I’ve recently written about the relationship between conspiracy theories and hate speech. Too often, conspiracy theories are used to justify irrational hate for one group or another, and to direct anger over lack of control of one’s life onto a group the conspiracist ideologically opposes. Historical examples include the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or blood libel and more modern examples include everything from the racist birther allegations that our president isn’t American, the homosexual agenda, and the rabid anti-government conspiracy theories advanced by lunatics like Alex Jones, and Glenn Beck. Beck, astonishingly, made the assertion that it must be a foreign terrorist behind the Boston bombings because American terrorists only attack the government, they don’t attack streets full of people.

Think about that for a minute. Ignore, for the moment, the obvious factual inaccuracy of the statement given the homegrown terrorists that have bombed abortion clinics, churches, planes, the Olympics, or schools. Think about what Glenn Beck is saying. He’s saying that previous terrorists who have targeted the government, like for instance Timothy McVeigh, weren’t targeting people in their attacks. They were targeting government. Never mind that at OKC Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people, including 19 children under 6, and injured 680. Those weren’t people. They were “the government”. This man is sick.

Enter Alex Jones, who has never had a conspiracy theory he didn’t like, from moon-landing conspiracies to constant (and hilariously false) predictions of impending government collapse, government assassinations, terror attacks, monetary collapse, or whatever seems to spring into his mind from moment to moment. A compendium of his hilariously-false predictions is a fascinating watch:


(thanks to Ed Brayton

By their fruits you shall know them.

Why should we be at all surprised that someone as full of hate as Tamerlan Tsaernev was a believer in a host of conspiracy theories:

It’s not particularly surprising that Tsarnaev would be drawn to a wide range of conspiracy theories, as research shows that people prone to believing one conspiracy theory will likely believe many — even if they’re completely contradictory. And he fits a profile of a type of person likely to be drawn to conspiratorial thinking, considering he was allegedly alienated from and disgruntled with society.

On top of Jones and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, we have to add the one that seems to be the most important of all: The kind of anti-American conspiracy theories pushed by Islamists. For instance, the Washington Post reports that the brothers were apparently motivated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers there. As with many conspiracy theories, there is a grain of truth here — American soldiers really have done some horrible things in those countries. But Tsarnaev went beyond the evidence by telling people that “in Afghanistan, most casualties are innocent bystanders killed by American soldiers.” In fact, according to the U.N., the Taliban is responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths — 81 percent in 2012.

Anti-American and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are foundational to al-Qaida and other radical groups’ ideologies, according to Matthew Gray, a professor at Australian National University who wrote in his book “Conspiracy Theories in the Arab World,” that ”the speeches of Osama Bin Laden are peppered with conspiracist language and the assumptions that underline conspiracism.”

Indeed, conspiracy theories are hardly unique to the United States and often run rampant in the Muslim world, as Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote in the New Republic, and seem to be especially strong among Islamists. A 2011 Pew poll of residents of Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories and Indonesia found that the vast majority refused to believe that Arabs executed the terrorist attack on 9/11. “There is no Muslim public in which even 30 percent accept that Arabs conducted the attack,” the study found.

From the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to 9/11 truth, to Alex Jones Infowars, Tamerlan was a promiscuous-believer in conspiracy theories, and his younger brother, from his Twitter account, appears to also be a CT proponent of 9/11 truth.

While the right would like to blame the behavior of these individuals on radical Islam, I’d like to propose a different source of radical, and hateful behavior. I would suggest we consider that conspiratorial thinking might be behind this type of group violence. As the Salon article mentions, one of the major propaganda elements of groups like Al Qaeda are conspiracies about the US, about Jews, about Israel, about anyone who they believe is their enemy. Conspiracy theories are often a reflection of a feeling of powerlessness, and those who are more likely to believe them are reacting a world which is often disordered, and out-of-control. The conspiracy theory is a simplistic explanation for one’s troubles, and usually incorporate one’s irrational, tribal, or bigoted beliefs about the world.

But while conspiracy theories might make people feel better about an out-of-control world, as it gives them the false perception that they (and no one else) really knows what’s going on, at the same time they feed back on themselves and reinforce that very sense of powerlessness. If democratic government is just a sham, the US is imminently about to round us up and put us in FEMA camps, or kill us with a billion DHS bullets, your supposed grasp of the problem does nothing to solve it. It only further shows how helpless you are to do anything. What are the solutions the conspiracists fall back on? Arming yourself, doomsday prepping, and detachment from society, especially all those stupid sheeple (it’s amazing how often Jones calls his audience stupid!), is the solution. Civil society, voting, community, charity, and collective action aren’t the solution. It’s guns, and isolation.

Should we then be surprised when individuals influenced by these conspiracy theories resort to violence? Should we be surprised that when people are told the political process is a sham, the government is killing us at will, and everyone else who doesn’t believe this is stupid, that they then go out and target government, and other citizens, and cops, indiscriminately? Isn’t this just conspiracy theorists, like Jones, and Al Qaeda for that matter, just reaping what they sow?

In the aftermath of this tragedy, the usual actors came out of the woodwork to ghoulishly use human suffering to advance their agenda, whether it was attacking government, or blaming abortion, people who knew nothing and cared nothing for their fellow citizens sought to use the tragedy to their advantage. The conspiracists, of course, settled on the usual suspects (Beck has his Saudi agent/government conspiracy, Jones and Mike Adams the FBI/government). Not that they had any information that we didn’t. They were pronouncing this nonsense within minutes of the attack. Now that we have some information we know that the two alleged suspects have some pretty damning evidence against them if the timeline is correct. They were both witnessed at the scene with, and then without backpacks. One was filmed dropping a backpack at the scene of the second bomb. Both were filmed coolly-observing the aftermath. They shot one MIT police officer to death, apparently in cold blood. They carjacked an individual who said they identified themselves to him as the Boston Marathon bombers. They had pressure cooker bombs in their apartment. They exploded such a bomb while eluding police, critically injuring another police officer.

This is, to put it mildly, a damning case.

However, the conspiracy theorists have not changed their tune. Beck continues to blame some Saudi national who’s major crime appears to be he happened to be in Boston that day. Jones and infowars continues to blame the FBI, the CIA, anyone, including Sunil Tripathi, the missing student who has been found dead. Likely this will not stop them, they’ll just say that the FBI killed him to keep him quiet, and keep victimizing his poor family, who have suffered enough from the loss of their son. If the analysis reveals he died over a month ago, that won’t stop them either, because who did the analysis? The government! It’s sad, and pathetic, and horrible. They blame the innocent, and further create the impression that in our society there is no justice, the government is the real criminal (and is not composed of living, breathing, human people), anyone who believes otherwise is stupid.

My question is, for those who believe this nonsense, how long until we see another one plant a bomb? For those for who believe they have no political or civil power, isn’t violence the outcome encouraged by this belief?

I think we have to stop just blaming the religious extremism, and start considering the role of conspiratorial extremism in acts of political violence and terror around the world. When you make people feel powerless, and stupid, and excluded from society and participatory democracy, one should not be surprised when they turn to violence and political terrorism. The Tsaernev family insists their children didn’t learn this from them, or in their life abroad, they learned to think this way in America. Maybe they’re right.

