Conspiracy Theory

Part 2 of 7 in the series Sheeple

Sheeple (a portmanteau of “sheep” and “people”) is a term of disparagement in which people are likened to sheep, a herd animal. The term is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research. By doing so, they undermine their own individuality and may willingly give up their rights. — Wikipedia

Conspiracy Theorist: Nothing more than a derogatory title used to dismiss a critical thinker.
 
Sheep dog conspiracy meme
 
Turkey conspiracy meme
 
Lobster conspiracy meme
 
Your conspiracy theory was right

“Dictionaries list words as they are popularly conceived,” writes Dr. José Delgado in Physical Control of the Mind, “but current usage sometimes lacks scientific accuracy”:

Unless each term is defined, the reader’s conception may differ from the writer’s. Classifications and definitions are only human agreements which try to capture the essence of a person, place, or event by describing several of its elements. They are like sketches, which may omit or distort details. Naturally, if there is no agreement on the subject under discussion, the meaning of related words and sketches will be useless. Definitions should be considered as working tools to guide us on confusing ideological battlefields.…

Theories, experimental tools, and descriptive language are all very different, depending on whether we are dealing with chemistry, action potentials, social relations, or ghosts. When the entity under consideration is very complex, as the mind is, it is necessary to employ different methods to analyze the various properties, and it may be difficult to integrate results obtained in a variety of ways which reveal diverse aspects of truth.1 When consulting the literature we should not assume that different phenomena are equivalent merely because authors use the same words to identify them.2

Philip Gooden helps define the terms collude, connive, and conspire in his book “Who’s Whose?”:

These words share the common idea of plotting, but they have different shades of meaning and care needs to be taken before applying them to anybody.

To collude is to ‘conspire with’, especially in fraud. One of the parties in a collusion is likely to be on the ‘inside’ and so betraying his/her employers or colleagues:

The…security fear is of the croupier colluding with a customer. (The Times)

To connive, meaning ‘plot’, is a less critical term. It can suggest turning a blind eye to another’s unofficial or illicit activities, or a slightly underhand working together, as here:

Your staff will connive at presenting [a member of the Royal Family] as a dutiful grafter. (Observer)

Conspire, once again to ‘plot’, is the strongest of these three terms and tends to be restricted to criminal or treasonous contexts.

These are all words of condemnation. But conniving is relatively mild, while to collude or to conspire have distinctly dubious, not to say criminal, overtones.

The stronger the ‘offence’, the more justified is the use of collude or conspire. Remember that people connive at something but collude in it with someone, or they conspire to do it with someone.3

9 best conspiracy theories Are the Feds preparing for civil war?

For much of society, the word “conspiracy” elicits the term “conspiracy theory” which they presume to mean a crazy impossible idea. This form of Mickey Mousei mentality effectively shuts down critical thinking, exploration, and understanding – while perpetuating ignorance and increased feelings of hatred toward the so-called “bearer of bad news.” Another term holding such a significant emotional charge for many is “evolution”.

“We live in a nation where public acceptance of evolution is the second lowest of 34 developed countries,” notes James J. Krupa in an article for the Slate.com website originally printed in an issue of Orion. “Roughly half of Americans reject some aspect of evolution, believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that humans coexisted with dinosaurs.”

To truly understand evolution, you must first understand science. Unfortunately, one of the most misused words today is also one of the most important to science: theory. Many incorrectly see theory as the opposite of fact. The National Academy of Sciences provides concise definitions of these critical words: A fact is a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it; a theory is a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence generating testable and falsifiable predictions.

In science, something can be both theory and fact. We know the existence of pathogens is a fact; germ theory provides testable explanations concerning the nature of disease. We know the existence of cells is a fact and that cell theory provides testable explanations of how cells function. Similarly, we know evolution is a fact and that evolutionary theories explain biological patterns and mechanisms. The late Stephen Jay Gould said it best: “Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts.”

