Quassim Cassam contributed a piece to the Independent, announcing a survey to find out why “some are more ‘receptive'” to conspiracy theories. Cassam hhas softened his position a good deal since his last piece; he here states clearly that “conspiracy theorists” aren’t mad or mentally ill, merely “more vulnerable to “intellectual vices” such as dogmatism, gullibility and close mindedness”, which therefore “makes them more likely to listen to extreme “alternative” sources of information”. Presumably, Cassam doesn’t count the Independent as “alternative” media.
Nevertheless, there is no definition of what a “conspiracy theory” might be – rather there is the implication that we all know already. Those who don’t think like “us” have something wrong with the way they think. It’s the only possibility, right? We couldn’t be wrong. They are “extreme”, “overly dismissive”, “gullible” and “irrational”, because they believe things that “go against common wisdom”. Whose common wisdom? Because Cassam’s knowledge, of which he is so certain, would be challenged in many places, perhaps most places in the world.
In my opinion, Cassam commits two intellectual sins. Firstly, like the scholars of the colonial period, he assumes that there is something wrong with those who think differently from him, and sees his task as a scholar to correct them. Secondly, at the same time, he fails to follow up the implications of his argument, and challenge powerful groups who use the same styles of thought as the marginal groups he studies: Christians, Muslims, Jews and any large religious group – not to mention Republicans and Democrats. Isn’t that Cassam being “overly dissmissive” of evidence that goes against his own beliefs?
Meanwhile, over at the right-wing, populist Telegraph, Alex Proud opines that “conspiracy theorists may have had it right all along”. Surprisingly, he only makes passing mention of the EU, and his conclusion is rather odd for the Telegraph: “we need more regulation”:
This nice, cozy state of affairs lasted until the early 2000s. But then something changed. These days conspiracy theories don’t look so crazy and conspiracy theorists don’t look like crackpots. In fact, today’s conspiracy theory is tomorrow’s news headlines… Of course, our real-life conspiracies aren’t much like The X-Files – they’re disappointingly short on aliens and the supernatural. Rather, they’re more like John Le Carre books. Shady dealings by powerful people who want nothing more than to line their profits at the expense of others. The abuse of power. Crazy ideologues who try and create their own facts for fun and profit. Corporations supplanting governments via regulatory capture.
One for the “David Icke: Was he Right?” file: The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announce an investigation into claims that Wiltshire Police shelved a child abuse investigation to cover up links to Edward Heath. While Icke has often claimed to have named Jimmy Savile as a paedophile prior to his death, he did not do so publicly. Heath, on the other hand, he did, and Icke is not going to miss the opportunity to point this out: