The Week in Conspiracy Theories

Lizzard Warning
Via DGM Live

A draft of Dame Janet Smith’s report from the inquiry into Jimmy Savile and the BBC is leaked by Exaro News. This is a particularly troubling situation, because while a great deal of the conspiracist material surrounding Savile and the broader “institutional paedophilia” scare is hysterically exaggerated and speculative, and at worst – such as the case of the supposed witness “Nick” – based on what is either mental illness or outright fraud, there is plenty that is true and highly disturbing in this case.

David Icke has a new book coming out and a “world tour” later this year, so we can expect a run of new interviews across the alternative media. Here he talks to Alex Jones about “how the Public Is Programmed To Become Slaves”. I find his Infowars appearances particularly interesting because we get to see clearly how he selectively chooses his topic to suit his audience, in this case, politically right, Christian and pro-gun, in stark contrast to Icke’s own position.

Tila Tequila joins the growing flat earth revival with a wonderful Twitter rant. She demands scientific evidence! She blames the resistance to Flat Earth Theory arguments on brain damage caused by vaccines. Take that, Haterz!

On a more serious note, over at Disinfo.com, there’s an interesting take on conspiracism’s relationship to partisan politics, reminding us that there is more than one “orthodoxy”:

How can you believe that the government would not conspire against the people, when you obviously believe to the point of constant accusation that the other party you are not in, is constantly conspiring against your party and it’s leader?

Meanwhile, Rob Brotherton contributes an excellent op-ed for the LA Times, outlining the psychological and cognitive systems and biases that mean that conspiracy theorising is perfectly normal. Still, I would have liked to have seen him twist the knife a little more by pointing out that these same systems also produce religion…

Dismissing all conspiracy theories (and theorists) as crazy is just as intellectually lazy as credulously accepting every wild allegation. The tricky part is figuring out what’s reasonable and what’s ridiculous, and we can do that only by honestly scrutinizing why we believe what we believe.

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2 thoughts on “The Week in Conspiracy Theories

  1. WilliamX March 14, 2016 / 9:24 am

    The observation about how Icke changes his message when talking to Alex Jones and to the US market in general is probably worthy of a short dissertation, if only to illustrate how a conspiracy entrepreneur adjusts to different market conditions. As for Icke specifically it suggests underneath the veneer of impassioned advocacy is a cynical salesman with a range of deeply held principles on offer.

    • adamkadmon March 23, 2016 / 9:06 am

      Not so sure personally that it means he’s cynical, necessarily. Good communicators always tailor their style and content to their audience. I wouldn’t talk the same way on public radio as I would at an academic conference, for example. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to bridge the gap between different worlds and have new conversations. I don’t see that being conscious of that means it’s cynical.

      But I’ll be going into this a little in the chapter I’m writing for the Brill Handbook of Religion and Conspiracy, which I’m also co-editing. It’s about how authority is produced and maintained, looking at Icke and Alex Jones specifically. Their charisma isn’t a magical substance that flows out of them, but a complex set of social relations with their audience(s). They acheive status by accumulating epistemic capital – which is basically “being more in the know than you”.

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