Theory is the most powerful and important tool science has, but nonscientists have perverted and diluted the word to mean a hunch, notion, or idea. Thus, all too many people interpret the phrase evolutionary theory to mean evolutionary hunch.4

The Wikipedia.org encyclopedia explains that

many scientific theories are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them substantially. For example, no new evidence will demonstrate that the Earth does not orbit around the sun (heliocentric theory), or that living things are not made of cells (cell theory), that matter is not composed of atoms, or that the surface of the Earth is not divided into solid plates that have moved over geological timescales (the theory of plate tectonics).5

This is significantly different from the common usage of the word ‘theory’, which implies that something is a guess (i.e., unsubstantiated and speculative).6

A proper definition of “conspiracy” refers to two or more criminals working in cahoots, such as gangs and other organized crime networks. The Lectric Law Library explains:

18 U.S.C. 371 makes it a separate Federal crime or offense for anyone to conspire or agree with someone else to do something which, if actually carried out, would amount to another Federal crime or offense. So, under this law, a ‘conspiracy’ is an agreement or a kind of ‘partnership’ in criminal purposes in which each member becomes the agent or partner of every other member.

In order to establish a conspiracy offense it is not necessary for the Government to prove that all of the people named in the indictment were members of the scheme; or that those who were members had entered into any formal type of agreement; or that the members had planned together all of the details of the scheme or the ‘overt acts’ that the indictment charges would be carried out in an effort to commit the intended crime.

Also, because the essence of a conspiracy offense is the making of the agreement itself (followed by the commission of any overt act), it is not necessary for the Government to prove that the conspirators actually succeeded in accomplishing their unlawful plan.7

In the case of Craig v. U.S. C.C.A. Cal. 81 F2d 816, 822, the California Court of Appeals ruled:

A conspiracy may be a continuing one; actors may drop out and others may drop in; the details of operation may change from time to time; the members need not know each other or the part played by others; a member may not need to know all the details of the plan of the operation; he must, however, know the purpose of the conspiracy and agree to become a party to a plan to effectuate that purpose.

Maggie Koerth-Baker addresses “Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories” in The New York Times published shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing caused a flurry of wild speculation:

“The best predictor of belief in a conspiracy theory is belief in other conspiracy theories,” says Viren Swami, a psychology professor who studies conspiracy belief at the University of Westminster in England. Psychologists say that’s because a conspiracy theory isn’t so much a response to a single event as it is an expression of an overarching worldview.As Richard Hofstadter wrote in his seminal 1965 book, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” conspiracy theories, especially those involving meddlesome foreigners, are a favorite pastime in this nation. Americans have always had the sneaking suspicion that somebody was out to get us — be it Freemasons, Catholics or communists.…

While psychologists can’t know exactly what goes on inside our heads, they have, through surveys and laboratory studies, come up with a set of traits that correlate well with conspiracy belief. In 2010, Swami and a co-author summarized this research in The Psychologist, a scientific journal. They found, perhaps surprisingly, that believers are more likely to be cynical about the world in general and politics in particular. Conspiracy theories also seem to be more compelling to those with low self-worth, especially with regard to their sense of agency in the world at large. Conspiracy theories appear to be a way of reacting to uncertainty and powerlessness.… [But] psychologists aren’t sure whether powerlessness causes conspiracy theories or vice versa.…

Economic recessions, terrorist attacks and natural disasters are massive, looming threats, but we have little power over when they occur or how or what happens afterward. In these moments of powerlessness and uncertainty, a part of the brain called the amygdala kicks into action. Paul Whalen, a scientist at Dartmouth College who studies the amygdala, says it doesn’t exactly do anything on its own. Instead, the amygdala jump-starts the rest of the brain into analytical overdrive — prompting repeated reassessments of information in an attempt to create a coherent and understandable narrative, to understand what just happened, what threats still exist and what should be done now. This may be a useful way to understand how, writ large, the brain’s capacity for generating new narratives after shocking events can contribute to so much paranoia in this country.8

“In many movies there are scenes of a protagonist revealing everything to a skeptical official – and promptly being admitted into a mental hospital,” writes Esther Inglis-Arkell fo the io9.com website:

These scenes occasionally play out in real life. They even have a name, the Martha Mitchell Effect.

