I’ve struggled to “find a voice” for the following (read: upcoming) post about the conspiracy theories surrounding the September 4th Earthquake in Canterbury. Reading through the various conspiracy theorists’ arguments for what “really” happened was a draining and depressing experience1. Their arguments are not depressing because I couldn’t make heads or tails out of them but, rather, because I could see that the conspiracy theorists were just like anyone else (i.e. just like the rest of us). They were trying to make sense of the scale and terror of a natural disaster. The conspiracy theorists didn’t even seem particularly mad or delusional…
Well, I’m not sure how to phrase the idea I’m trying to express here. I suppose what I am saying is that I think some of the conspiracy theories around the quake of September 4th are motivated by the big and important questions, like “How did this happen?” and “Why didn’t we know about the possibility of this particular quake (which isn’t the big one)?”
Now, the answers these conspiracy theorists, most of whom are local to Aotearoa, have jumped to are clearly not even vaguely plausible. Still, I can see how if you think a major event must be the result of an intentional action, then a quake like the one that hit Christchurch on the 4th of September must have been induced for a reason.
Which is why the somewhat jocular tone I (will) take in the upcoming post should not be taken as evidence of my usual sarcasm. This is in part because the various conspiracy theories around the quake have not (yet) entered that strange region of ickiness and revulsion that demands it; whilst “they” are being blamed “they” are still caged references to the global elite rather than “the Jews” or something similar. Now, this might all be due to our curious political isolation from the big conspiracy theories overseas2. We (as a nation host to some conspiracy theorists) don’t (often) go for, say, the anti-semetic cabalistic jugular when merely generic global elites will do the job just fine.
Still, it is early days and even in those early days people are noting, on some sites, that a certain Rothschild with holdings in the South Island was not resident there on the day of the quake3, and so forth. So, give it time, I reluctantly find myself saying; the ichor will come to pass.
Any one of us could be a conspiracy theorist (in the pejorative sense. People usually don’t like me saying that; they do not want to have it pointed out to them that they, too, might hold weird views which are neither rational nor justified. Yet I know of philosophers who fastidiously and fallaciously appeal to anecdotal evidence or tradition when trying to resist the tide of modern pedagogy. I know people who would claim to be hardcore socialists or social democrats and yet are rather old fashioned, even backwards, conservatives on issues to do with race, gender or sexual identity. Very good friends of mine hold to conspiracy-like theories about Big Pharma, the Police and the IPCC. These are, in other respects, sensible people who go about their lives in what seem like perfectly normal ways, but on some issues they are, to quote a dear friend, just whacked.
I feel a certain amount of empathy with the whacked; I used to be a middle-class Shore boy, you see, who thought the Maoris4 should get over their “so-called grievances based on now completely historical injustices.” I was an institutionalised racist with no appreciation for the tikanga of our tangata whenua and oblivious to the privilege I had by merely being Pakeha.
Now, comparing belief in conspiracy theories with institutionalised racism isn’t really very useful, but I just want to stress that I don’t regard people with weird views as being sub-human. Sure, I wouldn’t want to socialise with such people, but, then again, I’m never all that comfortable socialising with the Skeptics, for example, or the Rationalist and Humanists (humourless bastards, the lot of them (well, for the most part) who also tend to have weird and uninformed views, especially regarding the Philosophy of Science). The whacked might have, in my opinion, unfortunate beliefs, but, let us be fair and say, often such people have weird beliefs for reasons which aren’t entirely of their own making. There is a lack of critical thinking teaching going on in our education system, and wacky beliefs are a consequence of that.
I’m rambling now. Time to move on.
Tomorrow(ish): the actual conspiracy theories around the Christchurch Earthquake. Large Hadron Colliders, Alaskan weather control stations and local mining companies all will vie to be the cause of the quake of September 4th, 2010.
- I even feel guilty saying that, given that I haven’t suffered from the effects of the quake whatsoever and am thus engaging in a very academic form of despair.↩
- And our better (but still not good) race relations here in Aotearoa.↩
- He hasn’t been resident there for five years, it seems, which is either evidence of advanced planning for the quake or that holidays in Southland just aren’t his cup of tea any more.↩
- Plural used here for emphasis.↩