Jones’ response that Tamerlan was a fan was typical, another conspiracy as will the responses to whatever I write here I’m sure. I’ll be accused of being paid off, working for the FBI, a shill, whatever. It’s boring, and part of the known self sealing aspect of conspiratorial thinking. Whenever anything conflicts with the predetermined truth, it must be then incorporated into a new, grander conspiracy. One of my commenters joked about this phenomenon:

A group of elderly JFK conspiracy theorists were comparing notes when one of them suddenly had a heart attack. After going through the whole tunnel light scenario he finds himself facing God. He asks “Oh Lord, who really killed JFK?” And God replied “It was Oswald acting alone.” At that point the EMTs were able to jolt him back to life. Later in the hospital with his co-theorists he said in a low voice “The conspiracy is bigger than we thought.”

So on that lighter note, I ask to think about how dismissive we should be of conspiracy theorists. We often treat them as just ridiculous and foolish. But given the historical and modern examples of hatemongering through conspiracy theories, and the conspiratorial beliefs of terrorists from Timothy McVeigh, to Al Qaeda, to the Tsaernevs, maybe we should be looking at the darker side of this behavior. Maybe it’s time to recognize that those who call us stupid, and powerless, and helpless, are the ones encouraging violence as a solution.

Comments

  1. #1 Phil
    Canada
    April 25, 2013

    Thank you for writing this. One thing I can’t stand about disillusioned individuals, like Alex Jones, is that there is no reasoning or respectful debate. Ever notice how he will just get louder and more angry, talk over you and then say you’re stupid because you have a different opinion? I also love the fact that guys like Alex manipulate facts, articles and the truth to suit their needs which is what they accuse the government of doing. Best example of this is his argument about how the NY Times has documented that the FBI has a history of staging terrorist attacks, which upon reading the article, it was an editorial on the opinions page discussing the change in sting operations. Alex Jones, do us a favour and drink some of your Kool-aid!!

  2. #2 Brando
    Quebec
    April 25, 2013

    Believe everything the mainstream media tells you, especially CNN. Never question,never think for yourself unless you want to be called a conspiracy theorist

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/opinion/sunday/terrorist-plots-helped-along-by-the-fbi.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

  3. #3 Mark
    April 26, 2013

    Brando. You have engaged in combined straw man/false divergence fallacy, combined with a ridiculous misrepresentation of the NYT article. The alternative to Alex Jones is not believing everything you read. It’s just not believing in total bullshit. And that goddamn article you cited had nothing to do with the FBI staging anything. Is English a second language? It’s about entrapment, not FBI false flag operations. They don’t actually follow through, they set up some dumbass who ostensibly wants to start a local jihad with fake explosives, tell them how to engage in terrorism, then arrest them when they try to follow through. It’s a completely separate, and somewhat questionable activity. I actually am somewhat conflicted on it, because on the one hand, if they fall for this kind of entrapment, I’m kind of glad the FBI found them and jails them. What kind of jackass gets entrapped into terrorism? It’s not like offering them money to make them commit a crime, it’s offering them an easy way to kill people via terrorism to make them commit a crime. So entrapment yes, but hey, who cares? We’re not talking about what they did with Delorean here.

    Anyway, I’m going to quickly shut down any of this fallacious/straw man/false dichotomy/Gish Gallop nonsense really fast, and go to moderation if the cranks try to take over. No, I’m not interested in debate with conspiracy theorists and denialists. It’s not a worthwhile activity because they’re dishonest, they don’t listen, they don’t contribute to a legitimate debate, and they’re just cranks. We don’t debate with cranks here.

  4. #4 ryan
    April 26, 2013

    Mark,

    I enjoyed this article, yours is a refreshing perspective. I would also like to thank you for your writing on GMOs, which has shifted my thinking on that subject.

    Your response to Brando’s nonsense is troublesome. What kind of jackass gets entrapped into terrorism? Precisely the desperate kind of person who edges toward that sort of violence in the first place. Have you ever thought of committing a crime? At what point did you stop? Would you have stopped if someone you were there to encourage your urges? At what point does one turn from conspiracy theorist to terrorist? What effect does peer pressure have on that process? I would like to see a more careful consideration of the matter from someone who is usually more even-handed. Perhaps an examination of the relevant literature in the field of Social Psychology.

  5. #5 Fred Botz
    New Jersey
    April 26, 2013

    You’re suggesting conspiracy theorists breed terrorism? You DO see the irony in your…er…umm… ‘theory’ right?

    How silly of you.

  6. #6 "conspricy theorist"
    england
    April 26, 2013

    As per usual the media and sheep I.e. most commentors on here just love to label and group people. I believe some theories that present evidence or too many coinsidences, and yeah some “conspiricy theorists” (as you sheep put it) are melodramatic, but dont group us all into an easy to dismiss label like the media loves to do, it makes it so much easier to discredit someone if you do that, and obviously when you say “conspiricy theorist” people think of the famous outspoken jones and icke because theyre famous for being exactly that. But by doing that and grouping everyone into a ridiculous group I and others are then seen in the same light despite being locial and using evidence, fact is everyone is different and individual.

  7. #7 John Haigh
    UK
    April 26, 2013

    Why is it that the less rational the argument the worse the grammar and the spelling?
    I find your logic interesting, it highlights one reason people may commit terrorist acts but I think religion is also major cause. The key is making people think that the victims are not people, they are “The Government” or “Infidels”. Be wary of any argument that portrays opponents as less human or less worthy of human rights.

  8. #8 Bill
    April 26, 2013

    Mark, it seems that you are the one who engages in a bit of denialism. It seems that you filter anything critical of the medical system you’ve willingly entered. It was branded a conspiracy theory by the anti-semites that Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza in 2008-2009. This April 26 2013 the BBC reports on how Israel will stop using white phosphoros. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22310544

    People who are concerned for human rights of people living in Gaza have a right to speak out without accusations of being anti-semitic. Your articles feed into the division of our society. You ridicule and laugh at those who disagree with you. Have you looked into FMRI research onto the effects of acupuncture? Do you deny the effects witnessed from the FMRI data of brain communication and activity following acupuncture? Now I don’t use acupuncture, and have been conditioned by my education to believe that acupuncture is not possible through Western medical theory, but when presented with studies from Harvard, Rosen, Kaptchuk, Napadow, I am intrigued at the possibility that the mind-body connection is greater than Western medicine understands. President Obama’s initiative will elucidate these connections even further.

    I wish i could believe that you were sincere in your writing, but you are a product of the writings of a few outlets which you hold as scripture. You’re choices of media don’t make you smarter than everyone else. The media outlets of record wait years before allowing the plebian masses to know what happened. White phosphorus was a conspiracy theory from anti-semites who hate Israel until the UN human rights commission said their evidence showed that Israel had in fact used white phosphorous. The people you laugh at and ridicule have a more nuanced grasp of reality, Mark. They don’t see the world as black and white as you like to paint in your article. They don’t blindly trust anything they read, but look for evidence to enlighten their perspective. The worldview that you have been indoctrinated into is no better than anyone else’s. Enjoy the ride, Mark, this world is getting more interesting because opinions like yours are being challenged more and more often and you hate it. You have dedicated your life to this thing, you have so much invested in being “right” and letting all the bobble heads out there nod along with you. I am not defending what Alex Jones says or what he has lackeys write on his website, but the manufactured consensus of the media restricts what is possible. There is so much research on paradigm shifting ideas that goes unreported. Unfortunately, instead of having decent media outlets that discuss the more intellectual aspects of issues we have media and government written and directed for the grown children we call adults and their seventh grade reading level. Those frustrated with the childlike narrative look for other outlets for information to get a better understanding the event. Years later the government or NYT or BBC admit what we knew at the time. We experience the cognitive dissonance of knowing that white phosphorus was used because we knew people working at the red cresent in gaza who saw the burns on children and women, but the media denied this was happening. Years later, when nothing can be done to remedy the situation the NYT, Washington Post, BBC admit what happened. Admit that they delay reporting on a story because the White House asks them to not report on it otherwise they lose their access. Mark you are projecting your denialism on others.

