(incorporating "World of Decency")
posted by Chardonnay Chap at 7/19/2010 12:57:00 PM
How about this, on the predictable topic: Aaro & Wheen in full smug mode. No, I'm sure I saw one of its fetlocks move. It's resting, etc. I been meaning to post it anyway so ther it is.
They lost me here: We seem unable to accept that some events might just be accidental or that authorities may not be systematically corrupt. And that was just the blurb.Does DA ever discuss the great Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky? Sure, some people are "unable to accept that some events might just be accidental" but that's a cognitive bias: that's because, if our brains are 'designed' for anything, it's understanding the motives of other people (and animals). We're more or less hard-wired to look for agency first. Unfortunately, saying 'look at the daft things these idiots believe' doesn't get us any closer to understanding why they believe those things.Besides, I still think that CTs belong in the territory of fiction. Even if space aliens didn't assassinate JFK (all you've been told is just the cover story), I can't see how my life would be any different.
"Who better to discuss .... ?"Surely there is no-one worse equipped to discuss this with Aaro than Wheen. They both think along similar lines, so there is unlikely to be much probing and challenging. But that is a symptom of their whole approach, their lack of appreciation that the enlightenment is about doing your own investigation. Guano
CC: The 'not' in authorities may not be systematically corrupt shurely a typo. They don't mention any academic work at all. Aaro does mention his friend Kamm, who it seems has solved the JFK case.3 things: 1. CTs include non-loony and indeed very plausible claims, inc of course the Saddam WMD and 9/11 theories, and the 'theory' of the deception involved in getting support for the Iraq invasion Görtzel belatedly addresses that issue, distinguishing 'monological' (basically, dogmatic) belief systems from dialogical (evidence-sensitive) ones.2. Is agency-bias a well-established and significant phenomenon? More importantly, even if it is, what input should it have into the assessment of a CT's credibility, rather than in the explanation of CTs that 'we' can arleady agree are bollox?3. Fiction not the same as remote or irrelevant. History not fictional. er, four things4. 'Who cares?' is of course quite reasonable, as is 'life's too short', etc. But it doesn't (itself) justify 'that's bollocks'. This stuff matters, because of the fact that any allegation of corruption, collusion etc tends to be dismissed - quite effectively - as a CT, a tactic that relies on 'CT' being an undiff'd category.(BTW, Stats question for any obliging experts out there: Goertzel uses Chronbach's alpha to establish that his quetionnaire is suitable for creating a scale. I suppose that's meant to mean roughly that it's reasonable to treat it as measuring a real, unified trait. Is that a fair lay account? Is he right to use alpha for that purpose?)
Guano: actually they have slightly different brands of psychobabble etc, corresponding to the books they are each flogging. It's mildly amusing to see them skirting around any disagreement, since of course bashing 'CTs' comes first and the doctrinal details don't really matter.capcha: dicswar
Guano - i.e. yes, exactly right.
This being a mini liveblog..."The one thing conspiracies have in common...they take accident out of life..."This is rampant wibble. Most "conspiracy theories" dispute the supposed agency of crimes: 9/11, JFK, Lockerbie (hey, why didn't that get a mention in Voodoo Histories?). Prof. Brian Keeley - no fan of the theorists, he - writes......it is often the case that events that appear to call for explanations in terms of conspiracies are ones in which all of the plausible hypotheses are conspiratorial...Onwards!"...as far I know not a single conspiracy theorist has been bumped off, which is amazing considering what they say they know..."That assumes conspirators would need to. Most Americans admit to smelling piscine aromas in the case of JFK's assassination, yet they've never posed a threat to those who might have dunnit. What would have been the point of knocking off a Lane or Garrison? It may have only drawn attention. Besides, Aaro and the like are always sneering at baroque, convoluted theories. Now they're too simple?"...if you'd just like to leave your email I'll put you in touch with my colleague Oliver Kamm..."Hah!"Ultimately, for all the mountains of evidence it really comes down to Ockham's Razor...David in his book tries to define conspiracy theories: it's the assumption of conspiracies where there's a far more probable explanation..."Thanks, Francis. Let's ignore the evidence and then work out the most "probable" explanation. Hurrah for rationalism!By the end Aaronovitch is talking about a curious gentleman named "John Walt". Tempted to presume that his reading of The Israel Lobby ran to a vague, bleary glance at the cover.
as far I know not a single conspiracy theorist has been bumped offThat's certainly not what conspiracy theorists will tell you. (But of course they're all wrong, what with being conspiracy theorists.)
Can anyone get their greasy keyboards on Saturday's column?
Hell, I let both my blogs run fallow most of the time and just use them as glorified scratching posts whenever I feel in the mood. Maybe a move to an ad hoc format wiwth less AaroWatching and more inclusion of WoD?
"Unfortunately, saying 'look at the daft things these idiots believe' doesn't get us any closer to understanding why they believe those things."Görtzel makes some interesting points but I couldn't help thinking: can you really understand why people believe supposedly daft things by a telephone survey carried out by your students? It may give you a decent sample but it gives you little insight into how people are thinking. Why not go yourself and talk to a few of them?Guano
can you really understand why people believe supposedly daft things by a [questionnaire]?No. His actual main findings for +ive correlations with CT beliefs are: minority status (except JFK, UFOs); anomia (except UFOs); low trust (except JFK, UFOs, +1).What you can find out, it seems, is that people who you would expect to be more suspicious of the authorities(/think they are racist against black people) are more likely to assent to non-mainstream conspiracy scenarios(/ones involving action against black people). Or if you were so minded, you could phrase it: people who are more trusting are less likely to believe them. He does't calibrate his findings against the general population, so there is no finding about abnormal/unusual degrees of anomia etc. (Unless they are built into the scale, so that most people score 0).You can also find out that "The Air Force is hiding evidence that the United States has been visited by flying saucers" is different (I would say that's because the credibility bottleneck is the aliens, and the coverup is pretty reasonable given that. This kind of stuff involves a mere coverup rather than a goal-based conspiracy, and does so only as an as an incidental feature. The fact that aliens and supernatural stuff is lumped in with more ordinary political skullduggery makes Aaro's task much easier.Here's another study, to which similar remarks apply.Neither study found a correlation between beliefs in conspiratorial scenarios and a preference for simplicity.
Tempted to presume that his reading of The Israel Lobby ran to a vague, bleary glance at the cover.I'm tempted to presume that almost anyone who considers the Walt/Mearsheimer book to be a 'conspiracy theory' has not even read the original LRB essay, let a lone the book. The main complaint seems to be 'well we can't fault much with the facts in here but because a bastardised summary of the thesis sounds a bit like the protocols, cough, cough, mumble, enabling antisemitism, cough, cough, mumkble, objectively antisemitic, cough, mumble, actually antisemitic'.
At one stage in the Aaro/Wheen video, Wheen says something like "We know it is good to keep an open mind, but an open mind can sometimes lead to your brains falling out". Well yes, but their conversation does nothing to help us assess when it is good to be questioning, and how far to go with it, and when we should just sit back and take things on trust. It is such a jumble, mentioning events which did and did not happen in more or less the same breath, that it is hard to know which events fall into the despised category of CTs. Wheen says that plots against Harold Wilson did exist, though incompetent; however at the time this was dismissed as mere CT. So who exactly is Wheen accusing of being was paranoid? At one stage it seems that their main complaint is against people who try to put very separate events into an odd overall world view (shape-changing lizards, Illuminati, world government) but then their complaint is against people who question the main-stream narrative about only one event. The trick seems to be to claim that people like Norman Baker, or Walt and Mearsheimer, are really hinting at an overarching vast conspiracy even when they claim to be only questioning a discrete event.We live in a complex world in which we are forced to trust a vast array of different institutions. We hand over our money to banks and pension funds and trust that they will pay us back when we need it: we have to assume that there exist rules about how that money is invested and how the assets of the bank are valued and that these rules are applied and monitored. We may be stopped in the street by the poice and we have to trust that they are following a set of rules and that the application of those rules is supervised and monitored. However all this requires a level of institutionalised mistrust: it requires auditors and regulators and financial or police authorities who ask tough questions. It requires members of parliament and local councillors who scrutinise laws and plans and monitor their application. And it comes back to the citizen who is supposed to scrutinise the performance of their representatives before electing them. We can only trust in these institutions if there is