The Great Psychological Conspiracy Theory Conspiracy

Imagine if  the government announced that those who disagreed with its policies or  who refused to accept everything it said as the gospel truth were irrational creatures suffering from persecution mania. Imagine if there was a group of scientists who announced that this was so, and that they could prove it and would display their proofs in the scientific literature, where no-one else except other scientists would be able to contradict it.

Well there is such a group. And they’re organised. And they’re out to get us.

When the story of the original Lewandowsky “Moon Hoax” paper broke, my reaction was one of anger and disbelief that such obviously crap research by some obscure, obsessed professor from the University of Western Australia, with its crap survey methodology, crap statistics and crap reasoning should be taken seriously in  the mainstream press.

A year later, following the utter demolition of Lewandowsky’s research in a campaign on sceptic blogs which one journalist (the only one to my knowledge to have expressed the smallest iota of scepticism with respect to Lewandowsky’s work) described as “literally the worst flame war I have ever seen on the Internet”,

http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/04/12/noisy-poll-results-and-reptilian-muslim-climatologists-from-mars/

with one of his papers revised and delayed for six months [so that, in the scientific literature, (Lewandowsky 2113a) has become the follow up paper to (Lewandowsky 2113b) and with (Lewandowsky 2113a) twice revised and still “removed” from the journal’s site pending enquiries], Professor Lewandowsky  has crossed the world to become Professor of Psychology in the University of Bristol, thanks to a five figure sum (in sterling) provided by a government-funded scheme to attract academic talent, topped up with a medal from the Royal Society. On his way he stopped off to give a talk at  at the annual conference of the prestigious American Geophysical Union, and found the time to write a third paper reporting the results of yet another  survey on the subject of climate sceptics as conspiracy theorists, plus a paper co-written with Michael Mann about the awful things that happen to Professors at the hands of climate sceptics, plus write numerous articles and give numerous interviews at Huffington Post, the New Yorker, the New Scientist, etc.

But why carry on attacking this idiotic charlatan? Why not let his patently absurd work be quietly forgotten?

One blogger, rather more statistically skilled than I (and much politer) who won’t forget is Steve McIntyre, who has turned up another absurdity at

http://climateaudit.org/2013/11/07/more-false-claims-from-lewandowsky/

Lewandowsky in his “Recursive Fury” paper stated that “conspiracy theorists often subscribe to contradictory beliefs at the same time – for example, that MI6 killed Princess Diana, and that she also faked her own death”, citing an article by Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas, and Robbie M. Sutton, all of the University of Kent.

http://www.academia.edu/1207098/Dead_and_alive_Beliefs_in_contradictory_conspiracy_theories

Steve Mcintyre went to the bother of obtaining the data for the Wood et al paper, first requesting it from Wood, then, when the author prevaricated and then failed to answer emails, via an FOI request to their university. Steve discovered that the number of respondents to his survey who believe that Diana is both alive and dead is zero, and that the paper’s thesis is based on a rather simple statistical fallacy.

A number of interesting facts emerge in the comments to Steve’s article:

1) Brandon Shollenberger quotes from a letter he had already  independently sent to Wood, explaining his error with admirable clarity

2) Bob Koss notes that Wood  and Douglas have a new paper out: “What about building 7? A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories” which cites their “Dead and Alive” paper, and also Lewandowsky’s “Moon Hoax” and “Recursive Fury” papers.

3) Commenter Sue notes that Lewandowsky was one of the reviewers of Wood and Douglas’s “Building 7” paper.

4) A Scott notes: “Michael Wood was one of the original reviewers of the ‘Recursive Fury’ paper. I emailed and asked him, to the extent he was comfortable, if he would comment on his being removed as a reviewer after initial publication. He cordially and timely responded indicating he had issues with the paper, asked for revisions, but they were not made, hence he asked to be removed as a reviewer. ‘Recursive Fury’ also listed Wood’s paper as a reference.”

5) Brandon Shollenberger says that he pointed out to Lewandowsky and Oberauer that they had made precisely the same statistical fallacy over a year ago in a comment to their own article at

http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/news.php?p=2&t=397&&n=166#1445

6) A Scott discovers a blog entitled “The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories” 

http://conspiracypsych.com/

run by Mike Wood and three other PhD researchers at University of London (Goldsmiths)  and the University of Kent.

7) Sue links to an article linking to a special edition of PsyPAG Quarterly, published by the Psychology PostGraduate Affairs Group, with articles by all four blog authors and others, entirely devoted to the psychology of conspiracy theories.

http://conspiracypsych.com/2013/09/19/psypag-quarterly-special-issue-the-psychology-of-conspiracy-theories/ 

I’ve left a comment there, and another on an article about Lewandowsky’s research at

http://conspiracypsych.com/2013/02/23/climate-change-conspiracy-theories/

These four young researchers and their colleagues and PhD supervisors are very conscious of the fact that theirs is a new and growing field. The very first article in PsyPAG Quarterly, “An introduction into the world of conspiracy” by Christopher Thresher-Andrews, asks: “What is a ‘conspiracy theory’?” and replies to his own question thus:

“… in its broadest sense, a conspiracy theory is an accusation that the crime of conspiracy has taken place. However, there is something more unique [sic] and complex in what we culturally assume a ‘conspiracy theory’ to be (and as psychologists, find the most interesting).  What exactly constitutes a conspiracy theory is itself a topic of debate both within psychology and further afield in sociology and political science. Rob Brotherton’s article in our special issue aims to explore these issues in more detail, highlighting the difficulties of studying something that we have yet to fully define. Broadly, psychologists feel that conspiracy theories are worth studying because they demonstrate a particular sub-culture of often heavily political activism that is at odds with the mainstream view. Conspiracy theories are unsubstantiated, less plausible alternatives to the mainstream explanation of an event; they assume everything is intended, with malignity. Crucially, they are also epistemically selfinsulating in their construction and arguments.”

[The emphasis is mine, of course, and it’s a heavy heavy emphasis, possibly linked to some heavily political activism, or possibly linked to my awareness that my views are at odds with the mainstream view.]

Thresher-Andrews goes on to quote Hofstadter’s famous 1964 essay on “the Paranoid Style in American Politics” and Goertzel’s 1994* sociological opinion piece published in a journal of microbiology, and then (Wood, Douglas & Sutton, 2012) – the very paper discussed by McIntyre which claims to analyse the thoughts of people who don’t actually appear in the survey – who don’t actually exist, in fact.

