Today’s show is brought to you by Audible. Please visit Audible podcast dot com slash point to get a free audio book download. This is Point of inquiry for Monday, May twenty third. 2011.
Welcome to Point of inquiry. I’m Chris Mooney point of inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs and at the grassroots. At the outset of our show, I want to remind you that point of inquiry is sponsored by Audible. Audible is the Web’s leading provider of spoken audio, entertainment, information and educational programing. It offers thousands of books for download to your computer, iPod or a C.D.. And today it’s willing to offer you one of those for free to participate. All you have to do is go to this Web site, audible podcast, dot com slash point. Let me repeat that audible podcast, dot com slash point and you can download a free audio book and let me make a recommendation. You could download a book we just featured on the show. George Lakoff is The Political Mind, a cognitive scientist’s guide to your brain and its politics. Audible has it. You can get it right now or after the show is over, gone over audible and get it then. But remember this Web site, Audible podcast dot com slash point.
From birthers to true third’s to death, there’s to occasional liars.
America seems to be crawling right now with fevered conspiracy mongers. What’s up with that? To find out, point of inquiry turns in this episode to Jonathan Kay, author of the new book Among the Truth There’s A Journey into America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground. In it, Kay provides a fascinating look at some of our indigenous kooks and why they seem to be thriving right now. Jonathan Kay is the managing editor of Canada’s National Post newspaper and a weekly columnist for its op ed page. Kay has written for a variety of outlets, including commentary, the New York Post, Reader’s Digest and The New Yorker. In 2002, he was awarded Canada’s National Newspaper Award for Critical Writing. In 2004, he won the award again for editorial writing. Jonathan K.. Welcome to Point of Inquiry. Thanks for having me.
It’s great to have you on. I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this topic for some time. Your book Among the Troopers relates how you spent three years hanging out with the people who believe that al-Qaeda wasn’t behind 9/11 and other conspiracy theorists. Now, I know you explain in the book, but I also want to share with our listeners, why would anyone subject themselves to this kind of torture? How did you get onto this project?
My day job is I’m an editor at a Canadian newspaper called The National Post, which is kind of the Canadian equivalent of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today combined. I read the opinion pages and I get a lot of e-mails. I write columns and blogs. And sometimes I see letters to the editor. And like every other journalist, I get plenty of conspiracy theory e-mails. And most of these are pretty incoherent. So someone complaining about a landlord or what the city is doing home or something. But in the years after 9/11, I noticed a trend, which is that I was getting emails from people who thought 9/11 was a false flag operation, that Bush and Cheney had engineered it because they wanted to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there was something different about these e-mails. They were articulate and they were lucid. The people who were sending them to me often were sending them from work email addresses. They worked as engineers or teachers. And I sat up and took notice. Because these were educated people. And the theory is they were communicating to me were bizarre and far fetched, something out of the realm of science fiction. But it fascinated me why people who had successful careers were going down this rabbit hole. And many these people told me that they it’s been years investigating this. But they spent all their free time on the Internet researching it. And I wanted to find out why people would dedicate so much of their life to something that I found so bizarre.
Well, that, you know, leads me to the next question. So why? I mean, you listed in the book, a variety of types did not all doing it for the same reasons. You talk about someone who’s undergone a mid-life crisis and how that can lead you into conspiracy theories. You talk about evangelical doomsdayers.
They get into this strange, self created fantasy land from different places, but they’re all fulfilling some kind of core need.
Well, when I started the project, I imagined that I would find the one universal personality type that conspiracy theorists exhibited. You know, the sort of a skeleton key to conspiracies.
What I found was that there’s a better way of looking at at it, which is that conspiracy theories are a tool that allow people to escape reality and different people want to escape reality for different reasons. For some people, it’s purely political. They have an ideology and they want reality to conform to their ideology. So if they’re an extreme left winger who believes that America is the root of all evil, they are going to concoct a theory of 9/11 that puts America as the evil doers behind 9/11. They’re going to twist the facts so that it was Bush and Cheney who were behind 9/11, because otherwise they get cognitive dissonance.
