Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Conspiracy Conspiracy

I feel sorry for the word "conspiracy." It's overused, misused and abused. And the truth is, it actually applies to very little.

My F12 Macbook dictionary rather blandly defines "conspiracy" as "a secret plan by a group of people to do something unlawful or harmful." Fair enough, but I think true conspiracy bulks up the group aspect. For a conspiracy to really be a conspiracy, it can't be three middle schoolers plotting to embarrass the red-headed kid with the acne by writing "pizza face" on his locker with Clearasil. Conspiracy on a grand scale involves groups of big, powerful organizations... not just people.

Unfortunately, many of us use the word "conspiracy" to describe things that aren't conspiracies at all. Is Hillary Clinton the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy? Absolutely not. The vast majority of the right wing hates her outwardly and makes no secret about it. Why conspire?

Is global warming a conspiracy, as nut jobs (who also happen to be U.S. Senators) like James Inhofe would have you believe? Surely you've heard of the powerful Egghead Mafia. Psst: Wind turbines manufacturers are the new dry cleaners, wink wink.

But the main beef I have with conspiracies is the fallacy that anyone is organized enough and willing to take the risks to pull off a really big one. Yes, I'm talking 9/11. Someone recently said to me, "Can you imagine what people in this country would do if they knew that 9/11 was 50 years in the making among the CIA and other organizations?"

The answer is supposed to be "rise up and revolt," but that's exactly the case against the conspiracy. Believing any conspiracy to exist on a grand scale is inadvertently, and grossly, flattering. Anyone near the top of even a small organization knows that every organization, despite its outward appearances, is shockingly, um... disorganized.

Then there's the risk. All those groups, all those people, all you need is one little smoking gun and the whole thing unravels. You think people--especially those evil corporate types who've made a living understanding the pros and cons of risk--would take on that kind of risk?

Ah, you might say, but you assume that law enforcement, the media and other balancing forces are outside the conspiracy, when really they're part of it.

And then, we must stop talking. Because the truth is, the organized forces of evil in our species pale in comparison to the forces of disorganized laziness.

And that, friends, is actually cause for optimism.

3 comments:

The Nomenclat said...

Paradoxical, yet sensible, and simple yet mind numbingly complex. Oh it is just this simple I'm afraid. Spot on wordsmith, spot the f on.

The Wordman said...

>But the main beef I have with >conspiracies is the fallacy that
>anyone is organized enough and
>willing to take the risks to pull
>off a really big one.

obviously you haven't taken into account the fanatical dedication of the Illuminati... I mean, the Rosicrucians... uh, Opus Dei? would you believe, the Elders of Zion? oh, hell, one of those groups _has_ to be pulling the strings -- if not, where does that leave us? you aren't saying that >>the world is out of our (human) control<< ?!

where does that leave all my Enlightenment visions of cosmic order that dance like sugar-plum fairies to the Music of the Spheres??

at times like this, I have to ask: "What Would Jacques DeMolay Do?"

Dan Bailey said...

Yeah, the conspiracy theorists always seem to overlook the old adage from the intelligence services: "The likelihood of disclosing a secret increases as the square of the number of people who are aware of it."

It's exactly why the idea of faking the moon landings is such monumental bullshit. With all those contractors and the hundreds of thousands of people who worked on it, if it were fake, we'd know by now.