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Paper On Conspiratorial Thinking Invokes Conspiratorial Thinking 371

Layzej writes "Last summer a paper investigating the link between conspiratorial thinking and the rejection of climate science provoked a response on blogs skeptical of the scientific consensus that appeared to illustrate the very cognitive processes at the center of the research. This generated data for a new paper titled 'Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation (PDF).' The researchers reviewed the reactions for evidence of conspiratorial thinking, including the presumption of nefarious intent, perception of persecution, the tendency to detect meaning in random events, and the ability to interpret contrary evidence as evidence that the conspiracy is even greater in scope that was originally believed. Some of the hypotheses promoted to dismiss the findings of the original paper ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. It is not clear whether the response to this paper will itself provide data for further research, or how far down this recursion could progress. I fear the answer may be 'all the way.'"
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Paper On Conspiratorial Thinking Invokes Conspiratorial Thinking

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  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @06:50AM (#42806733) Journal

    In the late '60s, it was predicted that ecology, as the study of the environment was then called, would be latched onto by the far left who, being denied more and more detailed economic control, would readily jump on an alternate rationale for control.

    Well, look at that. There is a difference between science and what politics wants to use it for, even if the science is accurate.

  • Random Randomization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @06:54AM (#42806753)

    Are we to presume, then, from the analytical model in TFA that the LIBOR affair, Watergate, and the 1919 Black Sox scandal are all just paranoid hysteria?

  • by some old guy ( 674482 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:19AM (#42806833)

    While true that the unbalanced ones will always be off the mark, I worry that too broad a brush will make people unwilling to acknowledge real collusion for fear of being lumped in with the loony lot. Just the sort of thing political and business spinmasters try to foster.

  • by Bill Currie ( 487 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @08:20AM (#42807087) Homepage

    I've come to the suspicion that it's not so much lack of understanding of grammar or inability to spell that's at the root of the than/then problem, but rather the inablity to hear/speak the difference. The English sounds represented by "e" and "a" are not very far apart. Many of the people might be conflating the two sounds into one. If this is the case, you can correct them until you're blue in the face and they'll never understand because they can't hear the difference. Proof reading their own work won't help because they won't hear the mistake.

    I started thinking this way for two reasons: too many people saying "I could care less" when they really mean "I couldn't care less" (understandable, that t can be difficult to hear) and having Japanese students think I said "pet" when I said "pat" (I've taught English in Japan).

    However, for this particular case, I've got a slightly different theory, based on my own mistakes: the writer sub-vocalizes while touch-typing and something between tongue, brain and fingers short circuited and instead of N, T was hit. The tongue is in the same place for both sounds, and when touch typing, the index finger on opposite hands is used for both letters (and the movement is rotationally symmetrical). The vast majority of my typos follow a similar pattern (and swapping N and T is very common for me). Heck, I sometimes make the same mistakes with pen and paper!

  • by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @08:22AM (#42807097)

    Yes the politics comes in when people with different outlooks or values, try to decide what to agree to do.
    Say your dog keeps relieving itself in my garden. Should I spend the money to improve the fence, or should you keep the dog under control?
    Now take that simple example and multiple the complexity up to, if the climate shifts, and rain belts move, glaciers feeding rivers retreat, some forested areas increase, some storms reduce, some farmland becomes too cold, some warms up for better crops, etc. etc. how do you decide who is responsible and who should pay to act?
    Some people say, it doesn't matter if China is emitting more CO2 than anyone else, it is the moral responsibility of the West to set the good example. Or even Germany, people say Germany should do the right thing, even if it'll make a negligible impact. And that is also weighed up against all the other problems, like disease in Africa, and so on. There's a value judgement that doing something about the climate is more important. Or not. Depends on you.

  • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @08:58AM (#42807253)

    If you make a habit of reading polls on a a variety of political and social issues, you'll learn a lot about Americans and specifically you might come to the conclusion that about 25-35% of Americans are basically so disconnected from scientific and social reality they're functionally insane and their opinion should ALWAYS and AUTOMATICALLY be classified as "non-truth related".

