How many people would pay $5.95 a month to watch you talk about JBieber?
May 7, 2013 10:02 PM   Subscribe

Alex Jones: Conspiracy Inc. examines the finances behind conspiracy mogul Alex Jones. The Gospel Of Alex Jones talks about his views in more detail. MeFi's own MightyGodKing explains what's wrong with the belief in false flag attacks.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants (95 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is this like... a meta-conspiracy theory?
posted by phrontist at 10:19 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alex Jones Will Help You Find Your New Conspiracy Soul Mate, Today!
Are you lonely tonight? Do you feel like no one else understands your raging paranoia about FEMA camps and government bullet hoarding and the False Flag Boston Bombings what was done by the CIA or whatever? Well Alex Jones is here to help you find love, and we are here to help you look through the new Infowars dating site for that special someone, before you decide fuck it and just love the one you’re with. (Your hand.)
Don't miss the profiles in the first link, they're scary awesome.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:24 PM on May 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


It says something about Jones's bizarre space on the political spectrum that the Salon author linked to the National Review in a completely sincere, non-indignant, non-mocking way. That's got to be a first.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 10:29 PM on May 7, 2013




Oh, good Lord . . . now Salon's just feeding into the persecution complex Jones et al. need to survive.

(See the Tea Party, the religious right, the NRA, etc.)
posted by CommonSense at 10:30 PM on May 7, 2013


Why does the blogger in the last link seem so damn defensive? It's like he's defending a thesis or something instead of casually observing "insane people."
posted by mafted jacksie at 10:31 PM on May 7, 2013


He's absolutely deranged but I did enjoy him in Waking Life.
posted by GavinR at 10:34 PM on May 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Please tell me there's a connection to Taboola, the mysterious "other stuff on the web" link-array provider that has strangely expanded its empire to nearly every major soft or even hard news site on the web ....

oh, wait, there it is on Salon.com. "Do These Seven Things and You'll Get Alzheimer's", with a link to Newsmaxhealth.com. (See The Long Con for why.) Probably because they use Outbrain instead of Taboola. (Fixed. It's both.) At least it's not Taboola's ubiquitous "Banned Viral Two-Faced Obama Video" or the "Billionaire Who Must Obviously Be Smarter Than You Knows That Economic Collapse Is Coming" (which is why he became a billionaire, to you know, avoid the collapse) BS. But I really feel these paid outbound links are part and parcel of the same mindset that supports Jones.
posted by dhartung at 10:44 PM on May 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


He's absolutely deranged but I did enjoy him in Waking Life.

Jones is hilarious in Waking Life. I'm sure he wrote/ad-libbed that whole bit. It took me a long time, years later, to realize he's not acting--that's really what he's like. (Or, both are a total act and he's in character pretty much all the time. Wheels within wheels...)
posted by zardoz at 11:17 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or, both are a total act and he's in character pretty much all the time. Wheels within wheels...

...a false flag operation? Send a stamped addressed email to find out the Truth about Alex Jones.*

*also buy some gold.
posted by jaduncan at 11:22 PM on May 7, 2013 [7 favorites]



Why does the blogger in the last link seem so damn defensive? It's like he's defending a thesis or something instead of casually observing "insane people."


He probably has to deal with them on his Facebook feed, like I do. I wish you could tag users in posts so MGK could see this instantly.

I love Jones' conviction and style. I just wish he wasn't crazy, and I wish that otherwise intelligent people didn't believe he held 'THE TRUTH!'
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:31 PM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Billionaire Who Must Obviously Be Smarter Than You Knows That Economic Collapse Is Coming" (which is why he became a billionaire, to you know, avoid the collapse) BS.

This always cracks me up i like how the stock image keep's changing for this billionaire.

ontopic

It's like peoples life's are so boring they have to latch on to crazy batshit insane conspiracy theories to make there days less mind numbingly dull.

I guess the idea of lizard people fucking you over or Satanic OWL worshipping gay orgy's by the powerful elite is a lot more exciting then the truth of how shitty a place there backyard, country, & world has become

posted by Dreamghost at 11:36 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


When the fertilizer plant exploded soon after the Boston Marathon bombing I remembered reading one Facebook commenter claim that it was "definitely a government job". Fortunately, even the conspiracy theorists on my feed stopped talking about the Boston False Flag theories long enough to respond: "it's a fertilizer plant for heavens sakes".
posted by Pseudology at 11:47 PM on May 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


"It's like peoples life's are so boring they have to latch on to crazy batshit insane conspiracy theories to make there days less mind numbingly dull."

Yup. This accurately describes all the conspiracy theorists I know.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:43 AM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there any Alex Jones/Glenn Beck slashfic on the net, I wonder?

Because I'd definitely read the hell out of that shit.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:45 AM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]





It's like peoples life's are so boring they have to latch on to crazy batshit insane conspiracy theories to make there days less mind numbingly dull.


Warren Ellis argued in Bad Worlds, his three issue overview of various weirdness, that conspiracy theorists are deeply afraid of the world and use their pet theory as a way to make sense out of confusion.

If evil reptilian overlords control the world, then that explains why bad things happen, and it even offers hope - if humanity could throw them off, then everything would be better.
posted by dragoon at 1:06 AM on May 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


Most religions are ultimately conspiracy theories and vice versa.
posted by empath at 1:11 AM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


"It's like peoples life's are so boring they have to latch on to crazy batshit insane conspiracy theories to make there days less mind numbingly dull."


