Webdiary commentator Richard Tonkin is having what he calls an ‘ethical crisis’ with regards to various ideas he has had that some may consider to be ‘conspiracy theories’.
Well, Richard, I hope you get around to reading this; it may be of some help.
First, while gut feeling can get you thinking about events that have occurred and lead you to conclusions that do not align with the explanations that have been given, you should, after having been awakened by your gut feeling, ignore it entirely without actually discarding it and then pursue the evidence. In other words, use your gut feeling only to get you started. After that you must vigorously set out to find evidence but – and this is the important bit – don’t just look for evidence that you feel will support your gut feeling; you must consider ALL the evidence.
The best kind of evidence, of course, is prima facie evidence; evidence that is irrefutable and totally tangible. The next best evidence is circumstantial evidence. It’s not quite as good as prima facie but, when properly used might just as well be. These are the only tools you need with which you can build your case.
Rather than try to prove a theory, search instead for the truth. Tell yourself that the only thing that you are interested in is the truth regardless of how painful it might be to you or others whose beliefs may be tested if and when the explanation that they believed to be fact is proved wrong or that you are wrong. The truth is the ONLY thing that matters; not how you may feel if you are found to be wrong or how others may feel if they are found to be wrong. One occasionally needs to be fairly thick skinned in searching for the truth particularly if the consensus of opinion is against you and you are ridiculed because of the position you have taken. If you take it personally and discontinue your search for the truth, then, of course, you will never find it.
You must take into consideration the fact that the vast majority of people are ignorant. I do not mean this in a derogatory sense but in purely realist terms. The vast majority of people may well have an opinion about an event but that opinion is more than likely based on some vague snippets of information that have been gleaned from various equally vague sources like TV, the internet, newspaper, etc., that are totally unqualified. Most people are willing to accept without qualification the explanations given to them by their government via the news media with an expectation that their government never lies. Most will opt to believe the version that is most morally acceptable to their particular value system – and their government is usually part of that value system – with the alternatives invariably being too unpalatable to accept even when the evidence supporting their preferred belief is based on evidence that is flimsier even than the morally unacceptable alternative.
One should remember that those that deny so-called conspiracy theories the most vehemently are usually the ones that have provided the consensually accepted one in the first place. Since this usually is a government it follows that peoples that are its subjects will usually become those that accept the official explanation and join in with the government when they ridicule or reject alternative explanations. In some cases people are too frightened of accepting an alternative explanation because in doing so one is going against the government and consensual opinion; a line that many are unwilling to cross especially in a pluralistic society where there is a government and an opposition but where the opposition support the governments explanation of events.
Sometimes it is the government itself that puts up the ‘conspiracy theory’ and sometimes the government gets caught out. Witness, for example, the government conspiracy theory that certain trailers found in Iraq shortly after the invasion were mobile chemical or biological weapons factories. Alexander Downer was foremost in his insistence that this is what they were. Even after it was revealed that they were nothing more than mobile hydrogen generators for meteorological and artillery ranging balloons Downer continued to insist that they were mobile chemical or biological weapons factories. It was only recently that the US government finally conceded that they were indeed hydrogen generators that we stopped hearing about Downers conspiracy theory. Downer at on stage even insisted that the story about them being hydrogen generators was just a conspiracy theory!
And, of course, we shouldn’t forget the conspiracy theory that Saddam Hussein was in pursuit of nuclear weapons and that he was a direct threat to the US, the UK and Australia and should be attacked immediately. Most of the peoples of the world did not believe the governments of the US, the UK and Australia and the peoples of those nations protested the likelihood of invasion. This did not deter the governments of the US, the UK and Australia. Such was the determination of these governments that they were willing to invade Iraq despite the UN being unwilling to endorse such an attack. Those that were against the war and saw through the lies that were being told to start the war and who suggested that there were other ulterior motives for the US, the UK and Australia to attack Iraq were accused of being ‘conspiracy theorists’.
Most of the world now knows and accepts that Iraq was invaded under false pretences. We now know that governments do lie and create false and malicious conspiracy theories in order to achieve certain objectives that would not receive public support or overall consensus if the reality of those objectives were known to the public. Would the world have supported the governments of the US, the UK and Australia had those governments said they wanted to invade Iraq in order to have control of Iraq’s oil, to rid Israel of Saddam Hussein’s support of the Palestinian cause and to have Western domination of a region that is generally wealthy in natural resources in order that China and Russia be denied that influence?
And if governments are willing to lie to its people and create conspiracy theories in order to pursue their own agendas which result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, do we not, then, have the right to question other events through recent history that have led directly to those governments creating those lies?