    For instance, and famously, about 46% of Americans don't believe in evolution

    But also 10% think that prosecutors who send innocent people to jail should not be prosecuted:,0,3950542.story?page=2

    25% think Obama is not an American citizen: []

    30%^ think God decides the outcome of sporting events: []

    And on and on and on. Watching polls what you'll discover is about 10% of Americans are just outright fascists who wouldn't hesitate to do whatever any right wing authority told them to do, and think it should have been started yesterday. This is also the finding of Bob Altemeyer in his seminal work on authoritarianism : [].


    About 25-30% believe that events on Earth are assiduously overseen by an all knowing God who "sees them when they're sleeping / and knows if they're awake / and knows if they've been bad of good..." and what happens in everything from their personal life to world events is really of no consequence except to the extent that it is a reflection of an eternal, ongoing battle between good and evil being fought on an unseen cosmic plane. This is something they have this is common with every Muslim extremist who ever strapped a suicide bomb onto himself.

    Americans have a deficit of rationality, a deep and persistent belief that something other than outcome based, welfare of humans is the proper measure of human morality, are scientifically illiterate and constitutionally incapable of perceiving in their thinking just the kinds of bugs that the referenced article details.

    There's not enough time to reform the American character before we have to take radical and decisive action on global warming. The fact is, democracy stops where science begins. This isn't going to lead to anything good.

    The least divisive, least disrupting course of action is for the government to internally and secretly set up an Executive Action team within one the intelligence agencies whose purpose is to discredit, attack and dismantle and neutralize the leaders of the denier terrorist movement. We all know who they are. These *thought leaders* need to be attacked the same way we'd attack any group of terrorists building a bomb named which would have the same long term destructive power as global warming. Denialism is a bomb with the capacity to permanently destroy civilization and the people assembling that bomb are not working in secret. They need to be neutralized and their sources of funding and societal legitimacy attacked through and and all means necessary. They have forfeited their civil rights and constitutional protections. We simply need to deal with them like the world destroying terrorists they are.

    You can come to this conclusion now when there's still time to do something about global warming or you can come to this conclusion later, when there's no possibility of doing anything about it and the starvation, the concomitant societal breakdown and mass, uncontrolled immigration, the tidal wave of anti-Western (Big Oil / Big Coal ) terrorism and collapsing centralized governments take not just the denier's civil liberties and Con

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @09:04AM (#42807289) Homepage Journal

    It seems all sides are conspirators, and conspiracy crackpots, depending on how you interpret them. So it goes nowhere fast.

    Any time two people get together to bone a third person it is a conspiracy. The only overarching conspiracy of which I am aware is the conspiracy to deprecate the word conspiracy, and you're assisting with it.

    An environmentalist told me, it doesn't matter if CO2 isn't a problem, because by forcing people to reduce emissions, you force them to reduce production and consumption â"â"and then with a thoughtful pause she added, "It is about reducing greed." And I see that kind of view a lot, just like the free enterprise competitive types like Burt Rutan says the data doesn't add up and it is verging on fraud.

    It is about reducing greed. Where do the emissions come from? Making stuff. How much of that stuff do we need? HTH, HAND.

  • Political denial (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grunter ( 35840 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @09:08AM (#42807325) Homepage

    One thing that many who believe that climate change is a "scam" or a "conspiracy" have in common is a political outlook that says that lefties, socialists, hippies, greenies etc. are just plain WRONG about everything, that their entire world view is basically incorrect.

    So it really is hard for them to accept that the lefties and the greenies might be RIGHT about something - which seems to lead to ever more bizarre denials.

    The corollary of this is that people with this kind of viewpoint tend to believe that climate change is a stalking horse of the left, to de-industrialise the economy, to promote their "business-hating" ideals, etc.

  • by smpoole7 ( 1467717 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @09:08AM (#42807327) Homepage

    > to cover up your own goal here ...