*[Wrong. Goertzel 1994 is a proper survey of belief in conspiracy theories]

In the second article, Towards a definition of ‘conspiracy theory’”, author Robert Brotherton says:

“I define conspiracy theory as an unverified claim of conspiracy which is not the most plausible account of an event or situation, and with sensationalistic subject matter or implications. In addition, the claim will typically postulate unusually sinister and competent conspirators. Finally, the claim is based on weak kinds of evidence, and is epistemically self-insulating against disconfirmation.”

So we now have two definitions of conspiracy theories. One says they’re unverified, the other says they’re unsubstantiated; one says they’re implausible, the other says that they’re less plausible; one says they’re at odds with the mainstream view, the other that they’re based on weak kinds of evidence.

But who decides what is the “mainstream view”? Who decides that the evidence is weak, or that the theory is implausible or unverified? Brotherton has the answer:

“The term [conspiracy theory] usually refers to explanations which are not regarded as verified by legitimate epistemic authorities. The theory […] is invariably at odds with the mainstream consensus among scientists, historians, or other legitimate judges of the claim’s veracity.”

So what’s particular about being outside the mainstream that makes it a defining characteristic of a conspiracy theory? Brotherton has the answer to that, too:

“In conspiracist rhetoric, the mainstream explanation is usually termed the official story. This disparaging label is intended to imply that the explanation is merely an account that happens to be proffered by some official source, and so should not be trusted. Indeed, a conspiracy theory need not offer a coherent, fleshed-out alternative scenario. It may simply be based around the allegation that something is wrong with the official story.” 

[So, by attaching the disparaging label “official story” to the, er, official story, conspiracy theorists indicate that the official story is not to be trusted. And so they are outside the mainstream. Or something.]

The references for this insight are Wood et al (“Diana Alive or Dead”) and Lewandowsky et al (“Recursive Fury”).

There’s 56 pages of this stuff in the PsyPAG Quarterly special edition alone, plus 33 articles at http://conspiracypsych.com/ offering more of the same

The authors are young and bright and doubtless expecting to be professors in twenty years time. They’ve got plenty of time to hone their concepts and define exactly who has the right to consider themselves mainstream, who’s in the consensus and who’s out, who’s a legitimate judge and who isn’t.

And who are we to say they’re wrong?

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47 Responses to The Great Psychological Conspiracy Theory Conspiracy

  1. alexjc38 says:

    Look on the bright side, though – if they’re the mainstream, we can be the counterculture. How cool is that?🙂

  2. omnologos says:

    Plenty of material to investigate why psychology researchers who investigate conspiracy theorism slide steadily towards conspiratorial behaviour, to the point of generating their own material, either from zero-size samples or by manipulating responses.

    Evidently there is a very specific psychological type who’s attracted to work in such a field, where the actual conspiracy theorists are extraordinarily hardto reach, if only because they would be paranoid about talking to or about psychologists.

    No conspiracy theorist would publicly talk about Lew’s work. That’s too complex for him to understand. And for Wood.

  3. Steve McIntyre says:

    AN interesting litmus case for the definition of a “conspiracy theory” is Lewandowsky’s Iraq proposition: “The Iraq War in 2003 was launched for reasons other than to remove Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD from Iraq.”

    A similar proposition is included in the Public Policy Polling survey of US conspiracy beliefs:
    “Do you believe the Bush administration intentionally misled the public about the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to promote the Iraq War, or not?”

    However, Lew (and many others) distrust the “official story” and classify this distrust as legitimate skepticism rather than “conspiracy theory”.

  4. Imagine if the government announced that those who disagreed with its policies or who refused to accept everything it said as the gospel truth were irrational creatures suffering from persecution mania. Imagine if there was a group of scientists who announced that this was so, and that they could prove it and would display their proofs in the scientific literature, where no-one else except other scientists would be able to contradict it.

    It’s not yet everything the government says. That’s about the most positive feedback I can offer. An excellent first shot back on the wider threat Geoff, well done.

  5. Alex
    I’m not sure how cool that is, and I rely on you youngsters (you and omnologos) to tell me. My impression is that being against the mainstream is extremely uncool, especially at the New Statesman and New Left Project. And especially among ambitious young PhD researchers.

    Omnologos
    But the conspiracy theorists are not hard to reach, judging by the http://conspiracypsych.com/ website. One of their articles (tagged 9/11 truth) gets 169 comments. (If only my fellow climate sceptic conspirationist ideationists were as hard to reach!)
    Before uncovering this nest of baby Lews I was going to write something about the evidence for conspiracy theories. Believing that the whole truth about the Kennedy assassination or 9/11 has not been revealed is not a symptom of paranoia – an evident truth which even an author at the conspiracypsych site as good as admits at
    http://conspiracypsych.com/2013/09/11/conspiracy-distractions/
    a post which attracted 47 comments – mostly in the form of a dialogue between a site guardian troll (“conspiracykiller”) and a conspiracist (Jonathan Revusky) with a rap coda by “a grateful reader”.
    Because there is evidence. Evidence for a plot to kill Kennedy, evidence that vice-president Cheney engineered the attack on the Pentagon, evidence that the Turin Shroud…
    There is always evidence for something.
    How good is it? Should we believe it? Those questions were faced to some imperfect extent by the print media in 1963 over the first Kennedy murder, less well a few years later over the second Kennedy murder, and not at all over 9/11. It was so grotesque so – awesome – that the press decided by some common accord that asking questions (about the president’s eleven hour disappearance, about the vice-president’s actions in the bunker) would be too – uncool.
    Perhaps someone should rewrite Pastor Niemöller’s famous (too famous) lines: “First they came for the truthers, but I was not a truther, Then they came for the tobacco lobbyists, but I wasn’t a tobacco lobbyist, Then … I got bored and switched over to watch Strictly Come Dancing”.

  6. Richard Drake:
    “It’s not yet everything the government says.”
    Very true. It’s what the government judges sufficiently important to try and back up with scientific (i.e. irrefutable) evidence. Nobody had the faintest idea when the IPCC was set up, or when the idea of sustainability was launched, what the end results would be twenty or thirty years on. Those who believe in long-term conspiracies (as opposed to immediate, once-off actions) are as ignorant of the way society works as their critics.
    I hope it’s clear that I’m not for a moment suggesting that the state or university psychology departments are grooming a young generation of psychologists to administer the dictates of Big Brother. If only it were that simple!