It's not just boredom, It's the lure of being privy to a secret world, of knowing something that nobody else does.As the National Review article points out, Jones can be incredibly seductive. Only YOU are smart enough to see through this web of LIES, it's so obvious, but nobody sees it but YOU, because YOU are smarter, you read, you care about TRUTH and FREEDOM in a way that sets YOU apart from THEM. THEY are conditioned to a system that keeps THEM fat, complacent, lazy and apathetic, but YOU are more perceptive. YOU will not be deceived.


And all you have to do to be that special person is cut yourself off from every other source of information. Because YOU will not let THEM pull the wool over your eyes, not when Alex's wool makes you feel so much warmer.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:15 AM on May 8, 2013 [24 favorites]


"Most religions are ultimately conspiracy theories and vice versa."

Wait, what?

Just thinking through each of the major world religions, that really doesn't even begin to compute.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:30 AM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just thinking through each of the major world religions, that really doesn't even begin to compute.

It used to be that they attributed bad things happening to an omnipotent being (or beings). Now they attribute them to omnipotent aliens/organizations/whatever. There really isn't much difference between believing that Poseidon or Yahweh caused floods and believing that chemtrails cause cancer or that the Illuminati are responsible for Taylor Swift.
posted by empath at 1:37 AM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


The closest religion to the most all-encompassing conspiracy-theories like Alex Jones', though, are gnosticism and manicheasm, which were largely focused around the belief that the material world is a trap that ensnares pure human spirits in imperfection and posits a battle between good and evil. The rhetoric about 'waking up' and doing battle against 'dark forces' hasn't changed in 2000 years and the Manichean/apocalyptic world view bubbles up over and over again in Christian (and Islamic -- particularly Shi'a) belief.
posted by empath at 1:54 AM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Conspiracy theories are also attractive because they show that there actually is somebody who's responsible for the fucked-up state the world is in and that if only said person was removed, everything would be hunkydory. That's far more comforting than realising that the problems we're having are systemic and not fixable by changing the people at the top.

Also, always keep in mind that there really have been widespread, years long conspiracies the US government has engaged in: Watergate, the Iran Contra Scandal, the War on Iraq, MK Ultra, the decades long infiltration of "subversive" groups by the FBI, the overthrow of Allende, extraordinary rendition and the secret prison gulag, etc.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:03 AM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Go back further -- the freemasons, illuminati, rosicrucians, knights templar, the jews, witches, etc, etc..
posted by empath at 3:07 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I recently read Richard Hofstadter's "The Paranoid Style in American Politics". It was written in the 50s & 60s about McCarthy & Goldwater, but it's as fresh, illuminating and relevant as ever. Essential reading, really.
posted by WPW at 3:07 AM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


One thing that religion and conspiracy theories have in common is that both are more attractive to those who feel themselves powerless, victims of injustice or lacking in agency. If you feel that you have no means of taking control of your own fate and are at the mercy of others, you can comfort yourself in the faith of a just afterlife, or just in knowing that the cards are stacked against you because of a vast, ancient and unfathomably evil conspiracy, which is the only thing between you and your rightful place in the world.

Or: if, as Marx said, religion is the opiate of the masses, conspiracy theory is their crystal meth.
posted by acb at 3:34 AM on May 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


I noticed that neither the Rolling Stones article, the Weekly Standard piece, nor the Salon article mention Alex Jones's kookiest assertions.

My hope is that someday soon it will become rare to mention Alex Jones without also mentioning that he thinks the world is run by drug-addicted cultists who worship a race of interdimensional aliens called "clockwork elves."
But that's the kind of stuff I never even get into because you're not ready for it. The globalists don't believe in Satanism. They believe they're contacting interdimensional aliens through the drug use and through the electronic interface.

...They believe they are in contact with these entities and are being directed by them. That's why they're so evil. And the entities are telling them, "Eternal life. Total power. Total control. Everything you could ever want. Just kill everybody. Set up a world government! Build this design we're telling you! Build this. Build that. Let us through. Build the Hadron Collider! OPEN THE DIMENSIONS! LET US IN WE'RE REALLY GONNA HELP YOU! WE'RE FRIENDLY LITTLE GUYS!" Demons? Aliens? Don't exist? I don't know!
He also claims that the Moon landings were faked to hide NASA's secret Moon technology and mass astronaut murder.
posted by Sleeper at 3:57 AM on May 8, 2013 [14 favorites]


I used to live with a conspiracy nutter, and he would have is conspiracy nut friends over. He believed in the alien coverup, he was a truther, and he believed the government assassinated Kennedy. He hadn't discounted the evidence to the contrary, he wasn't even aware of it and didn't care. He and his friends were also big on appropriating Eastern religions without actually reading much about them. Basically folks that like to have philosophical conversations but can't be arsed to read actual philosophy or science.

(They also smoked a lot of weed.)
posted by Peevish at 3:58 AM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


That describes half my friends.

My hope is that someday soon it will become rare to mention Alex Jones without also mentioning that he thinks the world is run by drug-addicted cultists who worship a race of interdimensional aliens called "clockwork elves."

Are they related to Terrance McKenna's Machine Elves?

The conspiracy worldview makes so much more intuitive sense than the 'rational' one. Too bad it doesn't make sense.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:28 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Never heard of the guy. But after a little reading about him I quickly slid him into my folder for hustlers.
posted by notreally at 4:36 AM on May 8, 2013


The conspiracy worldview makes so much more intuitive sense than the 'rational' one.

Is...is this sarcasm?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:39 AM on May 8, 2013


It's much more comforting to think that those in control are all-powerful and evil than that they could be imperfect people with incomplete knowledge in a confusing world.

