REFUTING POPULAR MYTHS ABOUT CONSPIRACY THEORIES
Introductory comment by C.Porter: Agreements between two or more people to
perform illegal acts are as much a fact of life as breathing, sex or anything
else. To deny their validity, by definition, ex cathedra, ipso facto, ipse
dixit and a priori (excuse my French) is dishonest and nothing
less than insane. It does not, however, follow that any particular conspiracy is
necessarily the truth (unless we define their "truth" as forming part of the
"essence" of their "existence", like St. Thomas Aquinas). I believe in a number
of conspiracy theories, while I do not believe in certain others. Everything
must be judged on its own merits, according to the evidence.
Added to this is the fact that -- with the exercise of ex post facto law, which is rare, or ex post facto interpretation of law, which is the rule rather than the exception -- virtually any act, no matter how trivial, can be declared "criminal" at any time, at a later date, and anyone aiding or abetting in such an act, or even possessing "constructive knowledge" of such an act, can be declared guilty of "conspiracy", again, at any time, at a later date. One of the defences witnesses or defendants at Nuremberg (it's in volume 15 or 16 somewhere), was accused of sending Hitler or Bormann or somebody a New Year's Card recalling all their good times together during the year. This was held to constitute proof of "willing membership in the conspiracy or Common Plan". The witness or defendant retorted, more or less, "Look, the purpose of a New Year's Card is to celebrate. What do you expect me to put in a New Year's Card, a whole load of political objections and complaints?"
At the Tokyo Trial, one of the American defense attorneys asked the court how one "disassociated oneself" from a "conspiracy or Common Plan": "Does one put an ad in the newspaper?
"Tokyo, December 6, 1941. Defendent X hereby disassociates himself from the conspiracy or Common Plan consisting, among others, of members A,B,C,... W, X, Y, and Z?"
[I am quoting from memory; so sue me, already. It's in the final summations. And now they tell us Conspiracy Theories are invalid?]
- C.P. - 31 October 2008
Myth #1: Conspiracy theories show a simplistic view of how the world is run.
This claim is made about theories that involve elite organisations and secret societies. Academics claim that such theories are simplistic because they offer certainty and knowledge of hidden affairs, that secret activities are easily understood, only obscured. In other words, the actual claim is that real world is confusing and random (see Myth #24). The claim that conspiracy theories are too simple really says that conspiracy theories are too clear and well defined.
However, such dismissals are often used as a pretext to trivialise the roles played by secretive elite groups. Theories that rule out the importance of elite organisations that wield dominant power offer a view of the world that is not only simplistic, but that distorts the reality of power relations and hides the inequities and democratic deficits of the world.
Another purpose behind this claim is to take a political, military or national security disaster and revise it to fit the image of the familiar stressful day to day world, with all it's accompanying incompetencies. Yet, it is precisely this picture that is simplified. There are no conspiracies, only mistakes. There are no unseemly activities except for those named in the statutes of the state. Lying on the witness stand is illegal, yet lying to the people is a misunderstanding.
In either case, there is little ground for the claim that conspiracy theories simplify the world. Below the surface, they require people to understand complex concepts including propaganda mechanisms, manufacturing of consent, and how elites gain and maintain their positions of power. Such concepts are not readily accessible to the general public because they are usually ignored or ridiculed by the mainstream media.
On the other hand, theories that rule out the existence of elite organisations are appealing because they give people the illusion that they have power and are living in an open society. Therefore, the absence of the concept of a destructive elite will mean that the people never take action to defend against the activities of that elite.
Myth #2: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof
Just because someone says a claim is extraordinary does not make it so.
People often label any theories that are contrary to the government's version as
'extraordinary', thus implying that the government and it's associated media
have a monopoly on what is considered reasonable.
Claims are only extraordinary if they have no historical precedent.
Therefore, all that is needed to prove that the theory can be proven with
ordinary evidence is to point out to a similar case that has happened before.
Myth #3: Conspiracy theories violate Occam's Razor
Many people use the phrase as a slick way of dismissing an argument without
confronting its supporting evidence, sometimes assuming that the evidence is
speculation without having looked at it at all. Often, those people miss the
fact that the official theory is questioned partly because it violates Occam's
Many conspiracy theorists accept Occam's Razor as a useful technique to refine their theories and eliminate those that rest on too many unproven assertions. However, its premises have been challenged, not least by Occam's contemporaries. Walter of Chatton, for example, formulated his own anti-razor: ("If three things are not enough to verify an affirmative proposition about things, a fourth must be added, and so on").
Thus, the theory of parsimony only applies insofar as the simplest theory
sufficiently explains how the events occur. It must therefore be discarded in
favour of a more complex theory if the previous one has holes. The misconception
that only simple theories are acceptable flies in the face of the argument that
'extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof', because it makes it
impossible to prove theories that rely on complex evidence.
Furthermore, Occam's razor is a scientific theory, and thus applies to
scientific principles. When two scientific theories make the same prediction,
and both predictions appear to be correct then the one that is most simple is
This is inapplicable to social sciences however because of the unpredictable human element involved. Whilst purely physical or chemical reactions can be held to Occam's razor, activities by conscious beings cannot, as conscious beings can deliberately add complexity to events, or they can behave in irrational ways.
