Intrinsic Unlikeliness of Conspiracies

Discussion in 'Conspiracies' started by exchemist, Jan 26, 2016.

  1. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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  3. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    He's not saying conspiracies are unlikely. In fact, he acknowledges that there are many conspiracies. And gives himself a lovely wide margin of 3 to 30 years for some of the more fanciful examples.
    Sure, most conspiracies come to light at some point. Three nasty little boys in a classroom, plotting to turn a fourth one's hair turn purple only need a ten-minute lead-time. If a government or business cabal can make something really lucrative or politically advantageous happen, who cares if people learn about it three years too late or 25 years too late?

    Obviously, the more unlikely ones, like faking a moon landing, would have been revealed by now, had they been true. But that doesn't mean people don't keep right on plotting and scheming. And it sure doesn't mean pharmaceutical corporations and oil consortia are not concealing information.
     
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  5. rpenner Fully Wired Staff Member

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  7. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, to be strictly fair he is saying large-scale, long-lived conspiracies are unlikely.

    But, as someone whose career was in oil, I'm intrigued to know what you have in mind regarding oil consortia. It never struck me as a particularly murky industry - though admittedly my own experience was with one of the European multinationals. Can you give examples?
     
  8. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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  9. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    As long as you don't think this thread is part of the conspiracy.

    If the conspiracy theory part of the forum lists all of the conspiracy theories, would the idea that the conspiracy theories themselves (and the forum idevoted to them) are a conspiracy be an element of the set?
     
  10. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    So, no faking safety procedures in deep drilling practice in the Gulf Of Mexico? No suborning witnesses in a class action suit?
    It's always better not to be included in a conspiracy.
    It's always better to keep the need-to-know group as small as possible, and with as much to lose.
     
  11. Maxila Registered Senior Member

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  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Yes I see what you mean about Macondo.
     
  13. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    Is keeping secrets really even a feature of conspiracy theories? Many of the most prevalent conspiracy theories seem to go to some considerable lengths not to keep their bizarre ideas a "secret".

    Keeping secrets by managing and limiting the number of individuals with detailed knowledge of a sensitive operation the way most classified activities like to do would seem to be the surest means of spinning off lots of conspiracy theory based subgroups imaginable, either by individuals whose knowledge has been deliberately managed or a few of their associates with a disposition inclined to be paranoid about being fed information like it was sunlight to a crop of mushrooms.

    I have always found comfort in the idea that neither the conspiracy theorists nor the subjects of their respective paranoias have a clue about what it is they are doing or why, and that's not just a theory. I've seen it work that way up close and personal, in action. In engineering endeavors, the devil is in the details, and also in the security professionals whose job it is to keep those relevant details a secret from those who require them in order to do their jobs effectively. I know at least a few of you here can relate similar war stories. Too bad, most of them are still classified for as long as the sun shines, grass grows, and the wind blows.

    My apologies if any of the above paragraph reads like something the character Wally might say out of one of Scott Adam's 'Dilbert' comic strips. I didn't create the system.

    Disinformation is best disseminated when it is treated no different from the way sensitive information is managed in groups known to be leaking sensitive information. Serves them all right, doesn't it? Is a secret that is false really even a secret?
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2016
  14. Edont Knoff Registered Senior Member

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    In ancient times, people sat around a fire and told each other scary stories, about beasts, demons, ghosts and gods.
    In modern times, people link through the internet and tell each other scary stories about conspiracies.

    People always liked to tell stories, particularly dramatic or scary ones. Just the stories changed over time.
     
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  15. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    There are two categories being lumped together here. The first kind is genuine conspiracies: schemes by a small group of people to do something hostile or fraudulent to an individual (assassination) a nation (sabotage, espionage, etc.) or a group of other people (e.g. obfuscating safety test results of a product). The second kind is crackpot notions about the veracity of an event as reported to the public. The second kind exists as direct result of the first kind coming to light. The best place to hide a diamond is in a pile of glass. If anyone suspects an actual conspiracy, the easiest way to discredit them is to call them a "conspiracy theorist."

    This also applies to news outlets and what they are allowed to say about the doings of their bosses.
     
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  16. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    So, do you think that a mathematical model based on keeping secrets is applicable to what happens to the evolution of a conspiracy theory? How?

    Conspiracy theories are a study in applied ignorance, a force to be reckoned with, no doubt.
     