    Steve McIntyre
    I intend to decorticate the entire http://conspiracypsych.com site and the PsyPAG Quarterly review to try and identify exactly what they mean by “conspiracy theory”. At least these younger guys appear to understand that they’re still in the dark about the concepts they’re supposed to be analysing (which is maybe why they seem to do so little fieldwork).
    I’ve praised Lewandowsky elsewhere for taking a (scientific?) stand against the use or condonation of torture by Western governments. His elimination of the Iraq WMD story from his list of conspiracy theories reveals his own political position, which may be morally praiseworthy, but casts doubts on the objectivity of his criteria for defining his subject matter. Elsewhere (I can’t remember where) he has also discussed the Iran Contra scandal as an example of a true government conspiracy.
    If his “enemies” were really redneck Republican types, as he constantly hints, they would have leapt on his “unpatriotic” reactions to American interventions in the Middle East. This hasn’t happened.

  7. alexjc38 says:

    @ Steve, re Iraq and the WMDs, I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but in 2007 Lewandowsky wrote an article “A sceptic’s guide to politics”, where he does indeed describe the sort of “healthy scepticism” that he recommends deploying – in the Iraq War context, anyway:
    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=6641&page=0

    @ Geoff, alas, in reality I was never cool and am unlikely to start now. It would be nice to hear about some teens or twentysomethings inclined to go against the mainstream and be climate rebels, though. Climate-sceptic graffiti artists, for instance – do any exist, I wonder, or are they all as conventional as Banksy?

  8. Geoff: Your point about 9/11 being too big for the media to treat critically is I think a very important one. Other ‘test cases’ would for me be the deaths of Roberto Calvi (where the conspiracist view is now pretty much mainstream but we were told it was suicide for a long while) and David Kelly, which is at an earlier stage. It’s good to have some smaller examples in my view (though both men were important in their own way) to get some traction on what is and isn’t a CT. But agreed that Iraq/WMD is also a good and important test case.

  9. I’ve thought of him as Alex Cool personally🙂

  10. omnologos says:

    I remember a peculiar feature of Lew’s “conspiracy” was that even if there were a conspiracy and you had strong evidence of it, Lew would still call you a conspiracy theorist.

  11. johanna says:

    Eeeuw, Geoff, that site reminds me of Alien. They’re multiplying, and feeding on us to do it.

    How can any respectable academic claim that having a minority viewpoint indicates that someone is a conspiracy theorist, and therefore wrong? That’s what their definitions seem to boil down to.

    The whole emphasis on labelling and marginalising people because of the way they think is downright creepy. The notion of liberty and freedom of thought seems to have passed them by entirely. In a free society, people can think whatever they damn well please. It is only what they do that is legitimately subject to constraints, and those, ideally, should only be shaped by possible negative effects on others. That is, protection of each individual’s freedom is the highest objective.

    I used to deal with letters to politicians from people who believed that the government was sending radio messages to chips that had been planted in their heads while they were asleep. Or that secret signals were being sent to their brains by the government through their TVs. I guess that they could be classified as conspiracy theorists, but most people would settle for “mentally ill”. They were sad cases, but 99.9% of them were utterly harmless.

    There were also many letters from people whose theories about the government were bizarre (to me) and exhibited a strong streak of paranoia, although they appeared to be otherwise sane and coherent. I have met people like this IRL. Quite a few of them also believe in various strands of the occult, numerology or other fringe viewpoints. Off-centre? Oh yes. But again, hardly a threat to society, and their communications were treated with respect, as long as they behaved within the law.

    The marginalising of dissent and unpopular views implicit in this emerging “discipline” (a good word for it, IMO) and the attempts to put people’s thinking into boxes – which is just nonsense – has very nasty intolerant, authoritarian overtones.

  12. Having completed his PhD Dr Wood is now a lecturer at the University of Winchester. If that institution of learning is unfamiliar, you can follow the links to their courses in media studies, dance, film, fashion etc.

  13. bullocky says:

    Of course, the most interesting chapter in the study of ‘conspiracy theory’, is its tactical deployment as an accusation for the purpose of dismissing an opponent, rather than his or her argument. When our ‘young and bright’ would-be professors of psychology reach this stage, they may well need a whole new set of self-exempting definitions.

  14. johanna says:

    Bullocky, they are onto a new paradigm here! Old saws like “those who live by the sword, die by the sword” don’t apply to them …

  15. At the link provided by Paul Matthews above, Mike Wood states that his research interests include “various aspects of social, political, and cognitive psychology, including ideology, extremism and radicalisation [and] authoritarianism..” He continues:
    “However, my primary research interest (and expertise) is in the psychology of conspiracy theories. Why do opinions differ so widely on whether conspiracy theories are a valid way to explain what’s going on in the world? What separates those who believe many conspiracy theories from those who believe few or none? I explore this question from a variety of angles, including questionnaire studies, social-cognitive experiments, and archival research on the Internet.”

    I’m the last person to tell someone what they should or shouldn’t study, but I’m struck by the fact that the first formulation of his research interests place them firmly in the area of political science. In his second formulation, he introduces the psychological aspect, which he summarises in two questions, neither of which can be answered without first deciding whether the subject matter is “all conspiracy theories” or only “those conspiracy theories which don’t have the backing of ‘legitimate epistemic authorities’.” As I tried to suggest in the article, all the definitions offered risk being circular, or come back to the argument from authority.
    All the material I’ve seen so far is centred on the concept of “belief” – a very dodgy basis for research, it seems to me. Some people believe in fairies, others believe in capital punishment, or democracy, or what they read in the papers. These are not the same kinds of mental acts, I would suggest.
    Other psychological characteristics are entirely absent from the research programmes of these people. Curiosity, for example, doesn’t get a mention. Why do some people desperately want to know who killed President Kennedy, while others have an equally urgent desire to know who won yesterday’s match, or who was that coming out of the neighbour’s house last night? Why do we read history books about long dead people anyway, whether the “authoritative” story, or some “illegitimate”, “unsubstantiated” version?

  16. Belief and curiosity. If these strange bedfellows were to become a central theme this blog might suffer the strange punishment of becoming my favourite.

    Here’s how I think they should be connected. Belief should be seen as shorthand for a provisional conclusion based on incomplete data, curiosity as the desire to uncover more evidence, or to spot available connections therein, to make the conclusions – if necessary radically revised – less provisional.