Also, that Infowar dating site seems AWESOME.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:42 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I have said elsewhere, I used to really enjoy conspiracy theories until I realized that almost all of them were never more than a few steps from "the Jews did it." That kind of ruined the fun for me.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:43 AM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Charlemagne in Sweatpants: Yes, it's the same thing. Jones just made up a new name for them, "clockwork elves" instead of "machine elves".
posted by Sleeper at 4:43 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wonder if his market research people were behind that; “clockwork elves” sound more steampunk and on-trend.
posted by acb at 4:46 AM on May 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


Heh. Just yesterday there was a post in our local Patch about helicopters going out to check powerlines around town. The local Alex Jones set reacted with predictable results. The Joe Biden tie-in was new to me, though.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:46 AM on May 8, 2013


The conspiracy worldview makes so much more intuitive sense than the 'rational' one. Too bad it doesn't make sense.

Well humans seem to be hardwired to find intention everywhere. Things don't 'just happen'. Everything has a purpose. That's why conspiracies tickle your intuition.
posted by empath at 4:48 AM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


The problem now is all this stuff is getting beyond the joke. I know a number of seemingly intelligent people (often, it has to be said, with some mental health issues) who have fallen headlong into the conspiracy world, and once they get into one they seem to take on board the lot (9/11, vaccinations, bankers & federal reserve conspiracy, chemtrails, the illegality of income tax, various food scares, Bildeberg), many of which end up with the old Nazi-sourced Protocols of the Elders of Zion anti-semitic crap at their roots.

And the internet is the perfect ground for all this stuff to flourish as, whatever you want to believe, you can find a site that will confirm it (and congratulate for seeing what’s going on behind the surface). For young people not trained in sorting out bad arguments from good, they can be very persuasive and applealing (for all the reasons mentioned above).

I don't know what the hell we do about it, but it's driving me nuts.
posted by rolo at 4:52 AM on May 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


/Mildly on-topic alert

Perspective: The Boston Marathon bombing killed 3 people. The fertilizer explosion 14.

Human greed will always be more dangerous than an outright intent to kill. every. damn. time.
posted by Blue_Villain at 4:57 AM on May 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


And the internet is the perfect ground for all this stuff to flourish as, whatever you want to believe, you can find a site that will confirm it

And sell you guns and bomb plans, etc.
posted by empath at 4:57 AM on May 8, 2013


The conspiracy worldview makes so much more intuitive sense than the 'rational' one.

Is...is this sarcasm?


Errol Morris has an excellent video on this very point.

Central to both conspiracy theories' appeal, and also their broken epistemology, is how they craft a narrative around a big, bad confusing world and its myriad points of information. The only problem is that the world does not exist to be understood, and not everything unusual that we see, or gap of information that we experience, exists to be filled with some coherent, preexisting narrative.

As Bill Maher (yeah, yeah) once put it, something inside us is repulsed by the very idea that some asshole with a shitty Italian rifle can take out the President. Not the mere fact that the President can be assassinated, but also the fact that, at all times, we are only one schmuck's actions away from total chaos. Part of us feels that, if something that terrible should happen, that the story must be bigger than it actually is.

When something like 9/11 happens, despite massive intelligence apparati in the US, it can seem arguably more "sensible" that they must have let it happen, or even made it happen. This is a much more coherent narrative than the truth, which is that bad things will always happen, and that these massive intelligence agencies can't be on the ball all the time, and that there may have also been some sort of systemic cock-up.

Even countercultural types who do not consciously relish the idea of all-powerful intelligence and law enforcement agencies may still believe in, and even hunger for, a sense that our government is much more effective and reliable than it is, even if its ends are evil ends. In a confusing world, there's a lot to be said for having Lizard Obama at the wheel - say what you will about the guy, but he gets shit done.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:01 AM on May 8, 2013 [28 favorites]


Wonder if his market research people were behind that; “clockwork elves” sound more steampunk and on-trend.

It's actually a pretty common type of hallucination people experience when they use DMT.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:26 AM on May 8, 2013


Conspiracy theories are fascinating the way that so-called true crime shows like Dateline are fascinating: a way of thinking that I can't relate to at all that exposes a bizarro world to me, but that I need to walk away from after a while because they make my brain hurt and/or enrage me too much because too many people believe in their absolute veracity. I first heard of Alex Jones in the media storm following the Boston Marathon bombing, and the thought that that would be someone's first reaction to a tragedy was just...wow.
posted by Phire at 5:28 AM on May 8, 2013


The only thing more terrifying to some people than the idea that there aren't all powerful forces who are responsible for all the misery and pain in the world in general and in their lives in particular is that there are no all powerful forces, for good or evil, and that the universe exists for no reason and cares not a whit for them or their pain--and indeed doesn't even know they exist, and that they suffer alone, and pointlessly.
posted by empath at 5:59 AM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Everybody has a blind spot; most of us have several. It's not the blind spots that bug me, though conspiracy theorists' blind spots can occasionally be damaging to themselves and others - it's the people who recognize the blind spot and aim to profit from it.

Those people frustrate the shit out of me.
posted by Mooski at 6:15 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is there any Alex Jones/Glenn Beck slashfic on the net, I wonder?

Because I'd definitely read the hell out of that shit.


Try not to picture the moment at which Beck would be likely to start to cry.
posted by jaduncan at 6:15 AM on May 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


That Errol Morris "Umbrella Man" video linked to by Sticherbeast is fantastic; it shows that if you freeze any single moment in time and subject it to forensic analysis, you'll always find some weird loose ends. (Most moments in time are obviously never subjected to that degree of analysis.) And as the guy says towards the end, you will never be able to imagine all the possible mundane explanations for those loose ends. So the non-mundane explanation will seem irresistible.

