I’m currently in that writing phase of the thesis where I am just working in the incredibly general, not particularly detailed, introduction. It means that my mind is casting itself around the sea of Conspiracy Theory catching mostly under-sized, under-weight fish which I’m tagging for later. It’s more annoying than fun; I’d like to do some serious frisking of a topic but the introduction is important for all sorts of academic and non-academic reasons and the sooner its done, and done well, the better.
Also, Wishart’s ‘The Paradise Conspiracy’ is proving to be a bit of a hard read if only because, at least at the beginning, it’s trying just a little too hard to link together events that seem very unrelated. The Paul White affair (which was made into a terrible movie really does seem more like a tragic accident than the stepping stone to corporate madness. Still, there’s another two hundred pages to go, so who knows. Opinions may change.
Anyway. I’m currently thinking a lot about that favourite fallacy of mine, the inference to any old explanation. Some theorists think that anyone who posits a conspiracy theory commits every time. The reasoning is that as conspiracy theories are the wrong kind of explanatory story to tell (too simple, too complex, et al) any inference to an explanation of this form is someone jumping to the conclusion pre-maturely; they’ve made the wrong inference.
I, however, am not convinced by that. Certainly, there is something to be said about why people jump to particular conclusions rather than others, but usually, if you ask the conspuracy theorist, they will giver you a whole lot of salient reasons for positing the conspiracy theory above any other. It tends to be the people who take someone else’s conspiracy theory and run with it who commit the fallacy of inference to any old explanation.
Take Lyndon La Rouche. He believes that the British Crown is trying to destroy the American way of life. A lot of people believe him; some have read all his books, some only a few and I bet there are people who simply agree with his view because they heard about the idea at a party and it sounded right. La Rouche has a fairly complex reason for believing his claims, based upon some terrible and deep philosophic war that is going on behind the scenes. He truly believes that his explanation is the only salient story to explain events in history. It’s not a good story, in that the premises (more properly, explanans) of his explanation are implausible, but as he thinks his points are true and the argument has the right form he really does believe that the explanation is the one and only. Adherents, however, often don’t have all those ‘facts’ at their disposal. Adherent’s often jump onboard with a view because it fits their background beliefs, not because the posited explanation is good in its own right.Hmm, that’s very taxonomic of me. That might make into into the current draft (the last paragraph, that is).