    If this is the framework I’m happy with conspiracy theory as belief in a story where two or more actors have colluded secretly and significantly. As such it’s no longer pejorative but descriptive (with all best wishes to Bishop Hill and other sceptics of the climate variety who’ve been using it effectively in the former category on Twitter and elsewhere.)

    The JFK case is obviously topical. Why should one be curious about his death? Ben Macintyre gave some good reasons in The Times on 1st of the month (paywalled):

    Martyr, celebrity, visionary, philanderer; a great president, a might-have-been great president, a flawed president. For all his glamour and tragedy JFK remains indistinct and mysterious because there is still no consensus on how and why he died and therefore what his death meant. It is impossible to see JFK clearly through the fog of conspiracy and speculation that swirls around him. And he will continue to confound historical definition unless, and until, the US Government finally releases all the evidence surrounding the events in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

    Macintyre – no relation – is referring there to 50,000 pages of assassination-related records the CIA won’t let the obstinate curious of the USA and the rest of the earth read. Despite the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 ordering the release of all relevant evidence and despite a second congressional investigation itself becoming a theorist of the conspiracist kind in concluding that JFK was “probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy”.

    As a result:

    A year after the Warren Commission report, some 87 per cent of Americans believed its findings that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Today that figure has reversed, with the overwhelming majority convinced that there was some sort of conspiracy to kill the President. So far from ebbing with time, distrust of the “lone gunman” conclusion seems to be accelerating, particularly among the young.

    Macintyre uses the potent phrase “the greatest outpouring of scepticism in history,” blaming it on “simple, old-fashioned, official dishonesty.” Offended though I may be as a climate sceptic to read these words it again makes one curious about the connections. The new psychologists aren’t wrong about that in my view. If they upped their game a few orders of magnitude they could even shed some light.

  17. omnologos says:

    The word theory as in conspiracy theory is pejorative and does not refer to the same word theory as in scientific theory. It is also obviously more than a conspiracy hypothesis.

    Therefore as part of the definition of conspiracy theory, we should have the complex ideation and at least minimal research needed to make somebody believe in a ‘conspiracy theory’.

    Furthermore, exactly because of the pejorative connotation to the word, I would exclude from the lot the idea that a handful of people have colluded together…as this is part-and-parcel of life, and not just the imagination of a possibly sick mind.

    Conspiracy theories need include the idea that hundreds or more people have consciously decided to be untruthful.

  18. Maurizio, we can go either way on this but we need to be clear – as I think you agree – that you and I are proposing radically different uses for the term conspiracy theory. And this isn’t exactly new for me. For instance, here’s what I wrote in August 2006 on a long thread of the now defunct BBC Newsnight blog called [[On internet conspiracy theories|http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2006/08/on_internet_conspiracy_theories.html#c107639]]:

    Many sneer, even before they listen to evidence for or against, the moment they hear the term.

    But an unconvential explanation involving alleged, not widely considered, secret intentionality typically is called a CT. Those are the facts of our social intercourse in the English-speaking world.

    The best way to go, I’ve believed for a while, is to remove the automatic stigma on the term.

    Those who were arguing for twenty years that Roberto Calvi did not commit suicide under Blackfriars Bridge, but was murdered, were, it now seems, the sensible ones. In my view the CTs were always much more sane than the OV, in the form of the initial coroner’s verdict. Let’s start to tell the story honestly, start to distinguish considered from crackpot CTs (as best we can), let’s at least admit the need for the adjectives.

    If we have to “include the idea that hundreds or more people have consciously decided to be untruthful,” as you suggest, the need for adjectives is greatly reduced. But, for starters, how are Wood, Lewandowsky and indeed Michael Mann using the term? Inconsistently, I would say, as I think would Geoff and Steve. And would you specifically rule out any ‘theories’ in which Calvi and Kelly did not commit suicide but were murdered? How could we know, a priori, how many people had “consciously decided to be untruthful” in the early stages of such a case – and perhaps much later? Does that make your approach less practical that it initially appears to be?

  19. Whoops, the link there should have been On internet conspiracy theories, which picks up the thread at my first contribution. My position hasn’t changed all that much from seven years ago.

  20. omnologos says:

    Back into circular reasoning am afraid Richard. In my case the definition would include a lack of immediate plausibility, but this cannot be used to demonstrate the CT as false, rather as having to pass higher hurdles before being believedin (Sagan’s extraordinary evidence rule).

    So who determines the plausibility? A man’s CT is another man’s obvious truth.

  21. We are back to one of Geoff’s original points in your final paragraph Maurizio. I’d agree with both of you about the importance of the question but I’d prefer to finish with the less emphatic:

    One man’s implausible CT is another man’s provisional conclusion.

    where the second man no longer objects to his idea being called a conspiracy theory by the first because there’s no longer stigma attached. Cloud cuckoo land, where the pigs fly whistling overhead, you might also think🙂

    For there is still a stigma in many modern-day uses. But not all, even within the oeuvre of Wood et al. Your definition better supplies a rationale for the ridicule. I also think you make a good point about the ‘theory’ in CT being, in effect, ironic and thereby implying implausibility.

    However, where does that leave us with JFK, with Martin Luther King, with RFK, with Calvi, with Diana, with Kelly and many others whose untimely deaths have led to curiosity? Add in the multiple, related deaths of 9/11 and Iraq, with WMD an important ingredient in the decision to invade in 2003 – or at least how it was justified. There’s no simple, single CT in any of these cases, but especially not in the war on terror.

    I think requiring hundreds or more actors consciously being untruthful is not the most clarifying hurdle. But it sure is one. It doesn’t preclude curiosity, which is certainly the most important psychological concept neglected in the work of Wood, Lew and co that has been pointed out to me by Geoff Chambers this week. I want to be careful with all my claims here.🙂

  22. omnologos says:

    One point Lew might have been inadvertently been right about is also the number of conspiracies one finds himself believing in. I would kind of give some slack to each and everybody to believe in one, possibly two weird CTs but then the individuals that concoct CTs in their mind at every possible corner, well, they might be the right subjects for proper psychological study.

    Another hallmark of a CT (already pointed out somehow cannot remember by whom) should be the fact that the theorist searches for positive evidence but cannot/is unwilling to exactly define what the negative evidence might be, that might destroy the CT. This is very clear among Moonhoaxers and Chemtrailers.

