When I was in public life, I became friendly with a journalist from my city’s daily newspaper. She was an excellent writer and while I didn’t always agree with her, I respected her research and her insights. When we were seated together one afternoon for an interview, I let slip that I thought the paper she worked for had a bias against me. I explained why and after hearing me out, she laughed. “What you imagine as a conspiracy is really incompetence. ” Journalists weren’t organized enough to carry out a plot, she assured me and after I thought about it a moment, I laughed, too.
Years later, I remain confident that conspiracies are hard to pull off. Human nature, being unpredictable and unruly, works against cabals. For every Koch brother there is a George Soros. For every Democrat there is a Republican. For every Rush Limbaugh there is a Michael Moore. As for the long-lived rumor that the Rockefellers plan to take over the world, I’m still waiting. Frankly, if someone could organize the Middle East or our Congress, I’d be happy.
The fallacy behind conspiracy theories, as the philosopher Karl Popper pointed out, is the tendency to describe striking events as planned and grossly underestimates “the random nature and unintended consequences of many political and social actions.” (“What a Hoax,” by Sander van der Linden, Scientific American Mind, Sept/Oct, 2013, pg. 43.)
The author of the article cited above, Sander van der Linden, goes on to say, “a number of studies have shown that belief in conspiracy theories is associated with feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty … observing patterns, where there is none fills a need for structure… conspiracy beliefs recast the world as a more predictable place.” (Ibid, pg. 43.)
I’ll buy of that. I’ll buy all of it, but don’t hold me to the belief when it comes to the neighbor’s cats stationed beneath my bird feeder.
(Courtesy of pinterest.com)