some institutionalised mistrust and in a democracy it eventually comes back to the citizen: they somehow have to balance everyday trust with distrust to test that the systems of accountability and scrutiny are working. Aaro and Wheen give us no guide about how to balance trust with mistrust, and appear to be saying that we should be more trustful of authority (because if we aren't we'll end up believing in shape-changing lizards). But maybe we are right to be mistrustful. Large banks that turn out to have been overvalued and to hold assets that are too complex to value properly; auditors and credit rating agencies that have been captured by the companies they are meant to evalue; regulators asleep at the wheel; conflicts of interest caused by government depending on the companies and auditors that it is supposed to be regulating; MPs and councillors who fail to ask obvious questions; then newspaper columnists who claim that we should all trust authority a bit more.Some of the people who point this out may be doing it for dogmatic reasons, but some of it is logical questioning. We won't know if our institutions are functioning well unless we look for potental faults. Guano
Sorry about double posting. I only pressed the PUBLISH button once: honest!Guano
Guano: well said. well said.Re: previous post - yeah, the antisemitism/CT association is of course prominent.Wheen: [not verbatim] sometimes you have to scratch beneath the surface - it's supposedly about the banking system, say, but then they start reciting names: 'Rothschild', er, and then you start to see where they're coming from [that's one name, belonging to a long-standing dynasty of pretty Machiavellian bankers/eminences grises, Francis]...it's so pervasive that when I come across a new CT, I immediately look for the Jewish conspiracy element in it.To his credit he acknowledges that 'it may not be there', by way of introducing an amusing anecdote about Jon Ronson's having testified that Icke really does mean lizards so should be acquitted of 'hate speech'. Only amusing of course insofar as it's ironic: this is the "refreshing" exception that proves the rule, because in the normal course of things, people who talk about conspiratorial lizards can be assumed to mean Jews ("reasonably enough").Then, after it's established that the lizards include HM the Q and Blair, Aaro dissents: well, perhaps it's not as innocent as you think, because I'm one of the lizards.Re: W/M not a CT - not sure about this, but you could say there's a choice to be made here.You can defend W&M by denying it's a CT (since CT assumed to be dodgy), or on the other hand you can try and rehabilitate the term 'CT' by agreeing that W&M's thesis is one, and going on to point out that so are the 'theories' about all the other lobbies, and that indeed there is an overarching conspiracy of corrupt funding and influence throughout Washington.Consp in plain sight - I'd put the Iraq invasion consp in the same category. One point being that secrecy - certainly the legendary hermetic secrecy supposedly required, on the 'House of Cards' model whereby whistleblowers are always widely reported and believed - isn't essential to conspiracy. Just enough secrecy to achieve the aims is, er, enough.Rehab'ing the term 'CT' is a tall order though, of course. Also depends if you think the C in CT must involve crime/analogous wrongdoing...[erratum: somewhere above I said 'not' was shurely a typo. Don't know why; it's shurely not.]
Wikileaks.This might be of interest to them (and hopefully others):http://gawker.com/5515720/stephen-colbert-grills-wikileaks-founder-on-helicopter-video
Nick would be pleased by US Senate Passes Bill to Protect International Free Speech:The American Civil Liberties Union Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel, Michael Macleod-Ball, welcomed Senate passage of the bill as an important, bipartisan step forward for free speech. He said the practice of filing libel lawsuits in countries that have weaker free speech protections, a practice known as "libel tourism," is increasing with the ease of electronic communications, and that Britain is a popular place to file such lawsuits."The United Kingdom has traditionally had libel laws that just don't stand up under the free speech tests that are accepted internationally," he said.Here's a sort of relevant study "Hierarchical individualists" doubt global warming more than "egalitarian communitarians". Relevant to Mad Mel's decrying of AGW. Link to long academic paper I'm currently trying to make sense of. Seems to conclude what it says, and that conclusion fits my own observations. Note that you don't have to be mad to favour some facts and discount others: you just have to be partisan.
Not exactly WoD but certainly WoBACAI: "Don't be a dick", Phil Plait tells sceptics. (Sceptics not overjoyed.) No full transcript online, but I've discussed it with some links here. (I'm about to post essentially the same comment at D^2, so apologies if you read both.)