  9. #9 Bill
    April 26, 2013
  10. #10 Frank
    New York
    April 26, 2013

    This article is awful. Hey Hoofnagle look up operation Northwoods bud. That should tell you alot.

  11. #11 Three Bags Full
    UK
    April 26, 2013

    You wrote ‘by their fruits you shall know them. You are exactly right, however you didn’t take the time to study the fruit, and you even failed to mention the bad tree!

  12. #12 Maxine Dolling
    Canada
    April 26, 2013

    Wow!
    Seriously, so every thing we read or even watch makes people turn into crazy people and terrorists, that’s just nonsense. If you watch it, then I guess that includes you as well then does it Mark. It really is a bit dingy saying that people who listen to certain programs are hateful and terrorists, didn’t the president say he is a Christian and yet he allows the Homeland security to put Christians on their terror watch list, I guess that would make him one to be on the watch list to, wouldn’t it?

  13. #13 Mark
    April 26, 2013

    @Ryan,
    I think the entrapment of potential terrorists by offering to make violence easier is fundamentally different from, say, the entrapment of Delorean where they offered him a lot of money to deal drugs. I am conflicted on it. On the one hand, yeah, it’s entrapment. On the other, we’re not talking about a drug deal, we’re talking about people who are willing to kill people for money, or to kill if the barriers to planning such an operation are lowered.

    @Fred
    I’m not suggesting a conspiracy theory at all despite your suggestion. I’m not saying that CTs such as Jones are intentionally doing this, I suspect he thinks he’s the world’s greatest hero. But, at the heart of historical violent political movements and modern terrorism are conspiracy theories that are used to dehumanize their opponents. Beck for instance, suggesting government isn’t people. Al Qaeda and their use of conspiracy theories about Israel and the Jews. There is even one more obvious one I dare not mention to avoid derailing the thread. Look at how hate groups operate. Look at how violence is incited. Is it from a rational discussion about the scientific underpinning of various policy proposals? Or is it from the irrational incitement of others to dehumanize their targets, by exaggerating their role in the world and blaming them for crimes they did not commit?

    @”conspiracy theorist”
    Your description of us as “sheep” is a perfect example of the dehumanization that CT engage in. Don’t bother returning.

    @Bill
    You appear to be completely off topic. FMRI and acupuncture? Really? This is your idea of evidence of effective therapies? Tedious, we’re not going to derail this into an alternative medicine thread. Then you repeat the mistake of Brando in 2. The alternative to believing in total bullshit is not believing everything you read. And why can’t cranks ever stay on topic?

    As far as your second post, so what? What do those articles have to do with anything? It’s amazing the intellectual disconnect here. Clearly to the CT articles such as those hold evidence of deep, dark mysteries, rather than the usual boring motivations of malfeasance. People seem to think that since I’m suggesting we ignore Alex Jones because he’s always wrong, and basically a hatemonger, that we should then believe anything we read. Anyone who has read this blog for more than a month knows I spend half of my time debunking nonsense about science that get’s blithely reported in sources such as the NYT. Break from the false dichotomy people, you can do better. It’s not believing Alex Jones OR believing in the MSM (although if that really were the dichotomy I’d suggest the latter). It’s about being generally careful with sources, and realizing that some sources are just total turds, like infowars.

    @Frank
    Operation Northwoods! I know all about it. I know how it also never actually happened. This is excellent evidence of the defective thinking of the CT. Here is some stupid idea floated at one time in government, recognized as totally nuts and trashed. The CTs dig it out of the trash and go, “See! See!”.

    @Maxine Dolling
    I’m not suggesting that Alex Jones is like some kind of terrorism virus that everyone who sees him becomes violent. Even those who read and believe such nonsense likely only become violent at extremely low rates This is a straw man. Nice try. The second part makes no sense and can’t respond to it.

  14. #14 Bradley
    Australia
    April 26, 2013

    Did you believe that Osama bin Laden was assassinated.?
    The only evidence offered to verify this was a photo of Obama, Hillary and the gang watching TV!
    A scientist would ask for some evidence, any evidence.
    De omnibus dubitandum est tibi
    A scientist, a historian, anybody enquires and asks for evidence.

  15. #15 Mark
    April 26, 2013

    There is lots of evidence Osama was assassinated, unless you think every person in government from Obama to James Inhofe who has seen the evidence is lying.

    That’s actually my favorite example, because they showed the images to James Inhofe, arguably the biggest crank and conspiracy theorist in congress, and it convinced him! So hey, if you can convince that crackpot with their data, you can convince anyone.

    This is a good example of the unrealistic expectations of CTs. The government has good reasons not to release gory photos of OBL but have showed them to enough of the right people in government for me to stipulate to the fact they exist. But I’m not going to further bother arguing the point because it’s a waste of time/ CTs don’t believe in what the evidence shows. If they did, they wouldn’t make up conspiracies about two suspects filmed placing bombs, observing the carnage, shooting cops, admitting their role in the crime to witnesses, then throwing bombs at more cops. If CTs were convinced by evidence, there wouldn’t be jackasses like Beck or Jones still suggesting it wasn’t the Tsaernevs.

  16. #16 Chris
    USA
    April 26, 2013

    Mark, isn’t it probable that religious extremeism primes people for conspiratorial thinking? If one is indoctrinated with a particular world-view and becomes a true believer then when particularly important events (usually negatively impacting our subject# are in direct conflict with their world view they almost have no possible way of accounting for it but with conspiracy theories. as a quick and dirty example: I know that if I am a good person and follow the teachings/rules/ practices/etc. of religion x then I will be rewarded with power/success/ health/ whatever… If I get fired, lose my wife, or any other large negative event happens then it must be because some larger entity is pulling the strings just to keep me #and people like me) ‘down’.

    • #17 Mark
      April 26, 2013

      I suspect anything that tends to degrade your ability to rationally evaluate evidence will predispose you towards defective thinking as a whole. Although, if you buy Lewandowsky’s work, free market ideologues seem to have some of the most trouble with conspiracies. I guess if you believe in trickle down economics you’ll believe anything.

  17. #18 Marion
    United States
    April 26, 2013

    Mark, After stumbling onto your blog and then giving thanks for finding someone else making this point re: Tamerlan Tsaernev, I read some of the above convoluted and illogical assertions about what you actually said. Oh, my gosh, how can you respond to every . . . one like that? Good job, but don’t your fingers get tired?

  18. #19 Mark
    April 26, 2013

    I can’t keep it up forever. Eventually the cranks will just start repeating themselves ad nauseum. They tend not contribute anything new, because ultimately they fundamentally don’t understand debate, they are incompetent at critically evaluating evidence, and think that to win an argument you just need to use all caps and repeat yourself.

    The point isn’t to win an argument with these people, because it’s impossible. The CT mind is effectively broken with regard to the usual rules of logic and evidence. The responses to the comments only serve to demonstrate this. Once the point has been made, I’ll usually just start blocking them. They usually don’t have anything interesting to say or a real idea of how to contribute to debate, as is already apparent. I mean Operation Northwoods? Really? That’s negative evidence of conspiracy. Yet to the CT, it becomes positive. I’m always amazed. Next we’ll hear about MK Ultra.

  19. #20 Jacob
    April 26, 2013

    Alex Jones has 42 defences against defamation lawsuits.
    “You are aware of Mr Jones’ beliefs, yet you believe his comments about you are seen as credible by people who matter?”