    In other words, YOU believe that there is a conspiracy (even if only de facto) amongst those who question the conclusions of those who believe in anthropogenic climate change? We have indeed fallen into infinite recursion.

    Me personally? I have no use for conspiracy theories. As a friend who used to work for CIA (vigorously) explained it to me, the more complex the conspiracy, the more impossible it is. SOMEONE will blab, or will forget a laptop with all the secret codes and handshakes in the men's room at the airport. Someone will invariably sell out the conspirators to the opposition. Hey, he can get rich AND become a hero in one fell swoop!

    The purpose of this article is just as offensive as the Slashdot story from a few months ago, that those who question climate change theory are no different from those who reject evolution. That's patently offensive. Like many people, I am agnostic toward AGW theory. I haven't seen enough evidence to convince me either way ... so yes, I AM going to wait and see before I support drastic action that destroys the economy.

    In the meantime, I *will* agitate for cleaner, greener energy, simply because it makes sense for the future. Whether we (meaning us hoomin' beans) are causing global warming is irrelevant to me. If I can reduce the gunk that I spew into the atmosphere, I want to do it. That's just common sense, and MOST people support that.

    Has absolutely, utterly NOTHING to do with conspiracies, or a belief in a New World Order or anything like that.

  • Re:Is this a joke? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @09:16AM (#42807391)

    An interesting counter-opinion to that is that actually people believe in conspiracies because they want them to be true.

    They would rather believe there is a malign force greater than themselves, than that there is no force greater then themselves.

    In other words, it's a proxy for God.

  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @09:46AM (#42807551) Homepage

    I'm utterly confused by the premise here.

    Conspiracies are very often extremely real and extremely provable. HSBC was just found guilty at the highest levels of management of laundering money for Mexican drug cartels. LIBOR manipulation involved dozens of banks and hundreds of people and was the largest financial market manipulation in history. During the mortgage crisis we had robosigning and MERS which intentionally broke the chain of ownership (and the law) in the interest of securitization. We also had dozens of investment banks bundling worthless mortgages and assigning positive valuations to them. Bernie Madoff and his partners conspired to rip off countless pension funds and communities. Etc. Etc. Etc. These are all conspiracies involving billions of dollars and hundreds if not thousands of people. That's just the last 4 years. And those are the provable conspiracies.

    And then there are the conspiracies we know to be true, but cannot prove: Julian Assange for example, who announced he had an upcoming Wikileak regarding the banking system, and the next thing you know he's wanted on rape charges for consensual sex but supposedly with an aconsensual lack of a condom. A crime supposedly so serious that apparently world governments are willing to abandon 500 years of international law and invade sovereign embassies. Is disbelieving the premise "Conspiratorial thinking" or just "not being an idiot"?

    Or let's take an easier one: Jon Corzine and his firm looted private accounts and absconded with over $1 billion dollars. The money was transferred somewhere. But no one knows where. It's a magical mystery of the disappearing $1 Billion. If you believe that are you resisting "conspiratorial thinking", or are you the biggest idiot on Earth? Let's see -- JP Morgan underwrote MF Global's trades. Everyone knows where the money went. But no one can talk about it. Because if you claim that the money went anywhere but to "money heaven", you're engaging in "conspiratorial thinking".

    We are surrounded by corruption, plotting, scheming and insane rapes of the public coffers every day of every year.

    These schemes are nothing other than "conspiracies".

    But somehow this study begins with the entirely "fringe" premise that conspiracies aren't real. That in itself appears to be a conspiracy.

  • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:10AM (#42807767) Homepage

    We get it, you don't like people politically different from you and you think they're acting in bad faith.

    Maybe you could try to objectively measure it and write up a paper on it?