When I went to a W&M talk they spent a lot of their allotted time explaining why this wasn't about conspiracies, this was all stuff that was easily observed, they joined up dots that were very close together etc etc. Then a bunch of people put their hands up to ask why they were peddling anti-semitic conspiracy theories. Sigh!W&M don't see themselves as dealing in CT and I think that we should follow their lead. The risk is that any kind of social or political reserach gets labelled as CT, and then where would be?GuanoVerification = stalisma
Well, everyone always says they aren't proposing a CT for obvious reasons - not that it's for them to say. The idea was that CT could be embraced by those with widely accepted theories, thus removing the unwarranted stigma from what could be a neutral descriptive phrase.But solidarity with JFK dissenters is not an easy thing to sell, and the whole idea of rescuing the phrase is pretty pie in the sky really.----In other news, I've just heard Aaro's slightly grating tones announcing his forthcoming R4 programme about 'why McCarthy was/may have been right', based on newly declass'd docs from the FBI...
You can defend W&M by denying it's a CT (since CT assumed to be dodgy), or on the other hand you can try and rehabilitate the term 'CT' by agreeing that W&M's thesis is one, and going on to point out that so are the 'theories' about all the other lobbies, and that indeed there is an overarching conspiracy of corrupt funding and influence throughout Washington.I think the term's beyond redemption... the M&W thing is an especial blind spot for Aaro et al. They seem to think that the sole thesis of the book is that tehJews are responsible for the Iraq war (Nick Cohen has essentially said this, in an interview with Chas Newkey-Burden of all people), but the book and indeed the essay are pretty explicit about the predominantly Christian demographic of the Israel lobby, and Iraq is not THE central facet of the book - but it is true that a lot of the most prominent figures in the Israel lobby also lobbied hard for invading Iraq. Not exactly unsurprising given Saddam's treatment of Israel in the past (most Kuwaitis I know were in favour too, quelle surprise), before we even start on neoconservatism etc.This stuff is verified dispassionately and factually by M&W. 'CT' means, and will probably always mean, stuff based on dubious 'facts' and a lot of prejudices. It's more or less a slur which is why I find Aaro's approach so depressing.on a more general note, i was intereted in Mandy's memoirs, the bit about Iraq, where Blair has a go at him for 'hanging around George Galloway' or some such. It's odd just how often in political debate, and perhaps more generally, fairly moderate voices are tied to loud, annoying ones in order to score cheap points and silence debate. The mention of Norman Baker on here, and Brian Haw on a recent HP Sauce (kerching) thread, reminded me of that.
Thing is (sorry if I'm going on and on about this) that 'CT' is janus-faced. For evaluative purposes, something's having been identified as a CT has the implications you point out. On the other hand, when applying the label in the first place, people can (mostly) get away with treating it as though it just means 'hypothesis or claim about conspiratorial, collusive or corrupt behaviour.Note 'mostly' - there are of course many other factors that influence what the labellers can get away with. In any case there's certainly something slippery about the fact that the pejorative aspect is not written on its face.
OC, I think standard strategy re: W&M is to a) concede that their facts and most of their arguments are basically sound b) note the authors' various caveats and then c) start screaming hysterically about the Protocols and d) howling about conspiracism without at any point e) producing a logical counter-argument or casting any reasonable doubt on their integrity.Hell, I've seen a variation on that in the New York Times, never mind at HP. That time it was all hyperventilation about Iran, but that's the US press for you.
re "standard strategy re: W&M"Chomsky's argument against W&M is pretty convincing, but people like Wheen, Aaro and the NY Times can't say so, because they've contrived to put him in the mumbo jumbo/crank category.
well you can see why Kamm et al wouldn't want to subscribe to Chomsky's view of M&W:what is at stake is a rather subtle matter: weighing the impact of several factors which (all agree) interact in determining state policy: in particular, (A) strategic-economic interests of concentrations of domestic power in the tight state-corporate linkage, and (B) the Lobby.Tim W - yes, sorry, can't really argue with this:In any case there's certainly something slippery about the fact that the pejorative aspect is not written on its face.And - yes - the currently topical Lockerbie is a case worth considering here.
Fully recommend Charles Pigden's What Is Wrong With Conspiracy Theories?. Largely 'vailable here.
That's the one where someone finally gets round to pointing out that Popper was talking total shit, innit. It's also to be found in David Coady's collection CTs: the phil. debate.
