Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Explanation for stupid people...

... concerning the definition of a "conspiracy theory."

Or more specifically, an explanation of the situations in which you can and can't invoke the term "conspiracy theory" to dismiss someone's argument as a priori ridiculous.

Three times in the last year I've had people do this, usually after I'd invoked the idea of the military industrial complex. There's just a certain sort of person who can hear that term, invoke the phrase "conspiracy theory" like some sort of magic totem, and retire from the argument, apparently secure in the supposition that they have shown themselves to be worldly and astute, whilst simultaneously suggesting that you're some sort of cabin-dwelling nutter.

What they've actually done is show that they've got a very shakey grasp about what one or both of those terms mean. So, for the benefit of the semantically challenged:

A conspiracy theory, in essence, has to involve an explanation more complicated than the one it seeks to replace. One important definition of "complicated" for these purposes, is the inclusion of factors for which we have no actual evidence. As the name would suggest, this is usually the action of conspirators - people who have an interest in causing an event and then concealing the fact that they've done so.

This in itself of course, doesn't make something untrue. People conceal their actions all the time, for all sorts of reasons and, if they do it well, they won't have left any evidence. It's just that, in the absence of any evidence for or against, it becomes something of a moot point. Where we get into the realms of the unlikely is with those conspiracies that require many and various people to be doing the concealing.

So under this definition, David Icke's stuff is a strong conspiracy theory. Religion, is arguably, a weak sort of conspiracy theory.

The idea of the military industrial complex, simply stated, is that people whose business is to sell weapons to the government have an incentive to make sure their customer keeps buying. If there's a lot of money involved, those incentives become really pretty big. Given that you need at least the threat of war to justify spending the sort of sums involved, this will tend to make countries with large MICs more bellicose than others. Quite a lot of evidence on record for it, including the thoughts of one former US president and military commander (who coined the phrase), but here's my recent favourite:

When the Admiral took charge of Pacific Command in 2005, he immediately set about a military-to-military outreach to the Chinese armed forces, something that had plenty of people freaking out at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. The Chinese, after all, were scheduled to be our next war. What the hell was Fallon doing?
Contrary to some reports, though, Fallon says he initially had no trouble with then-secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld on the subject. "Early on, I talked to him. I said, Here's what I think. And I talked to the president, too."
It was only after the Pentagon and Congress started realizing that their favorite "programs of record" (i.e., weapons systems and major vehicle platforms) were threatened by such talks that the shit hit the fan. "I blew my stack," Fallon says. "I told Rumsfeld, Just look at this shit. I go up to the Hill and I get three or four guys grabbing me and jerking me out of the aisle, all because somebody came up and told them that the sky was going to cave in."


Post a Comment

<< Home

Support the Open Rights Group Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.