why you can never win with conspiracy theorists

March 22, 2013


While there have been numerous studies on the psychology of conspiracy theorists, people to whom everything is a conspiracy by the powers that be to push a secret agenda, and who keep countering criticisms of their theories by invoking negative evidence and malfeasance at higher and higher levels, most of them focused on how they shape their worldview and why. Few cover the apparent obsessive nature of the true believers of a conspiracy theory who go so far in the name of "finding the truth" that they lose all perspective of what they’re doing and why they get static from those they try to interrogate. For example, the Sandy Hook Truthers, who insist that the school shooting in New England is some sort of secret government plot, are demanding the death certificates of the murdered children and hysterically hyperventilated when the coroner’s office contemplated telling them to go away and wasting their time with their "theories."

Basically, the theorists’ argument goes like this. They didn’t see any photos of the dead kids or their bodies in body bags, therefore it’s probable that their parents were really actors and there were no kids actually shot that day. If they were, why are there no pictures and videos of their little corpses? Let’s see, how about because while our news media has very little shame, they’re still cognizant that it’s in such revoltingly poor taste to bombard us with pictures of dead children covered in blood and bullet wounds that there would be riots outside their offices? And why is a coroner thinking twice about giving them death certificates? Because he knows that they’ll only be twisted to serve the conspiracy theorists’ agenda. Somebody on Prison Planet, or InfoWars, or ATS, will announce that his girlfriend’s best friend’s boyfriend-in-law twice removed just got his fifth degree black belt in death certificate forensics and totally knows they’re fake. How? It’s what always happens with every document meant to answer conspiracy theorists.

Even if someone were to go as inhumanly far as exhuming the victims’ bodies and doing a full, public DNA analysis broadcast live on the web to confirm that the victims are who we were told they are, some fanatic obsessed with this theories will find a way to claim that the tests were just theater by the Reptoids from Tau Ceti or whatnot. Again, this is what conspiracy theorists do. All evidence that runs counter to their beliefs must be rationalized to still fit into them, made out as some sort of disinformation operation by evil forces, or dismissed as a fraud. You can tell that it will happen with their pseudo-religious approach to their theories: a messianic proclamation of a discovered truth no one wants them to know, with anecdotes, factoids, rumors, and third-hand, if not fourth-hand accounts, presented to the critics to be disproved and held up as dogma that all true believers must follow lest they be labeled a CIA/NSA/Illuminati mole in their midst…

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  • You’ve highlighted something I was just thinking about yesterday, able to be seen in more than just conspiracy theorists. The evidence that would convince them that they were wrong needs to be rigorous beyond human ability – yet the evidence used to support their views is never held to any such lofty standard; sometimes it’s as flimsy as rumor or “what if” suppositions.

    This does provide a great tool when it comes to discussing such topics, because all one has to do is ask what any ‘believer’ (for want of a better word) has done to establish their evidence, most especially how they’ve ruled out alternatives. Since they’ve done nothing, what you’ll receive then is frantic redirection. This works better when they’ve already demonstrated how much support they’ll need to disprove their theory, since the double standard will be more obvious.

    As you indicate, there’s a desire in some people to find the secret cabal, and talking about standards of evidence is not likely to change it. However, no one has a desire for public humiliation, which is many cases is the only thing that works. And anyone in the ‘audience’ who might have been influenced to believe the lack of video, to use your example, was curious in some way, also gets to see how standards really should be applied.

  • Paul451

    Pshaw! Everyone knows that Truthers (of all genres) were created and fed by the secret cabal in order to bury the actual truth behind layers of noise and stupidity.