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Response to 2naSalit (Reply #17)

Wed Aug 5, 2015, 05:10 PM

48. If conspiracies didn't exist, there wouldn't be laws against them.

 

Sunstein and Vermeule (2008) describe a conspiracy theory as “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have managed to conceal their role” (p. 4).

Sunstein (2014) admits that while some conspiracy theories are true, he stresses that it is the false conspiracy which often permeates society.

Cass Sunstein On Conspiracy Theories
http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2014/04/02/sunstein-conspiracy-theories

SUNSTEIN: Yes. I would use the word conspiracy theory, the term, just as a description and not build into it another word, false. So Watergate, as you say, that was a conspiracy theory that turned out to be true. And so we need to have a general category, aware that often false conspiracy theories go viral, and sometimes they can create tragedy or political polarization. But it's good in a free society for people to have their ears pricked and to be alert to the possibility that something that you can't quite see is behind it.


For many, conspiracy theory is a pejorative term which denotes a faulty epistemology, rumors, and speculation. Furthermore, it is asserted that such analysis overestimates the ability of government bureaucracies to carry out “sophisticated and secret” (Sunstein & Vermeule, 2008, p. 6) plans in an open society. According to Parenti (2010), the term conspiracy theory can be used to dismiss: “(1) the idea of a conscious design by policy makers; (2) a hidden, but knowing intent; (3) a secret plan; (4) a secret interest.”

Kindleberger, C.P. (1981). Dominance and leadership in the international economy: Exploitation, public goods, and free rides. International Studies Quarterly 25(2), 242-254.

I have a strong bias against conspiracy theories of history. I do not believe in the notion that the extreme left, the extreme right, the power elite, the establishment, oil companies, professoriat, military-industrial complex, and so on, can be regarded as single decision-making units with detailed programs for imposing their will on the unsuspecting world. (p. 249)


Parenti (2010) quoting Karp (1973) dismisses the need for a theory entirely:

When it can be established that when a number of political acts work in concert to produce a certain result, the presumption is strong that the actors were aiming at the result in question. When it can be shown that the actors have an interest in producing these results, the presumptions become a fair certainty- no conspiracy theory is needed.


Sunstein and Vermeule (2008) assume a well-intentioned government may decide to defuse conspiracy theories “if and only if social welfare is improved by doing so” (p. 15), yet they concede that governments themselves may be purveyors of conspiracy theories. Parenti (1993) suggested that the beneficiaries of said social welfare may be an entire class interest. Following this reasoning, conspiracy theories may be eliminated to prevent exposure of particular factions, or they may be furnished to enable a certain objective.

Book Excerpt: ‘Conspiracy Theories’
By Cass R. Sunstein
http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2014/04/02/sunstein-conspiracy-theories

In many nations, rational people end up believing crazy things, including (false) conspiracy theories. Those crazy thoughts can lead to violence, including terrorism. Many terrorist acts have been fueled by false conspiracy theories, and there is a good argument that some such acts would not have occurred in the absence of such theories. The key point—and, in a way, the most puzzling and disturbing one—is that the crazy thoughts are often held by people who are not crazy at all.


The US attacked Iraq through a false conspiracy theory.

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