As an example: the capacity for evil is part of human nature, so it is known
that both government and non-government entities are equally capable of evil
acts. The way to determine which is more likely to do the evil task is
completely based on subjective opinion.
Theories should be eliminated by the success or failure of experiments to
test their predictions, rather than by Occam's razor alone. It should also not
be interpreted as excluding speculation. In the presence of sufficient
circumstantial evidence, such as conflict of interest, historical precedents and
previous incidents of cover-ups, it is acceptable to assume that some evidence
is still being covered up and will not be shown to the public.
Myth #4: Conspiracy theorists believe in UFOs / Aliens / Apollo Moon
/ Holocaust denial
This is a straw man and an ad hominem fallacy. Not all conspiracy theorists
believe in the same things, nor does believing in aliens invalidate their
arguments on other theories. The only thing linking these things is that they
are all perceived to be conspiracy theories. Each should be evaluated on its own
However, if a theorist bases their beliefs on poor argumentation, then other conspiracy theorists may want to distance themselves from him/her or question that theorist's ability to support their own ideas. Many such people are accused of being deliberately planted to discredit other theories, a technique called the 'poisoned well'. The media then proceeds to discredit an entire investigative movement based on a few silly theories - a strawman attack.
When the media lumps anybody who doesn't trust the government version of 9-11
into the category of flat earthers and holocaust deniers, any real conspiracy
there might have been is given the ultimate defense. Namely, a pre-emptive,
universal ad hominem on anyone who would dare talk about it publicly, the
archetypal 'tin foil hatter'.
Myth #5: Government conspiracy theories provide false relief from
real social problems
Actually, the opposite is true. People would rather believe that the
government is benevolent and works in their interests, and are repelled by the
idea that it would conspire against them. Part of the reason is knowing that
there is something wrong with the system would force people to take actions they
would otherwise avoid. Hence, it is the denial of the conspiracy rather than the
theory that relieves them from dealing with a problem.
Far from being comforted by conspiracies, those who already believe them feel
distressed or resentful towards the ruling elites who perpetrate the problems.
This myth also contradicts the idea that conspiracy theories make people
paranoid (Myth #37).
Myth #6: Conspiracy theories violate Popper's rule of falsifiability
Karl Popper's rule of scientific falsifiability is useful to discard many
bogus theories, especially those relying on pseudoscience. However, groupthink
and predetermined conclusions are problems that every researcher has to face.
Conspiracy theorists are no exceptions; they also need to avoid those pitfalls.
Detractors who raise Popper's rule claim that conspiracy theorists justify
lack of evidence by saying that the evidence is covered up by the government.
This is an appeal to ignorance fallacy and it should be avoided. However, such
arguments are mostly seen in casual debates from people who have not conducted
thorough research on the subject and have run out of arguments. In addition,
while this particular argument may be unfalsifiable, just the fact that it is
sometimes used does not invalidate conspiracy theories on the whole as
Some of the claims dismissed by Popper's test are not actual conspiracy
theories, yet are used to judge conspiracy theories in general. An example of
such ideas would be existential claims (as explained in the introduction). In
other cases, claims may actually be speculative and not claimed to be factual.
It is sensible to speculate on why a government would be interested in keeping evidence secret - when it can be proven that they are withholding evidence. In these cases, conspiracy theories are acceptable, as a conspiracy of secrecy has taken place. It may also be sensible to speculate that more evidence will be uncovered as more whistle blowers come forward, when they realise that enough people have caught on for them to present their stories. However, contrarily to popular myth, conspiracy theorists do not use this to 'prove' their theories, as they usually are backed by evidence.
Obviously, for any evidence to be valid it must fit all legal and scientific
definitions of what it means to be "evidence." Due to the fact that a conflict
of interest exists with individuals in government not being willing to expose or
prosecute themselves or their associates, it is reasonable to assume that any
small amount of legitimate evidence of wrongdoing which has "slipped through the
cracks" should be reason for further investigation by an impartial third party,
rather than an investigation potentially run by the perpetrators themselves.
Legitimate evidence that exists is often not given the necessary attention
until long after the crimes were committed, giving the damage from the crimes
much time to escalate past the point of being correctable. Given such a
scenario, it is the nature of the institutions rather than that of the
accusations which is the cause for the catch-22.
Myth #7: Governments are unable to cover up their conspiracies
This is flatly untrue. There are many examples of government projects that
involved thousands of people who did not speak out, including the Manhattan
Even if taken at face value, the people who attempt to blow the whistle
usually do so because the government was unable to cover up its activities, but
are often silenced or ignored by the media. The people who do take them
seriously are usually marginalised and discredited on grounds of other myths,
such as the one holding that whistleblowers would be killed by the government
(Myth #18). The result is that of a circular logic loop that makes real
This claim is also based on a misconception regarding the possible actors in a conspiracy: incompetent politicians and bureaucrats are very different from highly trained military intel and determined corporations.