    Genius. Cannot be sued.

  20. #21 dean
    April 26, 2013

    … there wouldn’t be jackasses like Beck or Jones still suggesting it wasn’t the Tsaernevs.

    Personally, I see a difference between these two. I’m sure Jones is crazy/stupid/your descriptor here enough to believe the crap he spouts. I don’t think that of Beck: I think he simply realizes the right wing contains enough racists, loons, and “see mooooslim/communist/nazi/new world order everywhere” people to give him a very nice lifestyle if he feeds their stupidity, so he does. in short, Beck does his schtick simply for the money.

  21. #22 jane
    April 26, 2013

    Er, Mark – MK Ultra was a very real and very nasty program that for over 15 years sought to develop effective methods of torture, interrogation, and mind control or the infliction of mental illness. At best, CIA investigators gave LSD and other drugs to unwitting and sometimes not-free-to-escape American citizens who were literally used like research animals. Sneering that we might “hear about” it sounds, once again, like saying “Don’t criticize the government even when it really does terrible wrong, or you’re an untermensch.” I would hope everyone hears about it at some point. Acknowledging and condemning the Tuskegee experiments doesn’t make one a mental defective either.

    I had never heard of Operation Northwoods, but was motivated to Google it. Unless Wikipedia has joined the ranks of the mentally broken and inferior CTs, this seems to have been a serious proposal, approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962, to have the CIA commit acts of terrorism and blame Cuba, creating an excuse for war. Only a few years before, a Zionist group had perpetrated a major bombing of the King David Hotel and tried to blame Arabs; perhaps the JCS thought they could run the scam better. Fortunately, Kennedy rejected the proposal – Cheney wouldn’t have had such scruples – but it’s reasonable to be bothered that the Joint Chiefs of Staff actually proposed setting off bombs in Miami or Washington. These were the very top men of the military that’s supposed to serve and defend the civilian population with their very lives, right? If they actually see American civilians as mere means to an end, the real end being their own power, that’s something the public might want to take into account in deciding how much to trust Pentagon propaganda.

  22. #23 Eric Lund
    April 26, 2013

    The trolls have been out in force today.

    Jones’ response that Tamerlan was a fan was typical, another conspiracy as will the responses to whatever I write here I’m sure.

    That’s part of why Jones is so dangerous: he has a thin veneer of plausible deniability, just like certain elements of the anti-abortion radical fringe. No, Jones did not put the guns and bombs in the hands of the Tsarnaev brothers, any more than the people screaming “Abortion is murder” put the gun in the hands of George Tiller’s assassin. But the influence is there, along with the insistence that those who disagree are Infidel Others. We can’t be sure that, absent Jones’s conspiracy mongering, the Tsarnaev brothers would not have found some other comparably crazy stuff to justify their actions in their minds. Nor can we prove that Jones’s conspiracy theories, in particular, pushed them over the edge. There is certainly a lot of other crazy stuff out there, and Tamerlan apparently found quite a bit of it. But there are many historical examples of conspiracy theories, especially theories that dehumanize other groups, leading to atrocious acts.

  23. #24 European
    Europe
    April 26, 2013

    @Eric Lund wrote “We can’t be sure that, absent Jones’s conspiracy mongering, the Tsarnaev brothers would not have found some other comparably crazy stuff to justify their actions in their minds. Nor can we prove that Jones’s conspiracy theories, in particular, pushed them over the edge. ”

    You must be joking.. :)
    What did you just write? Same kind of rethoric as Natural News.

    Mark, I really like some of your writings. But as on Infowars, there are weird people on these commentsection as well.
    On the GMO thread there is no focus on the history of Monsantos (previous) products which after some time have been banned. Its pure logic that if your local shop sells bad products , you’d be suspicious when new products are being sold – listen: Monsanto have fantastic technology, even I without scientific background can see that. Unofrtunately this company is so very corrupt and has a bad history. I think Monsanto do harm the science by acting like they do (i mean, the latest “monsanto Act”… Come on, i mean .. What the hell? Thats not a good thing for science, is it?. In my country there are clear labresults showing that forexample mon810 affects salmon and its immunesystem. Mon810 is made by Monsanto. We should be sceptic to this. we eat salmon in sushi and dinners all day long, and fish being fed this.

    Saying that Alex Jones is dangerous is just ridiculius. His lack of debate skills makemost people laugh anyway. And Beck is just copying Alex Jones reports (!) Alex Jones have a very good knowledge of history of bad foreign policy so I think he should stick to that and not cover everything. So be kind people, its not fair to say Alex Jones harras people while doing the same to him.

  24. #25 James
    United States
    April 26, 2013

    I don’t think that people like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck actually believe any of what they’re saying. The point is to cause distrust and suspicion of the government, media, authority, etc… The common thread between people who believe conspiracy theories and commit acts of violence is easy. An increased level of emotion, either natural or triggered by an event, makes people more susceptible to conspiracy theories, which will often increase their level of emotion. It’s only a matter of time before someone explodes. I don’t think that’s what Jones or Beck really want, but it is an unfortunate result of the kind of political games they play.

  25. #26 Mark
    April 26, 2013

    Oh no, I’ve made Jane worse!

    Jane, the wikipedia entry on Northwoods is perfectly legit, if a little bit favorable to the CTs than it probably should be. But what should be taken away from the article is that the plan ultimately ended up in the circular file as the civilian leadership of the military (luckily that’s the way we made it) came across it and said, “no way.” To me that’s evidence that yeah, someone spitballed this turd of an idea once, and it was trashed. Not, “look the government does this all the time!”.

    As far as MK Ultra, I don’t understand how it’s one of these non-parsimonious conspiracy theories that we’re identifying here or that behavior from 50 years ago is still relevant. It was research without human consent, frankly it was kind of “woo”, and the CIA wasn’t the only group doing that in that bad old days before “informed consent” even entered our lexicon. One could mention Tuskegee, which was ended at the same time. Our ethics, especially with regards towards human subjects has evolved since then. Historical examples of malfeasance have to be tempered with the realization that after they get busted, we’ve learned to increase monitoring and oversight of these jackasses to keep them in line. To say it’s evidence of similar behavior 40 years later, is like reading “the Jungle” and saying the meat packing industry is selling us rotten meat with the maggots brushed off. Time has passed, institutions and regulatory frameworks have changed, and the evidence of the conspiracy theorists, like Jones, is nonexistent. It’s clear if you watch the clip, he’s just making stuff up off the top of his head.

    So, what exactly do the trashed and crooked programs of 50 years ago have to do with Alex Jones allegations that president Obama is the global head of Al Qaeda and plans to use nuclear weapons on US cities? Does anyone doubt our government has a history of civil rights abuses? Sure. What does that have to do with what’s happening now in the modern version of these institutions, modern ethics and our current oversight framework? It’s like advocating for civil rights and yelling about George Wallace.

  26. #27 jummy
    April 26, 2013

    Progressives’ messaging in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing:

    April 15 – April 18th:
    “The perpetrators must be agents of our domestic opponents in civil politics, because the date coincides with the federal tax deadline and Patriot Day is also, like, real, real close.”

    April 19 – April 26th:
    [Data is too varied to account for as progressives blindly thrash about in search of a meme which has it that they were right all along and their "enemies" remain a violent threat to society. Imagine the sound of a cuckoo clock exploding]

    April 26th:
    “The perpetrators must be agents of our domestic opponents in civil politics, because, …Alex Jones!”

