I still think that the psychology of conspiracy theorists has a lot to do with it, probably because of the Truthers I know with no skin in the game (Brits, Irish, Slovaks…). A particular kind of (extreme) credulity that thinks it’s worldly cynicism. A sense of superiority that one has the “real truth” while the sheeple haplessly accept the official lies. And a complete lack of either the necessary knowledge to evaluate claims or a consciousness of this ignorance. I have one friend who insists that WTC and the Pentagon were bombs, that the planes were generated by CGI, that a few bits of wreckage were planted in front of the Pentagon but clearly not enough and in too good a condition to come from an actual airplane attack: the most Byzantine, inconsistent and improbable pile of donkey dung imaginable. Of course, last time I met him he was telling me how he read on the Internet that the Pyramids were designed as chemical reaction chambers to send microwave signals into space, and how he found this “very persuasive.” Oh, and he’s a Holocaust denier. He also told me once that University education only limits ones mental horizons, whereas the LSD he ingested daily over a similar period of time expanded his.
That’s also true. I was concentrating on the internal contradictions of the America-fearing American, but all conspiracists live with even deeper conflicts. As you say Jeff, they have a powerful faith which they think of as cynicism.
I’ve said elsewhere, conspiracy theories seem to satisfy some of the same mental urges as religion. They are surprisingly like a mythos, in that they create exciting stories to explain the world about us. And just as religion, they provide the ultimate all-purpose explanation: Things difficult to explain can be seen instead as the manifestation of a powerful but invisible will. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the idea of unseen will may actually be innate to the the human species, a built-in default hypothesis for about anything.
The thing making them different from religion though – or at least, traditional religion – is that the actors are not gods or spirits, but human. Still, perhaps conspiracy theories should be considered new materialist religions, belief systems for generations that, while still credulous, draw the line at the supernatural. (We’ll leave aside for now conspiracies that involve the influence of alien civilisations. These are supernatural beings in every sense that angels and demons are, just dressed from a contemporary costume box.)
But though the conspirators are not explicitly supernatural beings, they still have superhuman powers. They consistently pull off the scale of operation that non-clandestine organisations and governments usually seem to screw up. They have secrets that are never left in taxis or revealed by Wikileaks. They have superhuman powers of planning, efficiency, and organisation. Modern-day superpowers.
The last week was of course dominated by 9/11, its conspiracy theories especially, but my attention was also arrested by a court in England which created some rather unusual and onerous conditions of bail. I ranted somewhat about the extraordinary birthday arrangements for Ireland’s disgraced former leader Bertie Ahern, and got good and mad with what seems like an ever-rising tide of ever-more-tedious spam.
But I’d swear, writing about spam attracts more spam. And writing about conspiracy theories attracts weirder spam. Look at this one:
We have learned a great deal about recovering from narcotic addiction and have found several methods that work well. This is information drug treatment programs would not want out since it would cause them to lose a large number of patients.
The what now? Are they offering me drug rehabilitation, or drug rehabilitation as a business opportunity? I don’t want to know.
The surprise hit of last week though was the one about the cyberstalking of Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google. It was picked up by a couple of other sites, including the formidable Reddit and the forums of the veteran Ctrl+Alt+Del webcomic. This made it the single most-read post of the blog so far. Lovely stuff. I encourage you all to follow this example and spam other sites about I.Doubt.It.
I’ve had unkind things to say in the past about Google, in particular executive chairman Eric E. Schmidt. Along with many others, I have – possibly unfairly – suggested that his attitude towards privacy rights might not be all it should.
I have never accused him of murder though. You have to give me that.
Eric Schmidt is being cyberstalked. No, that would be to aggrandize it. Someone is comment-spamming Eric Schmidt. VirtuallyanywhereSchmidtismentioned, a Chinese guy calling himself Peter Cao comes to accuse him (and Stanford Professor of Artificial Intelligence Sebastian Thrun) of being involved in the murder and/or cover-up of the murder of May Mengyao Zhou, a Stanford graduate student whose suspicious death was ruled suicide. His accusations however lack… credibility. To say the least. Taken from the above links:
Eric Schmidt represents and is backed up by some mafia like dark force which tend to resovle their problems with killing power. Threatening my life with May Zhou’s case is not the only time, Schmidt’s side had actually plotted a murder on me during his fight with authorities and would have wiped me out, though it was crashed by securities in time, and that’s why he was removed from his CEO position. [Red text in the original]
Cao never seems to rest. Do a search on the terms “Peter Cao” “Eric Schmidt” and there are countless (highly repetitive) examples of his accusations. Is there any substance to them? Well, personally, I am strongly persuaded that the guy is an utter fruitbat. Here’s a glimpse of how he sees himself (which perhaps also reveals his motivation):
Google’s ambition in China is not limited in business. Google tried to act as a flagship of foreign powers to rival Chinese authorities on Chinese territory. Even till today, google still arrogantly places itself hight and lofty above Chinese people over its existence in China.
In the past, Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt had backed up crimes against me, and had threatened my life with the mysterious death of very innocent people in Stanford in that case. I defeated Schmidt at authorities in this case and got him down from his CEO position. I could tell Google would be eventually terminated and kicked out of in China if Google executives refuse to ‘change stance on China’.
Peter. It’s me, Eric. I thought we already talked about this. I am going to squash you like a bug if you keep posting on this comment board. What you don’t know (but surely suspected) is that the video cameras I installed in your house are allowing me to track everything you do. In fact, I am live streaming your pathetic life, including all the insane searches you do about my home address and love interests, to all my friends on the Stanford faculty. Next I will bring in my mafia-like dark killing power to bear.
I think most of us would assume that was not the real Schmidt… On what appears to be his blog however, Cao has taken the threat as vindication.
I report all this not because I think it’s amusing (though shamefully, I do), but out of a rather morbid fascination. Paranoid delusion is in the air right now as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches. Fantasies of persecution – whether those of the deniers, or those of the attackers themselves – have the power to change the world. And recently it feels a lot like the mad are winning.