What is conspirationism /1 Conspirationism against minorities. Mass movements in search of scapegoats (R. Girard): anti-Semitism and racism in general pogroms against Roma witch trials strangers during the plague. scapegoats
What is conspirationism /2 Minority group conspirationism. Traditional definition: cultural, ethnic or religious minorities hostility to central authority refusal of the official truth often forging or embracing millenaristic, Masonic or hermetic doctrines preference of Big Conspiracies
Structural causes spectacularization of international events technology: reality ~ fiction the Internet: auctoritas: substitutes autonomous fact-checking written medium: increases legitimacy multimedia: visual images confer veridicity marketing strategies. conspiracy theories are standardized and mass- produced. Contemporary minority conspirationism A growing phenomenon: 6% of the American public believe that the 1969 moon landing was staged. 53% of the American citizens believe that there is something strange in the 9/11 official truth. 33% believe that government officials assisted in the 9/11 attacks or allowed them to happen. (New York Times / CBS polls)
Types of minority conspirationism By topic: hermeticism / rusicrucianism; UFOs and aliens; religious phenomena; military secret projects; historical and political deceits. By power distance: isolation / ascetism v. challenges to establishment. Analyzing modern and contemporary active political conspiracy theories: discursive features narratives
Typical discursive features /1 Straw man Informal fallacy frequently employed to avoid real discussion on the matter. Psychologically, the person employing it feels like s/he managed to defend his/her position. Person A has position X. Person B ignores X and instead presents position Y. Person B attacks position Y. Person B draws a conclusion that X is false/incorrect/flawed. Big Conspiracy Almost every power in the world is indiscriminately involved in occulting the truth.
Typical discursive features /2 Burden of proof (onus probandi) reversal Ordinarily, the necessity of the positive proof lies with he who states something. Conspirationists, instead, use a negative proof: X is true because there is no proof that X is false. Occam’s razor (lex parsimoniae) refusal Abnormal multiplication of entia, usually fictitious, supposed to be acting in secrecy.
Typical discursive features /3 Verbal aggressiveness Towards critics / sceptics. Towards impartial bystanders. very similar to messianism. Bite and run Lack of data or sources is usually self-evident To avoid criticism, some pre-made thought is thrown in the arena and no reasonable rebuttal will be held acceptable.
Narratives/1: the 9/11 conspiracy theories Conspiracy theorists think that the impact of the planes could have never pulled down the towers by itself. The towers must have been bombed, and the only institution who could be able to stage such a grand plan is the United States government. The bombed towers Arguments offered: Negative: not enough fire the towers were not highly damaged by the impacts. Positive: free fall of the towers proof of bombs in the basement auditive witnesses of ground explosions towers started collapsing from the ground.
Debunking the 9/11 … /1 Enough fire The fire following the impacts melted the pillars of the building, causing structural flaws to the outer structure. In a skyscraper, the whole structure carries the weight of the building. Additionally, great fires ensued in the central hollowed structure of the building.
Debunking the 9/11 … /2 Impact damage The impacts themselves caused important structural damage to the buildings, as can be noted from these pictures.
Debunking the 9/11 … /3 Towers did not collapse in free fall Conspirationists say it took about 8 seconds for the towers to fall to the ground. The actual time was 15-18 seconds. Also, conspirationists do not prove that the free fall of the Towers would have taken 8 seconds or less.
Debunking the 9/11 … /4 Auditive witnesses Some of the auditive witnesses were firefighters. They stated hearing many ground explosions, and one of them said it was as if ‘there were bombs in the basement’. All of them retracted their depositions. A plausible explanation: auditive hallucinations in a highly-stressful, chaotic and unprecedented situation. explosions in the basement may have been caused by anything falling through the hollowed central part of the building from the upper floors.
Debunking the 9/11 … /5 Collapse start These pictures show quite clearly where the collapse of the towers started.
Arguments offered (often visual): impossible air maneuver no wreckage on the ground the hole in the Pentagon is too narrow for a plane crash. Narratives /2 : The 9/11 Pentagon attack Conspiracy theorists say that what hit the Pentagon was not a plane. Eye witnesses saw an airplane flying right into the Pentagon, so the bomb hypothesis was discarded and the theorists resorted to the Cruise-missile theory. The no-plane theory
Debunking the Pentagon /1 Arguments offered (detail) Impossible maneuverHole too narrow
Narratives /3 : Moon landing Conspiracy theorists say that the first moon landing in reality never took place, having been staged at Hollywood or at another secret area of the US. The 1969 moon landing hoax
Debunking the Moon hoax /1 Arguments offered: the flag behaves as if there was wind. there are no stars in the pictures. wrong shadows appear on the ground. scenic objects are visible.
Debunking the Moon hoax /2 The flag The flag was actually made of different parts to be portable by the astronauts. Even in empty space, an object that is touched reacts in the very same way as if it is in air (Newton force reaction laws). The flag itself had an horizontal wire woven into it so that it could simulate waving in the wind and it could stand by itself (as shown in any moon landing video).
Debunking the Moon hoax /3 No stars In the moon pictures there are no stars because there should not be. To avoid overexposing the bright ground, the diaphragm must be almost closed. The light of the stars could not impress the film. The astronauts could see the stars thanks to their own shifting diaphragm: the pupil.
Conspirationist’s narrative method /1 Visual Preference towards visual proofs. The visual information is distorted. Not an innovative use; simply a mystifying use. Intuitiveness Exaggerate seemingly veritable facts, treating them as if they were intuitive. Science or direct experience already offers a mediate or counter-intuitive correct answer.
Conspirationist’s narrative method /2 Intricacy of reasoning Complicate matters so as to make it harder to find fallacies. Burden of proof reversal plays on their side. Update paradox - recent phenomenon pertaining to the new mass-produced conspirationism To manufact ‘new’ proofs is needed to sell new material. The new evidence re-introduces the whole theory in the market, comprising the outdated versions of it.
Conspirationist’s narrative method /3 Messianism proposed as critical thinking Scientific parts of the theory are incorporated in the political process of accusation of the establishment. Reader’s trust is achieved not through the correctness of the method applied, but directly through an appeal to the beliefs of the reader in the political ideologies supported by the theory. Massified messianism ≠ personal critical thinking
I know that most men (…) can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives. Lev Nikolaevič Tolstoy