Tuesday 7 August 2018

What are conspiracy theories and why are they suddenly being suppressed?

Some years ago I wrote a fair bit about the nature of delusions; especially the kind of 'rational delusions' seen in an unusual condition called Delusional Disorder.

I realised that these delusions were just part of the spectrum of normal thinking; and I also realised that when we are engaged in trying to understand social phenomena ('other people') the most important and first step is to decide upon their 'motivations' (more exactly their 'Dispositions, Motivations and Intentions' - DMI; but I shall shorten this to motivations).

Specific, individual human actions have no meaning unless they can be understood as expressions of motivation. If we deny that a person, or organisation, has any motivation; then we cannot make sense of what they do. If we get the motivation wrong, we will misunderstand what they do. And there is no 'objective' way of knowing motivation, because it is in the 'mind' of another.

So, here we have an absolutely vital matter; yet one about which a decision can, in practice, be impossible to agree-upon; because any differences in imputed motivation change the meaning of any particular behaviour - to make a self-validating circularity.

(e.g. Once we have decided a person is hostile, their actions will be interpreted as hostile; and vice versa. Exactly the same action can be seen as hostile or benign, according to imputed motivation. In particular, nothing a person can ever do is a decisive refutation of our already-existing imputed motivation.)

One would have to be insensible not to notice the current massive increase in accusations that somebody or some-organisation is a 'conspiracy theorist' - and this is because a 'conspiracy theorist' is someone who claims that there is an evil motivation behind the behaviour of the powerful global elites. It seems that the assumption of a real and evil global elite is becoming sufficiently common that it needs to be dealt-with.

By contrast, there is (in the mass media, government, and legal system) the inbuilt assumption that either there is no global elite, hence no motivation at all (and world affairs are not directed). Or else it is regarded as evidentially-true that insist that the motivations of the global elite are benign. So, anyone who assumes both that the global elite is 1. a real thing and 2. of evil intent; is regarded as 'a conspiracy theorist', because they are 'factually wrong'; hence either incompetent, insane or evil (or more than one of these).

Conspiracy theorists used to be tolerated but systematically mocked; however in the last year or so, they are also being deplatformed and defunded - on the excuse that they propagate 'false' information. However, as described above, the truth or falsity of information is always secondary to motivation. Facts, as such, cannot be either true or false - there cannot even be 'a fact' nor could one be recognised without a prior conceptual scheme explaining what is and how to recognise a fact. And therefore, it is precisely motivation, and not facts, that is at issue.

My primary point is that this matter cannot be decided by 'evidence' because evidence is precisely dictated by assumptions. the notion that conspiracy theorists are punished for propagating false facts is not true. What is really going-on?  In a nutshell; conspiracy theorists are being deplatormed and defunded on the justification that they are evil; and the specific evil of which conspiracy theorists are accused is that they assert the reality of a global elite, and that they further assert this global elite is of evil motivation, overall.

The reality, the existence, of a global elite can neither be proved nor disproved by evidence; the intention of such a group can neither be proved nor disproved by evidence - and either state of affairs is possible.

Yet, for a Christian, our entire understanding of what is happening in public affairs depends upon the basic decision of whether to believe or disbelieve in a global elite of rulers; and - if we do believe in their reality, whether to regard their motivations as essentially aligned with God's wishes, or else against God's motivations.

(For a Christian there are no other possibilities - one is either pro- or contra-God, although there are degrees of both.)   

And it is absolutely arbitrary (hence illegitimate) to prejudge this issue by claiming that we ought-to (for example) always assume 'cock-up rather than conspiracy' (always assume that apparent coherence is a delusional misinterpretation of randomness) - since both deliberate conspiracy and unorganised chaos are possible and common in human affairs; there is no good reason to pre-assume one state rather than the other; especially when that assumption will dictate the interpretation and understanding of all  subsequent evidence.

As so often, the first and most important move is to clarify the issue, and acknowledge that here is an unavoidable judgement and choice to be made.

Is there a global elite? If not then there can be no understanding of global affairs. If so, is teh conspiracy net-Good or net-evil?

Because the understanding of evidence concerning a global elite is utterly shaped by this prior decision regarding motivation - and yet no understanding at all is possible until after the assumption has been made.

Note: The identity and motivation of a global elite conspiracy is also disputed. Materialist atheist conspiracy theorists regard the global elite as human, and working towards human goals such as wealth, power, sex and the sadistic infliction of suffering. But Christian conspiracy theorists may regard the ultimate and strategic evil elite as supernatural, that is demonic; and their goals as being mainly about causing human damnation. 


Chiu ChunLing said...

I don't see that we can deny that there is a global elite (and has been since the development of globe-spanning communication and transportation technology) except by resorting to near solipsism in our reasoning (i.e. by denying that the sensory perception of the existence of global communications and transport as well as clear access advantages accruing to the wealthy and politically connected).

The question is one of whether the global elite is united or divided, and whether the various factions (if divided, or branches if united) are 'good' or 'evil'.

I suppose there is also the question of whether membership in the global elite is fixed or fluid, as well as boolean or a matter of degree. That is, do people enter and leave the global elite by any circumstances other than birth into it and natural death, or can aspirants advance in level of influence and current elites be deposed (including by unnatural death or impairment)? I have always taken it as obvious that the global elite cannot really have been some continuation of ancient family lineages in any significant degree, and that there must be levels of influence, but some naive assumptions about what "global elite" frankly even means seem to be to the contrary.