    Sometimes I wish progressives were more like the amusing Barnum & Baily clowns and less like those creepy, Cirque Du Soliel kind.

  27. #28 Gustav Rennick
    Canada
    April 26, 2013

    Thank you for the great posting. While, unfortunately, I can believe there are people like Jones out there, I cannot believe there are people who defend him, and his ilk, despite the flaws in his arguments and the failure of every one of his predictions to come true.

    Keep up the great work!

  28. #29 Joe Lapp
    April 26, 2013

    When sharing this article, I’ve been summarizing it as follows: Conspiracy theories may disempower people and incline people to assert power through violence. Reading between the lines: They are true no matter what. Information never brings them down, so they have to be brought down by force.

    When I first saw your title, “Why we should be concerned Tamerlan Tsaernev read Infowars,” I didn’t understand it at all — couldn’t even tell to pronounce ‘read’ as ‘red’. Not knowing who or what either Tamerlan Tsaernev or Infowars was, my gut reaction was that the article would itself be a conspiracy theory blaming all our ills on one entity — and that was before I knew the article was about CT! Reading it, of course, I found it to be nothing of the sort. In light my reaction to the title, I only read it out of respect for the person who recommended it.

    I’d love to see you take this article to the next level: (1) a more broadly accessible title expressing the thesis, (2) some research to back up the thesis, now still mostly an idea, and (3) written less passionately so the reader isn’t inclined to be making decisions about which statements are objective information and which ones are subjective venting, the presence of which gives busy readers an excuse to dismiss the article.

    I had not heard this connection made so explicitly before, and it seems to me that we could benefit hugely from taking it deeper.

  29. #30 Mark
    April 26, 2013

    @Jummy
    I’m glad I’m being accused of being a liberal again. I was getting tired of being called a right wing corporatist.

    @Joe Lapp
    Titles are hard. Maybe I need an editor.
    Our research is now 6 years of covering conspiracy theories and denialist argument. It’s not scientific, it’s not randomized controlled trials. For the most part our work has been observational. But that doesn’t mean that an interesting literature hasn’t been developed on conspiracists. Two of the more interesting articles I would recommend are (1) one exploring evidence conspiracy theorists as people who project their own tendency to engage in conspiracy onto others and (2) Steven Lewandowsky’s work on conspiratorial thinking in climate change “NASA faked the moon landing therefore (climate) science is a hoax”.

    Our hypothesis, which I think has been confirmed by new denialist movements that have come into being into the last 6 years, is that in order to maintain an ideological position that is in contradiction the the prevailing evidence, you have to create a conspiracy to explain why everyone else is lying. The psychological literature has dubbed this “motivated reasoning”, that is, in order to defend an untenable position you have to create conspiracies to explain countervailing evidence.

    As far as evidence that conspiracy theories are behind violent ideation, I will have to do more work on this. I would propose mostly historical examples, from the use of conspiracies about Jews to justify their persecution for centuries, to modern conspiracies promoted by our current agents of terror and regression such as Al Qaeda, to justify violence upon groups of people. It’s just correlation, for now, but it might be worth evaluating in a more rigorous fashion. That’s the point of this post. If only I were a psych researcher rather than surgeon and molecular biologist.

  30. #31 Frank
    April 26, 2013

    Ok so marks logic is trust every single thing the government does and tells you. The government loves you and want’s to take care of you and your family forever. Operation Northwoods was not trashed (Gulf of Tonkin). The government lies all the freaking time mark and because of people like you we are in serious trouble because your in denial! Mark is a guy that just loves to argue and shoot everybody else down because it makes him feel good. Of course he will deny that as well. I would like to challenge everybody to go and watch dwight eisenhower’s speech in which he warns us about the military industrial complex and a technocratic takeover.

  31. #32 Mark
    April 26, 2013

    Hah!
    Does anyone remember my comment #19? See, they’ve already started to repeat themselves. If you don’t believe Alex Jones that means you must believe everything the government says! False Dichotomy! Operation Northwoods!

    Repetitive, boring nonsense. I think that’s at least the 4th time on this thread alone we’ve see the false dichotomy fallacy. And now the Gulf of Tonkin has reared its head. It should, of course, be pointed out that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was actually 2 incidents. One that did actually happen (august 2nd), and one that was fog of war and probably nonexistent (august 4th). The fact that the second was overblown (and may have been overzealous sailors shooting at radar ghosts) has nothing to do with false-flag attacks, and the first was more than enough to serve as justification (albeit overblown) for war.

    Is the US a nation of warmongers who will overinterpret evidence in order to attack other nations? Absolutely! We just did this again about 10 years go. What does this have to do with false flag operations where the FBI is accused of random violence blowing up marathons? Nothing.

  32. #33 Frank
    April 27, 2013

    Mark your connecting everything with alex jones. I didn’t say if you don’t believe alex you must believe the government. I looked at these things myself and have concluded that we are being lied to all the time and are also in trouble. Why because history tells over and over and over that bad people can get into power and destroy a country. It happens mark and it is happening here. Now are you going to keep trying to tie the end of the country to alex jones and glenn beck (who i don’t like by the way) or are you going to write about all of the corrupt politicians and bankers and expose them?

  33. #34 Claus Larsen
    Denmark
    April 27, 2013

    Kevin Barrett, a highly influential top Truther:

    “The 9/11 truth revolution from below will overthrow a good part of the American power structure. Billionaires will have their fortunes confiscated and spend the rest of their lives in prison. Most, perhaps all of the current administration will be tried and, presumably, either hanged or given some kind of truth-for-mercy deal. Its supporters throughout the judicial and legislative branches will be forced to resign. The CIA and other covert-op apparatuses will be broken into a million pieces and scattered to the four winds, finishing the job that JFK was unable to start. The media monopoly that enabled the 9/11 cover-up will be shattered into hundreds of fragments as the mother of all trust-busting eras commences. The uniformed military, and especially the Pentagon, will be purged of neocon moles, as the venerable institution of the firing squad is revived. Every last member of Skull and Bones, starting with the whole Bush crime family, will be hunted down, jailed, and forced to recite his entire sexual history to his cellmates while lying on the floor of the prison shower. And after the troops have pulled out, Rumsfeld, Perle and Feith will be air-dropped into Fallujah as a demonstration of how an undermanned invasion-of-three can be welcomed by adoring crowds strewing flowers at their feet.”
    http://www.serendipity.li/wot/revolution.htm

    Add the constant talk about “revolution”, the hoarding of guns, ammo, and survival kits, among a group of people driven by hate towards “the system”.

  34. #35 Andy
    Scotland
    April 27, 2013

    See, there are many things about CTs that bug the hell out of me. A lot of which have been outlined in the article and others illustrated with hilarious predictability in the comments above. But the one thing that probably irks me above all else is that there is a tiny, tiny kernel of truth in some of what they say but it is buried beneath so much bullshit that when people try to address, or at least discuss, real life actual issues they can easily be lumped in with the CTs.

    For example. The whole ‘global conspiracy to teh Jews/Bankers/lizard people from Niburu or whatever. It IS true that there are global meetings of the elite, e.g the G8 meetings, the WTO, IMF and World Bank meetings. It’s probably true that some of these people are Jews(which doesn’t mean that their ethnicity is of any relevance whatsoever), it’s even more likely that a lot of them are bankers or have strong ties to the financial industry. It is also true that these meetings often see the rubber stamping of agreements that have a serious and negative effect on millions(if not billions) of people. Though these people tend to be brown skinned and not living in the US/Europe and so are not really of much interest to the CTs of the internets.

