THE PARANOID NEWS. An On-Line Newsletter. Issue #2. April 2, 1994. —–> “The Enemy is Ourselves.” <—– Written, published and copyrighted by [email protected]. See bottom for subscription/copyright info.
In this issue… CONSPIRACIES
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—– THE FLUORIDATION PLOT —–
In the movie “Dr. Strangelove,” rogue Air Force General Jack D. Ripper tries to explain to a British officer why he committed his bomb wing to a nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union.
“Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water or rain water and only pure grain alcohol? Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation, fluoridation of water? Well, do you know what it is? Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we’ve ever had to face?”
General Ripper sees himself as a man of principal, taking action against a global threat that the President and military Joint Chiefs refuse to acknowledge. The Communists are attacking the free world not with bombs and guns but with a subtle and far reaching plot to corrupt our “precious bodily fluids.” The General decides that, as a responsible American, he cannot sit by and let the subversion continue. If his superiors will not act, then his duty is to lead them. On his own authority as Wing Commander, he launches a first strike against the Soviet Union to commit the United States to war and to destroying the enemy once and for all.
We may call the general “mad,” but how do we prove it? Is he hearing voices? Is he losing control of himself? Is he acting “irrationally”–in the sense of doing things without a logical- sounding reason? On the surface, the general seems as sane as you and I. He exhibits no difficulty in communicating, caring for himself or performing his day-to-day duties. It is only after we get to know him and hear his private thoughts that we begin to realize that something isn’t quite right.
The general has developed a certain theory about the world: The Communists are seeking to control the rest of us by fluoridating our water. The goal of their evil scheme is not made clear, but apparently General Ripper has it all worked out. He reports to Mandrake that he first recognized the plot “during the physical act of love.” He says he experienced a “profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness” following the encounter and attributed this sensation to the loss of precious bodily fluids. Perhaps the Communist fluoridation of our water supply might induce similar fatigue in the entire nation. Further “proof” of the general’s theory comes from his observation that Communists are never seen drinking water, only Vodka.
You may call his theory absurd, but try convincing him of that. If you could engage him in a debate, the general could probably supply a logical-sounding response to any objection you could raise. You may protest that Communists do drink water: Not long ago, the Soviet Premier visited the United Nations, and while listening through headphones to another speaker, he drank from a clear glass. It wasn’t water, the general would counter. It was Vodka.
You could present the general with scientific studies indicating no health effect from fluoridation, aside from a long-term decrease in tooth decay. A sham, he would say; the studies were conducted by scientists secretly working for the Soviets. You provide specific examples illustrating that citizens whose water is fluoridated exhibit no greater fatigue or less vitality than anyone else…. But by now the general would begin to weary of your protests and wonder if you, too, were a party to the conspiracy. Recognizing that the enemy could be anywhere, he might stop answering questions and hold his theory to himself.
The frustration of dealing with the general’s “absurd” notion is that it seems to be supported by logic. The general believes in his theory so completely that to him it isn’t a theory at all. As he sees it, the dire Communist plot to corrupt our fluids is the only conclusion a “sane” person could make given the evidence available. Nothing you can say can convince him of any other possibility, and if you spend enough time with him, you may even begin to recognize the plot yourself.
That’s paranoia. Paranoid theories seem logical and possible–at least on the surface. The Communists could indeed be attempting to poison our water supply. Although the notion may seem far- fetched, there is no way we can prove it isn’t so. There are so many different ways they could be doing it that no matter what approach you manage to disprove there will always be others that remain technically possible, or at least plausible enough to sustain an argument.
No matter what the crime may be, there are a thousand plausible theories to account for it. Look at America’s most popular conspiracy fodder, the JFK assassination. Countless books have been written offering the “real” story behind that day in Dallas. General Ripper, had he lived, might have written one of his own. Each book presents a seemingly flawless body of evidence which neatly confirms the theory set forth by the author. Who was really responsible for Kennedy’s death? It was the Mob, the Teamsters, the KGB, the CIA, big business, a secret world government, psychic manipulators, space aliens…. Some people even contend that Kennedy did not die at all but went into hiding, as proven by photographs recently published in the Weekly World News.