  • Re:Is this a joke? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:32AM (#42808003) Homepage Journal

    People believe in conspiracies because there are so many conspiracies you can point to. There's a plethora of articles on conspiracies that turned out to be true [] and meanwhile we have shit like the many and repeated bailouts while execs take home record bonuses. It's hard not to start seeing conspiracies everywhere when you see conspiracies everywhere!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @10:51AM (#42808249)
    And the next rub is that some of the cost can only be determined much later, because only much later we actually see that it really creates costs. When the first roads were built, no one thought about the costs of cutting biotops. When the first iron forges were built, no one thought about the costs of cutting down forests for charcoal. When the first fields were leveled and irrigated, no one thought about the costs of changing ground water levels. When the first towns were build, no one thought about the costs of covering arable land.
    Sometimes we already know that there will be costs, but we have no good estimates for them.
    So it all boils down to negotiations, and negotiations are inherently political.
  • by IRWolfie- ( 1148617 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @11:29AM (#42808677)

    Yes, you are being conspiratorial.

    What you are doing is conflating now exposed conspiracies, with conspiracy theories. Sure, conspiracies to scam etc exist, but by their very nature they lack evidence and we, the uninformed, don't know about it. When you assert something is a conspiracy and you are not privy to the evidence then, there is no basis from which you can assert that the conspiracy exists; it is mere speculation. Now look at a conspiracy theory website. They aren't saying they are speculating, instead they use bad logic (as you have done) to twist what is known to fit the conspiracy (and ignore anything that disagrees with conspiracy).

    And then there are the conspiracies we know to be true, but cannot prove

    How can you know them to be true if you can't prove it? Just because many people believe something to be true without evidence, does not make it so.

    You haven't said what the conspiracy theory is. All you have done is said two events "Julian Assange ... announced he had an upcoming Wikileak regarding the banking system ... he's wanted on rape charges for consensual sex but supposedly with an aconsensual lack of a condom."

    What you have also done is the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. You are showing two events, one which happened after the other and saying that the preceding event caused the latter one. You provided no reasoning for why this might be the case beyond making conspirational implications. Where is the evidence? I also had thought the standard conspiracy theory was that the US was trying to get him back for cable leaks/afghanistan leaks etc (isn't that what Julian Assange himself believes?). I guess conspiracy theories change with who's popular to hate.

    A crime supposedly so serious that apparently world governments are willing to abandon 500 years of international law and invade sovereign embassies.

    It is not clear that anything illegal would need to be done. You are taking what Ecuador has stated, and claiming it is fact, despite that the UK disagrees with what Ecuador has stated.

  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @12:16PM (#42809287) Homepage

    I am not conflating *all* conspiracy theories with those which have been proven to be true.

    You misunderstand my point. And by the way, I agree conceptually with most of what you wrote.

    My issue is with the semantic definition of the term "Conspiratorial Thinking" to mean "Seeing little green men".

    To be clear: In science we theorize and then we prove. Postulates do not carry the same weight as empirical fact, and should therefore be treated as such.

    BUT theories are not "falsities" either until proven as such. And this is the problem with the tone of the OP. That "conspiratorial thinking" represents a "wrong" is as scientifically invalid as assuming the facts to be true. My point is that there is nothing remotely wrong with theorizing. In fact, we *must* theorize as it forms the basis of research.

    The notion that "conspiratorial thinking" is "wrong" is a dangerous notion as it sets forth the premise that we should all agree with the prevailing facts as they have been presented. My point is that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the facts as presented are often false, and intentionally misrepresented as truth.

    Given that we know conspiracies happen, it is in no way wrong-footed to theorize about who is engaging in secretive efforts, and how they might be benefiting.

    Additionally: You asked "How can you know them to be true if you can't prove it".

    Because we already have the proof of the crime. We simply do not have the proof of the criminal. This is the tree that has fallen in the forest. We discover the tree on the ground. It is not in question that the tree fell, only whether or not it made a sound (or what pushed it).

    In the case of MF Global, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that $1 billion went missing from rehypothecated accounts. That this took some doing is clear. That this took some doing by multiple parties is also clear. (The transferral of $1 billion does not happen casually, without being noticed by the way). Ergo, we know that there was a conspiracy. What we cannot prove is who participated, or where the money went. But that there was a conspiracy goes without saying.

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