    I think that it is really important that people are at least made aware of these meetings, of what is actually discussed there rather than the friendly media spin that is often put on the discussions, and of how it affects the world. However because of the ravings of the CTs it is extremely easy for those critical of the global socio-economic system to be associated with them.

    Also, thanks to the internets, it is extremely easy for people who are interested in issues surrounding global justice to get sidelined by the conspiracy theories because there is the nugget of reality at the heart of their nonsense. I’ve met more than a few decent community activists who are recovered CTs and who are really pissed off at the years they wasted with things like 9/11 truth and Infowars rubbish when they could have actually been doing good work to improve the world.

    It’s like the CTs are some kind of elaborate, self sustaining, modern day cointelpro! :D Now THERE’S a conspiracy for you. The CTs are a false flag operation that seeks to distract people from the actual problems of the world. :D

    None of that was as succinct or as clear as I would have liked. Soz.

  35. #36 Joe Lapp
    April 27, 2013

    Thanks for the detailed response, Mark. I was referring specifically to needing more evidence linking CTs and violence.

    Another thought occurred to me. Conspiracy theories are like religions in that they put a lot of power into the hands of a few high priests who make themselves “authorities” on the CT by virtue of continually embellishing the CT. This gives the high priests of a CT power over the followers of the CT. So CTs may empower a few people at a cost of disempowering many.

  36. #37 Joe Lapp
    April 27, 2013

    How to get rich: (1) Invent a new conspiracy theory about something lots of people care about, (2) start a web site and various social network accounts, (3) keep making stuff up about the conspiracy theory, fallaciously arguing against the evidence in ways that appeal to the uncritical, (4) gradually develop a following, (5) start selling books, and (6) start a talk or radio show.

    And we wonder why there are so many conspiracy theories…

  37. #38 jane
    April 27, 2013

    Heh! Yes, I was a Bad person before, and now I’m even worse! Mark, the point of mentioning historical facts is not to assume that the CIA is necessarily committing all the crimes now that it committed in 1970, or that the military is as willing to kill civilians for profit as they were in 1960. I certainly hope not. The point is to be aware that our leadership has had some unpleasant attitudes towards human rights in the relatively recent past and that citizens of a democracy should make it clear what moral expectations they have of a state whose actions they allegedly control or at least influence, rather than sitting back and assuming that bad things can’t happen in America. If you wish to view that belief as a defect, it’s one I’m proud to have.

    You talk about the tendency of the people who are dehumanized as “CTs” to believe a whole laundry list of things, some of which are plainly ridiculous (though others are not). But you personally encourage this by aggressively promoting the dualistic worldview that there are two distinct types of people: the bad stupid people who believe a certain set of ideas, and the good smart people who believe a totally different set of ideas. This is an attitude all humans are prone to, though it is particularly popular in Western culture, and so most of your opponents, also Westerners, are happy to embrace it. The only tiny difference is that they, naturally enough, disagree about which half of the population are the bad stupid people. Once a person has accepted his assignment to such a group, he is likely to adopt additional views that he has been told are appropriate to that role. Again, human nature. You send the message: if you think it is okay to criticize the CIA, then you must also believe that the Boston attack was a false flag, and you are among the Bad people. Many people – not me – will say, at some level: well, I reasonably refuse to give up the first view, so hmmm, maybe Good people (like me!) ought to doubt the official Boston story. You do the same, though there is no point in trying to find an example because from your perspective anything you have been led to believe in is not culturally influenced, but Right.

  38. #39 Mark
    April 28, 2013

    The point is to be aware that our leadership has had some unpleasant attitudes towards human rights in the relatively recent past and that citizens of a democracy should make it clear what moral expectations they have of a state whose actions they allegedly control or at least influence, rather than sitting back and assuming that bad things can’t happen in America. If you wish to view that belief as a defect, it’s one I’m proud to have.

    Bullshit. The statement is made that Northwoods justifies suspecting the FBI or whatever staged this most recent attack. No one here doesn’t think we should be critical of the government. No one here doesn’t acknowledge our government has had, and still has issues with civil rights. As we are dealing with the fact of torture, and more recently these jackasses attempting to turn Tsarnaev, a US citizen, into a foreign combatant, it’s clear, we still have problems with this.

    It’s the false dichotomy again. “If you don’t believe our bullshit, you’re buying into the government lie.” Nonsense. The allegations of false-flag attacks are an extraordinary claim and require extraordinary evidence. What do the CTs have? An old plan from the 60s, never implemented, dug out of the circular file. A historical misunderstanding of the Gulf of Tonkin. A clear inability to read past the headline on a NYT article. Evidence of government experiments without informed consent from 50 years ago (before they even knew what informed consent was). And when pointed out how incredibly poor this evidence is of modern malfeasance, we’re just accused of buying government propaganda. Give me a break. You’ve just engaged in the same false dichotomy as every single other crank above.

    You talk about the tendency of the people who are dehumanized as “CTs” to believe a whole laundry list of things, some of which are plainly ridiculous (though others are not).

    And which are not? Your 9/11 trutherism? I think we found out where your cranky Achilles heel lies. Jane, shed your CT beliefs, they’re not helping you, and they’re nonsensical. You’re like 99% of the way there.

    But you personally encourage this by aggressively promoting the dualistic worldview that there are two distinct types of people: the bad stupid people who believe a certain set of ideas, and the good smart people who believe a totally different set of ideas.

    Except I don’t endorse any ideology. This is a straw man again. It’s belief in the bullshit, or belief in the man. Also, these people aren’t stupid, their ideas are stupid, but they aren’t. And lots of smart people believe in incredibly stupid things. While there are stupid people I have criticized as such, that’s not my usual critique, nor is it here. If you actually read what I wrote, it’s the CTs who are calling their opponents stupid, not me. You’ve taken their message and applied it to me wrongly.

    I do not propose a dualistic worldview. You’re not with me or against me, I’m fiercely non-ideological. I believe in evidence, that’s it.

    You send the message: if you think it is okay to criticize the CIA, then you must also believe that the Boston attack was a false flag, and you are among the Bad people. Many people – not me – will say, at some level: well, I reasonably refuse to give up the first view, so hmmm, maybe Good people (like me!) ought to doubt the official Boston story. You do the same, though there is no point in trying to find an example because from your perspective anything you have been led to believe in is not culturally influenced, but Right.

    Ok Jane, you’ve just replicated every single false dichotomy response we’ve seen so far. Never at any point have I said we can’t criticize the government, the CIA, or doubt our government or its institutions, or even historical facts. Only that you require evidence to do so. Never have I ever even suggested this duality that each on of the responses has suggested. That’s not my thing, that’s your thing. You are projecting your dualistic view onto me. Not the other way around.

    How many more times are we going to see this exact same argument? If you demand evidence you’re just a government shill! If you make fun of our incredibly weak evidence, you must believe in everything the government says! You think we shouldn’t criticize the government!

    Bullshit. You guys are creating this dichotomy. Not me. All I demand is evidence, and evidence proportionate to the claim. Do you have anything besides straw men?

  39. #40 Frank
    April 29, 2013

    Mark let’s get down to it bud. Are you going to expose the corrupt politicians and bankers or not? Enough of this back and forth garbage because you like to argue. I look at your picture and i can tell just by your freaking face that this is what you like to do. So ALL and i mean ALL of this garbage aside are you going to help the country and expose the filth or are you going to argue with “conspiracy theorists” on your little blog forever? Use your talents to change things not to have never ending debates. Let’s bring this country to where the founders and others thought it should be. Empower the individual! That’s what made this country the greatest nation EVER.

