The “Comfort” of Conspiracy Theories

11 Feb

Spot on. I’ve been thinking that the old saw, “Never attribute to malice, what can be adequately explained by incompetence”, is a bit too simplistic.

For example, many people attributed to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ‘inability’ to resolve Brexit to incompetence, while I maintained all along that she was simply sabotaging it. In light of her successor Boris Johnson’s easy, successful implementation of Brexit, it’s clear to me I was right.

Uncouth Reflections

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

A common objection to conspiracy theories is that the worldview that conspiracy theories reflects is more psychologically comforting than the actual reality. The objection goes something like this, “You think that X event was the result of a plan agreed to and executed by nefarious people, when in reality the vast majority of people are bumbling and incompetent. People are so incompetent that it is highly unlikely that they could have pulled off such a thing. But, you want to believe that events are always the result of evil elements acting in concert, because that is preferable to believing we live in a world that is actually disorganized and chaotic.”

I’ve seen two examples of this kind of thinking lately with respect to the Iowa caucuses debacle. A friend posted a story on Facebook with the headline, “Out of the Chaos, Let a Thousand Conspiracy Theories Bloom.”

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Posted by on February 11, 2020 in Uncategorized


13 responses to “The “Comfort” of Conspiracy Theories

  1. Carnivore

    February 11, 2020 at 8:01 am

    James Forrestal, US Secretary of the Navy and later first Secretary of Defense in a conversation related by Senator Joe McCarthy:
    Before meeting Jim Forrestal I thought we were losing to international Communism because of incompetence and stupidity on the part of our planners. I mentioned that to Forrestal. I shall forever remember his answer. He said, “McCarthy, consistency has never been a mark of stupidity. If they were merely stupid they would occasionally make a mistake in our favor.” This phrase stuck me so forcefully that I have often used it since.


    Of course, there is the ultimate conspiracy theory we know is true since its leader is Satan.

    • Will S.

      February 11, 2020 at 8:05 am

      Excellent observation by Forrestal. And no wonder McCarthy has been so demonized, since he was right…

      Indeed, alas. Thankfully we know that Christ has beaten the Devil; but we have to wait to see that come into its full fruition…

  2. greenmantlehoyos

    February 11, 2020 at 9:15 am

    The problem comes with the self reinforcing loop kind of conspiracy theory, not theories about an actual conspiracy.

    When everything against the theory is just part of the cover up, it screws up your mind. The only real cure is Chestertonian common sense and it helps to learn about real conspiracies (the Mitrokhin archive for example). You get a handle on what’s likely and what’s possible and break out of the solipsistic loop.

    It’s the difference between believing that Epstein didn’t kill himself (an extremely reasonable possibility given what we know about human nature) and going full Eddie Bravo and believing literally every conspiracy from flat earth to the California wild fires starting because of high energy weapons.

    • Will S.

      February 11, 2020 at 5:56 pm

      Indeed. People who paranoidly swallow unified field theory of everything kinds of conspiracy theories, e.g. flat earthers, are just nutjobs.

      But it isn’t hard to believe that Epstein was murdered, or to wonder what happened to Seth Rich, Vince Foster, etc.

    • Dave

      February 11, 2020 at 8:56 pm

      Anonymous Conservative used to be a decent blogger with a compelling theory explaining why liberals are liberal and conservatives are conservative. Then he fell so deep into conspiracy theories that reading his blog induces psychosis.

      One *must* take the scientific approach of assuming that all hypotheses are false until supported by overwhelming evidence. Go look for that evidence if you wish, but always with the prejudice that you won’t find any. Contra Fox Mulder, the poster on your wall should say “I want to disbelieve”. Any other path leads to madness. Not metaphorical madness; you’ll actually go insane.

      If there are thousands of pages of “evidence”, ask believers which is the best, and investigate those thoroughly. If their selections are bunk, it’s all bunk. If the believers respond to your questions by citing other evidence instead of defending the evidence they gave you, it’s all bunk. For example, if the College Rape Hypothesis were even slightly true, Rolling Stone would have reported an actual rape instead of a fantasy rape committed by a man who did not exist.

      • Will S.

        February 11, 2020 at 10:08 pm

        The onus is always on someone putting forward a novel theory to convince you of it, and so one indeed ought to be inclined towards skepticism unless one has valid reasons to not be skeptical, based on the available evidence, and a compelling argument put forth by someone…

  3. c matt

    February 11, 2020 at 11:58 am

    Not sure what is more comforting – knowing that at least someone is smart enough to be in charge, or everyone is so incompetent it could crash at any moment. Real conspiracies are pretty easy to pick out – the conspirators tend to brag about it indirectly and sometimes directly (c.f. Biden and Burisma).

    • Will S.

      February 11, 2020 at 5:57 pm

      Lol, yeah, I don’t find either possibility comforting. 😀

  4. Blake's Seven

    February 14, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    The argument that conspiracy theories are invalid because those who believe them derive comfort from them is a particularly dumb piece of popular wisdom.
    Any theory about anything at all, no matter if considered a conspiracy theory or not, has to have logic and facts on its side. That’s the only thing that matters. Criticising it on the basis that it makes its proponents feel good is totally irrelevant.
    Besides, no-one seems to ask whether those defending mainstream views are themselves benefiting emotionally from their positions-a feeling of belonging being an obvious motive. No, it’s only ever a one-way street.

  5. Blake's Seven

    February 19, 2020 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks Will S. BTW, I try to remember to remind people of Hillary Clinton’s “vast right wing conspiracy” during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Apparently some people are allowed to use the “c” word and others aren’t.

    • Will S.

      February 19, 2020 at 9:55 pm

      You’re welcome, B7!

      Yes, alas, as usual, leftist double standards…


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