So I was discussing things with a seemingly rational guy on Facebook, and he kept popping up conspiracy theories like, Saddam really *did* have weapons of mass destruction, but it was covered up by a Democratic conspiracy. At which point I’m WTF, dude, President Bush’s very own weapons inspection team found nothing except a few mouldy old barrels and shells forgotten buried in the desert, garbage left over from the first Gulf War. And then he started spewing a bunch of links at me from the right wing crazy echo chamber plus a few links from more mainstream sites that said, duh, exactly what I’d said, but according to him they were proof, proof I say, that Democrats had covered up Saddam’s WMD and now ISIS had them (even though the few mainstream links he pointed at had ISIS getting chemical weapons from Assad’s stores, but, he said, Assad had gotten his chemical weapons from Saddam! Uhm, no, Assad and Saddam were *NOT* friends, sheesh).
At which point I realized that his willingness to believe conspiracy theories far outweighed any rational thought, and bowed out of the conversation, leaving him to echo things to himself.
People ask me why I don’t believe bizarre conspiracy X. Well,
- There’s no evidence for most of them, just wild speculation and handwaving. “Because it’s all been covered up by the Democrats!” Wait. We’re talking about the same Democrats who can’t even secure their very own email server? They’re supposed to be able to keep secret these vast conspiracies? For realz?
- Where there’s supposedly “evidence”, usually it’s single-sourced. A single journalist stated that “unnamed official sources” told her these things confidentially. All other “evidence” ends up going back to this one single journalist (hi, Judith Miller!). Uhm, a single point is not data. A single point is noise. If it isn’t validated by other outlets, it’s worthless.
- Where there’s multiple sources, the sources are often all part of a single echo chamber. Fox News, World Nut Daily, Breitbart, and Infowars might all report they validated with their own “confidential sources” that so-and-so is true, but I want to see it validated by people outside that echo chamber. What does the BBC think? What does the CBC (Canada) think? What about ABC/NBC/etc.? ABC (Australia)? I want to see sources from outside that echo chamber too!
- And then there are the conspiracies that violate basic laws of physics, like chemtrails. If a conspiracy requires fundamental scientific laws to be overthrown, then it’s bullshit.
- If it’s a vast conspiracy that people in the know aren’t blabbering about, it’s bullshit. There’s no such thing as a secret conspiracy. I mean, look. We know that the NSA has black boxes inside AT&T’s voice network. We know this because a) people saw NSA spooks install these black boxes and they blabbered about it, and b) the Snowden papers gave us details on how it all worked. This is a conspiracy, of sorts, but it’s a real world one — one that couldn’t remain secret because too many people knew about it. This is what a *real* conspiracy looks like — it looks like a lot of people who are in a position to know muttering about how they’re being required to do some shady shit. Contrast with, say, the conspiracy to demolish the WTC twin towers with explosives. Who placed these explosives? Why did nobody mutter about how they were required to admit these people to the towers before 9/11? It had to have required a crew of dozens, working with custodians in multiple buildings to gain access to the central core, why haven’t we heard anything from a single one of these people? That kind of absolute silence would require a lot of dead people. Just sayin’.
- And finally, if it’s a vast conspiracy that requires people who hate each other to conspire with each other, like requiring a Republican President to cooperate with a Democratic conspiracy… it’s just plain bullshit. Are you telling me that President Bush wouldn’t have held a huge press conference in front of those oozing billyuns and billyuns of Saddam’s WMD if they had in fact existed? He was the motherfucking President of the United States of America, for cryin’ out loud. All he would have had to do was send all the news people notice that he was holding a huge press conference on the outskirts of Baghdad that was going to show them gigatons, gigatons I say, of WMD, and media would have been *begging* to cover it. Because that would have been News with a motherfucking capital *N*, bitches. Yet that idiot in my first paragraph was willing to believe that President Bush would have conspired with Democrats to cover up Saddam’s WMD. Or that Saddam, who hated Assad, would have conspired with Assad to smuggle his WMD into Syria. WTF, people? When your conspiracy requires people who hate each other’s guts to conspire with each other, it’s fucking FAIL all the way to first base!
So why don’t I believe bizarre conspiracy X? Well, because, for one or more of the reasons above, it’s fucking bullshit, that’s why. ‘Nuff said.
– Badtux the Grumpily Rude Penguin