29 Dec 2010
Conspiracy Theory Manifesto
We love conspiracy theories here at Dime Brothers. We love making fun of them, ignoring them, or whole-heartedly buying into them (ha ha, just kidding on that last one). At the very least, we do enjoy acknowledging their hold over the public imagination. And we know that if you ever come across a conspiracy theorist you have to be careful to guard your brain cells and neural connections against the threat of un-learning.
Have you ever had a conversation with a conspiracy theorist? Don't know or remember? It's for this reason I want to give you a guide to help you recognize when you're speaking with one. So I'm going to break down a sample conversation and give you some meat and potatoes to think about so you can withdraw from the situation without any mental or bodily harm.
If you're right leaning you may use this guide to help you combat liberals.
If you're left leaning you may use this guide to help you combat conservatives.
If you're fence leaning you may use this guide to help you combat your inner demons.
Let's jump right in.
You: The weather seems a bit peculiar today - where'd the sun go?
Conspiracy Theorist: It just goes to show you that the scientists are wrong again.
Warning sign number one: the vague generalization. Your first hint that you may be speaking with a conspiracy theorist is the person's ability to summarize an insanely complex topic into a statement of fact in two or fewer sentences. Most of the time, you will not be able to decipher what that topic or fact actually is. Although the fact is veiled under a cloud of generalities and opinions, the conspiracy theorist will always say that his argument is forthright and intuitive.
Let's analyze the above repartee together before our heads explode. The conspiracy theorist seems to be attacking the notion of global warming (right winger). Or perhaps he's somehow arguing that global warming is worse than everyone says (left winger). Or that technically, the sky isn't blue (fence leaner not really saying anything).
Alright, whatever, you were just making conversation. Even were you interested in getting into such a conversation, what would you say to validate and/or contradict the point the conspiracy theorist is trying to make? The safest bet is simply asking.
You: What point are you trying to make?
Conspiracy Theorist: C'mon - don't you see it happening?
Warning sign number two: Use of pronouns. It, Them, They, etc. A pronoun is used to replace a noun because it [the pronoun] can be assumed in the context in which it's [the pronoun] being used. If it, them, or they is not defined previously, then use of the pronoun should be avoided. It [the use of a pronoun] is an invitation to miscommunication, or conspiracy formulation.
Anytime you ever feel frustrated in a conversation, it's [your frustration] most likely the result of pronoun abuse. I estimate that conspiracy theorists use pronouns 73% more than the average person. If you're not used to listening for pronouns, keep on the look-out for the following symptoms: 1) your eyes starting to glaze over; 2) excessive blinking (on either party's part); 3) your suddenly strong desire to begin organizing your photo collection; or 4) seven horsemen galloping around, in which case the conspiracy is probably true and you owe somebody an apology.
You: I'm not sure I follow.
Conspiracy Theorist: Alright, let me clue you in. In '84 Johnson was head of the National Meteorological Trust, a [left/right]-wing lobby group that supported Joe Schplien, a Nazi-funded Georgia state assemblyman who ran a failed campaign for Congress in the 30's, right? So Schplien's nephew goes to school and meets some friends, some of which happen to be cousins of the current Space Travelers Lodge, a [left/right]-wing lobby group opposed to NMT policies. Now you can't tell me that's a coincidence!!!
Warning sign number three: Overuse of obscure people/places/events. The above dialogue is all made up, and I'm sure you get the drift. You know who cops go to question when someone ends up murdered? People the murdered guy knew. Things are usually not conspiracies. However, the mere suggestion of family ties makes a conspiracy theorist go gaga with what he now assumes are facts. You may discount the conspiracy theorist's arguments out of hand. How much influence do you really have over your cousins, your great nephew, or some guy your grandfather had lunch with 60 years ago? It's fun to draw the link but it just doesn't mean much.
You: I'm not sure. Why is this important?
Conspiracy Theorist: Well, the current President of the United States said recently, and I can't believe that you don't know this, that he likes learning about space. This makes him complicit in the unacceptable policies of the NMT.
Warning sign number four: Words taken out of context to prove a point. What does liking space have anything to do with this other organization? Just because things are similar doesn't mean that they're the same. People are wise who take to heart F. Scott Fitzgerald's observation that a brain should be able to hold two contradictory ideas at one time.
You: I'm not sure I see where you're going.
Conspiracy Theorist: We've got to get this idiot out of the White House!
Warning sign number five: Inconsistency of applicable lesson. The Conspiracy Theorist just tried to make the point that the President is evil and conniving, which necessitates intelligence. But now the Conspiracy Theorist is trying to make the point, using sarcasm but also meaning what he says, that the President isn't smart enough to do anything, let alone be evil or conniving. So you decide to press the point.
You: Actually, the President just said last week that he's not in favor of any specific set of policies, especially those of the NMT.
Conspiracy Theorist: That doesn't matter! He's got people to do this stuff for him--tell him what to say and when to do things!
Warning sign number six: Waiting for the exception. For conspiracy theorists, the exception always proves whatever point they're trying to make. They wait and wait thinking, "I know how this works. It is not working this way right now but that's because the real way it works is hiding beneath the surface."
Since you've now confirmed there's no saving this conversation and no chance of learning anything, it's time to escape. So I've compiled some conversational "outs" below. You can escape with your life by saying the first part, or escape with a thorough beating by saying the rest of each suggestion.
Suggestion 1: You seem to be very passionate about this issue. How about we have this conversation after you learn some more.
Suggestion 2: I've never heard anything so interesting. What's even more confusing is that you have all the elements that a good argument has; it's just that you've said the wrong things and made the wrong point. Other than that, your theory is fine.
Suggestion 3: It's getting a bit cold in here--I better scoot. But thanks for trying to warm it up--you're blowing a lot of hot air.
And that's about it for our manifesto. What other observations do you have about conspiracies or conspiracy theorists? Teach us more, or correct what we think we already know!