All of which makes it really, really odd to me that Morris seems – from the extracts I've read of his latest book A Wilderness of Error, about the Jeffrey MacDonald case – to have fallen into exactly this trap in insisting on MacDonald's innocence.
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:17 AM on May 8, 2013


Try not to picture the moment at which Beck would be likely to start to cry.

It's right after Henry Makow shows up with a pizza looking for sloppy seconds.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:21 AM on May 8, 2013


The 9-12 Inch Project.
posted by jaduncan at 6:24 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


"a way of thinking that I can't relate to at all that exposes a bizarro world to me"

Put aside all other logic, perspective and evidence for a moment, put yourself in a conspiracy theorists shoes for a moment and consider these four things from their perspective:

1. The only evidence for the moon landings (the 'main-stream' stuff anyway) is old black and white footage that looks like something you could re-create easily on a movie set.

2. The US moon landing missions were undeniably linked to the Cold War (and in some ways propagandistic).

3. We've never sent men back since, even with all the remarkable technical advancements we've made since.

4. They suspect (paranoid tendencies aside) that they are not privy to completely transparent truth especially when it relates to the government.

All four of those things are essentially incontrovertible, and in the absence or denial of other critical/rational/evidence-based evaluation mechanisms or even the capacity to evaluate/prioritise information properly, it's understandable that some folk don't believe in the moon landings.

That's the model I go to when trying to understand conspiracy theorists.
posted by panaceanot at 6:30 AM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why does the blogger in the last link seem so damn defensive? It's like he's defending a thesis or something instead of casually observing "insane people."

You're mistaking my desire to insult these people as comprehensively as possible with defensiveness, which is understandable.
posted by mightygodking at 6:36 AM on May 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


We live in a world where Watergate happened, where the White House lied and conspired to manufacture a war or two, where a massive military-industrial complex thrives on secrecy, where a relatively small number of wealthy men are bankrolling a deeply nihilistic political movement, where various companies conspire to cover up what is actually happening with the weather and what their impacts on the climate are.

Sometimes, it feels like we're living in a conspiracy theorist's nightmare. If these various conspiracies have actually happened and have been discovered, I don't blame someone who falls into a bit of paranoia and wonders what hasn't been discovered. Though I wouldn't have any sympathy for those who think the Jews / Freemasons / Lizards are behind it all.
posted by honestcoyote at 6:41 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lots of minor, often mundane and tawdry, conspiracies are the norm. One huge, overarching ur-conspiracy is a paranoid fantasy.
posted by acb at 6:46 AM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Alex Jones is actually Bill Hicks, btw.

Or is he???
posted by Sys Rq at 6:46 AM on May 8, 2013


I always wondering that if the Jews did run the world, why Israel doesn't have flying cars UNLESS THAT'S WHAT THEY WANT US TO THINK
posted by Damienmce at 6:52 AM on May 8, 2013


That's the model I go to when trying to understand conspiracy theorists.

Right, but the thing is that conspiracy theorists seem to initially follow a pattern of logic and critical thinking and looking at available evidence to draw conclusions about the world, but then stop at like 20% of the evidence and ignore the other 80%. The moon landings are a good example, because there's so much third-party evidence that they actually happened, not to mention that by now we'd need to invent a massive international coverup (with the cooperation of Russia, China, India, Japan, etc) in order to believe that no subsequent government--with huge stakes in undermining US credibility--would have called NASA out on this hoax. Or like how the most damning thing about Holocaust denial is that nobody who was tried for warcrimes denies that they took place, even though they were the ones who would have had the most reason to want to perpetuate the conspiracy.

I understand skepticism at your government and other authority figures and indeed think it's healthy, but I think there's still a pretty big difference between, say, pointing out that the War on Drugs is actually a spawn of the prison-industrial complex aiming to maximize profits, and thinking that scientists invented global warming because liberals. The former is a percolation of careful observation of behavioural patterns and statistics over the course of years. The latter requires one to ignore a tsunami bearing down on your beach home and claim the butterfly invented it because it wanted to look powerful.

(My metaphor may have broken down there at some point.)
posted by Phire at 6:55 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Right, but the thing is that conspiracy theorists seem to initially follow a pattern of logic and critical thinking and looking at available evidence to draw conclusions about the world, but then stop at like 20% of the evidence and ignore the other 80%.

Classic examples of people starting with their conclusion and looking for proof.
posted by jaduncan at 6:56 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know why, but he reminds me of Otto from A Fish Called Wanda.

Otto West: We've got a high-ranking KGB defector in a safe house near here. We're debriefing him as of now and just checking houses in the neighbourhood.

Wendy: For what?

Otto West: For KGB.

Wendy: Is there any danger?

Otto West: No, no, no, no. No, uh...No. No, not now. We, uh... We just wanna keep everyone informed.

Wendy: Keep everyone informed?

Otto West: So there's no panic, ma'am.

Wendy: But isn't it a secret?

Otto West: You have no idea how secret.

Wendy: Why are you telling everyone?

Otto West: It's a smoke screen?

Wendy: What?!

Otto West: Double bluff. Look, you know nothing about intelligence work. It's an XK Red technique.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:13 AM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


What if Alex Jones crying wolf is the false flag operation? I'd be a conspiracy to create conspiracy theories.

