So it’s Turkey Day in the US of A. Which means many of us will be spending a lot of time today and the next few weeks with family and friends. Some of us might even be brave enough to bring up some conspiracy topic: 9/11, sports, secret celebrity twins. Inevitably we will be dismissed. So I’m posting this to jump start a conversation about effective ways to talk about conspiracies with friends and family.
Conspiracy theorists often complain about the problem of overcoming cognitive dissonance — it’s emotionally difficult and even distressing for people to seriously consider conspiracies because it contradicts so much of our dearly held beliefs about how the world works. That’s tough to deal with. I suppose you could always tell someone that “As Aristotle said, ‘It’s the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.'” But then you run the risk of sounding crazy and pompous.
But cognitive dissonance usually presents itself in the form of a dismissive question. Like, “How could that happen? Too many people would have to be involved — somebody would have said something by now.” For ideas about how to answer to that one, see this post.
Another way that people dismiss conspiracies is by finding some flaw in the theory. They are always more concerned about the ‘why’ than the ‘what.’ My favorite go-to when broaching the subject is WTC Building 7, which to me is as close as we’ll ever get to smoking gun evidence (it was also the thing that pushed me over the edge into accepting 9/11 as a false flag — though at the time I didn’t realize just how false it was). But I find that people aren’t too interested in the facts and the evidence. They very quickly get to the question “why?” And in my experience they will generally find any answer unconvincing. If you say, “well they wanted it as a pretext to go to war” or “launch a war on terrorism,” they might say, “well then why did they have Saudis pilot the planes? Shouldn’t they have put Afghans or Iraqis on the plane? It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t buy it.”
At this point, it’s not wise at to float the idea that there weren’t any planes. Gotta take baby steps. I will usually say something like: “You’re asking questions in the wrong order. First you’ve got to look at the evidence. Then you can try to build a theory about why they did it. Think about it this way: imagine you find a dead body in the middle of the woods. You want to determine the cause of death. You look at the body and find that the hands are tied behind the back, feet are bound, and there is a gun shot through the back of the head. But you say, ‘Well, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to kill this person, so it must have been a suicide.’ No, you have to do it the other way around: look at the evidence and then try to construct a theory. And if your theory about why it was done or who did aren’t correct, that doesn’t mean it was suicide. Don’t put the cart before the horse. The evidence is clear, and you have to look at it first. I was just as incredulous as you until I decided to look at the evidence.”
Now when people ask me “why?” my answer is that we don’t know and we can’t really know why. Some theories are x, y and z. But the evidence is clear that what we’re told isn’t true.
I’v noticed that TPTB will often try to attach conspiracies with explanations that sound implausible to people. This is on purpose, because it the explanation sounds implausible, people will ignore the evidence. Sandy Hook was like that with me. Before I got into conspiracies, I heard people saying that Obama hoaxed Sandy Hook to promote gun control. “Well, if that’s true, they certainly aren’t getting what they wanted.” As a left-wing guy, it was also easy to dismiss it as a right-wing conspiracy. But I didn’t realize at the time that I was doing things in the wrong order. First the what. Then the why. The evidence for the Sandy Hook hoax is overwhelming. Theories about why are just that: theories. I like to distinguish between conspiracy fact and conspiracy theory. By the way, this article contains an interesting theory about Sandy Hook.
OK, that’s it for me. Curious to hear other people’s advice in the comments about how to talk with friends and family. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, everyone!