Contrarily to popular beliefs, conspiracy theorists do not view the
government as an omnipotent, omnipresent and infallible entity. In fact, a lot
of their evidence comes from slip-ups or failures by elites to cover up their
crimes, but people refuse to believe it because they are conditioned into the
circular belief that the same evidence being exposed to the public would have
been exposed to the public.
Even in the event that some of the cover-up falls apart, governments exercise
damage control in order to allow only part of the conspiracy to be exposed. For
example, the fact the so many people now believe there was a 9-11 conspiracy is
evidence that any cover-up has not been completely successful. To say that the
government could not be involved because no whistleblowers have come forward to
admit involvement is essentially flawed in two distinct ways:
Firstly, it assumes that any guilty parties would incriminate themselves, something that is ludicrous to assume, knowing the penalty for treason (see Myth #38).
Secondly, a false dichotomy is erected, stating that, without whistleblowers and leaks, the coverup is 'too perfect', therefore the absence of whistleblowers is the absence of conspiracy, when a logical reason for the absence of whistleblowers has already been provided.
Myth #8: Conspiracies would be quickly exposed by the media
In a society where the media is free and the society is open and democratic,
this would seem to be an appropriate assumption. However, many societies that
claim to have a free press actually have a corporate-controlled press,
infiltrated by state intelligence agents. The elite that controls the media has
the advantage to cover up its own crimes or protect their cronies while
pretending to keep the rulers in check.
Conspiracies are only exposed in medias that are independent and not controlled by the ruling elite. People are often made to believe that the society they live in is open and democratic, even if the opposite is true. This illusion plays a large role in leading people to assume that conspiracies would not happen because they would be exposed, which is what conspirators rely upon to commit their crimes without being exposed.
When confronted with whistleblowers, the media either refuses to cover their
story, only cover the least damaging aspects of the story, or only expose minor
scandals to maintain the illusion of a press doing its job as an investigator.
Conspiracies are often too complex to be covered by the modern day 30
second-per-story summaries that masquerade as television news.
Revealing a conspiracy would endanger a journalist's job or freedom, and
damage relations between the authorities and the corporate media, as well as
making the population suspicious and possibly uncontrollable. It is easier to
cover-up difficult subjects.
In general, establishment medias tend to scorn conspiracy theories, whether
they have substance or not. This may be motivated by ego: if a journalist only
received information from an official propaganda outlet or PR department, and
this information was later disproven, it would show the public how bad the
journalistic research was, and those organisations would then suffer a loss of
In the cases of elitist groups, it is worth noting that they are often owned
or controlled by the members of the same societies whose importance they
trivialise. Such a state of affairs makes it easy for the political elite to
hide their actions in plain view, as the media distracts most people from them
by giving them little coverage, and spins them for the people who do notice.
Myth #9: Conspiracy theories are attractive for their entertainment
Conspiracy theories, whether true or not, are better known to grow in an
atmosphere of official secrecy and lies rather than out of a desire for
entertainment, which is already plentiful in the media. From experience,
conspiracy theorists have learnt to distrust the official story peddled by the
Also, people who take such theories seriously tend to be more frightened or angered than entertained, because of the implications of having been deceived.
Myth #10: Conspiracy theorists repeat their claims no matter how much
they are debunked
This is a cop-out excuse to avoid addressing the issues, and it relies on the
assumption that all the claims have been debunked. Often times the people who
make those claims only address the weakest or silliest arguments while ignoring
the strongest ones, a tactic called the straw man. In some cases, the objections
raised by the person have already been debunked elsewhere, though the rebuttals
will be dismissed as 'repeating' claims. In the most extreme cases, the person
will claim that the theory has been debunked over and over again by 'experts',
even though there are no such rebuttals.
It must also be pointed out that debunking articles are not always final, but
rather they may be part of an ongoing debate between theorists and
Myth #11: Conspiracy theories undermine confidence in the democratic
The opposite is true. It is democratic deficit and decrease of confidence in
the system that makes conspiracy theories more credible in the face of the lies
told by the establishment media.
Some systems are demonstrably corrupt and need to be exposed. Even so, no
system has the right to demand silence and absolute obedience from it's
subjects. Variety of opinion is important. If there is suspicion or proof of
wrongdoing then conspiracy theorists must provide good reasons not to trust the
system. If the theorists are wrong then the theories should be disproven, not
suppressed because they are inconvenient for the system. What kind of honest
respectable system requires information suppression in order to function?
Myth #12: Conspiracy theories are based on faith
Many people, especially atheists, scientists and historians, tend to put
conspiracy theories in the same category as creationism and holocaust
revisionism. This is illogical, and is only intended as an 'attack by
association'. It should be pointed out that an attacker may lack sufficient
evidence to attack a theory directly, so they settle for the easy but illogical
option of associating a theory with a ridiculous myth because the myth is easy
to discredit. This is a variation of the straw man attack.
In truth, conspiracy theories have little to do with religion. Like court
charges, they may be held accountable to evidence, whether in favour or against,
in the form of inconsistencies and material proof (or lack thereof) of motive,
means, precedent, intent, and execution. Religions, on the other hand, rely
solely on ancient scriptures which often have been tampered, translated, are
subject to broad interpretation (far more so than the more far-fetched
conspiracy theories), and were written in times when scientific knowledge was
much less developed.