What if Alex Jones is a double bluff false flag? Someone's head might explode.
posted by patrick54 at 7:25 AM on May 8, 2013


I'm a huge skeptic, who openly mocks birthers, truthers, infowarriors, david ike-ers, black-flaggers, etc....BUT after talking to John West--who wrote a book on Urban Sniping--about the JFK Assassination, I came away wondering if there wasn't some kind of coverup (conspiracy). Mutual acquaintances confirm what you sense when talking to him--that he's a very rational, methodical person who, himself, had a hard time accepting anything but the standard narrative (unlike bloviating Alex Joneses who start with conclusions).
Now I have to qualify my mocking with the "except maybe JFK" addendum, which undermines my whole "isnt it special to know you're special with all your special knowledge" thing. ;)
posted by whatgorilla at 7:26 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


> The latter requires one to ignore a tsunami bearing down on your beach home

Anyone who's actually got a non-imaginary tsunami caused by global warming bearing down on their beach cottage, could you put up a webcam so we can watch it bear down too? Oh, I thought not.
posted by jfuller at 7:59 AM on May 8, 2013


What if Alex Jones crying wolf is the false flag operation? I'd be a conspiracy to create conspiracy theories.

I always kind of figured Alex Jones was himself a CIA conspiracy to make conspiracy theorists look bad on the off chance any of them ever had a point. /notreally
posted by saulgoodman at 8:00 AM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


dragoon:
Warren Ellis argued... that conspiracy theorists are deeply afraid of the world and use their pet theory as a way to make sense out of confusion.


This nails it. It is much easier to hate a tangible evil entity than to hate the evil that dwells within us all. Some people are not comfortable with ambiguity, and they want to make everyone who does something awful part of some horrendous fourth reich or what have you, because it's a lot easier to process on an emotional level than the idea that yeah, sometimes more-or-less ordinary people are motivated to do awful things in the name of some belief, or to even the score or what have you.
posted by Mister_A at 8:33 AM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


That dating site is pretty special.
posted by ph00dz at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2013


It is an infinite reservoir. Alex Jones is not stupid. I'm very skeptical that he really believes as much as 1% of what he broadcasts. He is like Art Bell would have been if Art hadn't felt enough propriety and respect for the audience to use the required level of qualifiers and hedges for credibility maintenence. Alex seems to have a premise that his audience is too stupid to bother with that stuff which is the reason I do not like to listen to him.

There are only two forms of paranoia--universal and insufficient. (That is a quote from somebody but google does not currently pull whom for me.)
posted by bukvich at 8:52 AM on May 8, 2013


jfuller: "Anyone who's actually got a non-imaginary tsunami caused by global warming bearing down on their beach cottage, could you put up a webcam so we can watch it bear down too? Oh, I thought not."

My original comment was meant to indicate the imbalance of evidence on the two "sides" of the global warming debate, which I recognized and admitted was a muddled metaphor. I can point you to some webcams of puppies, though, if that helps with the disappointment.
posted by Phire at 8:54 AM on May 8, 2013


I used to really enjoy conspiracy theories until I realized that almost all of them were never more than a few steps from "the Jews did it."

I've taken to shutting down one conspiracy nut I have to deal with by just saying "Jews?" every time he launches into a spiel.

This bloke even has a conspiracy theory defence against accusations of anti-Semitism, though - the shadowy elite group that runs the world just happens to include some Jewish people/families/organisations, and they take advantage of the rather unfortunate anti-Semitic beliefs of some (otherwise perfectly credible!) researchers to discredit the serious movement to umask the shadowy elite. He also uses the term 'Holohoax', though, so, you know...
posted by jack_mo at 9:11 AM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm going with the Running Dog theory. Lowbrow tabloid suckers are tools of the conspirators. False Flag theories give them a break from the latest Brangelina factoids, and they get to feed the dog that guards their guns.

See, the conspirators want you to believe they don't exist, so they encourage the morons to preach to the choir, and the rest of us relax, because, hey, nobody really believes that shit, eh?

Meanwhile, back in the lobby, they (you know--them) continue to grow too big to fail.

This is not rocket surgery, people. Barnum was off by a factor of 10--they accumulate exponentially.
posted by mule98J at 9:22 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This bloke even has a conspiracy theory defence against accusations of anti-Semitism, though - the shadowy elite group that runs the world just happens to include some Jewish people/families/organisations, and they take advantage of the rather unfortunate anti-Semitic beliefs of some...

Indeed.

David Icke for instance, who is a little more likeable than Alex Jones (which isn't hard) but probably madder now uses the phrase "Rothschild-Zionists" to make it clear he is not talking about Jews per-se and is therefore not anti-semitic. And then he starts naming everyone who has any sort of public prominence and happens to be Jewish as a "Rothschild-Zionist".

Any when people start quoting the Rothschilds to back up some sort of global banker/conspiracy theory (and this can seep into relatively sane left-wing discourse too) just check the source of those quotes. They are almost always entirely fabricated.
posted by rolo at 9:32 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well humans seem to be hardwired to find intention everywhere. Things don't 'just happen'. Everything has a purpose. That's why conspiracies tickle your intuition.

Some people HATE the fact that shit happens, a tree might fall on you, or you might have a sudden brain aneurism at any time. The world is complicated and things fuck up and there’s nothing you can do about it. This makes people really uncomfortable. They want explanations, no matter how stupid.
posted by bongo_x at 9:54 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


From reading that dating site, it's amazing how they have a David Lynchian ability to make almost anything sound creepy.

Example: "... I'm from a smaller, quainter, rich-in-heritage little slice of Northern hospitality ...". "Rich-in-heritage" is a Phrase That Normal People Don't Say, and I can't help but imagine that it is some kind of code for something like "lynched blacks as recently as the 1930s" or "makes a human sacrifice every Fourth of July".
posted by benito.strauss at 10:51 AM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


phrontist: "Is this like... a meta-conspiracy theory?"