  40. #41 Mark
    April 29, 2013

    And this has to do with false flag conspiracies how?

    Off topic, and I suspect concern trolling. “If your not talking about my issue your wasting your time, blah!”

  41. #42 LeighB
    CA
    April 29, 2013

    Liked your posting. But I think I will ignore the comments in the future. Thinking is hard for some people. Logic even harder.

  42. #43 jane
    April 29, 2013

    Heh! The Manichaean worldview requires that when someone says they are neutral on a question that’s important to you, or suggests that it would ever be reasonable or understandable for others to question your beliefs, this must be interpreted as a confession of bad beliefs on the speaker’s part. I told you that I don’t have any ax to grind regarding aspects of the official 9/11 story, yet that very statement is twisted into “I have an ax to grind.” Sticking up even tentatively for even one of the Bad people means I must be Bad too, otherwise I would be piling on to sneer and spew at them. If you didn’t have a dualistic worldview, as you claim, you would be able to hear me state a simple fact – “Some aspects of the official or consensus 9/11 story are more certain to be true than others, therefore expressions of doubt regarding the former are more unreasonable” – without returning shrieks about “my cranky” this and “my nonsensical CT” that. (And more generally, you would not be arguing that people’s opinions on dozens of unrelated subjects fall into two non-overlapping belief sets.) I didn’t bring up 9/11; you did, and I only picked it up because it happened to provide an example of how some alleged untermenschen might be less unterly than others. Seems to me that maybe you have a much deeper emotional stake in this issue than I do.

  43. #44 David
    US
    April 29, 2013

    Even if someone had explosives ready doesn’t mean they’d use them out of nowhere but when everyone was being gathered up in armored vehicles they could take a vehicle out beforehand. Believing in upholding the constitution is not terrorism. Those who take away our rights are terrorists.

  44. #45 Frank
    April 29, 2013

    I have won. Thank You.

  45. #46 Composer99
    April 29, 2013

    I have won. Thank You.

    Comedy gold from Frank.

  46. #47 Dean
    April 29, 2013

    Frank and Jane demonstrate one other trait of the reality detached conspiracy theorists: neither the facts nor what is said has any relevance to them: they respond and restate only the things they think are facts and what they want others to have said.

  47. #48 Frank
    April 29, 2013

    I try Composer99…….i try.

  48. #49 Boris
    April 30, 2013

    It’s not just that conspiracy theorists have no evidence, it’s that the evidence they do present is so obviously flawed. Jones is basing his theory on some guys who had backpacks and hats at the marathon.

  49. #50 Aaron
    US
    April 30, 2013

    Essentially the whole purpose of this article is to character assassinate anyone who challenges conventional idea as a “conspiracy theorist” and effectively a “terrorist.”

    Beliefs/Ideas do not create love or hate, people do.

    Rather, the person creates feelings of love or hate and then they draw on their beliefs/ideas effectively amplifying how they already feel.

    A person who hates something typically grasps onto parts of their beliefs/ideas that justify their hateful tendencies.

    A person who loves something typically grasps onto parts of their beliefs/ideas that justify their loving tendencies.

    I hate the fact that our government passes laws that undermine the idealistic freedoms that the constitution was designed to protect, however I make it a point to separate out hate for the action/idea from the government or the value I place on every living human being.

    -The government is comprised of people
    -I do not hate people, I would never hurt or attack anyone.
    -If I ever made the mistake of hurting someone irregardless the reason, I experience guilt and for good reason.
    -If I were a soldier in war, I would still feel convicted about killing or wounding someone else because it conflicts with the fact that I choose to love others, not hate them.

    -I hate the actions and ideas of our freedoms being compromised
    -I do not hate people nor would I conspire hate by proxy of hating an entity such as the government

    Lastly, I definitely do not feel powerless and in fact, feel incredibly empowered.

    I have the power to choose to resist natural human tendency by loving others despite decisions they may make that I hate.

    I have the power to stand up and voice myself for what I believe
    I have the power to have my ideas be challenged and challenge the ideas of others
    I have the power to resist natural human tendency and admit at times that I am wrong or that my adherence to another idea (such as a conspiracy theory) may also be wrong.

    Not all, but some of my thought processes could be labeled as “conspiracy theories.”

    According to the author’s logic, it would only make sense to label me as:

    “A supposed conspiracy theorist”
    “A person who supposedly hates government”
    “A person who supposedly would harm people by proxy of my supposed hate for the government”
    “A person who supposedly feels powerless and full of hate therefore prone to violence”
    “And lastly supposed terrorist by my supposed tendency to violence”

    What we should really be concerned about is the author who is quick to pass judgement on a whole group of people rather than to try to be more understanding.

  50. #51 derwood
    April 30, 2013

    “Essentially the whole purpose of this article is to character assassinate anyone who challenges conventional idea as a “conspiracy theorist” and effectively a “terrorist.””

    I love that euphemism – “challenge conventional idea”.

    I interpret that to mean “swallow any tripe Beck/Jones/etc. spew.”

  51. #52 Mark
    May 1, 2013

    Essentially the whole purpose of this article is to character assassinate anyone who challenges conventional idea as a “conspiracy theorist” and effectively a “terrorist.”

    Again, a demonstration of the defective reasoning of the CT. As is clear from the article and repeated statements throughout the comments, challenging conventional ideas, institutions, whatever, is fine. But you need evidence. I think this is, again, the constant false-dichotomy response with a dose of persecution on top. I’m bored of it.

    Is it really so terrible to demand evidence of claims, and levels of evidence consistent with the extremity of the claim?

    Beliefs/Ideas do not create love or hate, people do.

    Rather, the person creates feelings of love or hate and then they draw on their beliefs/ideas effectively amplifying how they already feel.

    A person who hates something typically grasps onto parts of their beliefs/ideas that justify their hateful tendencies.

    Hmmm. Turner diaries? Mein Kampf? The Protocols of Elders of Zion? This is a stupid statement. So people just naturally come to hate blacks, jews, government, whatever, and then latch on to the ideas that fit their pre-existing bigotry? There is no role for people who spread hate to be blamed for hateful ideas? Total nonsense, and irresponsible. No, there is a big role of ideas in fomenting hate, and if you had read anything about the historical examples I cited above, you would immediately see the link between this type of dehumanizing behavior, often using specific conspiracy theories about the targeted group, being used to foment hate, and actual violence against others. This is a defective mode of reasoning, it bypasses rational argument, and is harnessed by those who want to inspire hate and fear, both historically and in the modern world. The CTs then say I’m calling them bigots, or terrorists, or whatever. Not exactly. I’m saying they’re easily manipulated by such people.

    Why do I need to be more understanding of such defective reasoning? What is to be gained from the CT point of view?

    Nothing. They have nothing. No evidence to provide, and no ability to accept new evidence as anything other than support for their fixed, false idea. They contribute nothing to this discussion nor any other.

    And what is the nature of the response when one points out that the prominent CTs running infowars, the Blaze, Natural News etc., have no evidence, have no credibility based on past predictions, and worse, dehumanize their opponents?

