Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Some thoughts on Conspiracy

Although it is a common sport to ridicule anyone who entertains any kind of ‘conspiracy’ theory, I contend that many people who engage in such theories are undertaking a perfectly reasonable and rational enquiry. Those who refuse any conspiracy theory contend that if there is no hard evidence to the contrary, regardless of any unanswered questions, the official explanation must be the one that we accept. Those who are called ‘conspiracy theorists,’ on the other hand, take a two-fold approach to events. First they look to see if the official explanation seems unreasonable and unlikely, or if it seems that those accused of the undertaking could not very likely have achieved such a goal. In an effort, then, to look for more likely explanations, they then ask: ‘qui bono’? And if those who most benefited from the events have much greater resources to undertake such a goal, coupled with a long history of such deceptive undertakings, then the ‘conspiracy theorists’ contend that this is one possible, even more believable, explanation. There is nothing whatever unreasonable about such a line of reasoning.

Let me illustrate. Let’s say that you have two children, one is a fourteen year old girl that loves to socialize with a long history of deceptive practice, the other is a very precocious seven year old who loves to get into mischief. Your teen daughter wants to go to an all night party where there will be no adult supervision and where you have a good suspicion there will be lots of alcohol and drugs available. You idly and sarcastically tell her that when her seven year old sister can do algebra you will let her go to the party, then you forget the whole business. Later that day you enter your younger daughter’s playroom and find her chalkboard full of algebra in her own hand writing. Your older daughter is nowhere to be seen. When the older sister comes home you confront her with the algebra, she denies any involvement and demands that you fulfill your obligation and let her go to the party. What are you to do?

Now for this to conform to the kind of events that are subject to conspiracy theories it would have to be more gruesome and the younger sister would have to disappear or die before you could test her actual knowledge of algebra. But you get the point. Are we to believe, regardless of any hard evidence to the contrary, that the seven year old did the algebra? Is it a conspiracy theory to contend that it is reasonable to assume that because the older sister had the capacity to compel her sister to write certain algebra problems on the chalkboard, that she had a history of deception, and she stood to benefit from these events, that she is the most likely culprit? I think not. This, in a nutshell, is what many people who are marginalized as ‘wacko’ are doing in many cases of important events.

What strikes me as odd is that the even when there is a long history of such events, people are still reluctant to question official explanations. Take the death of Princess Di as an example. Now regardless of whether you believe that there was more to this death than what is found in the official explanation, why would anyone be reluctant to entertain the possibility of something untoward? For centuries members of royal families have been plotting against each other, so why are we unwilling to imagine that it continues to happen in our own time? Consider the case of Caroline of Brunswick. Caroline married the Prince Regent in 1795 but had a troubled marriage to the future king. Princess Caroline was treated badly by the Prince Regent and prevented from seeing her daughter by the Prince. Banished for a while to a private residence, she eventually left the country and spent years on the Continent. When the Regent ascended to the throne Caroline returned to claim her right as Queen. However, the King and the other royals had other ideas and plotted to prevent her from taking the throne. The House of Lords even passed the Pains and Penalties Act to attempt to prevent Caroline from becoming Queen. Law Lord Hearings ensued and it looked like Caroline would eventually be able to claim the throne. On the very night of the coronation Caroline suddenly became deathly ill and died several weeks later of an ‘unknown’ illness. During the time of her illness, poor Caroline was constantly spied on by an agent of the Prime Minister who reported directly to Lord Liverpool concerning any change in her condition. Now, anyone who believes that this death, so remarkably convenient for the King, was natural please stand up! Well since there is no direct evidence to the contrary, are we compelled to believe there was nothing untoward going on here? I think not. Now since the royal family was so nefarious all those years ago and were willing to off a Queen, why are people so reluctant to think that it could happen today?

I contend that far from being wacko, anyone who does not easily accept official explanations is, in many cases, being perfectly reasonable. And anyone who simply refuses to engage in a little bit of conspiracy theory now and then is hopelessly naive. Look at some of the most monumental events of the past few decades and ask yourself qui bono.

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