  23. And who decides what’s weird?

    That isn’t to say that there aren’t crackpot CTs. I implied in 2006 that there were and I’ve not had cause to change my opinion since. I contrasted then with considered conspiracy theories. Perhaps one defining question for differing framers of the landscape is has there ever been such a thing? I’d look at some of the early painstaking work of Professor Antony Sutton on Western technology and Soviet economic development – starting around the time JFK was killed – and his careful listing of the interpretations of it that had developed by the mid 1970s, one of which was involved conspiracy. Sutton wasn’t committing to that but he thought it was a valid question, not least because of the very small number of key actors in some of the little-known ventures he’d been studying. I’m grateful for Sutton’s example early in my own exploration in such areas. But many choose not to differentiate.

  24. Mooloo says:

    Belief should be seen as shorthand for a provisional conclusion based on incomplete data,

    Most religious believers I have met, while certainly using incomplete data, have no “provisional” in their belief. On the contrary, many revel in the totality of their belief.

    For me a conspiracy theorist is not someone who believes that people colluded secretly to fool others. That would make almost every policeman a professional conspiracy theorist.

    A “real” conspiracy theorist IMO is one who gains emotional satisfaction from their belief. They know the truth, where others are too foolish or lazy. They have passion in their belief for that reason. The chemtrail brethren want/need to believe, and get quite emotional when contrary evidence is presented, whereas when I suspect a conspiracy behind the Calvi death, it is merely an intellectual exercise.

    For others who read the term the same way “conspiracy theorist” will always have a negative connotation, because even when not mentally ill such conspiracy theorists are painful to be around.

  25. Maurizio:
    The word “theory” is habitually used as a synonym for “idea”. It’s not for us to try to redefine words. It’s not for nothing that the English were in the forefront of the rejection of nominalism. The English language is a bastard. And you can’t force it to reveal its DNA.

    Richard Drake
    I remember almost shouting for joy when a journalist on the BBC announced the death of Roberto Calvi, adding that he had two bits of “masonry” in his pockets when he hopped over Blackfriars Bridge with a rope round his neck. (Masonry? You mean bricks? Oh, I see…) The journalist died soon after, but let’s not get conspiratorial…)

    One thing I think we all agree on is that the researchers would perform a useful service and might uncover some interesting psychological data if they tightened up their definitions and redefined their field as “obsessive conspiracy theorising” or the like, in order to capture the subset which we all know exists, without typecasting everyone who ever felt that there was something missing in the official explanations of the JFK assassination or the 9/11 attack as a paranoid nutter.

    Rob Brotherton seems to acknowledge something of the kind at
    http://conspiracypsych.com/2013/09/11/conspiracy-distractions/
    when he enumerates the very real failings of the US government over 9/11. He blames the conspiracy theorists for muddying the waters, but when incompetence reaches a certain level, it is natural that people should ask questions about motivation. For goodness sake, Cheney was in charge that day, and he won’t tell us what he said, or what he meant. This is scandalous, and it’s an entirely different question from the one about how a very wide plane made a very small hole in the Pentagon wall.
    On curiosity, I should point out that in the special edition of PsyPAG Quarterly there’s an article by Daniel Jolley: ”The detrimental nature of conspiracy theories” which says:
    “Conspiracy theories also pose novel explanations for events which, as suggested in our recent paper, may, therefore, appeal to dispositionally creative, curious or openminded people (Jolley & Douglas, in press). This, therefore, highlights the flip side of conspiracy theories and suggests such beliefs are not all bad. However, it could be argued that the negatives may outweigh the positives, and calls for further empirical work to explore this possibility.”
    And if you find that “the negatives may outweigh the positives” – so what? What do you (the specialist researchers) intend to do about it? That, to me, is the question that hangs over this rather one-sided debate.

  26. Mooloo says:

    “Conspiracy theories also pose novel explanations for events which, as suggested in our recent paper, may, therefore, appeal to dispositionally creative, curious or openminded people”

    Surely not? Have these people never met an obsessive conspiracy theorist? They are uniformly dull, incurious and close minded. That is what makes them able to believe nonsense. (To be fair, some people consider themselves creative because they wear funny clothes and believe funny things, but to me “creative” means you actually have to create something, rather than prance about being “different”. Or, Lord help me, “zany”.)

    Curious and open-minded people may be able to believe something Lew and Co. deem to be “conspiracy theory”, in that they might doubt the official line, but normal people won’t see it that way.

    You do wonder if these academics have ever met real people.

  27. Mooloo:

    Most religious believers I have met, while certainly using incomplete data, have no “provisional” in their belief. On the contrary, many revel in the totality of their belief.

    This isn’t about religious believers.

    For me a conspiracy theorist is not someone who believes that people colluded secretly to fool others. That would make almost every policeman a professional conspiracy theorist.

    Good point. What’s the problem?

    A “real” conspiracy theorist IMO … [is] painful to be around.

    Instead of “real” would you be happy with “obsessive,” as Geoff just suggested, or “crackpot,” as I did back in 2006? Such adjectives allow you to be as rude as you like about people with whom you disagree and find painful to be around. They also rescue the term conspiracy theory (and theorist) so it can less easily be used as a smear for those seeking out the truth on the unlikely suicide of Roberto Calvi, for example, on which you imply you agree with Geoff and myself.

    I once saw the Vatican mock Calvi’s son for being a conspiracy theorist when he gave his own explanation for the death of his father. I don’t remember the details of what he was saying but it’s all too common a ploy for powerful people and institutions when they have something to hide. I continue to prefer the definitions I’ve given.

  28. Geoff:

    The word “theory” is habitually used as a synonym for “idea”. It’s not for us to try to redefine words. It’s not for nothing that the English were in the forefront of the rejection of nominalism. The English language is a bastard. And you can’t force it to reveal its DNA.

    Very nicely put. I take it you mean bastard in a descriptive, not pejorative, sense?🙂

    For goodness sake, Cheney was in charge that day, and he won’t tell us what he said, or what he meant.

    I’ve come at 9/11 from doubts expressed about the very rapid collapses, into dust (pretty much), of the three World Trade Center buildings, especially Building 7. There’s much I don’t know. The same is true of JFK. I’m by no means a JFK assassination buff. But I agree about openness in both cases. The source code and initial data for the model of the start of the collapse of Building 7, on which NIST heavily relied in its final report on the subject, should be released as a matter of course. As should the CIA’s 50,000 pages on JFK. And, needless to say, Cheney should answer pertinent questions very thoroughly.