    The same argument again and again. Projection. False dichotomy. If I don’t support their total inanity or worse “keep an open mind” that means I’m for unilateral support of government and the CIA no matter what it says. Nonsense. Last thread I had a little summary on my view of government. Maybe it needs repeating:

    No one trusts the government completely here, and that’s the classic straw man thrown in the face of those that believe in using government for accomplishing some good. The radicals, like Beck, dehumanize anyone associated with government, as if they become evil if their paycheck comes from the treasury. But this is a poorly-examined viewpoint, and little more than anarchism. I like clean water, clean air, effective drugs, a social safety net so the poors don’t kill us in the night, hospitals and schools, roads and airplanes that don’t crash in the sky. I like basic science research, standards for professionals, utilities and vital services. I like the Smithsonian. I like national parks and zoos. You don’t get these things without some form of shared interest, and common cause that government allows. I’m not a fan of foreign wars, billion dollar military boondoggles, and government intrusion into the medical exam room (eg TV ultrasounds), or the bedroom. Anyone who has followed this blog for any amount of time can probably see I have a civil libertarian streak, and care about creating an effective government that serves our interests, while staying out of our personal, medical, or sexual decisions. So there is plenty of government activity I actively despise and rail against. But that doesn’t mean I make “government” some homogeneous juggernaut of evil. It’s just a tool, one we must control. The other delusion in play is that it’s our guns that keep government in check, all the while we’ve had them we’ve seen the patriot act, drone strikes, and loss of habeus corpus. I think that shows how they’re a poor preventative of government abuse. The way we keep government under control is with votes, lobbying for civil interests and civil rights lawyers, not your pathetic pea shooters.

    Finally, Jane, I was referring to a reference on a previous thread that you made that suggested the Israelis/Mossad was pre-aware of the 9/11 attacks. Possible? Sure. After all, we were pre-aware, given the presidential daily briefing saying “OBL determined to attack within US”. But to suggest they had specific knowledge stinks of the conspiratorial nonsense that we get from many truthers that Israel/the jews/whatever, was behind 9/11, either as LIHOP or MIHOP actors. That’s a pretty extreme claim, and again, needs extreme evidence. I do have an emotional stake on that one, I find antisemitism despicable, and realize that it’s a major motivation behind many 9/11 truthers, including the one that went nuts and started shooting up the Holocaust museum. I’m sensitive in particular to those allegations because it’s one of the more clear examples of using conspiracy theory to spread hate. So yeah, big red flag there.

  52. #53 Frank
    May 1, 2013

    Mark i think you know what’s happening in the country. It’s one of the oldest stories in the book my friend. In the next five to ten years you will see a major turn for the worse in this country. How bad and how long who knows but if you can’t see what’s coming your on your own.

  53. #54 Dean
    May 2, 2013

    And another kook drops in. No facts. No serious information, just a statement so vague that regardless of what occurs the author can claim to have been correct.

    Why would anyone take such claptrap seriously?

  54. #55 Oliver
    May 2, 2013

    Frank, if you want to troll, you need to be a little less obvious.

  55. #56 Mark
    May 2, 2013

    It is trolling, sadly he doesn’t understand it. People that show up on a thread discussing one topic and demanding you discuss another are a specific type of troll, but I can’t recall the name. I thought it was concern troll but maybe I’m wrong. There needs to be a terminology for that behavior, insisting that no discussion can take place unless it’s about their topic of interest.

  56. #57 Craig Thomas
    May 2, 2013

    OTroll?

  57. #58 Joe
    Hell
    May 2, 2013

    I only hate blacks because they drove down the value of my property, not because they are dark skinned. But, hey! That’s just me.

  58. #59 Boris
    May 5, 2013

    “They” don’t drive down the value of your property, racists do. Do you see why?

  59. #60 Helene
    May 7, 2013

    Mark said “Again, a demonstration of the defective reasoning of the CT. As is clear from the article and repeated statements throughout the comments, challenging conventional ideas, institutions, whatever, is fine. But you need evidence. I think this is, again, the constant false-dichotomy response with a dose of persecution on top. I’m bored of it.”

    @Mark – I would hold you to the same standard. You inject hate speech throughout this site toward innocent citizens asking questions. You call all kinds of names. You equate truth seeking with mental illness and inanity.

    I would like some “evidence” regarding the hateful accusations you make toward conspiracy theorists. And calling names doesn’t count as “evidence.” I don’t get why you even address the CT topic – you’re a scientist but you’re also an expert in politics and conspiracy theories? Is there anything you don’t know???

  60. #61 Mark
    May 7, 2013

    . You inject hate speech throughout this site toward innocent citizens asking questions. You call all kinds of names. You equate truth seeking with mental illness and inanity.

    I would like some “evidence” regarding the hateful accusations you make toward conspiracy theorists.

    Truth seeking? Is that what we’re going to call Alex Jones’ assertions?

    The evidence was, I thought, readily apparent from the video in which he makes 42 false predictions, usually accusing various groups and government agencies of plotting murder and treason. How many times do you have to be wrong before the CTs won’t listen to your “theories” any more? How is it acceptable to falsely accuse others of capital crimes when you have no evidence? How about falsely accusing some poor dead kid, who’s family is distraught by his disappearance of murder, even though you have no evidence? Or some poor Saudi National who just was in the wrong place at the wrong time? How about saying American terrorists don’t kill people, only “government”?

    I think there is more than adequate evidence in the post of each of the allegations that I level. But CTs have never been that competent at evaluating evidence. It’s wonderful to see that again I’m accused of attacking anyone who is just “asking questions”. Well, yes, if you’re asking incredibly stupid questions which suggest you have no capacity to judge truth from fiction, yeah, I’m going to make fun of you. But it’s not people “asking questions” I attack in this post. It’s conspiracy theorists behaving in the most hateful and ghoulish ways.

    Conspiracy theories have been used throughout history to promote hate. That is just a historical fact. The modern conspiracy theorists like Beck and Jones are similarly promoting hate. We should be careful where that hatemongering leads.

  61. #62 Helene
    May 7, 2013

    You are full of hate, Mark, and shockingly so. I asked for evidence regarding the flames you throw, not breaking down how Alex Jones is wrong. It’s a simple question….what evidence do you have that people who ask questions are mentally ill and stupid. (PS we are NOT Alex Jones or Glenn Beck and they do NOT represent us…..anyone with legitimate questions is not given such a platform that Jones and Beck are given.)

    • #63 Mark
      May 8, 2013

      I didn’t call the CTs stupid. Instead I was being critical of how the CTs constantly referred to those they disagreed with as stupid, and Alex Jones even repeatedly calling his own audience stupid in the attached video. I even addressed this in response to Jane’s previous comment, but as usual, no reading comprehension here.

      Also, these people aren’t stupid, their ideas are stupid, but they aren’t. And lots of smart people believe in incredibly stupid things. While there are stupid people I have criticized as such, that’s not my usual critique, nor is it here. If you actually read what I wrote, it’s the CTs who are calling their opponents stupid, not me. You’ve taken their message and applied it to me wrongly.

      I also have repeatedly made clear that the issue isn’t “just asking questions”. See here for instance.

      So, a tired reiteration of a straw man argument I did not make. I did not call CTs stupid, although I do describe CT reasoning as fundamentally defective because it is, and if you follow the growing literature on conspiracy theories or “motivated reasoning”, that is accurate. Conspiracy theorists often hold contradictory beliefs simultaneously (for example, when polled believers that Osama is still alive will also endorse a belief that he was died a decade ago from natural causes and the government is covering it up), belief in conspiracy theories predisposes on to belief in multiple anti-science beliefs (see Lewandowsky et. al). Conspiracy theories, as I described in the article are used in both modern and historical examples of hatemongering, from anti-gay propaganda, to anti-Semitic pogroms.

      I’ve presented the data, again and again. You just ignore it, and say I’m making an argument that I am not. It’s boring, and tiresome.