“The popularity of conspiracy theories is explained by people’s desire to believe that there is some group of folks who know what they’re doing” –Damon Knight
Yesterday, Rick Rajter posted a long piece that focused heavily on 9/11 conspiracy theories and unanswered questions that hadn’t been covered by the mainstream press. Now, I’m not going to argue with Rick on what’s true or not (I personally believe 9/11 was more likely due to government incompetence to stop an attack than to say they were so damn clever to pull it off, but that’s me).
In fact, I’m not going to refute any of Rick’s claims, for one reason: it’s a waste of time.
One of the best speakers on the matter of activism, conservative Morton C. Blackwell,:
No activist can work in the public policy process for long without running across one or more conspiracy theories.
Since at least 1960, conspiracy theories which relate to politics have circulated widely. Such theories trap many otherwise smart people into years of inactivity, pessimism, and despair. The phenomenon is so common that it should be understood because it affects so many people who have leadership potential.
[…]Some of these conspiracy theories were so poorly presented and illiterate as to be obviously ludicrous. Others included staggering amounts of careful documentation of the links among the supposed conspirators.
Thousands of people who were fully committed to solid conservative principles spent much of their time studying, even memorizing, conspiracy theories. Rather than working to win political battles, they devoted themselves to “proving” conspiracy theories.
It’s almost impossible to argue successfully with a deep-dyed conspiracy theorist. Those fully convinced of a conspiracy theory take any contradictory information as proof positive of just how clever the masters of the conspiracy are.
Many conservatives became so convinced of the overwhelming power and cleverness of one or more of these conspiracies that they sank into despair and virtually ceased political activity. After all, if one is faced with opposition so powerful and so clever that defeat is inevitable, why bother to do anything about it except to complain?
There are hundreds of real and legit examples of government corruption, failure and ineptitude that I don’t have to reach for theories to get people mad. I can flip through the Sunday paper and have my fill of outrage. Our product is common sense and outrage over news that can’t be refuted. When we tread into conspiracy theory, no matter how plausible, we immediately lose a lot of people who would otherwise listen to us. This hurts us two-fold because those conspiracy buffs demand immediate conversion to their “truth” and instead of spending their time converting people with things they might care about, they beat the listener in a torrent of information that they will immediately dismiss as crazy.
So instead of libertarians focusing on theories and unanswered questions to past events people have already made their minds up on, doesn’t it make better sense to flood our attention to the issues of today that people are concerned about?
We do want people to listen to us, don’t we?