Conspiracy

I'm really sick of hearing people talking about ridiculous internet conspiracy theories. It takes time and energy away from dealing with real issues and it allows that part of the brain that senses bullshit to atrophy.

9/11 was not an inside job. All evidence suggesting it was is pretty easily debunked when you consult non-crazy people.

Vaccines don't do anything evil. A shitload of independent studies confirm this.

Chemtrails are a myth. All evidence to the contrary is just people misunderstanding contrails.

Weird stuff shows up in the sky, but it's silly to automatically assume that aliens from another planet are the explanation. And there's no evil government conspiracy with aliens.

No one is a shapeshifting alien. Jesus... Grown adults think this?

Fluoride in the drinking water is not an evil government conspiracy. Fluoride occurs naturally in some water sources, and the people who drank from that water had better dental health. So it's put in tapwater at levels empirically proven to be safe for consumption. There's just no goddamn secret about fluoride.

Nothing astronomically or geologically interesting is going to happen in 2012. Absolutely no scientific evidence suggests that anything will. People fall for uncited "scientific sounding" bullshit they read on the internet and never consult non-crazy sources to see if it checks out. "Oh, but I heard the sun and the Earth are going to align with the center of the galaxy in December of 2012!" Well guess what. That's absolutely true. Because it happens EVERY FUCKING DECEMBER.

I think people get away far too often with claims that "the government" is deliberately trying to pacify the populace with entertainment media and drugs. That's an easy thing to say, but it's a huge claim and you sure as shit need to back it up. It's a given that Western culture encourages people to be escapist consumers, and you can interpret a negative effect on their political intelligence and ability to effect change in the world. But saying that someone in an elected office is ordering Hollywood to make movies for the benefit of his evil master plan is fucking retarded. You're allowed to critique society without the government playing a villain in your good versus evil story.

And anyone who fucking sneers out the word "sheeple" in an actual conversation is an insufferable idiot.

Here are some actual conspiracies that deserve attention.

Conservative school boards around the country are changing what children are being taught to conform with conservative ideologies at the detriment of actual science.

The Bush administration and even moreso the Obama administration have stripped away much of our Fourth Amendment rights. It's becoming more and more common for law enforcement to spy on Americans without warrants, then face no repercussions for violating the Constitution. Obama even voted in favor of the FISA amendment, which let all of the telecommunications companies get away scott-free with their participation in illegal, warrantless spying on American citizens.

The US government has been encroaching on the management of the internet more and more lately, and the Obama administration has been trying to establish an "internet kill-switch" that the government can use to shut off the internet in case of "a cyber attack". (Maybe there's some argument in favor of allowing that, but I figure that shutting down the country's internet access would just be saving the enemy the trouble of doing it.)

Seriously, practically every conspiracy theory that I hear these days sounds just plain silly and I always see faulty logic and a bizarre obsession with imagining implausible levels of evil intrigue in connection to mundane events.

Just stop, please. There are these wonderful tools called the scientific method, rational thought, and critical thinking, and they're what the modern world is based on. Please join us. I know it's exciting to imagine that there's a war of Good versus Evil and that you're one of the privileged few who know The Truth. It must make you feel special, important, and superior to everyone else. The appeal is obvious. But if I suddenly came to you and was really insistent that the world was flat and you're a government patsy for falling for their lies about it being round, wouldn't I just seem like a deluded asshole?

And the really tragic thing (other than the fact that ridiculous conspiracy theories affect how some people raise their kids or make public policy decisions) is that I LOVE wacky theories. I love to hear about them and debate them. When I found the Flat Earth Society website and all of their "reasons" for why our supposed proof of a round Earth is all faulty, I was thrilled. I've memorized their arguments and I still challenge my friends to debate me and defend the idea of a round Earth, because the ensuing debate is HILARIOUS. But aside from the humor value, a variety of ideas and a willingness to discuss them is part of the kind of world I want to live in. It's just that there's this viral quality that's endemic to all conspiracy theories that eliminates the possibility for rational, intellectually honest, adult conversation.

Like a virus, the idea slips in with simple questions that prey on one's ignorance of things that most people are ignorant about. Like science, world politics, astronomy, et cetera. Then once you let the innocuous idea in, it takes hold and builds defenses against any attacks against it. ALL conspiracy theories seem to have a rule that any evidence against them is a lie told by The Enemy, and usually anyone that argues against the theory is on The Side Of Evil, and thus deserving of ridicule and personal attacks. Look at that dude that went around with a video camera finding astronauts and screaming at them about being part of a moon landing hoax.

I think that's the only way that a truly ridiculous and easily disproved idea (like that half of the people in the world are shape-shifting aliens) can be believed by anyone. Suck them into an emotional debate where they feel like they're on a self-righteous Side Of Good and to defend their idea is to defend their very identity. And psychology will tell you that someone will defend their sense of identity with more blind rage and violence than they would defend their physical safety.

For this reason, I can't debate conspiracy theories. I'd love to, but like some organized religions, they're designed to make it impossible for the believer to actually think critically in anything but a pre-scripted and logically faulty path.

Now, don't get me wrong. "Conspiracies" happen. History is full of actual evil plots by large organizations to dupe the public for various reasons. THAT element does not make a theory bullshit. Hell, lots of crazy stuff is possible. Crazy does not make a theory bullshit. It only makes it suspicious. Same thing with theories that make you feel good and self-righteous and special and on The Right Side of a secret war. Emotional gratification does not make a theory bullshit, but it does make it suspicious. And the more suspicious a theory is, the more skeptical you should be of it.

When I see someone believing in something that's REALLY suspicious without being willing to open their beliefs up for investigation in an intellectually honest way... Well, that's not proof that the theory is full of shit, but it makes their belief in it seem completely vacuous and it makes them seem less capable of dealing with the world in an adult manner. I really see no important distinction between a little kid stubbornly believing in Santa Claus and explaining why, despite his parents putting presents under the tree, he really does still exist on the North Pole, and someone arguing that the president is an alien that blew up the Pentagon with a missile and then scattered airplane parts all over the wreckage.

See, I'd think that since there are a million crazy people spouting conspiracy theory nonsense on the internet and any given conspiracy theory believer can't believe in all of them, then pointing out one theory that a believer recognizes as silly bullshit would -- I'd THINK -- make them notice the parallels between why people are suckered in by THAT crazy bullshit and how they came to believe THEIR OWN crazy bullshit. Then maybe they can at least settle into a position of "Well, no one can disprove my theory, and it may or may not be right, but maybe I shouldn't be such a fucking asshole about it."

And by the way, accusing people of murder when they probably aren't murderers (a very common theme to conspiracy theories) is being an asshole. Accusing a person of being a bad parent by letting their children drink fluoridated water or whatever else is magically harmful without any evidence showing as such, that too is being an asshole. In general, you can't be accusatory without coming off like a total prick, even if you're supposedly motivated by compassion.

Fuck it. I'm off to hide in my bunker for fear of evil alien Illuminati New World Order reptilians spraying fluoridated chemtrail vaccines to give autism to bigfoot's children to cover up 9/11 and bring the apocalypse in 2012.