Right, because they believe America is evil. They believe that in their heart. And yet the facts show them that America is the victim on 9/11. And that does not compute, though some conspiracy theorists are simply trying to bridge the gap between their ideology and historical reality. As you say, there are others who are middle aged men in particular, who they tell in interviews. They told me they just had this epiphany. They realized that the truth they knew was a sham. They embraced this new reality. This is hunt for a new world order or the builder burgers or whoever was the object of their conspiracy theory. Typically, they got rid of all their old friends. They also quit their job. They thought a new life on the Internet. And that was it. It was the equivalent of a midlife crisis where they just shed their old life and adopted a new life. Other people I interviewed were clinically insane. And this was a minority of people. But there were some people who clearly were nuts, like clinically nuts.
This was a very small fraction.
But as you can imagine with some of the most memorable interviews in my book, I have a typology of about seven or eight distinct kinds of conspiracy theories, and all of them embrace the same kind of conspiracy theories. But it is clear to me that they were pursuing them for very different psychological purposes.
I honestly didn’t know what true others believe. Beyond the basics, until I read your book, I mean, I think everybody knows they think the Bush government somehow pulled off 9/11 and then pinned it on al-Qaeda.
But, you know, as with most conspiracy theories, probably all conspiracy theorists. It’s much more elaborate than that. It’s very intricately worked out in a lot of detail. He spent a lot of time on this. Just give us a little bit of some of the real color of what they think.
Sure. Well, the interesting thing about this, just as a preface this in the old days, James Khera, conspiracy theories tended to be very divergent. Every conspiracy theorist had his own ideas about how JFK was killed in the new era of the Internet. Era of conspiracies and conspiracy theories tend to be socially constructed.
So one guy will put up a blog and another guy will offer comments and then other folks will join in and a narrative will evolve collectively. And what’s interesting is there are millions of 9/11 conspiracy theorists out there. But over the years, their notion about what happened on 9/11 has gradually gravitated to the same socially constructed theory. And that theory is this, that Bush and Cheney and Wolfowitz were concerned about the world’s dwindling natural gas and oil supply, and they wanted a pretext to go out to the Middle East and Central Asia and seize control of other countries so they can steal their oil and natural gas. They needed a new Pearl Harbor. That phrase knew Pearl Harbor very important, it appears, all over the 9/11 truth, movement, literature. It’s a phrase that that originates in the project for the New American Century from the 1990s, which is a historical obsession of the truth movement. But putting that to one side, they wanted a historical event that was similar to Pearl Harbor that would mobilize the United States to war and put in place their plan for world domination. And so they had 9/11. The planes carrying Arab hijackers were simply a diversion. There were actually bombs placed in the World Trade Center. And an hour or so after the planes hit, the bombs were detonated. Thousands of people were killed. NORAD was told to stand down that day so that the planes would be allowed to hit the buildings. And then Bush put his war plan into effect and invaded Afghanistan and in Iraq. And this is the basic narrative now of some of the details, different some conspiracy theories involved the Bilderberg. Or. You know, there’s a cast of villains. What changed? Some insist that Bush was at the center of it. Some insist that Bush knew nothing and that Dick Cheney was the real brains behind the operation. But the basic narrative involves neocons wanting to seize the world’s oil supply and using 9/11 as a pretext to do it.
Wow. Well, interestingly, I mean, you know, when you look at the Iraq war, not necessarily justified by the original argument for it at least lends some superficial veneer to some of some of the notion.
You know, one one thing I concede in the book is that even the craziest conspiracy theory typically has a small grain of truth behind it. And as you say, it is true that many of the people around George Bush were, in fact, looking for a reason to attack Iraq, not because they wanted to smash and grab operations to take Iraq’s oil, but because they wanted to take out Saddam Hussein, because they did believe he had weapons of mass destruction, because they did see him as a threat to world peace. Now, you and I can have an argument about whether it was correct to invade Iraq. But it is clearly true that the folks around Bush had an itchy trigger finger. And in fact, if you look at the rise of 9/11 conspiracy theories, their heyday was in the three years right after the invasion of Iraq because that especially when it was clear those are weapons of mass destruction, because when people felt they had been duped and their trust level went down in the government, that’s when conspiracy theories pick off all conspiracy theories, feed off an absence of trust for official institutions.
And that’s what happened when there were no WMD in Iraq.
Yeah. I want to remind our listeners that Jonathan Kay’s new book, Among the Truth is A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground, is available through our Web site Point of inquiry dot org. I want to turn to talking about your perception, which I agree with. And this is Centrals, your book that somehow it is, quote, worse right now when it comes to conspiracies, i.e., in some sense they’re more widespread.
They’re catching on more. They’re getting more attention and talk about why that would would be the case. What what do you think’s going on throughout history?
Conspiracy theories have always flourished in the shadow of great national traumas. This goes back. This goes all the way back to the French Revolution when societies feel insecure, when they’ve just undergone undergone trauma, death, destruction, depression, wars, upheavals. People look for for demons to blame, whether supranational or secular. That that hasn’t changed at all. What has changed is the means people have to spread conspiracy theories. But after 9/11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the 2008 financial crisis, you had the usual historical instinct that people have to find villains, but now they have the Internet to spread these theories. And that’s something that previous generations of conspiracy theorists didn’t have.
And as a result of the Internet, you had something more disturbing, which is that people simply shut off the mainstream media and retreated into their own little custom-made ideological silos. You know, many of the conspiracy theories that I interviewed, they don’t read newspapers. They don’t watch TV. They don’t listen to the radio. Their only source of news is, you know, they’d lift off from a four or five Web sites. And I go to those Web sites and they were I mean, to me, they were crazy. It was just a constant stream of conspiracies, nonsense. But this was their news source.
And I’d ask the well, you know, do you watch CNN or listen to NPR? No, of course, they’re just lies. You know, that’s just corporate media controlled by the government or whatnot. And this wasn’t possible in previous it. You know, if you wanted your news 50 years ago or 40 years ago or even 30 years ago, to a certain extent, you had to engage with the mass media. You know, you had to at least read a little bit. You had to read newspapers and books and maybe watch television or the radio. And now it’s it’s possible to live your entire news consuming life without accessing any mainstream media. And instead, people are just in these silos, which become echo chambers or whatever views they already have is the world. That’s what’s changed.
I think I definitely agree with that. I don’t think we understand yet the full ramifications of what media choice has done to us. And I think that it originally was so optimistic about the Internet and now, gosh, really sort of a gased when we see all of the things that people have done with it.
If I could just step back for a second. I’m 42. I’m old enough to remember the dawn of the Internet or at least the dawn of the Web. You know, I remember getting my first e-mail account. I think it was 1991. And I remember what people were saying about the Internet, which I believed, which is that we were going to spend our days surfing news sites from all around the world. We were all going to have pen pals in places like Indonesia and Russia and South America, and we would be setting these earnest messages about, oh, what’s happening in your country? Oh, you sound just like me. And it would be kind of like the penthouse we had when we were eight years old, except we do it as adults and we do it to learn about the world. And of course, that’s not what happens at all. People just use the Internet as a tool to customize their media experience to their own preexisting biases. And so when I look back at what futurists said would become of the Internet, it’s laughable that people it people, it turns out, are much more intellectually lazy than we expected. They don’t want to have their mind expanded. They just want to have their have their own biases, get back to them by talking box. And again, the conspiracist movement is a pathological extrapolation of that. But it’s an instinct that I think even non conspiracies have.