Another reason this argument is made is because atheists believe that
conspiracy theorists are absorbed in their beliefs in the same way that
religious people believe in their religion based on faith rather than reason.
Such cases are not specific to belief in conspiracy theories; rather they are an
ego reaction inherent to the underdog status of conspiracy theories conferred by
Most conspiracy theorists do not feel emotional attachment to their theories;
only some of them do after being marginalised for promoting an alternative view.
Ridicule targets the theorist personally, by attributing the silly aspects of
the theory to him, and thus the ridicule defines his relationship toward the
proponents of the status-quo. The theorist, on some level, links the ridiculed
theory to his integrity and honesty and so strives to prove it's validity, in
order to clear his smeared name.
Similar irrationality can also be seen with official story proponents who are
unwilling to believe that authority figures may conspire to harm their citizens,
and would have much to lose from realising that the world they are living in is
far more corrupt than they want to believe.
Myth #13: Conspiracy theorists are paranoid and engage in
The news media engages in far more fearmongering than do conspiracy
theorists, by making people believe that criminals and terrorists are out to get
them. The difference is that conspiracy theorists say that the government is
usually the cause, and not the solution to those problems.
Politicians use fearmongering to make people accept their rules about how
society should be controlled, and the mainstream media helps them do this.
Conspiracy theorists have no such goals of control, nor the means to achieve
Paranoia is a mental disorder - and so this myth suggests that conspiracy
theorists are inventing enemies and tormentors, when in fact many theories arise
as challenges to percieved impossibilities or inaccuracies in an official story,
rather than non-existent entities.
This myth by itself neither proves nor disproves any proposed theories. This
myth also contradicts the idea that people use conspiracy theories to assuage
their fears of social problems (Myth #5).
Myth #14: Conspiracy theorists are anti-semitic
Most conspiracy theorists are not interested in the conspirator's origins or
religion at all. They wish to study and expose a corrupt system. They do this by
pointing out special and suspicious relationships, not culture. This is an
important difference. Many of the organisations mentioned in conspiracy theories
lack any religious or cultural identity. They are corporate, military, financial
or petroleum-based. That being said, Jews engage in conspiracies like other
people, and are not immune from criticism.
While a minority of conspiracy theorists do believe that there is a
specifically Jewish elite, most conspiracy theorists are far more concerned by
political agendas, such as Zionist and Israeli influences in national
governments, than Jewish cultural and racial issues. Many conspiracy theorists
are not concerned with Jews or Zionism at all, but are accused of anti-semitism
because they denounce the excessive power held by international bankers (which
is claimed by organisations like the ADL to be 'code' for Jews).
In turn, the stereotype is used by some people as an ad hominem attack on
conspiracy theorists and critics of Zionism, as well as a straw man, much like
the Jewish conspiracy originated as an ad hominem attack on communists, as many
of them were Jews at the time. Disinformation agents can also publically pose as
anti-semitic conspiracy theorists in order to get all conspiracy theorists
smeared with these characteristics.
It is up to the accusers to prove the presence of anti-semitism in specific
relevant cases, and furthermore to prove the theory wrong. Pointing out
anti-semitism does not render a theory false.
Myth #15: Conspiracy theorists give themselves a false academic
fašade to tell half-truths
Conspiracy theorists do not need a fašade when they present whistleblowers,
financial accounts, official documents, video footage, declassified documents
and relevant quotes from the people they accuse. The accusation above suggests
that the theorists only use a fašade, which isn't true: evidence and credible
interviewees are frequently presented.
Also, this is a conflation of an argument usually made about Holocaust
revisionists and creationists. Conspiracy theorists do not generally have
financial or prestige motives to destroy their academic credibility for the sole
purpose of promoting their pet theories
The situation is different for the corporate media, which promotes their
propaganda using paid scientists either to sell their products, or because they
are controlled by elites wishing to maintain their power. Therefore, accusing
conspiracy theorists of posing as academics is more than hypocritical.
Myth #16: Conspiracy theorists are crazy / nutty / kooky / cranky
According to the Soviet and the Chinese governments, so were the political
dissidents who were interned in psychiatric hospitals.
Most conspiracy theorists are rational people who simply believe in a different version of events than the one promoted by the official media. In fact, the term 'conspiracy theory' was invented for that purpose by the media to discredit people who did not accept the official story of President Kennedy's assassination.
On the internet, conspiracy topics unfortunately suffer from attacks by
professional disinformation agents who pose as conspiracy theorists. They then
support blatently ridiculous ideas and present those ideas in a manner that is
difficult to take seriously, thus smearing all conspiracy theorists with the
It is important to have varied sources of information. If one only relies on
information fed to them by the corporations and governments, how is one able to
have a realistic enough view on reality to decide who is insane and whom is not?
Myth #17: Conspiracy theories assume the involvement of a large
number of people
Conspiracy theories usually require only the top of the hierarchical
structures to be in on the conspiracy, not the subordinates. While the
subordinates may be involved in a conspiracy, they are usually unaware of their
part in that conspiracy because they are split up and made to focus on very
specific tasks which require their skills: a phenomenon called
compartmentalisation. However, it often happens that they find out, and either
blow the whistle or get silenced.
