Alien Logic, Part Four: Conspiracy Theories
There are compelling arguments to make against the notion that the United States government is concealing knowledge of aliens visiting Earth by means of otherworldly technology. I will not recite those arguments here. I wish instead to address the two most common arguments of the skeptics, arguments I regard as so logically unsound that they actually lend credence to the believers. Stated in their most typical forms, these two arguments are “That sounds like a conspiracy theory” and “Alien visitation would violate the laws of physics.” Let us begin today with Door Number One, the “conspiracy theory” argument.
There is no more fallacious argument to level against any political or quasi-political opinion than to accuse those who subscribe to that opinion of being conspiracy theorists. Unfortunately, there is also no more predictable argument offered today against any non-establishmentarian political or quasi-political opinion, particularly (though not exclusively) if that opinion represents opposition to the statements or practices of public authorities.
What, precisely, is a conspiracy theory?
To analyze the term into its parts, we may begin by observing that a conspiracy is any secretive plot or scheme, involving two or more individuals, called “conspirators,” undertaken with the intention of effecting a certain result — often but not necessarily political in nature — surreptitiously. And a theory is any hypothesis supported by means of logic and evidence (valid or otherwise) and intended to explain certain acknowledged facts or phenomena observed through experience.
Thus, a conspiracy theory, to use the term in its strict, inherently non-evaluative sense — non-evaluative because the term describes a certain type of explanation, and has no intrinsic moral weight — is any logic- and evidence-supported hypothesis intended to explain acknowledged facts or phenomena as being the result of some form of conspiracy. Such a theory can sometimes seem, on its face, a little nebulous or ill-founded, since it is by definition an attempt to explain events in a manner that overtly defies or denies publicly received explanations, which necessarily places such a theorist in the position of seeming to oppose “common knowledge.” This appearance, however, must always be moderated by reminding ourselves that the precise milieu of conspiracy theories is not the arena of knowledge, but rather that of public perception. That is, the conspiracy theorist is not questioning nature and being as such, but is rather questioning the official explanation of things, or at times the absence of an official explanation of things.
The effort, in recent years, to redefine the term “conspiracy theory” as inherently a form of false hypothesis, or even a form of lying and mass manipulation, is clearly an implicit attempt to undermine the very notion that there are conspiracies as such in reality. For if there are verifiable instances of conspiracy — in other words, if some conspiracy hypotheses have become verifiable truths — then it is untenable and illegitimate (and also, one might add, disingenuous) to portray conspiracy theories per se as inherently irrational, as the modern popular use of the phrase is certainly intended to do.
Just yesterday, there was a major news story in Canada. A former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia — residential schools were employed for several decades to reeducate the children of native tribes to a modern way of thinking — was found by radar examination to have hundreds of bodies of native children in mass graves. The residential schools — effectively a government reeducation program designed to separate children from their parents in all ways in order to reorient them for the social good — have become a major source of historical shame in Canada in recent years, for some illegitimate but also many legitimate reasons. This newly discovered evidence of appalling child abuse, and apparently large scale criminal neglect (or worse), undertaken at one such school which operated for almost eighty years, is relevant in the current context for this reason: For this horror to have been perpetrated, and then for the truth of these hundreds of child deaths to have been buried for decades, would certainly have required deliberate secretiveness among many people. Most or all of these people — teachers, office workers, custodial staff, and of course many bureaucrats administering the school and its relations with the families of the “disappearing” children — would have been government employees. In other words, these government employees, likely hundreds of them spanning many years, deliberately conspired to dispose of all those children surreptitiously, and then to hide the truth of the children’s fates for as long as possible, preferably (one must assume) forever.
This news item, which just came to light one day ago, in one of the most politically, socially, and economically advanced and “open” societies in our progressive world, is a textbook case of a true, unqualified, indubitable conspiracy. For years, many people among the native tribes, as well as investigative journalists and historians, have suspected that the full extent of the past abuses at residential schools is not known, and that people who know the truth because they were participants in the abuses, in some form, are refusing to come forward with what they know. The people making these allegations were and are conspiracy theorists in the literal, definitional, non-evaluative sense of the term.
Likewise, for forty years, the United States Federal Government did medical research on the effects of syphilis in black men (the Tuskegee Syphilis Study) by pretending to treat hundreds of real patients with fake medicine, so that the U.S. CDC could have long-term access to these men in order to assess the development of the disease. This means that hundreds of government agents — doctors, nurses, health bureaucrats, and so on — were knowingly participating in a secret scheme to achieve certain results while hiding the full nature of their activity from both the study’s subjects and the general public. This is another textbook case of a conspiracy. The full truth of this mass abuse was only widely revealed through the private efforts of medical practitioners and researchers who filed ethical complaints and leaked evidence to the press that defied and denied the official version of this experiment. In other words, the men who brought about the public exposure and termination of this forty-year study were conspiracy theorists.
When anyone accuses his opponent — political, rhetorical, theoretical — of being a conspiracy theorist, my trust in that accuser’s good faith and sincere desire for truth drops at least fifty percent. “Conspiracy theorist,” as that term is now employed, is an illegitimate smear, and an obvious act of sophistry. In point of fact, history is rife with real and subsequently acknowledged conspiracies. And in many cases, these real conspiracies first entered the public consciousness in defiance of, and against the denials of, representatives of the official version of social or political reality, as alternative and little-known hypotheses supported with logic and evidence — that is, they were conspiracy theories before they came to be accepted as conspiracy facts, conspiracy history.
Are most conspiracy theories nonsense, insupportable in the end? Yes. But the same could be said of most scientific hypotheses, most literary interpretations, and most social theories — such as the progressive social theories that are currently the controlling ideas of the entire advanced world.
Are many conspiracy theorists disingenuous self-seekers and manipulators motivated by vested interests and the desire for fame or power, rather than by an honest quest for concealed truths? Yes. But the same could be said of many scientific theorists, literary interpreters, and social theorists — such as, most emphatically, the progressive social theorists whose ideas are currently controlling the entire advanced world.
If there are such things as conspiracies, which there most certainly are, then there is nothing at all illegitimate in principle in someone who notices anomalies in the popular understanding of things coming forward with an alternative hypothesis to explain what the official version of events or history seems not to be able to explain. That many frauds and fools propound such hypotheses no more delegitimizes the general field of conspiracy hypothesizing as such than the many prominent and obscure frauds and fools of scientific and social theory delegitimize the whole arena of scientific reasoning or social philosophizing as such.
Those who would attempt to circumvent or undermine all questioning of official narratives by means of the conspiracy theory accusation — that is, by labeling an opponent a “conspiracy theorist” as grounds for public dismissal and mockery — reveal themselves as, at best, dupes or willing servants of the presiding authorities in government, in the military, in the academy, and in the corporate world — which authorities, of course, would always love everyone to accept the official line on every subject of social and political relevance on faith. To use this accusatory labeling, this character smear, is effectively to treat the notion of conspiracy itself as a falsehood or mirage — which entails a willing denial of thousands of years, including plenty of recent history, of well-known facts. To all, then, who employ this smear in lieu of relying on logic and open dialogue to establish truths, I can only reply, in the manner of one of history’s most famous victims of a conspiracy, “Et tu, Brute?”
To put this another way, the modern moralizing “conspiracy theorist” accusation is, in its ultimate and sometimes intended effects, a kind of Judas kiss. Get it?