So there’s one aspect of your account of why this happens also that you haven’t mentioned yet. I want to bring up this several, but there’s one I want to bring up. You don’t know me, but this appears to be a pet peeve of mine. So I actually disagree with you on this one. And this is you talk about postmodernism and how, you know, somehow our sense of truth has has declined in part because of the academic left. Here’s my my guess, my bone to pick, I guess. I don’t think that it had that much influence beyond a few scholars. And I think that the worm has turned against postmodernism and academia. Moreover, I think conspiracy theorists aren’t post-modern. They think they have the truth. They think there is a truth. And that is just that nobody knows about them.
You know, I mean, I think, first of all, you’re in good company because both The New York Times and Wall Street Journal book reviews of my book made the same criticism you did that that I overemphasize the effect of fashionable or at least one fashionable theory like postmodernism and such in the academy. I think it’s generally true that the effect has been fairly limited. But I did feel it’s important to talk about in my book because everyone talks about AM radio. They talk about Glenn Beck. They talk about the influences on the right and how the right has become amenable to conspiracy theories. I didn’t think it was important. My book to mention, hey, the left is not blameless here. And I did give some examples, I think was in Chapter nine of my book of showing scholars who attended conferences and voiced full fledged conspiracy theories whose theories were even published in journals. You can say, well, this is a fringe phenomenon. And to the extent postmodernism and deconstructionism were popular in the academy, they’re not popular now. Yes, to a certain extent. But a whole generation of scholars, especially in modern languages and the liberal arts more generally, was raised on the idea that. You should give some deference to other people’s construction of reality, especially if those people come from a different social class or from a different race. So there has been some reluctance, I think at least a certain cohort of scholars who really emphasize the idea of a single reality and to debunk people who clearly depart from that. And there’s a little bit of romanticism of people who have so-called alternative narratives. I encountered this when I went to law school in the mid 90s, although even by then it was dying out a little bit. So I think its influence is less than, say, talk radio and cable news. But there is a certain faction of the intellectual left who I think were influenced by this a little bit.
Yeah. Now, I think I think they’re now maybe a little embarrassed by some of them. I mean, it really has turned against them. But Ben. Okay, that’s fair enough. It is a part of intellectual history.
And we can we can market that way. Let me again remind listeners of Jonathan Kaye’s new book. Among the Truth, There is a journey through America’s growing conspiracist underground is available through our Web site. A point of inquiry, dawg. You mentioned politics. That’s exactly what I want to now turn to the politics of conspiracies. I mean, are conspiracy theorists left or right or both? I mean, clearly, the birthers are on the right. I think that’s unequivocally the case. I have heard that the truth is, are more on the left and you describe one of their protests. You’ve got any vacc people, but you’ve got Ron Paul supporters. I mean, what are they politically?
A strange thing, because, as you said, the birthers are 100 percent right wing. I have never met a left wing birther. I’m sure there must be one very confused fellow with this out there to the left wing birther. But I haven’t the truth.
There’s a great difference because truth is exists on both sides of the spectrum. And this is very interesting. I assumed going in that 9/11 truth is, were all about Bush hating. They were all about, you know, Noam Chomsky. Read it. And by the way, they Noam Chomsky himself another truth. I was quite surprised that he has no time for 9/11 people, but I expected these people were all left wing America here and many of them are. But what was interesting was I also encountered a bunch of, as you say, Ron Paul types and Ron Paul himself kind of flirted with the 9/11 truth truth movement, but has never gone beyond that. And these are our folks, including Alex Jones. Why? Who would put more on the right side of the spectrum? He’s a radio host, syndicated radio host from out in Texas. These are folks who see 9/11 as part of a plot to create a one world left wing government organized by the United Nations. Take away all of America’s guns, black helicopters, you know, control the amount of carbon we use and, you know, the whole litany of accusations that are often made by extreme right wingers against what they think is a plan for a one world government destroying American sovereignty and all that sort of thing. What is interesting. I remember in 2009, I came to New York City on the anniversary of 9/11 to do some research for my book. And there were actually two competing 9/11 truth conferences going on. And one of them was a left wing conference, which was full of older folks who were all about talking about American imperialism and how this 9/11 fits in with a pattern of all this false flag operations from the Vietnam era stuff in a traditional left wing protest type. And then there was this other right wing 9/11 faction that had its own completely different conference. And they were under the banner of We are change. You might have seen some of their protests in New York City or other big cities. And these tended to be younger folks, very libertarian, all of them. Listen to Alex Jones. Many of them had Ron Paul T-shirts. They had end the Fed signs. They were all obsessed with the Federal Reserve. A lot of them maybe watch Glenn Beck. And these were Hoover folks who saw 9/11 as a left wing plot. Whereas the left wing conference, they all saw it as a plot by Dick Cheney, Halliburton. But what was interesting is they agreed to 99 percent of the details by 9/11. They just disagreed on who was organizing a plot, whether it was Halliburton or whether was the United Nations. Otherwise, the details of their conspiracy theories back exactly the fifth column.