Compartmentalisation attempts to ensure that any spy, worker or whistleblower is only able to gather knowledge related to their compartment, thus preventing them from seeing the details of the operation in it's entirety.
Anti-conspiracy theorists often inflate the possible number of participants
in a conspiracy to ridiculous proportions. They then use this exaggerated
example as a straw man that they can easily knock down, because it is so
extensive and unreasonable.
Myth #18: Conspiracy whistleblowers would be dead if their claims
Governments do not kill people because they point out conspiracy theories.
Rather, they rely on repeating myths such as this one to ensure that people do
not believe anything other than what is deemed acceptable by the controlled
media. However, this tactic is a double-edged sword: if they do kill a
whistleblower, then it makes the government look like it is desperate to hide a
secret and therefore gives credence to his theory. This is why the government
only silences or harrasses whistleblowers who threaten to release inside
evidence that is not already public and would threaten the entire operation.
While killing whistleblowers may be necessary as an example to prevent others
from speaking out, it is done as a last resort because it would risk driving
more important people into spilling the beans, thinking that they have nothing
to lose and would more likely be saved by making their deaths pointless.
Another reason why prominent activists aren't killed is that many of them are planted gatekeepers whose purpose is either to limit the debate, or discredit the movement.
Myth #19: Conspiracy theories blame evil actors whilst failing to
address root causes
This argument is often used by left gatekeepers, especially radical leftists
who blame the problems of society on the capitalist system and believe that
conspiracy theorists are right-wingers.
While it is true that conspiracy theorists tend to focus a lot on the actions
of individual actors, their theories usually rely on the assumption that
corruption runs deep into the system. Examples of recurrent themes include media
control by the elite, and phony democratic systems.
In fact, conspiracy theorists question deeper into the system than most
mainstream theorists, as they take into account many factors that are usually
ignored, such as the involvement of secret societies, think tanks and elitist
The 'underlying system' is not available for public scrutiny, and the key
information is often classified and withheld. Conspiracy theorists must do what
they can with what they have.
Myth #20: Conspiracy theories give a sense of exclusive knowledge
People are drawn to conspiracy theories because they are generally curious
and want answers that offer more detail than the mainstream media gives. This is
not exclusive knowledge. Many conspiracy theorists strive to share their sources
of info, not hide them.
People are drawn to the 9-11 conspiracy theories because they fill a gap in
logic that is starkly absent from the official version of events. Is it easier
to believe that a plastic laminated terrorist passport was planted evidence at
ground zero, or that it survived the impact of the plane, the huge fireball, the
raging inferno for a few hours and also the collapse that turned the whole
building to dust, rubble and molten metal?
If anything, it is the mainstream media that should be blamed for not doing
their jobs by exposing the information in the first place.
Myth #21: Conspiracy theorists feel powerless and blame the
establishment for their failures
This is not logical. Powerlessness alone does not cause people to question
their leaders. However, observation and study of the political and economic
causes of powerlessness can lead to acceptance of conspiracy theory. In other
words, it is not the powerlessness of the individual which enables suspicion,
but rather the systemic causes of that powerlessness.
The same goes for claims that conspiracy theorists distrust their friends,
which conflates suspicion of government with paranoid delusion. Suspicion is
targeted specifically towards the political elite, while in many cases
friendships may be strengthened out of solidarity in its opposition. Likewise,
whether the conspiracy theorist will fight against the system or use the
knowledge as an excuse to justify their apathy depends on the personality of the
Myth #22: Conspiracy theories are reassuring because they give a
sense of order
The claim that conspiracy theorists crave order is based on the erroneous
belief that conspiracy theorists suffer from an a perceived absence of central
authority. In fact, the majority of theorists prize individuality and freedom
more than the average person, and will therefore be more sensitive to systemic
Furthermore, reassurance isn't possible because most conspiracy theories refer to corrupt dishonest leadership, and/or semi-secretive criminal activities which are damaging to society.
Myth #23: Conspiracy theorists accuse people who disagree with them
of being part of the cover-up
Like other people, conspiracy theorists occasionally fall prey to ad hominem
fallacies, but those accusations may sometimes be justified. Naturally, such
charges need to be backed up with evidence.
Cases where there might be justifiable grounds to be suspicious include
researchers (whether establishment or not) who systematically and deliberately
use personal attacks or a tone aiming at discrediting their opponents, resort to
fallacious argumentation, or ignore key points in the arguments made by their
opponents. Furthermore, if those fallacies are out of character with their usual
argumentation style or depth of reasoning, there might be grounds to suspect
that the subject(s) were silenced or blackmailed. Suspicion alone, however,
should not be equated with the arguments made to counter the claims of the
It is to be noted that if an investigation is led by the same people who are being accused, it will rightfully be regarded as suspicious. In those cases, the logic loop is perpetrated by the official story proponents rather than the alternative theorists. Independent investigations should at all times be made sure to be truly independent.