Didn't check link, which is to the Coady book. Hope description of Pigden didn't deter anyone; it does do as described, well.
Watch this fucker.
I'll pass, thanks. He's just a wingnut. I read his latest post (well as much of it as I could be bothered - which was as far as his failure to engage Oliver Stone). Who talks of 'Reds' now? And sleeper agents left behind? Does he not read the news?I should read people like him more though: they really hate the Coalition. You think Labour's angry? Try right-wing Tories. Cameron totally outmanoeuvred them. A few defections to UKIP and political obscurity would be welcome.
Aaro hates Oliver Stone too, BTW. He described Stone's "JFK" as a 'mendacious fantasy' in a tweet yesterday. A nice, if tautological phrase.As for Stone's anti-Semitism. He clearly only casts goyim in his movies. And is there a name more goy than Michael Douglas?
Bit late, but a few rambling afterthoughts:Further to the ludicrous 'house of cards' model - and Phil,Bensix on bumping people off: the inescapable fact is that if, say, the CIA wanted to do that to some defenceless shmoe, they could relatively easily make it look like accident or natural causes. Unless they are after implausible deniability, i.e. making it fairly - but not rankly, MSM-acknowledgably, obvious as a warning to others. Another inescapable fact: spooks, strategists etc. are sneaky like that. It's their job. Implausible denial not only ensures the warning gets across, but intensifies it, since it's not just 'we will kill you' but 'and look how blatant we can be about it'. If one were to accept that David Kelly was killed, then the sub-hypothesis that there was an element of deliberate implausibility would be a live one.To add a complication consonant with the subject matter, blatantness can actually work to reduce the likelihood of (official) detection. See 'Intelligence and the Problem of Strategic Surprise' by the great theorist of strategic deception, Michael I Handel. He proposes this (ceteris paribus/pro tanto) 'paradoxical' generalisation: The greater the risk, the less likely it seems to be, and the less risky it becomes. Another complication is that implausibility can be dog-whistled, and of course sending different messages is even easier when it's a question of being plausible to the (low) standards of a domestic/local audience, while having foreign, and more sophisticated, audiences get the message loud and clear. Talk about stuff like this inevitably starts sounding a bit febrile, but any discussion about general aspects of CT qua CT must discuss general aspects of conspiracy, or it is just hot air.
Relevant to Aaro's 'AFAIK no-one has been bumped off', Keeley from Bensix's link (K's good on individual points like this - as he bloody well should be - but not so much in the overall use he makes of them, if his contrib to Coady, op. cit. is anything to go by):Rumsfeld and Carl Sagan declare that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Hanson’ s point is quite clearly the opposite; for him, if we have investigated and unless we have reason to think otherwise, absence of evidence precisely is evidence of absence, and pretty good evidence at that. Why the different claims? The answer is that sometimes the former claim is more appropriate and in others the latter. When one is dealing with conspiratorial elements – especially potentially powerful conspiratorial elements – then one always has a reason for at least being worried that the mere fact that you are not finding any positive evidence does not necessarily lend much credence to the claim that the existential claim in question is false. Then again, it does not give us positive evidence for the posit either. Hence, the proper response is a humble agnosticism in the face of such situations.Aaro's not only drawing a conclusion about an evidence-resistant phenomenon (putative well-disguised murder), but it's a near-certainty that he hasn't done any bona fide investigation, which means not only (pace Keeley) that the Hanson 'seek and ye shall find out one way or the other' doctrine is unavailable to him, but also that he isn't even in a position to claim there's an absence of evidence in the first place.(Also, carrot and/or stick based nobbling is probably better than killing if only because you get a retraction; likewise, discrediting witnesses by smearing them or driving them mental (think that's not possible?) tend to reverse the impact of anything they've said.The latter is even better so far as the standing aim of discrediting 'CTists' is concerned. It's possible (repeat several times: possible) that that's what happened to Shayler, who was hounded mercilessly and apparently befriended by a 'healer' who fed him a load of hallucinogenic herbal stuff, and who did appear to go mental... Now that really is speculative - but not particularly far-fetched (see the MKUltra desiderata dating back a to a few decades and fuck knows how many dollars and human guinea-pigs ago).
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