Maybe if we add them together, they’ll cancel out, be left with zero. Slater Kate.
It’s a textbook example of a phenomenon that has been observed throughout history, right? That the radical fringes, the left and the right tend to resemble each other.
Sometimes, yeah. Clearly, I. I find this some mind boggling relatedly on politics. You know, obviously, very recently President Obama confronted the birthers and, you know, he didn’t change the minds of the hardcore, but he did.
It looks like he may have hurt Donald Trump’s political campaign, which is drawing energy from the birthers. So do you think that confronting this kind of cranky was a smart thing to do?
What it did? Was it. Berated the casual conspiracy theorists from the really serious, committed conspiracy theories. What I noticed, because I’d monitor and monitor Web sites, conspiracy theory, Web sites before and after Obama’s knows that casual conspiracy theorist.
I think they were satisfied. Obama showed his birth certificate. They said, you know what? That’s enough. I’ll move on. I do want to get lapped up. I mean, everything.
But the hardcore conspiracy theories. And this is a pattern you see with all hard core conspiracy theories. They doubled down because for them, further doom had become central to their worldview. And for hardcore conspiracy theorists, purging their conspiracy theories, it’s like asking someone to lose their religion. You can’t do it and can’t. You can’t use rational evidence because it’s part of their faith. The one Web site I like to use as an example is WorldNet Daily, which is a far right, socially conservative Web site. At one point it used to be a somewhat legitimate news site, but the last year, two, it’s kind of become focused almost entirely on birther related stuff that’s got. There’s a guy named Courcey who writes for it. Another guy named Joseph Farah is some of your listeners will know. But and I’m looking now at WMD dot com as WorldNet Daily. And the first 10 articles on it are all about how the birth certificate is fabricated.
And I get the video proves Obama. Birth certificate is fake. It’s out the book that proves Obama is ineligible. And it’s just from A to Z. What’s wrong with Obama’s birth certificate? I’m reading the titles of articles on women that do it. And again, what’s happened was Obama showing the birth certificate has actually radicalized people who write for this Web site because they realized they had to double down on their conspiracy theories. Whereas I think, as I said before, that’s a phenomenon among the hardcore conspiracy theorists. There’s a whole bunch of casual conspiracy theories who have now decided to let the issue go, which I think proves that Obama was right to show his birth certificate, because if it’s only five or 10 percent of the population has to believe it, it’s not going to become a critical mass of the polls.
And this guy, Corsi, interestingly, I get various kinds of emails, right. And so I knew this book was coming out, which I gather is doing quite well in sales and went to number one on the Amazon lists when it came out that the first date was number one on Amazon.
Filled with gosh.
Oh, gosh. Well, that’s too deeply depressing. But in any case, yes. So President Obama, you know, came out and showed his long form birth certificate. You know, before the book hit, if I recall. And it was like there was any, you know, sort of backing out. It probably helped the book sales, if anything, that it was on the news.
