On Conspiratorial Thinking

66556089-368-k237420Once new converts to the alt-right learn to see journalists, professors, and other celebrity-entertainer media icons as butchers rather than shepherds, trust evaporates.  This leads to a cycle of paranoia; one byproduct of the cycle is a willingness to believe in conspiracy theories. A willingness to entertain conspiracy theories is a good thing, but structurally the cycle of paranoia makes us a little too susceptible, which is a negative thing. Our greatest strength right now is that we are right and the cultural marxists are wrong. That allows us to make accurate predictions, so our plans are more likely to work and our foresight makes cucks and leftists look foolish, which rallies more people to our cause.

Avoid being overly drawn into conspiratorial thinking by keeping a vivid sense of all the different sorts of organizational and institutional tactics that the powerful can use to achieve their goals.  Because certainly, the powerful use their power to achieve their goals, and sometimes what they achieve seems out of proportion to their power to achieve it.  Those who have no idea how the powerful achieve their goals reach out for conspiracy theories, just as those who have no idea how the intelligent make accurate predictions 77777777777777imagine spirits whispering occult truths.  Every man has an impulse to anthropomorphize complex processes: to take opaquely intricate chains of events and analogize them to things he has done and seen done himself.  This is true even for natural phenomena (cf. primitive explanations for thunder and lightning), but the impulse is much stronger, and much more difficult to resist, for complex social phenomena.

Without further ado, some complex patterns to keep in mind:

robert_hanssenA. Conspiracy cells: without having a full-fledged conspiracy network that controls an entire nation from behind the scenes, a small cell of 3-5 conspirators can do significant damage. The classic example: in the 1980s, the KGB had three highly-placed American moles. By sheer luck, one of them was given responsibility for finding the mole(s).  This allowed him to protect the cell by pushing the investigation towards a training institute that had nothing to do with KGB infiltration.  But note that during this entire time, the CIA as a whole was not under the control of shadowy KGB puppet-masters; rather, the CIA was controlled and almost entirely staffed by people advancing the institutional mission and status of the CIA, and the tiny cell was forced to exert its disproportionate influence while pretending to follow those goals.

B. Affinity networks: slightly broader than conspiracy cells are networks of people bound by weak personal ties.  Sometimes the tie is ethnic; sometimes it is based on shared history (as with college alumni, or former colleagues); sometimes the ties are arbitrary ties of friendship that become stable in a social context; sometimes the tie is a shared goal or ideology.  Often multiple types of ties overlap, creating a single affinity network with core members  who are tied in many ways, plus peripheral members who are only tied in one or two ways. What is key to observe about affinity networks is that they often do not

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deliberately conspire, and the members are often blind to the effects of their affinity, or believe the effects to be “normal”, and assume everyone else is embedded in identical affinity networks. Members of affinity networks affect one another by egging one another on when they aid the network, and shaming one another when they fail to do so; they also tend to favor one another unconsciously, because they find one another’s company pleasant (homophily), and also consciously, because they believe they can trust someone who many mutual friends value.


C. Donor institutions: in a free society, many public goods are produced by institutions funded by private donations.  That gives the donors to these institutions power over how the institutions are run and who staffs them, obviously; a less noted effect of this is that it creates a sort of virtual affinity network between those employed at donor institutions and those with whom the donor or donors has affinities.  Groups that have one public agenda will find themselves pushed to pursue that agenda in a peculiar way because they do not which to offend the private agenda of major donors.  So we are treated to the peculiar phenomenon of dozens of political hacks pivoting in unison like a flock of birds, despite being personally unknown to one another and concerning themselves with different topics.  This appears to be a result of concerted string-pulling by very powerful puppeteers. In fact, it is simply a sign that they are all sensitive to the disruption of the flow of gravy from the same small set of donors and potential donors.

D. Puzzle-piece conformity: elite institutions are like puzzles in the sense that each new addition to the institutions needs to fit into the existing “puzzle” in two or three different ways in order to be a good fit.  As a result, people who only care about a few issues conform to their colleagues merely for the sake of fitting in, while having no intellectual or emotional investment in their new political commitments. Because they adopted the position without an intellectual or emotional investment, no intellectual or emotional considerations affect their assent to it.  This produces a peculiar sort of robotic acceptance of the mainstream consensus, even in exceptional situations or in the face of overwhelming evidence against the consensus, and the robotic consensus often makes the elite conformists appear to be members of some evil conspiracy which will not admit its true nature. In fact, the conformists are just bored clock-punchers.