You may or may not believe that Oswald killed Kennedy and was acting on his own. Only one thing is certain: All the theories can’t be right. There can be only one truth, even if it is unknown to us, so most of those other logical sounding conspiracies have to be wrong.
The question is, if all such theories seem logical and appear to be supported by an irrefutable body of evidence, how do we know which ones to believe and which to discard? Of all the people promoting their theories, how do we know who to listen to and who, like General Ripper, are dangerous and need to be removed from any position of power? How can we predict which theories and theorists might lead us, in pursuit of their imaginary enemies, to a real Armageddon?
—– THE NATURE OF THEORIES —–
No one has a complete grasp of “reality”; the best we can do is catch a piece of it. The tapestry of real life is so complex and noisy that we cannot pay attention to it all at once. In life, as in a crowded train station, there are so many different things happening at once that we can’t possibly absorb everything. Instead, we focus on whatever agenda we are currently engaged in and block out anything that isn’t relevant to it. In a train station, our agenda is to get somewhere; most of the other journeys, conflicts, crimes and dramas taking place on the concourse are lost to us unless they happen to delay our train. We deal with a complex world by distilling it into an idealized cartoon or moral melodrama that tells us what is important and what we should do next.
To navigate the complexities of life, we come up with a set of simplified theories about how the world works. One simple theory is that people are motivated only by money, sex and power. This notion may lead to fairly successful interactions in the fields of commerce, war and show business, but it doesn’t predict everything people do. More subtle and sophisticated theories will lead to more accurate predictions of human behavior.
No theory is “right” or “wrong,” but some theories are certainly better than others. The notion that the world is round may not explain everything, but it leads to more accurate navigation than the flat world model. If people were entirely rational, they would select and reject theories based only on their utility. If Darwin’s theory of evolution leads to more accurate predictions about the forms of plants and animals than creationism does, then Darwin’s is the one we should obey, at least until something better comes along.
Of course, people are not entirely rational, and that is why creationism and other objectively impractical theories will not die. People can select and defend theories for reasons other than utility. They also seek to maintain an internal emotional balance.
If, for example, you have already invested your life in the pursuit of money, sex and power, it is unlikely you will be open to any other theory. To accept the existence of a round world when you have already invested in the flat one is tantamount to admitting, “My life has been a waste.” Acceptance of the new theory would seem to take away everything you have spent your life fighting for, so when an excuse comes to reject it, you may prefer to return to the impractical status quo.
Theories can also create the illusion of pride and power when you otherwise have none. They can alleviate feelings of inferiority, guilt and self-reproach by placing the blame for ones failures on some outside entity. An impractical and self-destructive theory may be cherished and vigorously defended if it provides an excuse to the holder for his own personal failures.
This could be the true source of General Ripper’s fluoridation theory. There could be more than one explanation for his feelings of emptiness and fatigue following sex. Maybe his relationship with the other party had something to do with it. Rather than accept that the feelings were a result of his own inadequacies, it is much easier to blame the Communists. They made an ideal scapegoat during the Cold War because they were a closed and mysterious society that provided unconstrained ground for the Western imagination.
Once grasping the theory that the Communists were somehow responsible for his personal void, General Ripper needed evidence. He looked around him, selectively, for ways that the Communists could be implementing the heinous scheme he already knew existed. Fluoridation was an easy target. Indeed, this was a popular topic among real conspiracy enthusiasts for years after it was first introduced. Fluoridation was a systematic government effort to introduce a foreign substance into the nation’s water supply. If you needed to find a conspiracy and did not fully understand the technical process of fluoridation, it would seem to provide an ideal opportunity for a worldwide plot.