  29. Pingback: Same Sh**, Different Year. | Illuminutti

  30. que sais je says:

    Overall, Geoff, I like the introduction to your post. Although I’ll also try to still my fellow men’s fears of the word conspiracy: a conspiracy is also a legal term and in this sense parts of your second — obviously polemic — sentence (“Scientists” who put their “proofs” “in the scientific literature, where no-one else except other scientists would be able to contradict”) isn’t a conspiracy (as one could suggest regarding your headline), because it’s legal. But in order to evoke critical thinking it is IMO better to be polemic than either to be too frightened to discuss the issues at all or, for example, to try to frighten your counterpart.

    With regard to comments: In my understanding applying the word obsessed/possessed runs the risk to be used just as another labeling or killer argument added to the words conspiracy and theorist. Do you think it is possible to tighten up the definition of being possessed reasonably (except from the allegedly incorrigible ‘all-seeing’ and ‘it’s-all-the-same-everything-and-everywhere’ “types”)?

    Mostly by reading — even before the www-age — I came across “possessed” people, who worked within the “scientific community”, and who added painstaking science and I came outside the “scientific community” across other “possessed” thinkers and doers who contributed also to the sciences with their outstanding scientific work or research. I guess it’s even quite a common sight.

    As I’m following now miscellaneous discussions and postings I often get the impression that offering just facts or asking questions don’t matter anymore: mainly, the opponents happens to be ignored or they have to dismantle straw men discussions, respectively some “crackpot” conspiracy theorists and some “weird” anti-conspiracy theory theorists (like coincidence theorists (for instance around a Steve Silva (yes, there are minimal chances his stories could be true) or coincidental drills/Full Scale Exercises…) or psychologic mental state theorists); the opponents are called, for example, being too circumlocutory, too curt, being name callers, being to vague by avoiding names, off-topic, incompetent, biased and ultimately obsessed.

    I believe there are valid arguments for trying to accomplish openness and accountability in the public sectors (confer also the Italian Ferdinando Imposimato whom I mentioned at this blog already) as well as in the private sectors (for instance industries, private or incorporated cities, NGOs, foundations and other organisations); also, exemplary, for scientists (including the peer-review and publishing process), (photo-)journalists, politicians or military. As I see some peculiar examples above:

    There is proof that a “strategy of tension” is not merely a theory. For example, without further help from NATO the state of facts surrounding “Operation Gladio” (including hundreds or thousands of people in different countries) will IMO likely seem to be unsatisfactory to unbiased observers. Apart from that for instance HR 4310 and HR 5736 seem to be not only propaganda by the USA but legal acts.

    Connecticut’s Bill 1054 is legal and IMO it’s healthy if one is able to express his/her concerns openly as anyone sees for example dubious news, photos, or when you can see how photos or texts/tweets seem to be deleted.

    (Confer for example
    above the YouTube video “Sandy Hook: Charlie’s Angels Recap” by nikki sixx.)

    The German singer-songwriter Konstantin Wecker, a self-proclaimed “leftist” and adherent of the hotly contested CO2 climate catastrophe theory, wrote together with a co-author, who is an unknown man to me, Prinz Chaos II, a polemic chapter, “Aufruf zu Revolte” (Proclamation to Revolt), in his latest book “Mönch und Krieger” (Gütersloher Verlagshaus/ Random House, 2013). The authors voice misgivings which seems to be nearly quite common, even among a few people in the established media, regarding for example the series of murders by the “National Socialist Underground” (NSU) (“Aufruf zu Revolte“, page 13f.) (my translation):

    “Isn’t it indicative by now that what we know so far, and what’s more, what we should not know, that the security forces have not only just failed in an unprecedented series of failures, bad luck and mishaps? But that there was a hand that protectively were hold from state security organs over the murderers of the NSU and investigations that ran in the right direction, internally sabotaged?”

    “We presume to draw a line under the summed up balance sheet of inconsistencies. And we allow ourselves to reverse the burden of proof. Basically, we have started, for the time being, not to believe the official versions until its correctness is proved beyond doubt.”

    Wecker also mentions the case of the German Gustl Mollath whose efforts to uncover a bank conspiracy (and the residual one-time incident of some perforated car tires) brought him seven years forced psychiatry.

  31. The Wood, Douglas, Sutton paper shows how simple checking of results with a pivot table can reveal what complex correlations cannot. Namely that the correlation found between those who believed that Diana faked her own death and those who believed that MI6 were responsible was down to the fact that the vast majority of respondents did not hold to either.
    Yesterday Steve McIntyre did another posting.
    http://climateaudit.org/2013/11/13/another-absurd-lewandowsky-correlation/
    He looks at the correlation in the original Hoax paper (the was LOG12, but is now LOG13) between those disagreeing that “HIV caused AIDS” and the “the U.S. government caused AIDS”.
    SM looks at the correlation in the original Hoax paper (that was LOG12, but is now LOG13) between those disagreeing that “HIV caused AIDS” (HCA) and the believing “the U.S. government caused AIDS” (USCA). Lew asserts that there is a correlation. SM finds that of the 53 respondents who support HCA, just 2 support USCA. These two supporters were the same two rogue responses that supported every conspiracy theory going, plus disagreed on climate change.
    I have looked at something worse. The title of the Hoax/LOG paper is “NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science“. Only 3 respondents out of 1145 supported both conspiracy theories. All 3 respondents supported all 13 of the conspiracy theories. And two of these were the fake/scam responses that underpin many of the LOG paper correlations. It is worse because Lew never asked these 3 respondents what led them to support all those conspiracy theories. Given that the questionnaires were on climate blogs, it would be more logical to say
    “(Climate) Science is a Hoax|Therefore NASA faked the moon landing”
    But there are from 13 conspiracy theories 310 possible combinations. Or some other reason for their support of so many conspiracy theories. Or that the 3 respondents faked it. See
    http://manicbeancounter.com/2013/11/14/lewandowskys-false-inference-from-an-absurd-correlation/
    This leads me onto why I am sceptical of conspiracy theories in general. As with Lew’s arguments, the supporters of crankiest conspiracy theories find very good reasons for discriminating between the ideas or evidence they support, and those that they do not. To get to the best answers entails looking at things in different ways. It means comparing & contrasting the different arguments. But I accept that it is some respects a profoundly un-human and painful thing to do.

  32. Mooloo says:

    Richard: “This isn’t about religious believers.”

    You made a statement about “belief” that just isn’t true. I only used the example of religious believers, because that they can believe without any doubt is beyond question. But it applies to all believers. Conspiracy theorists are quite capable of believing without any internal questioning too.

