A few years ago, media outlets started playing up a supposedly scientific study which claimed that conspiracies were basically impossible in the long run. Take a look here. The study is called “On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs” by David Robert Grimes. This was supposed to misdirect the average person from the idea that there really could be conspiracies out there, because they would collapse under their own weight. The media approach was to display this paper as scientific evidence that there just couldn’t be real conspiracies. This is science, you guys! He used a real mathematical formula! All conspiracies are hereby debunked.
In reality, the flaws in this study are so glaringly obvious that a 3rd grader in a science fair would have immediately identified them. The underlying assumptions behind this paper are so deeply flawed that it belongs in the nearest trash can. If I had a printed copy, I would not even deign to use it for toilet paper. Below, I will quote from Grimes’ own study to reveal what a clown show his study actually is.
Let’s recap the hilarious flaws in this study. In underlying assumptions, let’s take Grimes’ own words:
We further assume that a leak of information from any conspirator is sufficient to expose the conspiracy and render it redundant
That’s right…it is assumed that ANY SINGLE LEAK is sufficient to IMMEDIATELY cause the conspiracy to collapse. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. In this paper, a leak is equivalent to a fatal revelation. In 100% of cases, any leak of any information about the conspiracy is seen as 100% fatal to the conspiracy. He messes around with the probability that a leak will happen in any one given year, but once it does it’s assumed to always be fatal. He says so himself, and there is no mechanism to keep this in check. Nothing to say that on top of the fact that leaks are very rare, they are also actively fought against and almost never successful. Without such a mechanism, this formula describes an imaginary world. It is a joke. We might as well stop here. This alone is enough for us to completely dismiss any conclusions herein.
Leaks are no problem for real conspiracies. Those behind them are the people who hold actual power in society. 99 times out of 100, the leaker is simply destroyed. There are a million ways this can be done, and it is par for the course. There is an entire playbook for how to neutralize such a leaker. The agencies in question have a real interest in destroying these leakers and putting out the tiny fires caused by their leaks. Such a leak is almost never any actual damage to a conspiracy in the long run. This study assumes that 100% of leaks are fatal. In reality, I would guess that <0.01% of such leaks have ever proved to have been fatal to the conspiracies. This is already such a deep flaw in logic that we ought to be throwing this study in the trash.
The remaining 0.01% of the time (where the leak cannot easily be neutralized), we must realize that the leak must then somehow break through all controlled institutions of society: media, academia, police, military, corporate, religious, etc. Remember, truth is what those in power say is truth. Even if something is leaked and by some miracle the institution involved is not able to go into damage control from the initial leak, then the leak moves into a whole new realm of institutions that it must pass through before it becomes established as the truth.
There are too many barriers for this to ever effectively occur. Grimes uses horribly faulty underlying assumptions to reach a contrived result. He does not even consider the idea that institutions go into damage control mode, and that the institutions of power in society are controlled. He honestly states that 100% of leaks are fatal to the conspiracy. This is so comical that it should tell you everything you need to know about how seriously to take his paper.
Next in absolutely hilarious underlying assumptions, the number of people said to be directly involved in these conspiracies are THE ENTIRE WORKFORCE OF ALL AGENCIES. Again, directly from Grimes:
There is considerable and unavoidable ambiguity on some of these estimates, especially on the number of people with full knowledge of the event. In the PRISM case, the figure of 30,000 comes from total NSA staff. In reality, the proportion of those employed would would have knowledge of this program would likely be a lot less but we take the upper bound figure to minimize the estimate of p.
Oh, okay…so we will let you use absurdly flawed estimates because you say so. Makes perfect sense to me. Yes, that is right…Jeff the NASA janitor is definitely “in the know”. Jeff doesn’t just clean the shitters; he is actually a very high-ranking NASA agent who will cause the collapse of the entire conspiracy if he tells his wife when he sees something amiss. His wife will apparently tell her friends who run all the media agencies of the world, and they will take her word for it and the conspiracies will collapse.
Seriously though, look at the numbers that Grimes uses for people involved in these various conspiracies. Has Grimes ever heard of compartmentalization? Another fatal, fatal flaw in the study. You have to assume that a high proportion of those working for these agencies do not actually possess the kind of information that would allow them to collapse the entire conspiracy. Where Grimes estimates 400,000 people for NASA, I would be shocked if even 400 actually held that level of information. The rest are set up to be able to do a certain job, unaware of the realities above them. Grimes even admits that these are bad estimates, but excuses it because…he wants to?
It gets worse, he actually does think that these estimates are conservative:
Moreover, the number of actors in this analysis as outlined in Table 2 represent an incredibly conservative estimate.
Incredibly conservative, he says! This is Grimes the Clown in action.
The estimates also make the assumption that all agents in the estimate are considered to have knowledge of the conspiracy at hand; if this wasn’t the case, then only those with adequate knowledge of the deception would count towards the number No. This might potentially be the case for some political or social conspiracies, yet for a hypothetical scientific conspiracy it is probably fair to assume that all agents working with the data would have to be aware of any deception.
“Probably fair to assume” that hundreds of thousands of people are in on it. Riiiight. More of Grimes the Clown.
This is obviously a study that was attempting to undermine conspiracy theorists from the very get go. Otherwise, these glaringly obvious flaws in underlying assumptions would have been pointed out, and taken into account. The fact that this paper passed for scientific is an insult to real science. This paper overstates the N0 number of people involved by at least a thousand times, overstates the probability that a leak will be fatal to a conspiracy by at least a thousand times, and dismisses out of hand that such a thing as a cover-up could be successful. Hilariously, Grimes believes that cover-ups are not even worthy of being considered when at the same time he believes that hundreds of thousands of people are directly involved! Wow. So as long as Grimes completely ignores reality and spins every statistic in his favor, then we end up with his contrived result.
If you were to re-run the Grimes formula with 1/1000th as many people involved, and add in 1/1000th the chance that a leak would actually result in the collapse of the conspiracy, and I am pretty sure that you would actually find it highly probable that these conspiracies would stay in place!!! But that is giving Grimes’ bogus and arbitrary formula too much credit. I was not expecting such obvious flaws, but here we are. They are naked in their attempts to undermine those like us.