Myth #24: The world is chaotic rather than conspiratorial
This is circular argumentation. While it may be portrayed as a 'reasonable'
or 'moderate' assumption about the world, it is based on no other evidence than
events appearing to be coincidental, which is due to lack of exposure of
conspiracies. Hence, conspiracies are assumed to not occur because the world is
chaotic, which is believed to be so because conspiracies are assumed to not
In reality, it is extremely difficult to determine how many events are
coincidental and how many are conspiratorial, because there can be chaos and
unpredictability within conspiracies and there can be chaos amongst a very large
number of conspiracies committed by many groups of people. It may be that
conspiracies are actually a normal modus operandi for governments, just like
they are known to be for terrorists.
When it comes to the authorities, almost everything is a conspiracy of one
kind or another. It is not logical to think that their activities are nothing
but coincidence. Most of the activities are neutral or perhaps benign to
society, and the remainder are malevolent. The likelihood of an organisation
taking part in a malevolent conspiracy increases in relation to the amount of
resources they possess, and also to the amount of resources they wish to
Myth #25: Conspiracy theorists believe that all aspects of every
official story have to be consistent
Apart from trivialising the efforts of researchers to improve understanding
of events and implying that government-sponsored theories are 'good enough' and
should not aim to be accurate, this claim misrepresents the reasons why certain
people doubt the mainstream theories.
Contrarily to the stereotype of conspiracy theorists fiddling at 'loose ends'
to draw their own alternative conclusions, it is not only inconsistencies that
make people interpret events in different ways, but rather those inconsistencies
in combination with important facts that are altogether ignored by the official
investigation which potentially implicate actors who stand to gain from the
events. The questions of who benefits from the conspiracy and who has the means
to carry it out is of far greater importance to the investigator, an absence of
which makes the 'loose ends' of the story wholly irrelevant.
Myth #26: Conspiracy theory is an 'industry'
Even though a conspiracy theory might eventually become widespread, it is
difficult for individual authors to gain recognition or wealth from their books
or films because they are ignored by the mainstream publications and are on
shoestring budgets. In fact, few rich authors have made their fortunes from
conspiracy theories, except for a few writers and directors whose challenges to
the establishment are limited and general, or disguised as fiction.
While the leading conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, Dylan Avery and David
Icke sell many DVDs, their profits are small and mostly spent on producing their
material and to sustain themselves and their employees, often at their personal
financial loss. Also, more often than not, the distribution of their material on
the internet at no charge far outweighs their sales as a means to make their
ideas gain acceptance.
It is also important to point out that this claim neither proves nor
disproves any proposed theories.
Myth #27: Conspiracy theorists dismiss evidence against their
arguments as being part of the conspiracy
A corollary to Myth #23. As with their proponents, the arguments may be
dismissed if they appear to be propaganda, disinformation, or if they are a red
herring which contradicts many other facts.
Most, if not all true conspiracies would automatically be accompanied by a
denial and disinfo campaign anyway, so contradictions in presented evidence are
to be expected.
It is again to be noted that in any circumstances, evidence presented by an
investigation led by the same party being accused is likely to be falsified,
whether the subject is the government or a criminal organisation.
Myth #28: There have been conspiracy theories about every major
Whether true or not, this statement is supposed to discredit conspiracy
theories on account of their frequency. Like Myth #24, what the claim implies
assumes what it is trying to prove, and is rarely accompanied by evidence that
most historical events were the result of coincidences rather than conspiracies.
Myth #29: Conspiracy theories are convenient to their proponents
because they are impossible to prove
This claim falsely assumes that conspiracy theorists feel the need to keep
their theories alive solely out of emotional attachment for them. As shown in
Myth #12, this is not the case; most people are only convinced by conspiracies
when given an amount of evidence they consider sufficient; those who become
emotionally attached only do so as a result of a defence mechanism against
Like every other theory, conspiracy theories can be proven or disproven with
evidence. However, the reason why this claim is made is because most
investigations are neither independent nor transparent, and in many cases
inexistent. Whether a conspiracy theory is true or false, both its proponents
and its opponents should be part of the investigation rather than left only to
trust and interpret its conclusions.
Myth #30: Conspiracy theories gain acceptance because they make
sense out of traumatic events by designating scapegoats
While this theory sounds very academic, it is a carefully crafted spin. It is
true that people need to make sense of traumatic events, but in a state of panic
people will usually cling to the first explanation they hear, which is the
reason why such events are so often and easily exploited (and in many cases
staged) by governments for their own agendas. Hence, it is the government
theory, which, often being itself a conspiracy theory and designating
scapegoats, accomplishes the role of making sense out of the traumatic event,
while alternate theories are shut out of the debate, and only gain acceptance
much later when the shock effect settles down.
Myth #31: People look into conspiracy theories because they bring
relief to uncertainty of traumatic events by filling the void
Even granting the allegations that conspiracies bring relief from
uncertainty, it comes at the greater cost of stress associated with having to
face a corrupt government and being forced to question the legitimacy of the
system. In addition, adding complexity to a story is likely to bring less
certitude, rather than more of it. In any case, conspiracy theorists are not
particularly fearful of uncertainty, as they feel perfectly comfortable juggling
with many different possibilities with regards to alternative theories to the
Whether or not elements of conspiracy bring a soothing sense of certitude to
a traumatising event, it does not make the official story more true or
plausible. When all available evidence relating to a disputed event is put
together, the likely conclusion is often more supportive of the leading
conspiracy theories than of the official story, so it does not matter how people
feel, as this is an issue concerning evidence, not emotions.