    I don’t like the terms “obsessive” or “crackpot” applied to “conspiracy theorists” because the first is a tautology, and the second often completely untrue.

    To be a “conspiracy theorist”, as used in everyday parlance, is not to merely believe in some conspiracy somewhere that isn’t the official line. There has to be something extra — an obsession, or not-quite-right enjoyment of it. My suspicion about the Calvi incident is not something I care greatly about, will share, or will research. Nor do I imbue it with any higher meaning. A Calvi conspiracy theorist will take the events and build some meaning out of them — about the corruption in the Vatican for starters, and almost certainly build up from there to include spy agencies etc.

    Lew and Co deliberately elide the meaning of “conspiracy theorist” so that anyone who believes in what they deem a conspiracy is tarred by the image of people who not merely believe, but believe in an unreasonable way. We should not follow them, but insist that they use the terms as they are commonly understood. (In fact, in Lew’s case at least, a conspiracy theorist is someone who disagrees with him, as witnessed by the exclusion of some obvious liberal favourites from his list (Iraqi WMD, for example) — but not playing straight is pretty much his modus operandi.)

  33. Mooloo
    You’re absolutely right about the pejorative “something else” in the common usage of “conspiracy theorist”. Psychologists seem to believe that they can add to the sum of human knowledge by exploring this aspect. I would suggest that ths is a serious mistake – a mistake about the very nature of their discipline.
    Beliefs, attitudes, opinions and the like are the subject matter of psychology; belief in this or that ephemeral theory on a particular event most definitely is not. Someone pointed out somewhere that the university students used as subjects in one study of conspiracy theores were four years old when Diana died. Their parents were babies when Kennedy died. All I’ve seen suggests that the scientists “studying” conspiracy theory haven’t given the least thought to the difficulties involved in their subject.
    Whether you’re a psychologist applying a battery of well established statistically tested questions designed to identify the obsessive personality, or just a bloke down the pub criticisng an attitude you find weird, you’re still doing the same thing; establishing social norms; identifying in-groups and out-groups; saying what’s acceptable and what’s not; expressing your feelings about what you find boring or interesting.
    There’s nothing wrong with establishing social norms – it’s what we all do all the time. It’s even possible to be normative about social norms, and celebrate greater tolerance (of other people’s religious beliefs or sexual preferences) and lesser tolerance (of aggressive language used about race or sex or gender) as being absolute improvements, and not just changes of fashion.
    What’s dangerous with the work of these psychologists is the idea of discussing norms of belief “from a scientific point of view” that is, trying to establish an authoritative “official” view of what constitutes acceptable belief. It’s scientific nonsense, and politically dangerous, since it is being used to stifle debate.

    I know nothing about the German examples given by que sais-je, but they seem to confirm an impression I have that the stifling of debate on pseudo-scientific grounds is an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, a tendency that it is resisted in continental Europe (which is odd, given the traditional admiration that Europeans have for the Anglo-Saxon free press).
    For example, the Gladio and Calvi affairs which have been mentioned get covered on Italian TV (on the minority third public channel, at least). Steven Emmott’s diatribe against humanity “Ten Billion” got a bad reception at Avignon from the left wing French press which could be expected to be favourable to its pro-green point of view.
    The attitude to information is less rigorous, more anarchic, than in Britain. No European broadcaster devotes as much coverage to serious subjects such as science as does the BBC, but no European broadcaster would commission a report like the famous Jones report, attempting to stifle discussion of climate scepticism.

  34. Mooloo:

    You made a statement about “belief” that just isn’t true.

    This is what I wrote, in response to Geoff at 7:50 am two days ago.

    Belief and curiosity. If these strange bedfellows were to become a central theme this blog might suffer the strange punishment of becoming my favourite.

    Here’s how I think they should be connected. Belief should be seen as shorthand for a provisional conclusion based on incomplete data, curiosity as the desire to uncover more evidence, or to spot available connections therein, to make the conclusions – if necessary radically revised – less provisional.

    My words needed to be understood in the context of Geoff’s main post and his comment just before. But, for avoidance of doubt, I deeply apologise to you for not doing justice to the concept of belief. I didn’t and I admit that I didn’t. And I didn’t for a moment think I had. But I deeply apologise, because you had the impression that I had meant to define all kinds of belief for all time.

    What I was trying to do was be clearer about

    1) how I would use the term in the area of conspiracy theories
    2) how I think researchers like Wood should.

    That is all. I again apologise that I didn’t make my intention crystal clear and that this shortcoming has perhaps caused you irritation. You go on to make some very good points about the field, especially your last paragraph. We are as one on that, even if we may still prefer to frame things differently.

  35. Geoff:

    What’s dangerous with the work of these psychologists is the idea of discussing norms of belief “from a scientific point of view” that is, trying to establish an authoritative “official” view of what constitutes acceptable belief. It’s scientific nonsense, and politically dangerous, since it is being used to stifle debate.

    Yup. The aim being to stifle debate in two ways, in my view:

    1) to delineate what is acceptable even to talk about in climate science and policy
    2) that conspiracy should never be an acceptable area of discussion, even when it clearly exists.

  36. Mooloo, one more thing:

    Conspiracy theorists are quite capable of believing without any internal questioning too.

    My approach allows for this. I said “Belief should be seen as shorthand for a provisional conclusion based on incomplete data.” That is in our mind, not in the mind of a particular obsessive we can imagine, or think we have met, who has no internal questioning or doubts at all.

    Mind you, I doubt many people have no doubts. I think it’s the doubts that drive ’em crazy, likely as not. But that’s a discussion for another post or three.🙂

  37. Maurizio
    I hadn’t heard of Sagan’s “extraordinary evidence” so I googled it, and the very second sentence on Rationalwiki says:
    “The evidence put forth by proponents of such things as gods, ghosts, the paranormal, and UFOs is highly questionable at best and offers little in the way of proof. Even if we accepted what evidence there is as valid (and it is highly debatable if we should), limited and weak evidence is not enough to overcome the extraordinary nature of these claims”.
    I can’t see anything in those two sentences but a jumble of interlinked circular arguments, but I’m willing to be enlightened.
    I was surprised by your proposal of a kind of numerical limit to the number of conspiracy theories one can “reasonably” believe in (like the number of library books you can take out at any one time). If you believe that governments sometimes do really bad things, and lie and pressure people in all sorts of ways to hide the fact, then the “hundreds of liars” hurdle is easily overcome. And once you’ve overcome that objection the horizons that open up are wide indeed.