  17. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    It's applicable to what happens in conspiracies.
    But, as I said earlier, the longevity of the secret is often irrelevant. It only has to be kept until the plot is carried out. If it succeeds - if the dictator is killed and replaced, it doesn't matter who knows the names of the conspirators, since they are now cabinet members. If a conspiracy fails and is discovered, it also doesn't matter who - besides the executioner - knows. (On second thought, it might. Any inquisitor worth his salt will get each actual conspirator to name or implicate a dozen fellow-travellers.)
    The only situations in which a conspiracy has to be kept secret for protracted periods is if 1. it was an unsuccessful undiscovered coup and the conspirators hope to try again; 2. if it was an unsuccessful operation under the auspices of a government that is still in power and wants to save face or 3. if the espionage or bad faith contract or law-breaking is intended to continue.
    People outside the conspiracy may or may not suspect what's going on, may or may not have theories about it - a different situation in each case.
    I'm not sure that conspiracy theory has an evolution.

    That may be true of some bruited notions and delusions, but calling them all "conspiracy theory" was either an unfortunate misconception by media pundits or a stroke of genius by the PR department of Conspirators Inc. There are so many of these notions and delusions, because we live in an era of political paranoia, which was deliberately created and inflated by persons in power. They are the natural targets of distrust.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2016
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  18. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    An excellent psychologically oriented counterpoint to the mathematical treatment of conspiracies is something I personally find much more believable:

    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0119-brotherton-conspiracy-theory-20160119-story.html

    Rob, a research fellow at Goldsmiths University at London, and assistant editor of The Skeptic [www.skeptic.org] recently published a book "Suspicious Minds" on the subject treats the psychology of Conspiracy Theories in greater depth than a mathematical analysis is even capable of rendering.

    The description of a conspiracy theory as “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who attempt to conceal their role (at least until their aims are accomplished)” would seem to be to a narrow definition, and if applied to something like Rob's descriptions of The Watergate break in (an actual conspiracy by powerful people), or the use of experimental hallucinogenic drugs to gather intelligence by US intelligence agencies (another actual conspiracy), of what possible use are these numbers?

    And If, as Rob pointed out, you were the first to break news of such things, would numbers even help you sell the idea that you are not someone wearing a permanent tin foil hat? Doubtful, to say the least.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2016
  19. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Sounds like a pretty good definition. Some theories that are routinely lumped in may be attempts at explaining other kinds of phenomena, but it covers the majority of motivations. In a climate of lies, cover-ups and general suspicion, you can't expect people not to propose explanations, however far-fetched.

    Once the media had classified all such speculations as lunatic and any releases of classified information as treason, no numbers could rehabilitate a rejector of the mainstream version.
     
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  20. danshawen Valued Senior Member

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    What if a conspiracy is much, much older? For instance, some biblical scholars-cum-conspiracy theorists have noticed correspondences between the story of Christ and that of Mithras. Mithras was a virgin birth "born of stone", and occurred at about the same time of the year. There are other coincidences in the accounts of their respective beliefs.

    According to the math, the chances that such a conspiracy would have been "found out" already after over 2000 years had passed must be pretty near certainty, and yet, lacking credible historical evidence to the contrary, how could anyone really make a case one way or another? The number of people involved (the church clerics) in this particular conspiracy would have been too large to keep any secrets, but they certainly would have had sufficient motivation. The inquisition is one example of how motivated this group was to assure the devotion of their followers. The Crusades is another.

    Because after a sufficient amount of time has passed, no one really seems to care if traditions or beliefs began as a conspiracy or not. With a sufficient amount of power and a chokehold on the only available scriptural media followers are allowed to read or that is made available to scholarship, the effect is exactly the same as if the conspiracy succeeded.
     
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  21. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I'm not with you. What would have been the conspiracy here? And who would have been conspiring with whom? And to do what, exactly?

    Since the historical evidence about Christianity and Mithraism is nowadays open to anyone, you are presumably not saying there is any such conspiracy today, are you?

    What do the scholars of the history of religion think nowadays? Do any of them now think Christ and Mithras were the same? (I recently read a history of Christianity by Diarmid MacCulloch, which mentions Mithraism but does not suggest in the least that it and Christianity were the same thing.)

    If practically nobody thinks they are the same today, why would there have been a need for a conspiracy in the past to prevent them being thought the same?
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2016
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  22. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    I think the idea is that the early Christian church stole (copied, cribbed, faked) their central ideas from another religion, from a 'backward' culture. They couldn't package and market it for sophisticated Roman (and later, pan-European) consumption without some kind of civilized underpinnings, mythical roots and portentous prophecies, wonders and miracles. This means they had to make up quite a lot of the holy gospel, to cement together the geographically applicable documents that fit, ignore the ones that didn't, and then deep six any contradictory writings.
    It had to hold for a century, at least, to consolidate the scam. After hat, it's got its own impetus, adherents, invested practitioners and useful idiots and no longer requires conspiracy to keep it going. It's held for 17 centuries, so far, and has been hugely profitable; in fact, the biggest pyramid scheme, ever, including the pyramids. Of course, an awful lot of skeptics had to be done away with along the way.
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2016
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  23. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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