Yeah. And he has all kinds of alternative theories. You know, he’s fallen back. This theory well, even at the birth certificate is real because Obama’s father wasn’t what himself wasn’t born in America. That means Obama is a natural born citizen, which is a theory that’s been completely rejected by constitutional scholars. But, you know, it’s very important for these people to maintain their mythology and they will grasp at any straw in order to maintain it.
Why do you think the birthers ultimately rose to the level of commanding presidential attention? But the truth is, are still just fringe and not worth dignifying. I mean, what’s the difference? Certainly an intellectually I don’t see a difference.
The difference is that people who feel disenfranchized from power tend to become the most radically agitated and the radicals within their ranks become the most mainstream. So since Obama became president, you had tens of millions of right wingers who feel like to quote me, to quote the protests, they say, you know, give me my country back. They feel that their country has been taken over by liberals. Some of them call Obama a communist or an Afro centrist. Some of them believe that Obama is going to institute Sharia and that he secretly in league with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is really. I’ve been to these Tea Party conventions and a lot of Tea Party folks are quite reasonable and they just want lower taxes. But there’s a lot of Tea Party folks were much more radical than that, and their radicalism has seeped into the mainstream of the Republican Party. And so as a result, mainstream Republican talking points now contain elements of conspiracies like death panels and, you know, Donald Trump. Talk about the birth certificate. In the same way that I think during the Iraq war, the party that was out of power then, at least out of the presidency, was the Democrat. And in those days, you heard some pretty shrill things said about George W. Bush. The bestseller list was dominated by books that accused Bush of being a war criminal. And you know, who’s going to create a Christian theocracy in that it states the party that’s out of power tends to become the most radicalized and the most prone to conspiracy theories.
Well, let me again remind our listeners. Jonathan Kay’s new book, Among the Truth is is available through our Web site Point of inquiry. Just a couple more questions sort of close here. Clearly, based on your book based.
Our conversation, all these fascinating characters are true, there’s I mean, you would agree with me, I think. Yeah, I think I get this from your book, but also other research that I’ve done. Intelligence is no defense against this stuff. I mean, a lot of the people that you profile are what I would call very smart idiots. And, you know, they’ll believe anything and they’ll rationalize anything. And if they’re smart, they’re going to be then better at coming up with this kind of stuff.
Oh, there is a guy by the name of Phil Molé, really smart guy who writes for Skeptic magazine, and he’s interviewed a bunch of conspiracy theories.
And he told me that he believes the average conspiracy theorist is much smarter than the average citizen. And the reason he gave is very interesting is that smart people always feel that they have the answers. From the time they were a kid, they’ve taught himself that they’re the smartest person in the room, that they can figure things out, that they don’t need experts to tell them things because they can, you know, surf the Internet and draw their own conclusions. And so they have a lot of hubris. They say, well, you know, I’m good at this. And I’m a good dentist or I’m a good stockbroker.
I’m good at whatever. So obviously, I’m going to be good at piecing together the details of Barack Obama’s birthplace, or I may be good at the details of 9/11, or I would be able to figure out if autism is poisoning my kids, whereas folks who maybe aren’t as smart, who have gone through life listening to experts, they’re not going to have that same level of hubris. And it’s true, when you talk to conspiracy theories, they’re very cocky. They are people who think they can figure anything out from first principles, which is why often they spend half their life on the Internet trying to do their own research on subjects that, frankly, the rest of us just trust experts. What happened on 9/11? Well, I trust the 9/11 Commission report. And most people took the 9/11 Commission report. But if you actually have the hubris that says, you know what, I know better than those 9/11 commissioners and they figure it out myself.
Again, that’s you call it an. Well, what was your phrase, an intelligent idiot or smart Eddie?
Yeah, I mean, that’s basically a a smart, idiotic thing to do because you have to be smart to do your own research and to piece together a theory. But you have to be an idiot to be so egotistical, to think that you know more than the people who are appointed to the 9/11 Commission and had, you know, hundreds of staff and millions of dollars behind them to find the truth about what happened on 9/11.
