The Fortean Times Dictionary of the Damned – No. 17: Conspiracy Theory, FT223 (June 2007), p. 52-3
The second curiosity of the analysis above (such as it is) follows directly from the first, although it is less to do with conspiracy theories per se than with the reaction to them. Here we habitually see demonstrated what may be called the Law of Shallow Responses. This operates with remarkable consistency throughout fortean studies, although the tendency is perhaps even more marked, more entrenched, and more pointless among hard-core sceptics. Take, for example, this astonishing claim about mind-control techniques, which surfaced on the Internet (where else?) in the 1990s:
The idea is simple: to keep people ASLEEP just program the needed info to affect their brain WHILE THEY SLEEPI, which is their most receptive and vulnerable state anyway. Therefore, an antenna is essentially a mini-transmitter as well if it is made to oscillate by a suitable resonant frequency, by transmitting the carrier waves in the TV/FM range and MODULATING them in the form of ELF/ULF range, the objective can easily be accomplished. When a human body is lying down in a metal-spring matress, it is within inches of the metallic spring GRID (Insert images of the Planetary Energy Grid, here, if you will) created by the underlying network of springs. These springs are NATURAL ANTENNAS to any incoming electromagnetic waves, stray or directed. Consequently, while we are in the most profound sleep – in the DELTA RANGE – we are enfolded in the field of the metallic spring matrix of the matress, and are easy prey to Electromagnetic Wave Programming in an ideal state of receptivity indeed! ([sic] thoughout)
The idea was given a sympathetic hearing. A tiny contretemps ensued. The rational response – having kept the face straight for long enough – was to dismiss it as barking nonsense. Which it is, of course, but thatâ€™s not the point. Arguments over whether or not this kind of thing goes on, even can go on, and whoâ€™s behind it all, are as fruitless as â€˜debatesâ€™ about the reality of ghosts, reincamation, alien abductions, leprechauns or the Loch Ness Monster. They are particularly worthless as a reaction to conspiracy theories because conspiracy theories are an expression of found significance. Their function is to provide or underwrite a structure of meaning; and they are bottomless, infinite and all-inclusive because they have to be, if they are to work as intended. …
In short, an approach to conspiracy theories that stays at the level of their plausibility is obeying the law of shallow responses. Conspiracy thinking is mythological (or â€™magicalâ€™) thinking. Martin S Day has observed that “scientifically, [a myth] cannot be proved” and neither can it be “properly reconciled with phenomenological facts”, elaborating on Hans Georg Gadamer’s judgement that “the only good definition of myth is that myth neither requires nor includes any possible verification outside of itself.” Quite why looking beyond the verifiability of conspiracy theories (and of many other kinds of claim) has so often been neglected by forteans and sceptics alike is not entirely obvious, and is beyond our scope here. Forteans however may have Fort himself to blame, as broadly hinted above. Inflexible sceptics too may be presumed to be at the mercy of their own mythologies, consciously or otherwise.