Brendan Maher was a psychologist who spent much of the 1950s and 1960s working with patients in the prison system, so he had to have had a lot of experience with the Martha Mitchell Effect before it got a name. Two major causes of the effect are being the target of organized crime or being under constant surveillance by law enforcement – and he had to have heard plenty of stories involving those two causes.…

The effect isn’t a mental problem of the patient, but a kind of mental block of the psychiatrist. Its most famous sufferer was Martha Beall Mitchell. She was the wife of the Attorney General for the Nixon administration, and she had a few things to say about what top level officials were doing. When she made public statements, she was dismissed by those officials on the grounds of mental illness – an explanation that nearly all the press believed. It was only when the Watergate Scandal erupted that people realized she’d been right all along.9


Notes

i Mickey Mouse adj. 1.a. Slang. Unimportant; trivial: “It’s a Mickey Mouse operation compared to what goes on in Lyons or Paris” (Jack Higgins). b. Slang. Irritatingly petty: the school’s Mickey Mouse requirements for graduation. 2. Slang. Intellectually unchallenging; simple: His Mickey Mouse assignments soon bored the students. 3. Music. a. Blandly sentimental. Used of popular compositions and performers. b. Relating to a soundtrack that accompanies the action in an unsubtle, melodramatic way suggestive of music written for animated films [The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd ed.].
– Mike Wallace, Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996), p. 133.

U.S. Military Slang. Anything that is unnecessary or unimportant [The Barnhart Dictionary of New English].
– Len Deighton, Goodbye, Mickey Mouse (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), p. 1.

Sources

1 José Delgado, Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society (New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1969), p. 24.

2 Ibidem, p. 34.

3 Philip Gooden, Who’s Whose? A No-Nonsense Guide to Easily Confused Words (England: Independent News and Media, 2008), pp. 30-31.

4 James J. Krupa, “Defending Darwin,” Slate, 26 March 2015, at http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/03/teaching_human_evolution_at_the_university_of_kentucky_there_are_some_students.single.html (retrieved: 26 March 2015).

5 Theory, Wikipedia.org, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory (retrieved: 30 December 2013).

6 National Academy of Sciences (2005), Science, Evolution, and Creationism, a brochure on the book of the same title, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory (retrieved: 28 May 2012).

7 Conspiracy, The Lectric Law Library, at http://www.lectlaw.com/def/c103.htm (retrieved: 27 May 2012).

8 Maggie Koerth-Baker, “Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories,” The New York Times, 21 May 2013, at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/magazine/why-rational-people-buy-into-conspiracy-theories.html (retrieved: 25 May 2013) and http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/magazine/why-rational-people-buy-into-conspiracy-theories.html?pagewanted=2 (retrieved: 25 May 2013).

9 Esther Inglis-Arkell, “When you have a story so unbelievable, everyone thinks you’re crazy,” io9.com, 3 June 2013, at http://io9.com/when-you-have-a-story-so-unbelievable-everyone-thinks-510422090 (retrieved: 4 June 2013).

See also

Christina Sterbenz, “9 Huge Government Conspiracies That Actually Happened,” Business Insider, 23 December 2013, at http://www.businessinsider.com/true-government-conspiracies-2013-12 (retrieved: 27 December 2013).

Robert Wabash, “The 13 Most Evil U.S. Government Experiments on Humans,” Get Holistic Health, 8 December 2013, at http://www.getholistichealth.com/38477/the-13-most-evil-u-s-government-experiments-on-humans/ (retrieved: 27 December 2013).

“You Won’t Believe How One Chemical Company Tried to Discredit a Scientist’s Research,” Moyers & company, 10 February 2014, at http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/10/you-wont-believe-how-one-chemical-company-tried-to-discredit-a-scientists-research/ (retrieved: 10 February 2014).

“How The CIA Uses Social Media to Track How People Feel,” The Atlantic, 4 November 2011, at http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/11/how-the-cia-uses-social-media-to-track-how-people-feel/247923/ (retrieved: 4 October 2012).

“Facebook CIA Project: The Onion News Network,” c0pyr1gh7 video at YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqggW08BWO0 (retrieved: 4 October 2012). (Show video)

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