Gosh, you know, I think Hedges need to, you know, not so much hubris. I mean, you know, I think we learn as journalists, you and I are both journalists. Some issues are really complicated. And you try to dig in. And, you know, I’m I’m writing about fracking right now. You try to find out what’s going on. When I go into an issue, if I could just get on my soapbox like that, I feel less confident sometimes the more I dig in rather than I can figure it all out. Some of these things are insanely complex.
But the I’m not a huge fan of Noam Chomsky, but he said one of the most intelligent things about this phenomena, because I. I interviewed him. He’s one of my first interviews. I said, what do you think? What 9/11. What do you think about how the World Trade Center? So he said, I do what every intelligent person does when I’m confronted with a field of study that I don’t understand. I consult the peer reviewed literature that’s written by experts. So in the case of the demolition of skyscrapers, peer reviewed literature, 9/11 Commission report, stuff that appears in scientific and legitimate scientific journals suggests that it was al-Qaida that destroyed the World Trade Center and that the fires created by those aircraft soften the speel most buildings, and that’s what caused them to be demolished. That is what most people do. They they trust the experts. Conspiracy theories arise because you have such people with such nihilistic distrust in the powers that be. But not only do they not trust their own government, they don’t trust the mainstream media. They don’t trust the academy. They don’t trust peer reviewed journals. They think it’s all part of the same corrupt system. And that’s ultimately what’s the play here is a nihilistic distrust that causes people to trust only their own judgment. But humans are very limited creatures. Most of us are experts and only one or two things, not experts at the thousands of things necessary to piece together complex historical events. And that’s why they get they chased down a rabbit hole because they can’t bring themselves to trust the people who really know the truth. So instead, they create their own truth.
It’s interesting you mentioned Chomsky. I have many, many, many political disagreements there. But the guy is a scientist. And maybe that has something to do with it. You know, leads me to, I guess what will be my last question. You know, is there anything we can possibly do about this stuff? I can’t imagine how you can cut it off. I mean, rational arguments not going to work. They’re just going to rationalize. It’s part of their identity. Intelligence is no defense. It might even make it worse. Isn’t in the end. Shouldn’t we just ignore these people?
No. I agree with you that it is impossible to argue down a committed conspiracy theories because.
Any evidence he will you cite, they will simply answer by saying that person is part of the conspiracy. But the logic of conspiracy theories is a complete insulator to any sort of rational evidence. It has within its own logical circuitry, a perfect defense mechanism against evidence in three years of researching this book. I have never once won an argument against the conspiracy theories on any subject, though arguing on a conspiracy theorist is a waste of time. However, when I talk about in my book is an ounce of prevention versus a pound of cure. Forget arguing down committed conspiracy theories is never going to work. Instead, focus on educating yourself and educating other people about the historical patterns of thought which lead to conspiracy theories.
That’s why I spent so much time in my book talking about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and all these new World Order conspiracy theories, because once you know that this is just part of a historical pattern.
You’re going to look at it and say, wait a sec. I’ve seen this before, you know, blaming a single group for all the problems that exist in society. You know, that’s. This is something the John Birch Society, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Red Scare like this. There’s all sorts of precedents for this sort of thing. And as a society, we’re very good at training ourselves to recognize racism, sexism, all these pathological. Patterns of fire which are destructive. My argument in the book is teach people how to recognize conspiracies. It’s just as deep seeded in our brain. But we are self-aware creatures. You can teach people to recognize this pattern of thought and prevented before people go chasing down the rabbit hole.
Well, that seems like a good approach. If there is an approach when we’re faced with something, so just out there. But John Kay, thank you so much for being with us on point of Inquiry has been great conversation. It’s been really highly illuminating. And best of luck with the book.
Thanks for having me.
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One of inquiry is produced by Adam Isaach in AMR’s, New York. In our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Waylan. This show also featured contributions from Debbie Goddard. I’m your host, Chris Mooney.