Furthermore, this accusation better fits the official story. Because people
need to make sense out of traumatic events, they will cling to the first story
that is presented to them. Hence, in order for the perpetrators to cover up
their crimes, they must sell their cover story to the public before any
alternative theory emerges.
Myth #32: Conspiracy theorists select evidence and fix it according
to predetermined conclusions
Contrarily to media-spread stereotypes, conspiracy theorists don't make up
theories just for fun. They are prompted by the existence of important evidence
that contradicts the official story, or points at actors other than the ones
being accused. Although they believe that all things presented as facts by the
establishment should be questioned and taken with a healthy dose of skepticism,
it does not mean that they will cling to the first theory they encounter. Often
times they judge other alternative theories involving different actors and
eliminate them when they cannot be sustained with evidence.
Pro-government researchers themselves may start from the conclusion because
they are under pressure to prove the government's story. In these cases, the
scope and methods of their investigations are pre-decided and faulty - this can
result in the creation of alternate theories which include evidence and research
not carried out by official representatives.
Myth #33: Conspiracy theorists are political extremists
This claim is not completely logical as it is rarely defined and attempts to
smear conspiracy theorists through the universal application of an unpopular
attribute - extremism. Whilst it can be argued that some theorists are
extremists, by extension it must mean that others are not. It must be repeated
that it is the theory itself which is under scrutiny, not the theorists, so
attacks on the theorists don't address the issue which originally prompted this
Accusations of political extremism imply that there are limits set as to
which topics and ideas may and may not be debated, which effectively stigmatises
certain ideas simply for being different from the norm. In practice, more often
than not, those limits are defined by agents of socialisation affiliated to the
political elite opposed by the conspiracy theorists.
Myth #34: Conspiracy theorists only look at evidence that confirms
This phenomenon is called confirmation bias. While systemic bias can be found
in any area of research, especially when dealing with politically charged
subjects, it is not a feature particular to conspiracy theories. This claim
assumes that conspiracy theorists have an inherent motive to predetermine the
outcome of their research, a falsehood addressed in Myth #32.
Furthermore, this claim wrongly assumes that because there may be omitted
evidence, that this evidence is both relevant and damaging enough to confront
the conspiracy theory.
Myth #35: Conspiracy theories can cause insurrections
Whether people would rise up or not depends on the political culture of that
country. In countries with frequent social upheavals, high solidarity and low
trust in government institutions, awareness of a conspiracy may be more likely
to lead to political pressure. However, those reactions are much less likely
when the population is divided and more interested in entertainment than
politics, and especially if the public has been successfully conditioned to
trust its government.
Such criteria, however, should not be determined by the sole fact that that state's media has claimed its country to be democratic. An accumulation of awareness in government abuse may eventually lead to insurrection, although it may take much more time for people to grow restless.
It must be added that not all people truly value their lives or their
liberty, and so they do not fear the loss of said values; they do not educate
themselves on threats to these values, and they do not act to prevent these
threats. The image of a mass insurrection is therefore unrealistic, as not all
are motivated to take part.
Myth #36: Conspiracism results in an excessively diverse set of
different narratives based on different assumptions
This is usually argued as opposed to the idea that so-called 'scientific'
process would lead to a streamlined or 'united' theory. In fact, there are many
examples in the domain of scientific research that show that this is not
necessarily the case.
As in any ongoing investigation, a number of hypotheses are formulated and,
over time, some are disproven whilst others are strengthened or proven. Of
particular importance is the slow, ongoing release of evidence which helps or
terminates these investigations. It is unscientific to demand the removal of
narratives before evidence is found to prove or disprove them.
Indeed, the motivation behind this myth may be a dishonest one: to convince
theorists to narrow the set of narratives until what remains is easily
disprovable or dismissable due to lack of supporting evidence, or due to
Myth #37: Believing in conspiracy theories makes people become
This myth fails to address the validity of the theory itself.
The use of the keyword 'paranoia' suggests strongly that the accused are
inventing enemies because of mental disorders, rather than legitimately fearing
existing dangerous entities. Essentially, the accusation suggests no proof or
reasonable doubt supports the theorists' behaviour. This accusation may be made
by people who, for political reasons, are ignoring, and will continue to ignore
If an entity can be legitimately feared, then it is reasonable to distrust
anything else associated with it, as the entities' questionable behaviour is
usually part of an ongoing pattern. This pattern suggests that what is known of
that entities' actions is only a fraction of the true extent of their previous
(and potential) actions. This may seem like paranoia to the inexperienced
Myth #38: Conspirators would be overcome with guilt and confess
This myth, if used by itself, attempts to avoid all the evidence that
supports the alternative theory, whilst attempting to apply the capacity for
normal empathy and sympathy onto those who may not possess such capabilities.
The plan is to use this manufactured 'humanity' to 'prove' that the accused were
incapable of such acts.