My perception is that the global elite remain divided into three main outlooks. There are the old-style "Great Game" nationalists who play on a global stage the ancient game of national power and dominance. There are the global financiers, a rising power that was once largely subordinate to nations or empires prior to the technology of global communication and transport. And there are the utopian ideologues, people who hold loyalty to neither nations nor fiscal considerations, but to some vision of their chosen ideology dominating the world.

The "Great Game" nationalists are not globalist as such, even though they command power and influence comparable in scale and scope to the other types of global elites. Nor are they united, nor ever likely to become so, as their game is essentially competitive and the sides are defined as nations, not transnational entities. The highest place in the Great Game is empire, ruling several nations, but always from some central home nation. Which of these factions was "good" and which "evil" used to be largely a matter of nationality, but since the last decade those representing supposed "Western" interests have all been evil from the perspective of most actual people in Western nations. This was the genesis of the surprising admiration of clearly hostile national leaders such as Putin, for example.

The global financiers are essentially technocrats, they have risen from subordination to national elites through the power of global technology, and their strategy is to use investment of wealth to increase the power they can derive from technology. They are divided between those that seek new innovation to further their technological power and those who seek to consolidate and monopolize existing technology while stifling technologies they cannot control. At the extreme ends you have Transhumanists opposed to neo-feudalism, one hoping to pass the Singularity threshold at which strong AI and augmented humans make technological progress constant and unlimited, the other wishing to eventually force the bulk of humanity back to the medieval level (meaning death for the vast majority of those now living) while conserving a relatively advanced urban techno-serfdom to support themselves. For the last two decades the Transhumanists have been purged of all that could be called 'good' by the failure of the hoped for Singularity to materialize (a choice term, since they are materialists), whereas the neo-feudalists have always been evil on pretty much any view other than their own (if not that as well).

Chiu ChunLing said...

The utopian ideologues used to be a mixed batch, but in the last few decades all contenders other than Marxist strains of atheistic socialism and Koranic Islam seem to have largely dropped out of the race (at least at the level of having serious global aspirations). The deep contradictions and fundamental logical incompatibilities of the remaining strains of Marxism mean that they are quite disorganized, but continue to function as a single faction since a need for logical non-contradiction is antithetical to Marxism anyway. They play both extremes of the financier technocrat elite against the middle, and the Socialist and Communist strains of nationalism against all other national sovereignty.

There is continuous movement amongst all of these groups and they are not exclusive. A typical Western national politician or bureaucrat belongs to the Socialist imperialism, finds allies among the financiers, and aspires to some vague global Marxism. Elite global financiers and Marxist ideologues do the same to each other and to sympathetic factions within national governments. Their primary globally significant competitors are the lapsed Communist nationalisms of Russia and China, the Chinese being the more dangerous and skilled, as well as the least deluded. This is partly because the CCP does not have global aspirations in the first place, and while they encourage neo-feudalists taking over in other nations, they are less extreme in their desire to cripple China itself. Careful hobbling will do. Russia has also given up on their former global aspirations with the rejection of outright Communism, and have learned significantly from the Chinese.

However, the enemies of globalist evil are not global in scope and most have never had global aspirations in the first place.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Don't get bogged down on the superficial 'material' aspects - there has always been a global conspiracy of demonic evil; but it is only relatively recently that it has got a grip on the centres of human and material power - only recently that it has become globally centralised.

We don't need to know the exact details of how this works, we just need to know that it is so.

whitestone said...

Put simply. My intuition tells me that there is a global conspiracy and that there seems to be one ring that rules them all and in the darkness binds them. Luciferianism.

Seijio Arakawa said...

It's very interesting to contemplate the contrast between the specific content of conspiracy theories (often factually wrong and contradicting the theories of other conspiracy theorists, often based on a leap of imagination that's open to being mocked and might seize on implausible and lurid details such as 'snake people') versus the basic attitude that generates them (baseline-intuitively correct, based on distrusting sources of information that it would be foolish to trust).

Belief in Heaven seems to follow a very similar pattern. There is a strong intuition that such a place or state of being must exist, but no information on its specifics. The only way to keep hold of the intuition is by imaginative work that populates the Heaven with specific expectations that might be factually wrong.

There are likely deep reasons why both seem amorphous. Heaven seems amorphous because it likely responds to the deepest desires and intuitions of its inhabitants -- but we cannot enter Heaven or perceive (or affect it) except when our desires and intuitions are aligned with Good and in harmony with God and other people. Hell and its demonic conspiracy seem amorphous because they are amorphous -- their key characteristic is switching targets, reversing their prior position, denying what was affirmed the previous day, tearing down what they once built up, and maintaining no positive goals but only oppositional ones.

Thus both Heaven and Hell are perceived to be intuitively real, but their geography can only be charted by a fallible imagination. And conspiracy theorists are the geographers of Hell. It is a thankless task.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I do think that it is useful to understand that there are particular strawmen characterizations of "global elite conspiracy theories" which are commonly deployed and clearly have nothing to do with most sane belief that the global elite are evil.

Precisely because they are evil, we should expect to see them conspiring against each other as well as against goodness, specifically Christianity. We should also expect them to have incoherent and contradictory worldviews that are exchanged as situationally convenient rather than having a detailed and consistent philosophical outlook. And we should expect that the process of time changes the membership and the composition of the global elite.

My particular perception of the situation is more to illustrate that belief in a global elite conspiring against God and humanity doesn't depend on strawmen who are all in perfect lockstep, all being absolutely in or out (and that for life), and all working from a single set of arcane motivations.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Seijio - An interesting comparison, although I don't think there is a symmetry of cause. In particular, I believe that the difficulty people have about imagining heaven is mainly due to theological, metaphysical errors (especially the idea of God defined an utterly incomprehensible abstract entity, without 'human emotions' etc).