Heh - I've already had a shirt and bumper sticker for a couple years on that.

This Salon article provides more ammo to my Cui Bono argument, which totally works when talking about conspiracy theories.
posted by symbioid at 10:54 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


empath: "The closest religion to the most all-encompassing conspiracy-theories like Alex Jones', though, are gnosticism and manicheasm, which were largely focused around the belief that the material world is a trap that ensnares pure human spirits in imperfection and posits a battle between good and evil. The rhetoric about 'waking up' and doing battle against 'dark forces' hasn't changed in 2000 years and the Manichean/apocalyptic world view bubbles up over and over again in Christian (and Islamic -- particularly Shi'a) belief."

I was actually gonna say when you first mentioned the religious connection, the gnostic sensibility (i.e. evil is "out there", not "within"). Demiurgic Reptilian Overlords vs THE TRUTH.

It's really interesting when you consider PKD's religious views and theories, and Waking Life and Linklater and the tie between the two and thus the Jones connection.

If Alex Jones keeps it up he just might have a religious following in ... some arbitrary timeframe... that rivals Scientology at the least, and maybe even Christianity.

Kill me now.
posted by symbioid at 11:04 AM on May 8, 2013


Kill me now.

Don't worry; they'll get to it eventually.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:14 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also don't have an issue with the idea that there are some conspiracies. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. But small conspiracies here and there by a bunch of fumbling buffoons trying to retain their grasp on power, or some sycophants thinking they have a great idea that would get them ahead in the power-trip game (Iran-Contra, you say? Operation Northwoods? Yellow-Cake?) The problem, I think, is when people can't grasp the difference between Conspiracy Theories and THE CONSPIRACY THEORY, singular. I guess it's more like Robert Anton Wilson, but what really gets my goat is that people who claim to be followers of RAW end up taking precisely the wrong message away. His was that there is no singular conspiracy, and yet, too many read his works and think he means that there IS one.

I think there is a seed of "magical thinking" that we all, as individuals, have to deal with, some are more prone to it than others, for whatever reason. The ultimate goal, I am trying to teach some people who I influenced when they were growing up, and now believe that shit, is to not just "Question Authority of 'The Man'" but "Question Authority of 'The Self'". If you cannot take the time to question your own views you will ever be at the whim of those who have something to sell you, and you will fall for it, because you don't take the time to look at your own predispositions and convictions. You have to dig beneath the surface, not of the power structures that you feel are oppressive against you, but of the power structures within you that oppress you and that oppress others. It takes real work to overcome a vulgar conception of "Freedom" and work towards a more refined and nuanced view that incorporates systemic complexity in understanding interactions between individuals, groups, self and other, society, governments, religions, etc...
posted by symbioid at 11:15 AM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's great that everyone is comforted by the idea tht they're smarter than conspiracy believers. It helps us remain paralyzed in the face of actual conspiracies such as the Iraq war and LIBOR fixing because we sure wouldn't want to look silly, would we?
posted by mobunited at 12:55 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love MetaFilter so much. The Umbrella Man has made my day, I don't know how I missed it.
posted by jennaratrix at 1:22 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's great that everyone is comforted by the idea tht they're smarter than conspiracy believers. It helps us remain paralyzed in the face of actual conspiracies such as the Iraq war and LIBOR fixing because we sure wouldn't want to look silly, would we?

Or maybe some of us would like to be taken seriously when real conspiracies do occur and not lumped in with the chemtrails dinguses.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 2:00 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


It helps us remain paralyzed in the face of actual conspiracies such as the Iraq war and LIBOR fixing because we sure wouldn't want to look silly, would we?

Yes, our failure to detect Libor manipulation can be directly tied to our failure to recognize the reality of clockwork elves.

Collusion and conspiracy very much exist in the real world. So do incompetence, chance, incomplete information, and unintended consequences. This is why it is important to develop, and not inhibit, our critical thinking skills.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:07 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's great that everyone is comforted by the idea tht they're smarter than conspiracy believers.

"Comfort" is not the feeling I get from reading about this.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:39 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I consider anything printed on the front page of the NYTimes to be every bit as much a conspiracy theory as anything Alex Jones puts out. Judith Miller anyone? Yes, AJ is nuts. But the editors of the NYT aren't, in their own way?

Much of history itself boils down to conspiracies. For example, I am reading a ("straight" history) book just now that lays the blame for Italy entering WWI on a small handful of conspirators at the top of the Italian govt. of the time. Plus ca change, eh?
posted by telstar at 5:47 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don’t do the "both sides are equally bad" thing, it really doesn’t look good on anyone.
posted by bongo_x at 6:04 PM on May 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I kind of like Alex Jones. Even when he seems to go off on a deep end, he has also brought to light stories that may never have otherwise come out and/or shed a different kind of light on topics. I also listen to James Corbett and BBC. Andrew Napolitano . Chris Busby on Fallujah ...
posted by millardsarpy at 6:58 PM on May 8, 2013


empath: "Alex Jones is actually Bill Hicks, btw."