yaltaE. Tactical alliance: something similar to “puzzle-piece conformity” appears when two groups or factions are allying with one another for tactical purposes.  Tactical alliances involve a quid pro quo.  The quid is usually not directly related to the goals of the group seeking the quo.  Again, we see robotic conformity to a position that the conformists have no genuine interest in defending; an ally will defend elements of his alliance’s collective platform, yet seems to be completely indifferent to obvious implications of what he’s defending, inconsistencies between different elements in the platform, and contradictions between their personal principles and the alliance’s.  As in the previous case, this is not because the ally secretly not committed to his own stated goals, but because he has discovered an indirect route to his stated goals, which requires him to commit to the the stated goals of his alliance.  The alliance commits him to defend an pursue a certain agenda, but not to defend/pursue possible further implications of any part of the agreed-upon agenda; and this discrepancy is what gives rise to the appearance of bad faith.

F. Partisan spirit: as a temporary tactical alliance between two groups with different interest becomes stable and coalesces into a long-term political coalition, the partisans of the new party pass over from a passive acceptance of the terms of the agreement to an active attempt to reduce the cognitive dissonance involved in belonging to a political party by developing heuristics that reconcile apparent conflicts.  Sometimes this is a creative exercise which generates wholly new ways of thinking about politics in which different constellations of political principles are re-conceptualized to remove tensions.  Sometimes it is just a talmudic exercise in hair-splitting and practicing rhetorical tactics.  Sometimes it involves authentic ideological conversion to remove minor points of conflict. (Willingness to give up/modify some of one’s own attitudes in order to make a profitable partnership work better over the long term is a subset of the general willingness to make sacrifices for an alliance: see  Winning and its complications.  I also touch on the development of partisan spirit in an earlier post on identity politics.)  Partisan spirit not only permits deeper and more stable cooperation than would have been possible otherwise, but propagates this common spirit through easily-replicated and often quite distinctive tics , giving the impression that huge numbers partisans are under the control of some common master.

G. Media selection bias:People also enter into a species of barely intentional, self-organizing conspiracy by intentionally putting themselves in contexts that will lead to selectively acquiring certain types of facts and evidence.  I do not need to tell you that the media through which you receive information about the world bias your beliefs and behaviors.  When a group of people receives all its information from groups that want to accomplish X, all the information will be slanted in ways designed to cause the audience to bring about X, and so that group of people will appear to you to be working towards X — even if not a single member of the group cares about accomplishing X, or is even aware of X.  This effect is intensified by media selection bias. People who are anti-Y will tend to notice media sources that are slanted in a pro-Y direction and avoid them.  But if most media that aren’t pro-Y are pro-X, then the anti-Y audience will tend to sort themselves into an audience that is strongly biased towards X.  In other words, you don’t need to be intellectual dishonest or even naive to end up seeking out biased media; you just need to be unevenly concerned about possible sources of bias.

H. Authority selection biasFor most of human history people have been getting most of what they need to know from people (whether celebrities or personal acquaintances) whom they choose to recognize and trust as authorities on certain topics.  A medium is anything (a newspaper, an encyclopedia, a cable sports channel) that brings new facts to our attention, whereas an authority is someone whose guidance we seek in sifting, emphasizing, and evaluating these facts.  You can avoid certain problems with relying on NPR and CNN for your news by relying on trusted authorities instead, but authorities have their own goals and biases.  Furthermore, authorities organize themselves into networks; each person who puts himself forward as an authority on some topic validates his own authority by relying on the wisdom of those he recognizes as authorities in turn.  When you are getting your information filtered through three or four layers of an authority network, a slight bias at each layer can get magnified into a big problem.  (This isn’t a problem “The Media” is immune to, since media outlets rely on “experts” for much of their material!  Conversely, authority networks must rely on media for all sorts of background information, and around and around we go.)

illuminatiinfluenciamanipulac3a7c3a3oI. The real deal: And of course, just as every once in a while a soi-disant prophet really is privy to insider information, sometimes there really is a shadowy network of conspirators manipulating events from behind the scenes. It’s as important to identify such conspiracies when they are real as it is to ignore them when they are not, and the same tools that help us understand complex group interactions that occur without overt conspiracy helps us understand those that could not occur except by overt conspiracy.  In the words of Holmes, when the impossible has been eliminated, what remains, no matter how improbable, is the truth.

Stay #woke, fam!


9 thoughts on “On Conspiratorial Thinking

  1. Don’t know how I haven’t found this blog earlier, very cogent exposition of the errors of conspiratorial thinking and the various techniques which lead to this false perception.


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