracy. [8]

The Theorists, believing themselves to be truth seekers in assessing the nature, logistics and the institutional explanation of The Event classified as a UCT, are forced into a contradictory belief, or “critical thinking trap.”

Unwilling to abandon what they know to be the truth; that is, that the institutional view is false, [9] theorists are forced into a degenerative research program. A degenerative research program is one where the auxiliary hypotheses and initial conditions are continually modified in light of new evidence in order to protect the original theory from apparent disconfirmation. [10]

Why doesn’t everyone fall into the “critical thinking trap?”

The majority of people exposed to “The Event classified as a UCT,” are apathetic, indifferent and feel powerless because of a belief that the power elite control the world. [11]

The rational community, or anyone who is not a theorists or indifferent, consciously or unconsciously realizes the institutional view cannot be true; but at the same time, again consciously or unconsciously, realize that any alternate explanation or theory would require they question the very foundations of their beliefs about the society they live in. [12]

In “Of Conspiracy Theories” Keeley begins with the premise that the theorists are the problem but ends with the admission that until a third option is presented, the theorists are really only guilty of hyper-skepticism (inherent in supposing dissimulation on a truly massive scale) because the theorists are unable to see that distrusting the claims of our institutions leads to “the absurdism of an irrational and essentially meaningless world.” [13]

When the rational community resort to ad hominem attacks, i.e., conspiracy theories are “silly, without merit” or the result of irrational thinking by paranoid schizophrenics, they reveal how large a role trust—in both institutions and individuals, mechanisms and people —plays in their thinking and beliefs about UCTs.

What can we say about the institutional narrative, the Conspiracy Theory Paradox and the Errant Data? The Theorists are really only guilty of not recognizing the institutional narrative, the Conspiracy Theory Paradox and the Errant Data are consistent with, but not necessarily proof, of a Conspiracy to make you believe the event was a Conspiracy. [14]

The Critical Thinking Trap

The Theorists, believing themselves to be truth seekers in assessing the nature, logistics and the institutional explanation of The Event classified as a UCT, are forced into a contradictory belief, or “critical thinking trap.”

Unwilling to abandon what they know to be the truth; that is, that the institutional view is false, [9] theorists are forced into a degenerative research program. A degenerative research program is one where the auxiliary hypotheses and initial conditions are continually modified in light of new evidence in order to protect the original theory from apparent disconfirmation. [10]

Why doesn’t everyone fall into the “critical thinking trap?”

The majority of people exposed to “The Event classified as a UCT,” are apathetic, indifferent and feel powerless because of a belief that the power elite control the world. [11]

The rational community, or anyone who is not a theorists or indifferent, consciously or unconsciously realizes the institutional view cannot be true; but at the same time, again consciously or unconsciously, realize that any alternate explanation or theory would require they question the very foundations of their beliefs about the society they live in. [12]

In “Of Conspiracy Theories” Keeley begins with the premise that the theorists are the problem but ends with the admission that until a third option is presented, the theorists are really only guilty of hyper-skepticism (inherent in supposing dissimulation on a truly massive scale) because the theorists are unable to see that distrusting the claims of our institutions leads to “the absurdism of an irrational and essentially meaningless world.” [13]

When the rational community resort to ad hominem attacks, i.e., conspiracy theories are “silly, without merit” or the result of irrational thinking by paranoid schizophrenics, they reveal how large a role trust—in both institutions and individuals, mechanisms and people —plays in their thinking and beliefs about UCTs.

What can we say about the institutional narrative, the Conspiracy Theory Paradox and the Errant Data? The Theorists are really only guilty of not recognizing the institutional narrative, the Conspiracy Theory Paradox and the Errant Data are consistent with, but not necessarily proof, of a Conspiracy to make you believe the event was a Conspiracy. [14]

Read Full Article…

http://wakeup-world.com/2015/12/06/critical-thinking-trap-how-the-conspiracy-theory-label-undermines-truth/

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