This myth does not care to make the observation that many mass murderers, for
example, have not shown remorse after their crimes - an indication that those
who commit serious crimes repeatedly do not possess normal sympathetic and
Myth #39: Conspiracy theories can only be proven through official
This myth may be used to suggest that any and all independent investigations
are a waste of time - basically this myth is an appeal to authority. In truth,
once a theory has enough supporting evidence, it proves itself. If the
authorities do not acknowledge it, then they demonstrate themselves to be liars
and damage their credibility further.
Myth #40: Conspiracy theories are a waste of time
This is a completely subjective observation that fails to address the
validity of the theory itself. It is also false; in the pursuit of further
understanding of the systems associated with these theories, the theorists
usually learn much about the nature of politics, and are therefore better able
to hold their leaders to account.
Myth #41: Conspiracy theories ascribe too often on malice what
should be blamed on incompetence
Incompetence and accident are common defences for perpetrators when they are
caught committing a crime. While it is true that principles of fundamental
justice dictate that people should be presumed innocent until proven guilty,
this does not mean that conspirators should continue to be presumed incompetent
when evidence points towards a motive behind their alleged incompetence. The
argument of incompetence wears thin when it can be shown that the entities in
question have committed malicious acts in the past.
Myth #42: Conspiracy theories appeal because they validate personal
This is an ad hominem circumstantial fallacy coated with pseudoscientific
psychology. While some people may attempt to justify otherwise unsustainable
preconceived beliefs with conspiracy theories, this does not establish bias as
the primary source of conspiracy theories. Furthermore, due to the limited
importance of personal biases, the myth must therefore assume that all theorists
carry these same biases as a common feature - which is unrealistic given how
widespread conspiracies are today. Such theories rarely grow in complexity in
the absence of supporting evidence unless there is a deliberate attempt at
deception. Such an assertion would itself involve a conspiracy.
Myth #43: People believe in conspiracies because they don't know how
This is usually a stealthy appeal to authority, as it allows the proponent of
this myth an opportunity to introduce their own chosen authority, after
suggesting 'the masses' are unaware of reality or unable to comprehend aspects
Pseudo-skeptics may also attempt to drown people in the details of the
official theory in order to make them give up pursuit of the truth by
'demonstrating' how 'complicated' things are, and to give their own studies a
fašade of legitimacy through sheer complexity.
Myth #44: People believe in conspiracies because they make them feel
This myth contradicts the idea that conspiracy theories justify apathy (see
Myth #21). Both suggest a purely selfish and emotional basis for conspiracy
theory - similar to Myth #12, rather than a basis of evidence or reasonable
suspicion. This myth seeks to remove the very foundation of its chosen theory,
so that that theory can be quickly dismissed on false claims of wishful
thinking, as opposed to the evidence it was really built on.
Myth #45: Conspiracy theories appeal to common sense
This dismissal assumes that conspiracy theories are 'simplistic' explanations
(see Myth #1). More often than not, this dismissal is a derivation of the fact
that the official explanations are so absurd that they need to rely on
obfuscation and sophistry in order to conceal their shoddy foundations.
Myth #46: Conspiracy theories are based on the psychological
assumption that big events cannot result from random small causes
There are specific reasons for suspecting more than meets the eye in cases of
traumatic events, not only psychological motives. As interested parties are more
likely to benefit from major events than minor events, they are more likely to
manufacture said events on a grander scale in order to achieve the maximum
effect. It follows that major events are less likely to be random than minor
Myth #47: Conspiracy theories are based on accumulation of
circumstantial evidence rather than a chain of evidence
A corollary of this myth is the idea that conspiracy theories hold together
even when part of it is disproved. This accusation is often leveled at
conspiracy theories, but is usually vague as to how the evidence is
'circumstantial' or 'unstructured' as alleged. It also has more to do with the
fact that the theories are alternative to the official one, than with their
By their nature, alternative theories need to make the additional step of
disproving the official theory. The alleged "chain of evidence" of the official
story often ignores evidence that contradicts it; this is why the entire pool of
evidence must be reassessed after the official story is dismantled, by taking
into account the previously ignored anomalies and contradictory evidence. For a
while, this gives the impression that the alternative theories lack structure;
however they gain it as more evidence comes up to reinforce them.
During the time that the alternative theories are being built up, the void is
filled both by solid and by disprovable evidence. It may take a while before the
weak evidence is rejected and the strong evidence put together into a solid
Myth #48: Conspiracy theorists over-interpret evidence
Evidence supporting conspiracy theories often lie in plain view and require
little interpretation. In fact, detractors of conspiracy theorists who are
confronted with such evidence often try to explain it away with an alternative
explanation which requires more interpretation than the one they seek to dismiss
(see Myth #2).
This accusation is commonly leveled at conspiracy theorists when they attempt
to interpret official documents. Unfortunately, such documents are often
deliberately written vaguely, both to hide information from the public and to
give a cover of plausible deniability, making accusations difficult both to
prove and for people to believe, however not impossible as is often claimed (see
Credits and Thanks
The following have contributed in some way to the completion of this
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this document prior to its completion: mu-tiger, Dr. Duke, Luxpropane and
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