Being able to see the conspiracy when no one else could may have given the general a sense of purpose and a desperately needed feeling of superiority. Becoming Commander at Burpleson Air Force Base may have been the final promotion for this anonymous, mid- level bureaucrat. He was little more than an errand boy to the generals above him. General Turgidson had trouble even remembering his name. They did not consult with him on important issues and did not care what he thought about the Communist threat. His special knowledge of the hidden fluoridation plot gave him the right and moral imperative to overrule his superiors and assume the position of leadership he may have felt entitled to.
Ripper’s theory could have been correct. Maybe the Communists were indeed poisoning the free world’s water supply. However, it is also possible the theory was a delusion, motivated only by the general’s private emotional needs. It could have afforded him face-saving escape from his private internal demons, even as it lead to his own death and the destruction of humanity.
—– THE CONSPIRACY CULTURE —–
At this moment, working in isolation, countless theorists are on the verge of putting it all together. All they need is one or two elusive pieces, then the puzzle will be complete, and the world will be forced to admit the truth. A number of these crusaders are still working on the JFK murder, while others have broken free into new, yet suspiciously familiar territory.
Did you think the President and Congress were running the United States? Not true. It is the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds, banded together in a secret society called, in various guises, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the One World Government and the New World Order. Members or agents of this secret committee can be found on the boards of directors of every major international corporation. The committee tells the President of the United States what to do, and he has to obey because he is a member also, albeit a low ranking one. The committee uses a combination of fear and monetary influence to enforce its directives and keep all the major political, business and military leaders under its control.
No major political event in the world happens by chance or without consent of the committee. If Clinton beat Bush in the 1992 elections, that was a decision passed down from above. So-called “free elections” are a sham because the secret government controls all the TV networks and news outlets and can thereby manipulate what the populace feels and believes. Keeping the people under control is a major concern of the committee. With its representatives on the Federal Reserve Board, it controls the money supply and hence the ups and downs of the world economy. Recessions are not random but are carefully engineered the keep the average citizen reeling and prevent him from gaining too much power.
The disease AIDS is part of the plan, invented to reduce the world population. Gun control is an evil aspect of the plot, intended to render the American people helpless against invading troops from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The Holocaust, World War II, the fall of Communism and the fire at Waco could not possibly have happened without collusion at the highest levels of world power. In some cases–as with the Holocaust and the fall of Communism–the perceived event may not have happened at all; it was a massive media hoax to manipulate public opinions and advance the nefarious aims of the controlling elite.
UFOs, if they exist, are also part of the conspiracy. In one theory, the secret world government is working hand-in-glove with the evil aliens; the committee permits the Grays to mutilate our cows and abduct our citizens in exchange for extraterrestrial technology and technical assistance in dominating the world. Or, if you choose to believe an alternative theory, all UFOs are human-built craft invented and tested by the secret world government in preparation for yet another massive hoax. Imagine if the people of Earth thought they were being attacked from space. The planet could then be drawn together under a single, all-powerful New World Order which could thereby enslave the people without significant protest.
It’s all part of the plan. Nothing is coincidence. Most of the population is too naive and subservient to recognize what is going on, but a few diligent researchers have put it all together. Most of them agree that there is a far-reaching conspiracy at the highest levels of government, media and business to dupe and control the population. Unfortunately, these researchers have difficulty agreeing on the exact details of the conspiracy and how it is being implemented. Gatherings and conventions of conspiracy buffs rarely seem to go well because they tend to fight among themselves and accuse each other of being government agents.
—– REVERSE LOGIC —–
The difference between a constructive, “rational” theory and a self-destructive, “paranoid” one is that the first is formed by connected reasoning while the other is created by emotional needs. Although both may appear solid and logical, the paranoid theory is an impulsive reaction only draped in logic as an afterthought, like frosting on a cake. In the paranoid theory, the conclusion comes first, based on a private need to enhance ones self- importance and escape blame. It is layered over with carefully edited evidence and rational sounding arguments as a way to make the whole confection seem more palatable both to the maker and to the others he wants to convince of his wisdom.