    Richard Drake:
    I’m not sure if that’s two ways they want to stifle debate, or one way in two different fields. I don’t know either whether they’re doing it out of some moral rationalist zeal, or because a certain mental conformism is part of the contemporary Zeitgeist, or for opportunist reasons to advance their careers. I’m sure they’d reject the idea that they’re trying to stifle debate anyway, but they’re certainly trying to define an out-group whose views shouldn’t be listened to.
    I tried to start a debate at
    http://conspiracypsych.com/2013/09/19/psypag-quarterly-special-issue-the-psychology-of-conspiracy-theories/ 
    but with no success so far. All I’ve got is some sarc from conspiracykiller, who certainly doesn’t hide his motivations.

  38. GC:

    I’m not sure if that’s two ways they want to stifle debate, or one way in two different fields.

    Ah, but it isn’t clear if I meant conspiracy only in the climate field or more widely. And I’m the person that wrote it. You pounce on the least precise statement I’ve made so far, in my own estimation. What kind of host does that?🙂

    The point remains, the use that Lew and Mann have made of this embryonic area of work has had the effect of stifling debate and this is not what I would hold up as a key example of the law of unintended consequences. I’d add that considered discussion of the issue of conspiracy within the climate scene itself is part of what is being stifled, as perhaps you agree. For now I’ll choose not to be drawn on motives for the stifling.

  39. Richard
    “What kind of host is that?”
    I like to reply to anyone who adds to the debate, and no-one can deny you’ve been doing that. If you’re just talking about the conspiracy field, then I’d have to agree with you wholeheartedly, which would be a pity, since it would mean we have nothing more to say😉
    What’s interesting here is to see a fruitful debate between people who probably have wildly differing views on individual conspiracies. I’d guess that Que sais-je and I believe in lots of conspiracies, Richard Drake admits to entertaining one or two, and Mooloo and Omnologos probably believe in very few.
    But that’s only a guess, and is secondary to the useful debate about what’s going on in the social sciences, which is what this is about.

  40. johanna says:

    @ the boss geoff🙂
    “I know nothing about the German examples given by que sais-je, but they seem to confirm an impression I have that the stifling of debate on pseudo-scientific grounds is an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, a tendency that it is resisted in continental Europe (which is odd, given the traditional admiration that Europeans have for the Anglo-Saxon free press).
    For example, the Gladio and Calvi affairs which have been mentioned get covered on Italian TV (on the minority third public channel, at least).”
    —————————————————————-
    To this I would add the novels of Andrea Camilleri, which have been best-sellers, not only in Italy but all over the world. Crime novel buffs like me in Australia have all of them.

    AC does not propose a conspiracy theory of Italian politics, although his protagonist, Inspector Montalbano finds plenty of conspiracies at the local level. Some of them even reach up to the highest levels, and the security services. He’s a leftie but also a great writer, which is why he doesn’t push the “conspiracy” thing beyond what it always has been.

    Let’s face it, most real “conspiracies” are among petty officials and business people trying to make a tax-free buck; cops and criminals ditto; and then there is the numerically tiny subset of governments and/or multinationals making deals. Oh, and spies. Mustn’t forget them.

    Lew and his pals have tried to re-characterise “conspiracy” to their own ends.

    One person’s conspiracy (according to them) is another person’s different perception, and association with people who have similar views.

    Oh, and if the Nobel Prize was still worth anything, it should be given to Steve McIntyre.

  41. Johanna
    I’ve never read Camilleri, but a few years ago I saw him address a crowd at a demonstration in the Piazza Navona in Rome. He’s getting on a bit, but he electrified the crowd. (Mind you, as you can see by the reactions to Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, the crowd in Italy is very willing to be electrified).
    If you’re Sicilian, as Camilleri is, you can’t avoid the subject of conspiracies, and I suppose you have to make an extra effort to say something about them that isn’t trite or ridiculous.
    I’ve frequently met Italians who apologise for the lamentable state of their politics, and I tell them they’re wrong. It’s precisely because of the lamentable state of their politics that there’s a lively intelligent debate about it (among the minority of Italians who are interested, of course).
    Once you get your head round the fact that the ex-fascists are the most civilised part of the rightwing coalition; that there’s a violently racist extreme right group which names themselves after the great American poet Ezra Pound; that the ex-socialist party is hopelessly corrupt; and that the communists went Green and changed their name to Daisy – it all makes sense.

  42. johanna says:

    Geoff – what makes Camilleri so interesting (apart from the fact that he is such a good writer that he even survives translation) is his approach to society and politics.

    He writes from Sicily – the home of conspiracies, superstition, vendettas and ignorance – in the popular parlance. But he maintains a fine sense of balance between them reminiscent of Reg Hill’s Dalziel & Pascoe’s novels.

  43. clivere says:

    I would recommend the definitions of Conspiracy Theorists from the following website unfortunately now disappeared but available on the webarchive.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20061231205505/http://www.skeptics.org.uk/article.php?dir=articles&article=what_are_conspiracy_theories.php

    The key message for me is that it is perfectly legitimate for people to consider the possibility of conspiracies as an explanation of events in some circumstances. People would be foolish not to do so because conspiracies do happen. The problems occur when people insist on persisting with their theory as being the only true version in disregard of compelling evidence to the contrary. Often they demand a burden of proof for other possibilities far greater than they have for their own theory.

  44. Pingback: Top 10 Stories on Cheri Speak in 2013 | Cheri Speak

  45. que sais-je says:

    With regard to the “National Socialist Underground” (NSU) I find only few recent articles, for example, this one:

    http://friedensblick.de/11302/nsu-terror-german-chiefs-security-apparatus-lied-committee/

  46. hybridrogue1 says:

    Late to the party here.

    But I wanted to say that I find it hilarious that these “psychologists” have written reams of bullshit about a subject [“Conspiracy Theory] that they still haven’t come to a definition of.
    Slippery as an eel, treacherous as a mongoose it is…{grin}

    Remember Freud was a coke fiend.
    \\][//

  47. Wow! I finally found a website that had conspiracies and hoaxes…and not just the usual babble of screaming normative zombies thinking everyone is a nut job. By the way, I was just labeled a “paranoid” by my Shrink. If I had conspiracy theories I don’t recall ever losing an argument and yet can’t find a lawyer…hmmm.

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