I think even Bill Hicks would find that funny and would joke about it after he spoke his righteous truth that Alex Jones is a bucket of flaccid cocks at great length and with exquisite detail. He might also buy a bottle of whisky and take Alex with him for a night on the town, because holy shit, how insane would that be, Alex Jones and Bill Hicks drinking and carousing around together. I think they'd be frenemies with a mutual loathing/admiration thing going on, drinking buddies who always stirred up trouble! But mostly it would be Bill fucking with Alex's head for his own amusement, who would be entirely oblivious and think it was some sort of hazing-type bonding behavior. At one point after the liquor has fully taken control of Alex's emotional state, he starts going on how Bill is the best, no really, it's not just cause I'm drunk, we oughta to do something on the radio together. All along Bill would make suggestions to Alex what he could talk about on his radio show the next day, and then Bill would buy Alex more tequila shots and keep feeding him material to use on his show. And then one day Alex starts inserting oddly subversive and surreal asides into his radio show in between his explosions of conspiracy rage, such as how flouride is deadly toxic in small amounts in the drinking water, but it's actually good for you in much larger doses and has an oddly pleasant odor, or how the FEMA camps will be concentration camps where everyone is rounded up and exterminated after a lifetime of forced labor working for the Chinese, who own FEMA now didn't you hear?, and that's admittedly pretty bad, but that FEMA knows it has an image problem, so it hired a PR firm and has now offered to give everyone a big screen television and fifty cartons of whatever brand of cigarettes you desire, to anyone who voluntarily submits themselves to captivity at your neighborhood camp disguised as a public grade school, instead of waiting for the jack booted thugs to break the hinges off the ... whatever it is you hang a door on in your "Al" Jones Brand bunker, from his line of limited edition Li'l Dystopia geodesic starter dome houses for new families on enormous stilts wrapped in pure gold foil ... just another example how the government lies! ... although fifty cartons of cigarettes sounds like a pretty good deal these days. You know, Bloomberg just this morning wrote a memo about raising taxes on cigarettes to $500/pack and is secretly stockpiling all the guns he's been confiscating to be shipped to the FEMA camps where they will be put in a large pile just outside the camp, so the prisoners can be taunted by the vision of their lost freedoms just out of reach as a cruel ironic twist, during the short break when they're not watching their big screen televisions and selling black market cigarettes to street gangs, and then he said he was going to really throw some "apoca-loopy" shit that would change everything, including everything he had ever said himself until that point. Then he smiled and stared blankly and kinda trailed off into a story, something something Nantuckett, something about knowing a girl from there ... I think? ... so start hoarding now! Go go go!

Well, that's the way it played out in my head...

He wouldn't waste his time getting wrapped up in selling half-baked paranoid conspiracy shit to damaged people who are looking for answers and calling it the key to salvation (go off the grid! buy guns! buy gold! ask me how!). He'd point out how people are selling half-baked shit to you and then tell you exactly why it was half baked shit and how much damage it's doing, and that you should be ashamed of yourself for buying it, or for believing in anyone but yourself, or for being born for that matter, and ... what's that? ... I suck? Fuck you douchebag, yes especially you for wearing that fucking ugly tie and sitting right in the front row like that at the comedy club ... where the fuck did you get that technicolor piece of shit? Still working on that last big rail of blow in the bathroom from when this place was a disco in the '70s? You still selling blowjobs for rock and crying yourself to sleep at night on a filthy mattress? That's right, cry motherfucker like a baby! This is MY HOUSE!

If Bill Hicks were still around, I imagine his life arc would be bending from angry young man towards cranky old man, and his rants would sing ever louder and longer with the all the treachery and righteous wrath of the heat death of the universe.

Plus, he'd probably have an old dude mini ponytail by now.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:37 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's reprehensible about Alex Jones (and the reams of more specialist public paranoiacs - anti-vaxxers, anti-GM food preachers, naturopaths) is that they're undermining the credibility of real* information sources in the world, and making a pretty good living at the same time. They burn down the library of Alexandria from the comfort of their fancy offices, while their followers pay to live in misery because they've literally been stupified by these con-artists.

I'd pay to see Alex Jones tarred and feathered on national TV though.

*Assuming there is such a thing.
posted by sneebler at 8:37 PM on May 8, 2013


The conspiracy worldview makes so much more intuitive sense than the 'rational' one.

Is...is this sarcasm?


Nope. The world is a mostly nonsensical, confusing place, and the only things that connect are random coincidences and bits of things that occur in one place and than another. I wish more than anything that every bit of odd graffitti was part of a secret alphabet, that the Manson/Brian Wilson/Polanski nexus was related to a mythic ritual, that if you go down the right back alleyway you can learn the secret names of streets.

You can't, and I guide myself strongly against magical thinking. But it's an attractive idea. I hate it when it's activiely dangerous, like anti-vacination hoaxers.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:51 PM on May 8, 2013


Intuition has its place. It earned it through natural selection. It's just woefully inadequate (or gloriously protective of the human psyche) when used to evaluate the current state of all the things.
posted by panaceanot at 5:20 AM on May 9, 2013




When the fertilizer plant exploded soon after the Boston Marathon bombing I remembered reading one Facebook commenter claim that it was "definitely a government job". Fortunately, even the conspiracy theorists on my feed stopped talking about the Boston False Flag theories long enough to respond: "it's a fertilizer plant for heavens sakes".

You know what's so ironic about this example?

This may be one time when some "conspiracy theorists" may have had a point (not the false-flag crew, but the ones looking at this incident twice). Texas is now opening an investigation into the incident, and there seems to be new evidence emerging it was not an accidental event after all.

The flip side of mocking conspiracy theorists, it seems to me, is that it can make some people feel a little too cocky about what they believe to be obvious, common sense explanations. If only we could all just agree not to be sure of things we really don't have enough information to decide certainly. But I think the ability to withhold judgment and remain critically engaged but circumspect isn't highly-valued in our culture. We seem to prefer "deciders."
posted by saulgoodman at 9:02 AM on May 10, 2013


Texas is now opening an investigation into the incident, and there seems to be new evidence emerging it was not an accidental event after all.