The paranoiac seizes upon a theory as a way to get himself out of an emotional hole. He doesn’t consciously think, “I am choosing this theory to help my self-esteem,” but certain theories just feel right. As soon as the theorist lets the escapist ideas into his mind, he feels better about himself. Conversely, abandoning such theories would make him feel bad again, so if one line of reasoning in support of the theory falls apart, he will desperately seek others to try to preserve his existing investment.
Each person has his own unique emotional needs; hence, there are almost as many conspiracy theories as theorists. The common features usually include a vast hoax or cover-up that has fooled almost everyone except the theorist and a deliberate collusion among the most powerful people on earth to subdue or humiliate the average citizen, most notably the theorist himself. The exact mechanism of this control is a matter of debate–or downright war among some competing theorists–but the core scenario is relatively constant. All the theorist’s personal failures are the result of the overwhelming government-sponsored armada arrayed against him. The more powerful and intimidating the conspiracy, the more easily the theorist can say, “My failures are not my fault.”
—– EVALUATING CONSPIRACIES —–
We cannot dismiss any theory simply because it draws unconventional conclusions. At the frontiers of knowledge, anything is possible, and a wildly speculative conspiracy story could have a core of truth. Still, theories themselves are a dime a dozen. Anyone can dream one up, and simply the fact that it could be true doesn’t mean that it is. To pull us away from a more conventional set of ideas, the new theory has to both be logically sound and actually work. It has to consistently generate better predictions than any other theory currently available.
Revisionism will not do. Any theorist can look at the past and show how a certain event was “inevitable” and “part of the plan.” Anyone can also proudly trumpet the accuracy of his past predictions, but he may be recalling only his successes and forgetting the times his predictions fell flat. The evidence and predictive track record for any theory can only be judged in context. Evidence presented by a theory’s proponent is suspect; it may not be a lie, but any past event, removed from its context, can be made to support almost any conclusion. To judge the evidence, we need to see all of it, not just the isolated parts the theorist chooses to show us.
We can dismiss a theory if the logical connections within it are weak and break down under stress. A paranoid theory is one that usually sounds good when explained by its sponsor, but it cannot tolerate rigorous cross examination. A emotionally-based theory, with evidence and reasoning appended only later, is often riddled with logical gaps. The theorist usually senses these weaknesses, at least unconsciously, and tries his best to deflect attention from them. If a theorist explodes in anger when asked a skeptical question, this may be a sign that the underlying logic may be flawed and the question indeed was a good one.
To evaluate conspiracies, or any other emotionally charged claims, we must look not just at the evidence but at the personality and intellectual discipline of the person making the charges. In defense of a certain theory about the government’s collusion with aliens, the proponent may say that it is based on confidential sources or some personal experience that cannot be corroborated. In that case, evaluating the theory may be impossible, but the theorist himself can still be reviewed. If you talk to him about other topics and see signs of logical gaps and extravagant thinking in unrelated areas, that may be a hint that the theory in question is also flawed. His unreliable nature may not prove that his theories are worthless, but it increases the noise-to-signal ratio and may make the investigation too costly to pursue.
Real conspiracies can happen, but they are rarely as efficient and far-reaching as the imaginary ones. Most of those exposed in the past, like Watergate or Iran-Contra, seem little more than a desperate attempt by incompetent officials to cover up a politically damaging blunder. Real humans at the highest levels of government, business and media never seem to be able to work together to the extent that the theorists propose. The world’s most powerful people, like the rest of us, seem motivated more by their own private emotional pressures than by any grand cooperative goal.
Human society is, at best, a loosely structured chaos that mostly governs itself. This notion, that no one is really in charge, is what most terrifies the conspiracy theorists. Inside their fragile emotional worlds, they feel like worthless ants. To know that the CIA is bugging their telephone and the secret world government is watching their every move at least confirms that somebody cares.
TO BE CONTINUED….
===== SUBSCRIPTION AND COPYRIGHT INFO =====
Glenn Campbell, 1994. ([email protected])
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