Yes, they're opening an investigation, because it would be ridiculous not to, but there is nothing in that article about any new evidence, only the shallowest of insinuation regarding a charge against someone who was there that officials have not connected to the incident. Your comment illustrates exactly the instinct to find hard connections in what could very well just be coincidence.

FWIW, the EMS worker was reportedly arrested by US Marshals for "possession of a destructive device" -- presumably meaning 26 USC § 5845 (f). Let's take a look at that, shall we?
(f) Destructive device
The term “destructive device” means

(1) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas

(A) bomb,
(B) grenade,
(C) rocket having a propellent charge of more than four ounces,
(D) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,
(E) mine, or
(F) similar device;

(2) any type of weapon by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, the barrel or barrels of which have a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter, except a shotgun or shotgun shell which the Secretary finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes; and

(3) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into a destructive device as defined in subparagraphs (1) and (2) and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled. The term “destructive device” shall not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon; any device, although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned for use as a signaling, pyrotechnic, line throwing, safety, or similar device; surplus ordnance sold, loaned, or given by the Secretary of the Army pursuant to the provisions of section 4684 (2), 4685, or 4686 of title 10 of the United States Code; or any other device which the Secretary finds is not likely to be used as a weapon, or is an antique or is a rifle which the owner intends to use solely for sporting purposes.
(2) and (3) seem like they could cover a lot of stuff, possibly including air-powered potato cannons or even materials which could be used for production of same.

Let's not jump to any conclusions until we have more than the vaguest of charges, hmm?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:40 AM on May 10, 2013


Your comment illustrates exactly the instinct to find hard connections in what could very well just be coincidence.

Texas authorities have indicated they are opening an investigation into the fertilizer plant incident as a result of whatever new evidence there is, is my understanding, but you're certainly right that there's not enough information to form any solid conclusions just yet.

But I do think it'd be a little ironic and kind of interesting if it turned out the "common sense" position on this one ("well, duh, fertilizer plant! it must have been accidental") got it wrong. Sometimes obvious answers are the wrong ones.

While I generally agree that conspiracy theorists tend to get far too wound up on the slimmest scraps of evidence, I also think others tend to get a little too cozy about accepting conclusions on the basis of appearances and common sense wisdom. My own preference is not to reach definitive conclusions at all until there's a really high degree of certainty--and even then, its better to hold those beliefs only tentatively.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:31 AM on May 10, 2013


One should never hold definitive beliefs about anything they didn't personally witness, and even then they should not be too sure. On the other hand, people can generally get by pretty well assuming that things that looks like accidents are probably accidents and that the generally accepted explanations for events are close to the truth, unless for some reason your personal well-being depends on what the real story is.

I mean ultimately the only people for whom it matters whether there is an arsonist in west, Texas are the people of west, Texas, their insurance companies, lawyers, and the law enforcement responsible for investigating it, so I'll let them sort out the real story there.
posted by empath at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Officials are not saying it is in connection to the fertilizer plant explosion, but Texas law enforcement officials have confirmed the criminal investigation:

Correction to my comment above: apparently authorities are NOT saying the paramedic's arrest is related, but they are opening a criminal investigation into the plant explosion. It's probably a coincidence.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:01 AM on May 10, 2013


Well, anybody who lives near industrial manufacturing facilities in general might feel they have a sort of stake in it, too, since whether we're dealing with a regulatory failure versus a deliberate act of sabotage makes a pretty big difference in where we expend our political efforts to help better preserve and advance our own interest in this area. We are all members of the shared project of our society and we do all have a shared interest in understanding what our role is and should be to participate effectively. Part of that means trying to understand events like this for what they really are. The natural desire to know and understand what significant events actually mean for us socially and personally and to try to understand what went into them is not an impulse we should discourage IMO, as much as I agree that wild-ass speculation can be its own kind of problem.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:08 AM on May 10, 2013


I Want To Believe
One day a new co-worker sat grumpily wedged between us, saying nothing as our usual debate took shape. He grew increasingly agitated as we argued, and at long last became unable to stifle his perplexity.
“You guys do know that the world is controlled by a dozen families, right?” he asked us. “Ever hear of the Rothschilds? They run the economy and tell all the governments what to do. Experts agree.”
...
Begrudgingly, we conceded that in the present, human events unfold within a limited set of possibilities, and that there is in fact a tenuous global order. We admitted that the actions of sovereign states, the decisions of participatory democracies, and the interplay of “free” enterprises are in fact predetermined by a logic which they cannot defy in their present form, lest it undermine and ultimately destroy them. And while we of course recognized that individuals or groups may wield immense power, take actions with beneficent or disastrous consequences, and create vast masturbatory displays of their own wealth and power, they can only do so under the compulsion of a power higher still. And among the world’s poor, individuals acting as such are powerless, with their powerlessness’ apotheosis in misguided martyrdom or impotent political violence.
...
To face the possibility, we concluded, that the international ruling class is nothing more than the wealthiest representatives of a species dominated by forces outside of its control, is to admit that there’s no way out of eminent catastrophe without collective action capable of radically altering the very structure of society. Individuals, we conceded, are powerless as such. But classes are not. And like good conspiracy nuts, Nick and I added, “we know it sounds crazy,” but our version of events has the advantage of being the truth.

“You guys have a depressing view of the world” our new friend concluded, returning to silence.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:53 AM on May 26, 2013


« Older OK. 3, 2, 1. Let's Jam!   |   The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments