The insane conspiracy theories of Naomi Wolf
October 7, 2014 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Max Fisher of Vox describes how Naomi Wolf has turned to rather outré conspiracy theories. Via Ayelet Waldman on Twitter, who commented "I think maybe we need not to condemn Naomi Wolf but to consider the possibility that she's having a psychotic break."
posted by Joakim Ziegler (174 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ugh. Every angle of this is awful.
posted by gwint at 10:39 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


So either she's ill, or a long-held and meticulously maintained mask has fallen. I think the former much more likely, and hope she has loved ones making sure that--if she needs it-- medical care is supplied. Because she posted some crazy shit, wow.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:42 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is she going full Chomsky?
posted by gottabefunky at 10:45 AM on October 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


If you see one thing that nobody else sees, there's at least a chance you're on to something. If in the course of about a year you see six or seven things nobody else sees, get your head examined and then we'll talk.

On the other hand, just because you're off the rails doesn't mean you're wrong about absolutely everything; a nutjob can still correctly observe that the sun rises in the morning. The proposition that ISIS hype is being used to justify loss of freedoms in Australia doesn't actually set off any whack job alarms in my mind and dovetails pretty perfectly with everything else coming out of Australia right now.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:46 AM on October 7, 2014 [14 favorites]


The proposition that ISIS hype is being used to justify loss of freedoms in Australia doesn't actually set off any whack job alarms in my mind and dovetails pretty perfectly with everything else coming out of Australia right now.

Her proposition is that ISIS aren't beheading people. Even ISIS doesn't claim this.
posted by Thing at 10:48 AM on October 7, 2014 [14 favorites]


In point of fact one of the biggest problems with conspiracy loons is that they can undermine the legitimacy of genuine public concerns, because it's all grist for their mill.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:49 AM on October 7, 2014 [31 favorites]


Is she going full Chomsky?

You never go full Chomsky.
posted by MikeMc at 10:49 AM on October 7, 2014 [48 favorites]


Smart people can often see connections between disparate threads that others don't see. When the deliberative faculty goes on the fritz, through age or illness, that knack for connections doesn't go away, but it certainly goes awry.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:50 AM on October 7, 2014 [31 favorites]


Her proposition is that ISIS aren't beheading people. Even ISIS doesn't claim this.

Indeed, ISIS would be the first to insist that this is exactly what they do!

Sad story all around.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:50 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I actually agree with the "ISIS hype" part, of course cryptofascists in lots of countries are going to be using ISIS as a convenient excuse for all sorts of shit. But to suggest that ISIS hasn't beheaded anyone, and that the people shown in the beheading videos are actors, along with the people the media show as the dead peoples' families, is totally nuts.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:51 AM on October 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


Definitely, mental illness wouldn't make her suddenly stupid. A couple of years ago I had a student suffer a break in his mental health that happened kind of publicly (in a class). Great guy, apparently quit taking his medications. It wasn't ugly until he got ahold of his phone and starting posting on Facebook a couple of days later.

The ability to immediately 'publish' and broadcast your thoughts to a wide circle of personal and professional friends can be devastating in instances of illness. This really looks like that to me.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:52 AM on October 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


While this does indeed seem crazy and desperate and off the rails, the sad fact is that even though I personally think this is whack, I have absolutely no trouble believing our government would do this. Which fuels the crazy flames if you're a little (or a lot) untethered. I believe there is very little beneath our government and military right now. And even less beneath our police. Egregious unconscionable behavior leads to egregious unconscionable whacko theories. I remember reading her books and meeting her when I worked for Clinton in the old days and being awed I was meeting her. This is sad.
posted by umberto at 10:53 AM on October 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


This same thing happened to Gore Vidal. It's really sad.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:53 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


So either she's ill, or a long-held and meticulously maintained mask has fallen.

I couldn't say and I don't care that much and I find it just a little depressing that it even rates a story on Vox. All that said, if I've learned anything from all of the nonsense on the internet it's how unsurprising it is for very smart, successful people to believe very, very stupid things. And just how many stupid things there are out there for people to believe. The Birthers weren't just kooks, imbeciles, racists, and grifters.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:55 AM on October 7, 2014


Why is she "crazy" and Dinesh D'Souza is just "an asshole?"

They both look like they are manipulating people with outlandish claims (and unpopular ones even in their own sector) in order to boost their brand of demagoguery.

Pishposh on both their spots imo.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:55 AM on October 7, 2014 [12 favorites]


I think Dinesh D'Souza is probably crazy too. Although I actually think "crazy" is a nicer thing to call someone than "asshole", since "crazy" implies that she believes what she's saying.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:57 AM on October 7, 2014


While this does indeed seem crazy and desperate and off the rails, the sad fact is that even though I personally think this is whack, I have absolutely no trouble believing our government would do this.

When the NSA's spying program exceeds the highest of conspiracy-theory fever dreams, it does tend to screw with your plausibility compass. That said, I don't see the US government creating fake journalists to fake execute, if only because it's so easy to prove false. Manufacturing fake people with real history is hard.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:58 AM on October 7, 2014 [23 favorites]


But to suggest that ISIS hasn't beheaded anyone, and that the people shown in the beheading videos are actors, along with the people the media show as the dead peoples' families, is totally nuts.

The problem of course is that precisely this kind of operation has been done before in full public view during the runup to the first gulf war when a prominent Washington PR firm staged a psyop, the narirah testimony, then propagated by US senators regarding babies being tossed from incubators and testimony from Kuwaiti ambassadors daughter acting as a nurse

The problem here is that there is no evidence, no apparent motive and no real consequences for the fraud. It would change precisely nothing.
posted by srboisvert at 11:01 AM on October 7, 2014 [23 favorites]


Intelligence agencies used to do more of that kind of thing (manufacturing fake people with real history) back in the day (say, the 50s-60s), because it was possible to do back then. I've been reading some history of intelligence stuff, and people would often just adopt pre-made cover identities that had been used by other people, something that would be unthinkable today. Manufacturing a fake journalist today? Impossible.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:01 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


So yesterday someone retweeted Naomi Klein saying something to the effect of "Hey, you know, there's more than one Naomi on Twitter".

Now I know why!
posted by selfnoise at 11:02 AM on October 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


Why is she "crazy" and Dinesh D'Souza is just "an asshole?"

Um, D'Souza plead guilty to violating federal campaign finance law. He's more than just an asshole, he's a convicted felon.

Wolf is just spouting crazy. Which is sad, but not criminal.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:02 AM on October 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


I would like to request that people consider avoiding words like "crazy" and "nutjob" when discussing the possibility that someone is mentally ill. (Please take this at face value as a request and not an attempt to accuse or shame anyone. Thanks.)
posted by heisenberg at 11:02 AM on October 7, 2014 [43 favorites]


fair enough.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:03 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


If she were right-wing Fox would be offering her a show about now.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:03 AM on October 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


I have no interest in defending Wolf on this, but she has responded to the article in the OP. Given her responses, I think her actual journalistic point is thin to the point of ridicule, but it's in extremely poor taste to talk about her being "psychotic" because you disagree with her.
posted by graymouser at 11:06 AM on October 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


Alan Henning - the most recent victim of IS - was a taxi driver who lived not far from me, and went to Syria as part of a Muslim aid convoy. The disconnect between seeing his friends, families and colleagues at the memorial service a couple of days ago, and the idea of his being part of a nefarious international conspiracy is something I can't even begin to grasp.
posted by sobarel at 11:06 AM on October 7, 2014 [27 favorites]


She may have become paranoid but that doesn't mean there aren't people after her.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:12 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's a hell of a lot riding on making ISIS appear to be the new enemy of everyone everywhere.

Perhaps Wolf is a part of this psy-ops effort, since she's now providing a handy umbrella for the media to discredit people who say actually reasonable things like 'ISIS hype is being used to create the conditions for neverending war and ISIS was set up and supplied by the west in the first place.' She coined the phrase 'ISIS Hype' and now the media can hold her up as the person who said 'ISIS hype' and was clearly a nutjob, so anyone else who says it is also a nutjob.
posted by colie at 11:15 AM on October 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


naomi wolf isn't the problem, it's the media that's been distracting and lying to us for so long that imaginative people are finding new ways to fill in the gaps that our government and corporate masters don't want us thinking about. she tangled with a NYT editor. is this the same NYT that assured us of WMDs in iraq? whether ms. wolf is sane or not is irrelevent and virtually impossible to determine. it's more important to determine whether she's right or wrong...

ISIS apparently came out of nowhere, even obama admitted surprise, where was our vaunted CIA, the agency that's supposed to know about and forecast these things? one of the two alternatives is that they were completely incompetent. i can't help noticing that this is awfully convenient to justify prolonging our military adventures in areas we've promised to leave. a couple of beheadings a month is nothing over there - unless it's happening to white journalists. i assume the beheadings are real, but i know video can be faked.

no, i don't think we sent troops to africa to bring ebola back, but just because that would be the wrong way to do it. i will spare you the rest of my paranoid speculation about this.
posted by bruce at 11:17 AM on October 7, 2014 [19 favorites]


At first I was afraid this was Naomi Klein. I always get the two mixed up
posted by JARED!!! at 11:17 AM on October 7, 2014 [30 favorites]


Actually, come to think of it, her assertion that the beheadings may not be real is no more ridiculous than Colin Powell's legendarily stupid PowerPoint presentation to the UN about Iraq's WMDs. Or when they told us that Saddam unplugged the baby incubators.
posted by colie at 11:19 AM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


Why is she "crazy" and Dinesh D'Souza is just "an asshole?"

I don't care if she claims transdimensional reptiles did 9/11. I dare anyone alive to find a D'Souza statement more credible than Wolf's.
posted by clarknova at 11:19 AM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


i will spare you the rest of my paranoid speculation about this.

Grumble. You could at least provide a link to subscribe to your newsletter.

At first I was afraid this was Naomi Klein. I always get the two mixed up

Yeah, I had an unpleasant start to that effect too, thinking that the smear machine had gotten to work on her. I'm not filled with trust for Vox.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:20 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


>Why is she "crazy" and Dinesh D'Souza is just "an asshole?"

They both look like they are manipulating people with outlandish claims (and unpopular ones even in their own sector) in order to boost their brand of demagoguery.


When Dinesh D'Souza says outlandish things, they are in the service of a right-wing ideology. Naomi Wolf is different in that the outlandish things she does do not seem to follow any appreciable pattern. She claimed to convert to Christianity in 2006, went to Tea Party rallies in 2010, and then in 2012 she published her accusations about an FBI conspiracy against Occupy Wall Street in the Guardian. Her politics and allegiances have had such a zigzag erratic pattern that she doesn't look so much left-wing or right-wing as crazy-wing.
posted by jonp72 at 11:24 AM on October 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


The sad truth is that many agree with her, silently and loudly.
posted by waving at 11:25 AM on October 7, 2014


Why is she "crazy" and Dinesh D'Souza is just "an asshole?"

Not to defend this use of the word "crazy", but has D'Souza actually ventured into false flag-style conspiracy theorizing? I'm mostly aware of his fear-mongering innuendo and dog whistling about Obama being "anti-colonialist".

Also, I've always assumed he's bullshitting.
posted by brundlefly at 11:27 AM on October 7, 2014


(That's an honest question about D'Souza. I'm just not aware of him doing anything like that.)
posted by brundlefly at 11:28 AM on October 7, 2014


It's not unbelievable that the US would lie and conspire. That's not the issue. What's unbelievable are the specific conspiracies presented, both in terms of factual plausibility and in terms of how much sense it would make for the US to lie and conspire in those ways. Faking the death of James Foley is laughably implausible - aside from the simple fact that Foley was a known journalist beforehand, the rationale doesn't even make sense. If the US is so bloodthirsty and ruthless, then why doesn't it simply pay somebody to murder someone for real? Why go to the trouble of faking it?
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:30 AM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


The other point is that ISIS beheading videos are quite a recent phenomenon, whereas by contrast DVDs showing US army atrocities have been big in the middle east for years. It's interesting that the west's propaganda now has an opportunity to catch up, however it occurs (and I do agree it's not likely to be faked).

But you can walk into a market in the middle east and purchase a jihad DVD which will show all the Abu Ghraib dogs-electrocution-pissing-thumbs-up porno-torture, decapitated four year-olds carried by their weeping fathers in Gaza, coward drone pilots giggling as they create 'bug splat', etc. etc... and yet, the 'headchoppers' are the ultimate in evil (unless they're the Saudi state, of course, in which case they're just fine).
posted by colie at 11:31 AM on October 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


I am somewhat familiar with Naomi Wolf - we have moved in some of the same circles and I've spent time at her house. I wouldn't in any way call her a friend, but certainly a friend-of-friend, at least.

The last time I spent time with her, it was becoming clear that she was starting to surround herself with a really crappy echo chamber. I don't think she's mentally ill, I don't think she's stupid. But I think that she's around a lot of people who work themselves up into more and more fevered conspiracy theories against in particular the US government - in part because some of their earlier theories have proven right. She's been anti-war for a long time, and has been surrounding herself more and more with the fringe members of that group.

This Facebook post is, sadly, not surprising in any way.
posted by corb at 11:34 AM on October 7, 2014 [43 favorites]


I think corb's got it right and I don't think it's helpful at all to lazily declaim these kinds of things as "crazy" or "psychotic" because--well, regardless of the quality or coherency of the thinking being done, it's not thinking that's being done in isolation, in a vacuum, but among communities of like-minded people who egg each other on. If it's psychosis, it's a species of the Folie à deux variety. I actually think it's a little dangerous how quick we are to dismiss the collective, social nature of these kinds of things.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:39 AM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Is she going full Chomsky?

Maybe she is "going through" something and if so, I hope she gets through it.

But there's something else about this that bothers me: we all have some wrong views. Many wrong views are part of the conventional wisdom. We all have wrong views about matters of political importance. Sometimes these wrong views drive policy in a big way.

What makes some wrong views "crazy," while others are merely wrong? (Sometimes, to acknowledge the wrongness of wrong views can be "crazy," as well.)

I have the following worry: a view is "crazy" when it declines to treat the good faith of the powerful as unquestionable. A certain amount of disagreement is polite, but it verges into "crazy" to suppose that the leaders are driven by something other than their publicly acknowledged goals. (Since US political discourse is polarized, Left and Right respect slightly different versions of this rule.)

Why was Chomsky invoked above? Does Chomsky form his political opinions without evidence and freely traffic in debunked ideas? I don't think so (at least, not more than is normal). So why is he associated with this brand of "crazy"? It suggests that what "crazy" really means is not holding wild, unjustified beliefs, but holding beliefs that put the powerful in a bad light (or does so without supplying an absurd amount of evidence, much more than is furnished for any political opinion). Chomsky is not crazy, he is slightly more cynical than is supposed to be allowed.

This can also explain the discourse of "conspiracy theory." Whatever it is that makes conspiracy theories "crazy," it's not that conspiracies can't be real. There are plenty of real conspiracies -- wild, lurid stuff. The Snowden leaks covered a wealth of material that was, until quite recently, . In the '60s and '70s, there was a conspiracy by the US government to infiltrate, monitor, and discredit activists of all kinds, including via "false flag" operations. Today, US police organizations are engaged in a conspiracy to infiltrate Muslim civil society organizations; we may not know the details of this effort for ages.

Perhaps conspiracy theories are especially unlikely, in an Ockham's Razor sense. This would seem to depend on the total evidence for a given conspiracy, though -- it can't be a general rule about conspiracy theories. At best, we can try to say that the background rate of conspiracies is not high enough to justify seeing them behind every corner. (I think the particular conspiracies invoked by Wolf are very unlikely, and her comments have occasioned a roundup of evidence against them.)

But there is another odd datum: not all conspiracy theories are created equal. In fact, the leaders often make factual claims that are formally indistinguishable from conspiracy theories. The conspiracy theory that a still-unified Al Qaeda is behind Muslim-oriented paramilitary groups worldwide. The conspiracy theory that Iraqi intelligence met with the 9/11 hijackers. Going back further, the conspiracy theory that Left-oriented political parties worldwide were all organs of the Soviet government. These are all poorly-supported beliefs that hidden actors were orchestrating events behind the scenes -- why don't we ever call them conspiracy theories?

Well, maybe a conspiracy theory isn't just a theory about a conspiracy -- it's an impolite theory about a conspiracy, impolite because it doesn't take our beloved leaders words at face value. They would never engage in a conspiracy!

I'm not even saying that Naomi Wolf is not crazy, necessarily. Again, these views seem very unlikely. But the policing of views as crazy bothers me because whether a view gets called "crazy" doesn't seem to depend much on whether it is wrong. Believing the official story is never "crazy," no matter how unlikely; calling the official story a lie may be "crazy" even if it is likely.
posted by grobstein at 11:39 AM on October 7, 2014 [65 favorites]


Yeah, um, it would be really great if everyone could drop the 'crazy' and the 'psychotic' and stuff. Lots of people who aren't mentally ill believe all sorts of things not congruent with reality.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:41 AM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


My favorite theory is that loons are mostly government agents to seed the public conversation with the idea that seeing nefarious purpose and ulterior motive and government lies is a symptom of mental illness and will rightly get you labeled as an object of ridicule. The NSA is probably cutting checks to Ms. Wolf to act goofy in public.
posted by bukvich at 11:44 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


she doesn't look so much left-wing or right-wing as crazy-wing.

I'd describe that political trajectory as "vaguely anti-authoritarian." And, really, "vaguely anti-authoritarian" AKA "someone's after me and they ain't gonna get me" describes the political philosophy of a pretty significant chunk of the US electorate.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:45 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


While the term "crazy" is certainly pejorative and should be avoided, I do think it isn't unfair or improper to assume that when a person begins espousing genuinely conspiracy theory stuff it indicates that they are not mentally healthy.

I'd argue that chemtrail believers or 9/11 truthers are also suffering from a form of mental illness. Not one that is significantly debilitating in daily life, something on par perhaps with hoarding, but a mental illness nevertheless. Their perception no longer matches observed reality.

Some forms of conspiracy mongering can be more easily explained by greed, the idea that climate scientists are all part of a cabal seeking to destroy capitalism is most likely the result of fossil fuel extraction industries seeking to preserve their profits rather than mental illness on the part of their owners/leaders.

But to believe that airplanes are spraying harmful chemicals on Americans for nebulous and nefarious purposes, or that the Bush administration (or other American political actors) deliberately staged the 9/11 attacks for nefarious purposes, or that ISIS and the US government are collaborating in lies about their published executions, or that the Sandy Hook school shooting was the work of a cabal of government agents, or similar things indicates a mind that is having difficulty coming to grips with observable reality.

Crazy is a pejorative term. But mentally ill sounds about right. The French termed this sort of mental illness folie à deux, though especially in the internet era it seems more like folie a lots of people. Like corb says, it's easy to surround yourself with an echo chamber, even for people poorer and less well known than Wolf, and in that way have your perception of reality shift radically from what reality actually is.
posted by sotonohito at 11:50 AM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think this particular strain of conspiracy theorism is in the same vein as the Sandy Hook Truthers who, as far as I can tell, claim that Sandy Hook didn't really happen and that all the grieving parents were actually actors. I think there was (is?) also a strain of 7/7 truther who claim that the London Tube bombing also didn't happen.
posted by mhum at 11:50 AM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


My theory is that we started running a trade deficit during the Eisenhower administration, and the decision was made to let the value of the dollar drop, as inflation was a lesser evil than unemployment. Nixon found a way to save us from sinking into a complete collapse of the dollar by inventing (with the Saudis) the PetroDollar... which has us holding the worlds oil suppliers hostage.

Now that system is about ready to break, as Russia, China et al are about ready to start trading energy for not-dollars. The government knows this, and has been stockpiling resources (like ammo) to be able to deal with US, the public, once we realize how hard we've been screwed over once inflation passes 100% per annum.

Go ahead, call me crazy... they usually do that to people who are right at the wrong time. (Otherwise they just ignore them)
posted by MikeWarot at 11:53 AM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


from her response:

"I don't KNOW if they are authentic or not - no one can - because no one that I am aware of has found a second source for them. I am not making ANY assertions or drawing ANY conclusions.

This is just distilled 9/11 trutherism.

I would say that mental illness is a reasonable conclusion.

Her rants kind of remind me of the unhinged hillary supporters over at hillaryis44
posted by empath at 11:53 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is she going full Chomsky?

Even Chomsky doesn't go full Chomsky these days. The last time he went full Chomsky was the inaugural winter X-Games in 1997. He was doing some sweet dirt bike tricks on a half-pipe while delivering a withering critique of Clinton's recent welfare reform efforts. In the middle of a backflip, he passed the mic to Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who was to deliver a closing rap. Reich got as far as "I'm the Secretary of Labor and I'm here to say" before Chomsky lost control of his dirt bike and collided with the political economist/MC.

Many people think that Reich's falling out with the president ended his tenure in Clinton's cabinet. In reality, it was simply not possible for him to continue on the job during the painful, 18-month recovery.

The night of the accident, there was a pall over the crowd as scheduled entertainer Jerry Seinfeld bombed on stage. His entire routine was structured around dirt bikes. "Yamaha. Suzuki. Have you ever noticed how dirt bike manufacturers also make pianos? What's up with that? How did that happen?"

These days, Chomsky's racing suit and motorcycle helmet hang in a glass case within his office. Beneath the case is a red button labeled "FULL CHOMSKY." He sometimes imagines pressing the button, shattering the glass, going all-out for one final X-Games. But he reconsiders, and after a long pause he reaches for an energy drink. "Red Bull gives you wings," he thinks to himself, "but my heavy heart will never again soar." Then he spends all night writing a 280,000-word essay about Palestinian statehood.
posted by compartment at 11:55 AM on October 7, 2014 [81 favorites]


I think you have to look at her previous works, especially her 2008 book which is essentially a rewriting of "The Road To Serfdom" to really get an idea of the kinds of ideas she has been playing with for several years. Her book, "The End of America", is pretty much a point for point replay of those same ideas, filtered through a modern lens.

I will not call her "crazy." I will simply say that she might be a little too embedded in a circle of people who have a misunderstanding of the world around them. Think of it as someone who adopts the "Just World" theory and then tries to apply it to things that they have only a passing familiarity with. Providing simple explanations for horrific things happening in the world is a common short-circuiting of many people, even people who do not believe in the "Just World" theory.

For one thing, the Pakistani lawyer story just hurts, considering how she is lambasting the NYT's for not using more sources to verify stories. Her fixation on a watchdog group (even one funded by a grant from the government) is a tell tale sign of secondary expositional thinking. We know from history that some people are not who they say they are. But when you start questioning whether everyone you read about in the news is some kind of double-agent or working for the secret state, you really need to start to rethink "how" you know these things. Confabulation can feel more real than the truth, and forgetting the difference between what you think you know, and what you can prove will almost always lead you down a winding path towards some not so nice world views.

But also, as someone who has been deeply engaged in everything for so long, you have to wonder about the actual toll that can take on your worldview and outlook. I spent years "studying" woo. Signing up for newsletters, reading Usenet posts from cranks and crackpots, following narcissistic cult-of-personality demagogues, tracing where they source their materials. After a while, you are either inured to the nonsense, or it starts to color your view of reality. Stare long enough into the abysmal darkness of life and it will seep into your brain, corrupting all the carefully constructed ideas you once held and turning everything into a nightmarish landscape of bleak horror. And then you read some H.P. Lovecraft (or Charles Stross Laundry Files) and you feel better. At least for me. At least then the fantasy of it all becomes much more apparent, and the assumed knowledge begins to become transparent and less real.

But the things she is going on about are rampant in certain silos of society. Alex Jones and Glen Beck and the Tea Party die hards, they all want to live in a world where they are the heroes, fighting "Evil" and yelling "wake up, sheeple" to the slumbering masses of society. They know, for certain, that they have found the answer, and if only people would listen to them, they'd be as enlightened as they are, and join in the crusade.

But there are no monsters out there, except other people. There are no grand conspiracies (only little ones). There are systems and great harmful institutions, but those are not fought with guns or explosives or drone strikes. They are simply fought through education, rational examination, and time. And that's boring. That's tiring. That's the unsexy world in which we live, instead of the dreamscape of heroes and dragons, utopias of righteousness and grand ceremonies where everyone tells you that you are right.

On Preview, I see corb has some first hand knowledge, and that does lend itself to some of what I am saying. The social feedback of people who agree with your ideas and even expound and enhance them is a powerful drug.
posted by daq at 11:56 AM on October 7, 2014 [28 favorites]


My favorite theory is that loons are mostly government agents to seed the public conversation with the idea that seeing nefarious purpose and ulterior motive and government lies is a symptom of mental illness... The NSA is probably cutting checks to Ms. Wolf to act goofy in public.

I have exactly the same theory about David Icke. Except I don't think people like he or Wolfe are being paid. When you need a celebrity disinfo agent to make opposition positions look bad you consider your psych profile of them, then put a few informants in a position to meet them. Icke claimed that all of a sudden he started encountering "friends" of royals and politicians who swore they were secret aliens. According to corb Wolfe is now surrounded by people who are also spouting self-discrediting ideas. Both wolfe and Icke are just narcissistic and credulous enough to believe the Cosmic Consciousness is sending them personal messages, and not that they're being fed disinformation to turn them into useful dupes.

Why pay someone when you can get thier enthusiasm for free?



I am also perfectly willing to believe that ISIS beheads journalists all day every day, AND that western intelligence produced a phony baloney beheading video for propaganda purposes.

Jihad-style beheading vids are generally messy. They're usually shot on a single consumer handheld. The video quality is poor. There's lots of enthusiastic music and overlay elements. And there's gore galore.

By contrast the Foley video has great picture quality, dual camera angles, and bloodless cutaway editing that makes it perfect for rebroadcast on anglo networks. It's all in English and the usual Arabic praises to God are absent, so CNN can't be accused of religious intolerance for airing it. It is a product for Western mass consumption, by someone who really gets our media.
posted by clarknova at 12:02 PM on October 7, 2014 [12 favorites]


daq: I'd say the PetroDollar is a damned big conspiracy, and it's out in the open, it even has a Wikipedia page. So there are conspiracies.... now guessing them correctly isn't very freaking likely to happen for any outsider, no matter how hard they look.

I agree, staring into the abyss does tend to isolate one from the groundings of reality, but it is necessary to do in order to see the flaws in the dominant world view. It requires a very careful balance, or a systematic way of checking oneself over time.

Looking back at ones previous predictions is such a system. I panic too much, so I've toned things down quite a bit over the past few years. If one has a valid theory, one can definitely wait a few weeks or months before giving it more credence, the world can wait.
posted by MikeWarot at 12:04 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


clarknova,
They beheaded journalists, and those journalists likely had pretty nice video gear with them. The likelyhood that they used the cameras brought by those journalists is pretty high.
posted by daq at 12:07 PM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's funny how all of you are entirely missing the real conspiracy here.
posted by aramaic at 12:07 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have nothing but disdain for conspiracy theorists like this, but I don't agree with calling them crazy. They can just be wrong. Like anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, haters of the Oxford comma, or people who think they are special snowflakes. Sometimes being wrong is just being wrong. It only seems crazy because we think that it is crazy to be outside the norm and wrong people are outside the norm.

But, while I wouldn't ascribe crazy, I do wonder to what extent a DSM-V diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder might be at play. Conspiracy theorists seem to me to exhibit two defining traits: (1) a desire to claim and be perceived as possessing some superior understanding and intelligence that makes them better than those who don't understand, as if they are the keepers of the one true truth that must bring light to us ignorant people; and (2) no concerns about the destructiveness of their views or how articulating them might effect others. Both of those traits are square in line with the DSM for NPD.
posted by dios at 12:07 PM on October 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Paranoia has been part of the fabric of American politics since its start -- even Jefferson and Adams were constantly suspicious of each other's motives and felt the other might easily become corrupt, and they were friends.

This paranoia is encouraged by a government that does not believe in transparency for itself but has no problem violating the privacy of any or all of its citizens, a government that has repeatedly been caught engaged in genuine conspiracy, and has genuinely worked to destroy the people who leak the truth.

It can be really hard to suss out where the tipping point it between reasonable paranoia and unreasonable paranoia. I think these men were actually killed by Isis. But after the leadup to the Iraq war, which was rooted in so many lies (Yellowcake? Saddamn's involvement in 9/11? Weapons inspections had failed? The rescue of Jessica Lynch? The toppling of the Saddam statue? That WMDs were transported out of the country when war started?), it's hard not to be suspicious of any official claims that support a pro-military action agenda.

That being said, there are lines, and when you start claiming that people who were videotaped being murdered are actually actors faking it, it's your job to prove that claim before you start calling grieving families liars.
posted by maxsparber at 12:08 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


By contrast the Foley video has great picture quality, dual camera angles, and bloodless cutaway editing that makes it perfect for rebroadcast on anglo networks.

ISIS is an unusually large and disciplined force, in many ways unprecedented, with a lot of money and ridiculous amounts of captured gear. Producing a halfway decent video is unremarkable under the circumstances.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:16 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


By contrast the Foley video has great picture quality, dual camera angles, and bloodless cutaway editing that makes it perfect for rebroadcast on anglo networks. It's all in English and the usual Arabic praises to God are absent, so CNN can't be accused of religious intolerance for airing it. It is a product for Western mass consumption, by someone who really gets our media.

Not seeing how these observations constitute evidence either way. Why would ISIS cling to 2004-era cameras? If the video was fake, then why wouldn't they just make it match older-style videos as much as possible?

Amusing sidenote: a year or two ago, I remember news articles about how the documents from the bin Laden raid showed Michael Scott-esque email chains talking about how his newer videos should maybe have their quality degraded, so as to match the older videos.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:16 PM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]




Second daq's comment. Some people refuse to believe that much of the time, shit just happens, and there's no great plan behind it. In a sense conspiracy theorizing is just pareidolia writ large, seeking meaning and coherence where there is none. What's frustrating is that seeking meaning and coherence is what we do as a species, so drawing the line between legitimate and illegitimate explanations is difficult.
posted by Cash4Lead at 12:18 PM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Running psyops/black propaganda would only make sense if there's a settled agenda that is being pursued (i.e. "lets invade Iraq!") - the West's actions in the Middle East lately are so clearly reactive, inconsistent and incoherent that there's no way to swing that sort of effort behind it. We're flailing around here, mostly making bad situations worse, not carrying through some well-thought-through evil plan.
posted by sobarel at 12:18 PM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


That awkward moment when you see one of your friend's husbands has liked one of Naomi Wolf's screenshotted posts...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:19 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why was Chomsky invoked above?

I think (as your terrific comment already suggested) for exactly the same reason Wolf making a few ill-conceived and ill-justified Facebook posts now rates news coverage from the supposedly objective explainer site Vox: it's all about policing the range of acceptable political opinion, trying to ward off left critique with ad hominem hippie-jabs while a Democratic administration is going to war. And so as usual, the accusations of insanity really have to do with who counts as a person worth taking seriously (e.g. a member of the establishment), not with the truth or validity of a person's claims.
she is still more widely known for her earlier and much-respected work on feminism, as well as her political consulting for the 1996 Bill Clinton and 2000 Al Gore presidential campaigns on reaching female voters. I was taught parts of Wolf's 1990 book "The Beauty Myth" in school and admit that, until researching her more recent views more fully for this post, still mostly associated her with this and other well-respected work. In other words, I was carrying the assumption that Wolf is a respected and authoritative figure to be taken seriously.
Quite clear that "respected" and "authoritative" mean ideological-establishment-approved here, while "crazy" means you're allowed to discount what someone says without taking the trouble to argue.

(To be clear, I think Wolf is totally wrong in her political analysis and not making any kind of case at all worth taking seriously on its merits here — but how some random shit she says on Facebook became a story, how it became a public matter to designate her "crazy," is way more politically and ideologically important than the Facebook posts could ever be themselves.)
posted by RogerB at 12:23 PM on October 7, 2014 [18 favorites]


MikeWarot,
The PetroDollar is still a "little conspiracy," as all the actors in that action were pretty clear about their intended goals, and how it would help all parties involved. The fact that WWI is taught as being sparked by an assasination, instead of caused by the tensions of the Germans building railroads into the oil producing countires seems to be missed by many people who claim to understand global politics at the turn of the 20th century. At best they refer to "tensions" between all the initial countries involved, but rarely have I seen it enumerated. But that's a massive digression.

Big Conspiracies tend to be much different. And, of course, one would hope that there is an actual end-game plan for them, as it seems that almost all of the ones that are talked about seem to have the standard 1) Collect Socks, 2)????, 3) Rule the World, structure to them.

At least with the PetroDollar, it allowed the American Century to happen, and most of the massive technological things that have happened in America are entirely due to that happening. Getting us off of a Gold Standard was really a major game changer and created the world as it is now. It was also something that there is no going back from. Maybe moving to something new, but global capitalism and globalization are pretty much here to stay (until the oil dries up, at least).
posted by daq at 12:25 PM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Far too often, people get away with selling "just asking questions" as if it's a neutral act. When they get away with that, they move on to "teach the controversy" type arguments, where crackpot theories are expected to be put on a level playing field with views that have actual substance behind them.

I don't know what pushed Wolf into this line of inquiry, but she seems to be working backwards from a premise rather than following a trail of evidence, and even if there weren't grieving families being harmed by this irresponsible speculation, there are costs to society for being asked to consider meritless arguments.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:25 PM on October 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


the West's actions in the Middle East lately are so clearly reactive, inconsistent and incoherent that there's no way to swing that sort of effort behind it.

If you think the ostensible reasons are honest, yes. It certainly looks like reflexive flailing.

If you think the agenda is
  • perpetual enrichment of defense contractors and thier lobbyist armies
  • perpetual chaos in countries which would otherwise compete with our allies
  • keeping these schemes going at the expense of constituencies who would never consciously support them
then these foreign policies don't look so ill-planned.
posted by clarknova at 12:32 PM on October 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


RogerB: but how some random shit she says on Facebook became a story, how it became a public matter to designate her "crazy," is way more politically and ideologically important than the Facebook posts could ever be themselves.)

Naomi Wolf is a public intellectual, and controversial things that public intellectuals say on their social media feeds are news. ISIL and the beheadings are a major news topic right now, so the implication coming from a public intellectual that there's a government-fueled conspiracy behind the beheadings is very newsworthy.

The idea that Wolf has been cherry-picked to be a foil to some Democratic plot to narrow the Overton window is certainly not out of the question, but the much simpler explanation is that she's got a big megaphone that reaches a lot of people, and this particular message is newsworthy because the topic itself is newsworthy, and the claims are extraordinary.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:32 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


Go ahead, call me crazy... they usually do that to people who are right at the wrong time.

They also do that to crazy people.
posted by thelonius at 12:32 PM on October 7, 2014 [14 favorites]


That being said, there are lines, and when you start claiming that people who were videotaped being murdered are actually actors faking it, it's your job to prove that claim before you start calling grieving families liars.

This is especially true for Ms. Wolf, who is a professional journalist by trade. And contrary to her protestations, what she's doing is not engaging in good journalism—it's throwing a bunch of shit at the wall and hoping some sticks.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:33 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


it's all about policing the range of acceptable political opinion, trying to ward off left critique with ad hominem hippie-jabs while a Democratic administration is going to war.

I respect Naomi Wolf. She's a Rhodes Scholar, and I saw her lecture at the peak of her fame when the Beauty Myth came out. But on the other hand, I am also an elementary school classmate of somebody who went to college with James Foley, the beheaded ISIS victim whom she claims is an actor in a staged re-enactment. James Foley was a real person, not some actor in a conspiracy. I have no idea if Naomi Wolf would qualify as "crazy" by DSM standards, but her current ideas certainly are.
posted by jonp72 at 12:33 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


aramaic,
Do tell. What are we missing? I am always up for a new idea to mull over.
posted by daq at 12:35 PM on October 7, 2014


Maybe moving to something new, but global capitalism and globalization are pretty much here to stay (until the oil dries up, at least).

Or the arable land above sea level.
posted by stenseng at 12:37 PM on October 7, 2014


By contrast the Foley video has great picture quality, dual camera angles, and bloodless cutaway editing that makes it perfect for rebroadcast on anglo networks. It's all in English and the usual Arabic praises to God are absent, so CNN can't be accused of religious intolerance for airing it. It is a product for Western mass consumption, by someone who really gets our media.

...why would the logical conclusion there be "western intelligence produced a phony baloney beheading video for propaganda purposes" and not 'the same people who were producing the old videos (or new people inspired by the old videos) produced better videos?' Camera and editing technology have gotten cheaper, better, and easier-to-use in the last few decades.

I've seen low-budget, semi-pro Youtube videos with better production values than mid-90s sitcoms in terms of video quality, sound quality, lighting, ability to shoot on-site, etc etc. Technology changes quickly. Technology is emulated quickly. Widespread internet access means it's easier to see (say) CNN and figure out what CNN will and won't broadcast and tailor your message to CNN (if that's a thing you wanted to do).

It would be illogical to think that we wouldn't eventually see -- I don't want to say 'better quality,' because to call anything about a filmed death 'better' or 'quality' feels wrong -- more...well produced? videos. It would be surprising if these videos didn't eventually change their look or their presentation; it is not surprising if one did.
posted by cjelli at 12:38 PM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Well, maybe a conspiracy theory isn't just a theory about a conspiracy -- it's an impolite theory about a conspiracy, impolite because it doesn't take our beloved leaders words at face value.

A conspiracy theory isn't a conspiracy theory because it's rude, it's a conspiracy theory because it lies outside the bell curve of accepted ideas. And at the center of that bell curve of accepted ideas is almost always Occam's Razor. If your go-to explanation requires some elaborate Rube-Goldberg-esque contraption to explain something that can be explained easily enough without one, you're going to find yourself in a very small minority. It's not about good faith or bad faith, it's just about simplicity.

Of course, if you surround yourself with folks who spin out even more elaborate, convoluted explanations for the things they observe than you do, it's easy to become convinced that your explanation is the simple one. For example, the idea the beheadings were staged by the Australian government for nefarious purposes requires a great many more intricate, secret steps than just believing that the Australian government is opportunistically taking advantage of the beheadings to push an agenda; on the other hand it requires a lot fewer steps than believing the beheadings were staged so that the lizard people who secretly run Australia (and the world) could advance their agenda.

But I think Cash4lead gets at something important mentioning pareidolia - most conspiracy theorists aren't crazy in the "having a psychotic break" sense that Ayelet Waldman suggested about Wolf; it's more like a search for meaning that just overwhelmed them. They believe in these conspiracies because on some level it's more comforting to them to believe in the conspiracy than not. It feels better to believe. Like Fox Mulder believing in aliens because it meant his sister wasn't just arbitrarily gone for no reason with no explanation, that she could be found and what happened to her could be understood - as frightening as the conspiracy theory may seem, at the core for most conspiracy theorists it's less frightening than the arbitrary chaos of a world that has no plan and sometimes just doesn't make any fucking sense. A lot of times I think it's about feelings of powerlessness - a conspiracy is something you can fight, something you can expose and destroy. The random shittiness of an uncaring world, that we are all powerless against. And the more a conspiracy theorist tries to fight and expose these theories, all to no effect, the more powerless they feel - a terrible feedback loop.

I don't think Naomi Wolf is having a psychotic break but I do think she's deeply, deeply unhappy, and expressing it unproductively. I hope somehow, whether it's through therapy or something else, she finds some kind of peace.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:38 PM on October 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


> The PetroDollar is still a "little conspiracy," as all the actors in that action were pretty clear about their intended goals, and how it would help all parties involved.

The Little/Big conspiracy distinction is an important one to make.

It's fairly undeniable that US military intervention indirectly caused ISIS [Islamic State, Da'esh, etc.], and warfare profits contractors who build vehicles and energy producers that fuel them. Drawing a line further and creating a specific, falsifiable theory is where you get into the bigger conspiracy territory. Like claiming you know how Sherlock faked his own death.

I think it's telling that many people believe in "ISIS hype" separately from the more outrageous claims of staged videos and false beheadings, for example. But then, what does that make ISIS hype? A medium-sized conspiracy?
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 12:41 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


"At first I was afraid this was Naomi Klein. I always get the two mixed up"

Oh thank God that's not just me.

"Why was Chomsky invoked above?"

Chomsky's kind of a weird edge case here, where he says sort of facially-outlandish things but then backs them up with a huge amount of evidence. I think that his specific claims are often wrong and unfounded, even as his general claims are often correct — I tend to think that's because he tends to impute more animus (in the animating sense) and external focus to institutions rather than recognizing that outcomes are often the result of multiple competing interests within the same institution, as well as favoring more complex explanations even when a simpler one would suffice.
posted by klangklangston at 12:43 PM on October 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


there are costs to society for being asked to consider meritless arguments.

And yet 9/11 Trutherism isn't taught in public schools.

I don't agree with Naomi Wolf but calling her crazy or psychotic based on facebook posts is incredibly diminishing. Sometimes, many times, rational thought and a bit of bias leads to the wrong conclusions, even hurtful conclusions. It seems irresponsible for a public intellectual to J.A.Q. (Just Askin the Question) off like this, but it's not exactly unprecedented for public intellectuals to act irresponsibly.
posted by muddgirl at 12:49 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


sobarel,
This is not exactly clear cut. The problem is one of generational pass through on an institutional basis.

Example. Google (to take this out of politics, at least somewhat), and their ranking algorithm. Back when Metafilter got knocked way down in the rankings and the ad revenue started to dry up, one of the things that kept going around in the discussion was about how no one, even the leads at Google, really knew WHY it happened, exactly. There was a lot of speculation and a lot of theorizing from all over the place, but even the google engineers could not specifically say "this caused this". You know why? Because the whole search and ranking algorithm is a massive and massively complex mathematical equation that is running in real time and constantly changing. No one person can say "this is exactly how this works, right now". They only have the results of the output to work from, and make changes based on those results. I'm sure when it was first written, it could be easily understood by a small group of people. But as it expanded and grew, it became so large as to be incomprehensible by any one individual. An individual our group may know how one part of it works, but how it interacts with everything else becomes "oh hey, Metafilter suddenly got knocked out", and then people have to figure out why and attempt to fix that.

This same idea goes into any human endeavor that has a large amount of individual input. The CIA and many of their super secret psyop campaigns have a myriad of unintended consequences. When the world was "smaller" (meaning communications were slower, travel was slower, etc, etc), those effects were mitigated. Now, they spread like wildfire, and the ability of more people creating inputs is greatly increased, to the point where many things just don't behave by any model that currently makes sense.

It's one of the reasons I laugh at SEO sometimes. Getting things to go viral is always an ever moving target, and it takes a great deal of luck and uncanny timing to make anything work (except for established channels of feeds, which is a whole crazy paradigm of marketing that still infuriates me to this day. The whole conspiracy theory web-ring is one of those curated channels that drives me nuts some days with how freakishly easy it is to dump misinformation into the channels. The silo-ing of society certainly does benefit this).

Man, I spend way too much time being bored and thinking about this kind of shit.
posted by daq at 12:50 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


Technology is emulated quickly.

Like the four or five posts before yours, you're attacking my hypothesis on the point of quality alone, ignoring the made-for-western-prime-time editing, the discrepancy between thematic elements of these videos and others in the genre, and the target audience.

Holy-war beheading videos are generally propaganda for local consumption. They're meant to make the west look weak and the fighters look strong. They're in regional languages, and full of music and nationalistic overlays like flags, text, and logos meant to boost the morale of guerrilla fighters. By contrast these two videos are designed exclusively to provoke western audiences. There's no strategic value for ISIS in that.

There's also the matter of timing: they came out just when the excuse to continue military operations in Syria and Iraq was needed.
posted by clarknova at 12:52 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


muddgirl: And yet 9/11 Trutherism isn't taught in public schools.

What on earth does that have to do with anything? My argument doesn't rely on the idea that Klein's brand of trutherism has been accepted into school curricula, just that Klein's immense intellectual resume gives a totally baseless theory a lot more credibility than it would otherwise have, therefore, she has the potential to really shape the debate that some random yokel on Facebook doesn't.

I don't agree with Naomi Wolf but calling her crazy or psychotic based on facebook posts is incredibly diminishing.

I would never call her crazy or psychotic, and dislike the fact that people are speculating on her mental state, but it's perfectly fine to call her theories crazy.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:54 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am starting to see this pattern of behavior in a lot of people these days. It's like there is a sort of "information psychosis" where media output has become so pervasive and overwhelming it literal drives people insane. None of it feels safe or trustworthy, so you start cutting and pasting things together until you come up with something so absurd that it has to be the only possible "true" answer. Because it's the reality you have built it is therefore the reality you have control over. In a sick, Lovecraftian way, being intelligent and well-informed can be your worst enemy when confronted with the incomprehensible evil of the universe.

It's like the idea of what my friends and I call "co-op anorexia", where you are so terrified of all the chemicals, GMOs, health scares, fat shaming, food sensitivities, political agendas, and the environmental impact of food that a trip to the grocery store leaves you completely demoralized and not wanting to eat anything ever again. Or you say screw it an head for the nearest Corporate McGrease Burger.
posted by evilcupcakes at 12:55 PM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


But then, what does that make ISIS hype? A medium-sized conspiracy?

A convenient target for Enemy Of The State and a good 2-minute Hate.

No, seriously. Mass psychology 101. Set up a target for all the ills of the world, make them slippery and conveniently out of reach, and while everyone is distracted, push your policies in place.

No conspiracy needed, just access to a media willing to go along with the story. And media will do it to maintain their own access to government officials. Hence why the White House press corps is one of the strangest journalistic gigs known.
posted by daq at 12:57 PM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's fairly undeniable that US military intervention indirectly caused ISIS [Islamic State, Da'esh, etc.], and warfare profits contractors who build vehicles and energy producers that fuel them.

Now that you bring it up, the thought that everything from De-Baathification onward had the effect of creating a useless army which we nevertheless had to arm, and the subsequent seizure of those arms and more besides by a hostile force which we then had to further arm against because they weren't effectively opposed kinda sorta plays amazingly well into the interests of the world's biggest arms dealer* doesn't even strike me as particularly out there, all told.

*To be strictly accurate year over year we jockey for position with Russia but you get the idea.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:58 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Like the four or five posts before yours, you're attacking my hypothesis on the point of quality alone, ignoring the made-for-western-prime-time editing, the discrepancy between thematic elements of these videos and others in the genre, and the target audience.

This has already been addressed. None of these observations constitute evidence (or even argument) that it has been faked. Are you seriously arguing that any "change" in technique, across different groups in different times with access to different technology, is some sort of evidence of fraud? The same could be said for a video which had been willfully retrograde in style. That's not even getting into the whole "real people were killed" thing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:03 PM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


By contrast the Foley video has great picture quality, dual camera angles, and bloodless cutaway editing that makes it perfect for rebroadcast on anglo networks. It's all in English and the usual Arabic praises to God are absent, so CNN can't be accused of religious intolerance for airing it. It is a product for Western mass consumption, by someone who really gets our media.

Why is it so hard to believe that ISIS, who have volunteers from Western countries, can "get" Western mass media? Isn't the whole point of using beheadings as a tactic, because it's a way to goad Americans into war and generally get Americans to freak the fuck out more so than if you had just shot somebody?
posted by jonp72 at 1:12 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Like the four or five posts before yours, you're attacking my hypothesis on the point of quality alone, ignoring the made-for-western-prime-time editing, the discrepancy between thematic elements of these videos and others in the genre, and the target audience.

Holy-war beheading videos are generally propaganda for local consumption. They're meant to make the west look weak and the fighters look strong. They're in regional languages, and full of music and nationalistic overlays like flags, text, and logos meant to boost the morale of guerrilla fighters. By contrast these two videos are designed exclusively to provoke western audiences. There's no strategic value for ISIS in that.

There's also the matter of timing: they came out just when the excuse to continue military operations in Syria and Iraq was needed.


ISIS has a lot of fighters who spent many years in the west, absorbing western television and films, and as they are not local fighters, their motivations and modus operandi are different. They're an invading army of essentially sociopaths, not a resistance movement. You've correctly spotted that these videos are being made by westerners making propaganda aimed at western audiences.

ISIS absolutely is different from Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. They're an invading army of western religious zealots who care more about bringing down their home countries than they do about liberating anyone.
posted by empath at 1:15 PM on October 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


You know why? Because the whole search and ranking algorithm is a massive and massively complex mathematical equation that is running in real time and constantly changing. No one person can say "this is exactly how this works, right now".

Yet, at the same time, certain business imperatives have been driving Google to make changes to it's search algorithm. So, it's happy-funny-Aristotelian causality time. Everyone can claim ignorance of proximate causes, but the final cause is that Google manipulates it's search results to make money. On the other hand, talking about how Google's business decisions make the whole internet jump... is bad for business. So, everyone feels more comfortable with the 'ida know, it's complicated' response.

Holy-war beheading videos are generally propaganda for local consumption. They're meant to make the west look weak and the fighters look strong. They're in regional languages, and full of music and nationalistic overlays like flags, text, and logos meant to boost the morale of guerrilla fighters. By contrast these two videos are designed exclusively to provoke western audiences. There's no strategic value for ISIS in that.

but this gets into the real conspiracy... ready sheeple: ISIS and other radical islamic militias in syria and iraq have been extensively funded by people in states which are military allies of the US. ISIS has deep ties to the Emirates and the Kingdom of Saud, which are full of people who understand Western society and media very well. So, the question you should be asking: why is ISIS making videos for Western consumption? What does ISIS get out of it? What do our oil-rich allies get out of it?
posted by ennui.bz at 1:16 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


My argument doesn't rely on the idea that Klein's brand of trutherism has been accepted into school curricula, just that Klein's immense intellectual resume gives a totally baseless theory a lot more credibility than it would otherwise have, therefore, she has the potential to really shape the debate that some random yokel on Facebook doesn't.

My point was that Naomi Klein (or, historically, any of the public figures that espoused truther views) has a lot less power to shift public debate when they are shifting against the US Government. Language like "teach the controversy" evokes not other anti-government conspiracy theories like Trutherism, but rather beliefs that are already entrenched in powerful communities, like intelligent design and climate change.

Klein has more power than a random yokel, but a lot less power than the CIA or the President of the United States, so I think concern about costs (beyond hurting people's feelings) is a bit premature.
posted by muddgirl at 1:17 PM on October 7, 2014


I would just like to point out that just above this comment box, there is the phrase
Adobe Digital Editions 4 spying on users Newer »
While I don't think her beliefs match reality, it's really not terribly difficult to fall into paranoia these days, and it's not like she can look into it more deeply and say "Governments just don't do stuff like that". One way of working out whether you're going off the deep end is seeing how other people react to your ideas, but if you've had a couple of go-arounds where everyone said "that's crazy" and you were right, you might learn to tune out the people saying "that's crazy" this time as well.

Some great project for the century would be working out a way to de-conspiracise people (without of course claiming to have privileged access to "reality", which may never emerge from between the sanitary quotation marks).
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:18 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Naomi Wolf, people
posted by empath at 1:19 PM on October 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


This has already been addressed.

No. No it has not.


it's a way to goad Americans into war and generally get Americans to freak the fuck out

If your goal is to fill a power vacuum left by retreating Americans, why the hell would you try to get them to come back? Are you saying ISIS is just in it for the lulz?
posted by clarknova at 1:20 PM on October 7, 2014


Dammit. Sorry.

Also, reading over my last comment - I don't intend to minimize the feelings or the hurt of the friends and families of the victim's of ISIS. Wolf's theory is very insulting to them.
posted by muddgirl at 1:21 PM on October 7, 2014


I think it's telling that many people believe in "ISIS hype" separately from the more outrageous claims of staged videos and false beheadings, for example. But then, what does that make ISIS hype? A medium-sized conspiracy?

Well, let's be clear here. ISIS hype is an actual conspiracy (I don't think "size" is as helpful a metaphor as some do; the light bulb conspiracy was international in scope and involved hundreds if not thousands of co-conspirators, and yet there's nothing crazy about believing it actually happened because it's now a very clear part of the historical record; Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch is another example of a real political conspiracy that was pretty "big," depending on how you define "big," though it failed): The conspirators are ISIS, and they want their actions and statements hyped to achieve maximum political effect. That's why terrorists terrorize in the first place. Our press and public are usually happy to oblige, despite the fact that we all know this means giving the ISIS conspirators exactly what they want.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:23 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


My argument doesn't rely on the idea that Klein's brand of trutherism...

I think it is pretty obvious that this whole thing is an operation designed to undermine the credibility of Naomi Klein...and it is working.
posted by snofoam at 1:24 PM on October 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


Why has nobody confirmed with at least two sources the videos aren't the product of inter-galactic space warriors? Just trying to do my part as a journalist here.
posted by basicchannel at 1:25 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: My point was that Naomi Klein

To be clear, we're talking Naomi Wolf here. (I made the mistake first, you just followed my lead. d'oh!)

has a lot less power to shift public debate when they are shifting against the US Government. Language like "teach the controversy" evokes not other anti-government conspiracy theories like Trutherism, but rather beliefs that are already entrenched in powerful communities, like intelligent design and climate change.

Well, regardless of what you think my language evokes, my intent was to point out that her theory is on the same footing as anti-vax, intelligent design, etc. not that it's received as much uptake. Of course it hasn't, because ISIL is relatively new, while those other theories have had time to percolate and be absorbed into the conspiratorially-minded.

[Wolf] has more power than a random yokel, but a lot less power than the CIA or the President of the United States, so I think concern about costs (beyond hurting people's feelings) is a bit premature.

What does that have to do with anything? She's not debating the President. The correct way to evaluate her power over the debate is with those who are participating in the debate, not the principals actually participating in the events which created that debate.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:25 PM on October 7, 2014


She is debating the President, though.

The President is arguing that ISIS is a threat to the United States, and that it is in our best interest to eliminate that threat. Therefore, we (through our elected representatives) need to support military action in the middle east. These beheading videos are a large part of his argument.

Wolf is arguing that we are fools to take these videos at face value. That we have been fooled before and it's not irrational to assume we are being fooled again.

Whether the President talks directly or through intermediaries, he is absolutely part of this conversation.
posted by muddgirl at 1:29 PM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Wolf should definitely keep her ideas to herself, though, if she's going to be publicly accusing victims of terrorism of being actors while their families are still grieving for them. It's deeply irresponsible to assert these claims in such a facile way without offering any serious evidence when injured people are still grieving and don't need someone making it harder and more confusing for them to work through that grief.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:30 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


clarknova, people have responded to your assertions. You are the one who has chosen to leave at "No. Not it has not."

"Get out of our territory, or else there will be more bloodshed! Also, imperialist aggressors, if you spill our blood, we'll recruit a hundred times over!" is an age-old tactic. For example, in WWII, the Yugoslav Partisans would ruthlessly exploit Axis retribution, so as to encourage people to join their side. The Axis would become more hated than ever, and the Partisans became the ever-more-sure bet to get rid of them, thence to take over.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:31 PM on October 7, 2014


If your goal is to fill a power vacuum left by retreating Americans, why the hell would you try to get them to come back? Are you saying ISIS is just in it for the lulz?


No, but these guys making the videos are not Iraqis or Syrians. They're from America and Europe. They're motivated by sticking their thumbs in the eyes of western powers, not by liberating an oppressed people.
posted by empath at 1:31 PM on October 7, 2014


The problem of course is that precisely this kind of operation has been done before in full public view during the runup to the first gulf war when a prominent Washington PR firm staged a psyop, the narirah testimony, then propagated by US senators regarding babies being tossed from incubators and testimony from Kuwaiti ambassadors daughter acting as a nurse.

That's not "precisely" the same unless testimony about babies being tossed from incubators is the precisely the same as videos of babies being tossed from incubators.
posted by layceepee at 1:36 PM on October 7, 2014


Evidently, Naomi Wolf made a May 2013 Facebook post arguing that Edward Snowden is not a whistleblower but still working as a spy for American intelligence.
posted by jonp72 at 1:36 PM on October 7, 2014


Evidently, Naomi Wolf made a May 2013 Facebook post arguing that Edward Snowden is not a whistleblower but still working as a spy for American intelligence.

Worst. Spy. Ever.
posted by daq at 1:38 PM on October 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


Of course she wasn't arguing, she was "just asking the question."

Worst. Spy. Ever.

Well, he... infiltrated Russia, I guess?
posted by muddgirl at 1:39 PM on October 7, 2014


Some great project for the century would be working out a way to de-conspiracise people (without of course claiming to have privileged access to "reality", which may never emerge from between the sanitary quotation marks).

I've actually though much the same thing, but the only answers I can come up with are better education, better social services, less inequality, and greater access to health care, including mental health care without the stigmatization.

So, you know, all kinds of looney lefty shit.

Oh, also more public works projects and public infrastructure stuff. But, you know, I'm not radical enough and keep asking people to make some semblance of sense.
posted by daq at 1:41 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


it's really not terribly difficult to fall into paranoia these days

Well, that really depends on what you read and surround yourself with. And in many ways, this is a big danger of insular, echo chamber communities. If you live at Natural News and all you hear over and over again is about GMO and vax and CDC is a liar and big pharma, etc, you are unlikely going to be exposed to people poking holes in your theories or controverting evidence. So you eventually going to start echoing embarrassing nonsense. This same thing is true across the spectrum. If you surround yourself with people who constantly talk about how the biggest danger facing the world is Koch Brothers/Obama/immigration/militaryindustrialcomplex/tehJews/spying/whatever, you are eventually going to start being paranoid about those topics. Our online experience is becoming more and more fractured as general interest disappears and more people go to special interest area and surround themselves with like-minded people. That is what facilitates the slippage, in my opinion.

But I think if you expose yourself to diverse viewpoints and don't allow yourself to obsess over a special interest, you aren't going fall victim to paranoia. Back when your sources of information were the local general interest paper or broadcast news, you didn't get overwhelmed with hyperbolic conspiracy theories.
posted by dios at 1:43 PM on October 7, 2014 [9 favorites]



Of course she wasn't arguing, she was "just asking the question."

Worst. Spy. Ever.

Well, he... infiltrated Russia, I guess?


I mean, I can sort of see the eleven-dimensional chess theory where Snowden is REALLY just a dis-info specialist, and all the leaks are completely fabricated by his handlers to make all the other countries scared of our super awesome super secret spying machine and stuff. Kind of a Paper Tiger approach to international espionage.
posted by daq at 1:46 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: The President is arguing that ISIS is a threat to the United States, and that it is in our best interest to eliminate that threat. Therefore, we (through our elected representatives) need to support military action in the middle east. These beheading videos are a large part of his argument.

This exchange started with the notion that Wolf was just saying something on Facebook, and the only reason it's a thing is because Democrats want to marginalize anti-war voices. In response, I said Wolf is a well-known person whose Facebook posts have a large reach. That is a defense of why we're talking about her Facebook post, not a statement that she's anywhere near as powerful as anyone on the other side of the debate (which probably includes 95% or more of the population that knows the videos exist in the first place, and, yes, of course the President.) She can be less powerful than the leader of the free world but also powerful enough to have her Facebook posts considered worthy of discussion.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:54 PM on October 7, 2014


Why was Chomsky invoked above? Does Chomsky form his political opinions without evidence and freely traffic in debunked ideas? I don't think so (at least, not more than is normal). So why is he associated with this brand of "crazy"? It suggests that what "crazy" really means is not holding wild, unjustified beliefs, but holding beliefs that put the powerful in a bad light

Or the Khmer Rouge in a good light.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:58 PM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


my first comment was sympathetic to ms. wolf because i recognize the media as a much greater villain.

this comment is also sympathetic to ms. wolf, because of all the mental illness/insanity/derangement talk going on in this thread and the link, i gotta tell you, i've been getting the same shit ALL MY LIFE. it doesn't matter to me anymore whether people think i'm crazy as long as i'm not wanted by the police, i have an adequate roof, walls and food supply, and i'm a contributing member of my community. if ms. wolf is like me, she doesn't give a flying fuck about your diagnosis either.

public pity is a weapon, as here, to silence an entire phylum of uncomfortable thinking. "poor naomi, she's having a psychotic break, she can't handle reality anymore and she needs help" is too uncomfortably close to "poor bruce, he's having a psychotic break, he can't handle reality anymore and he needs help" for me not to remark on it. you're allowed to say it, and we're allowed to remember that you said it when we come to close quarters.
posted by bruce at 1:59 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


Quoting your original comment: Far too often, people get away with selling "just asking questions" as if it's a neutral act. When they get away with that, they move on to "teach the controversy" type arguments, where crackpot theories are expected to be put on a level playing field with views that have actual substance behind them.

This exchange, to me, started with your claim that Naomi Wolf's crackpot theory is being put on a level playing field with views that have actual substance behind them. I don't think that's possible, and I presented a historical crackpot theory that never reached a level playing field with the alternate explanation - 9/11 trutherism.
posted by muddgirl at 2:01 PM on October 7, 2014


where was our vaunted CIA, the agency that's supposed to know about and forecast these things? one of the two alternatives is that they were completely incompetent.

The CIA fucks up all the time. Read Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. It was in fact largely due to their fuck-up in not catching 9/11 that led to their fuck-up with the run-up to the Iraq War.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:02 PM on October 7, 2014


It's quite likely that I completely misread your original comment, tonycpsu, in which case I have no clue what you're trying to argue.
posted by muddgirl at 2:03 PM on October 7, 2014


Maybe she has mental illness problems, maybe not. Either way she's as demonstrably wrong as those dickbags that claim Sandy Hook was all staged. Wonder what her opinion on that one is? Actually, on reflection, I don't.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:09 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is she going full Chomsky?

Chomsky hates conspiracy theorists. Seriously. He goes out of his way to disagree with them and call them out. For example read Rethinking Camelot which he wrote in 1993 about JFK. Chomsky's basic position is that JFK was no more saintly than any other US president and so there was no particular reason for anyone to start conspiring to remove him. On Conspiracy Theories in general, he wrote:
A methodological point is perhaps worth mention. Suppose that we were to concoct a theory about historical events at random, while permitting ourselves to assume arbitrary forms of deceit and falsification. Then in the vast documentary record, we are sure to find scattered hints and other debris that could be made to conform to the theory, while counter-evidence is nullified. By that method, one can "prove" virtually anything. For example, we can prove that JFK never intended to withdraw any troops, citing the elusiveness of NSAM 263 and his unwillingness to commit himself to the withdrawal recommended by his war managers. Or we can prove that the attempt to assassinate Reagan was carried out by dark forces (Alexander Haig, the CIA, etc.). After all, Reagan had backed away from using US forces directly in Central America (unlike JFK in Vietnam); he was cozying up to the Chicoms; he had already given intimations of the anti-nuclear passion that led him to offer to give away the store at Rejkjavik and to join forces with the arch-fiend Gorbachev, whose perestroika was a transparent plot to entrap us; his associates were planning off-the-shelf international operations, bypassing intelligence and the Pentagon. Obviously, he has to go. Or suppose there had been an attempt to assassinate LBJ in late 1964, when he was refusing the call of the military to stand up to the Commies in Vietnam, pursuing Great Society and civil rights programs with a zeal well beyond Kennedy, and about to defeat a real alternative, Barry Goldwater. Nothing is easier than to construct a high-level conspiracy to get rid of this "radical reformer." The task is only facilitated by a search for nuances and variations of phrasing in the mountains of documents, usually committee jobs put together hastily with many compromises.

This is not the way to learn about the world.
There's also a section in which he demolishes the book that Oliver Stone based his movie on.

Chomsky is similarly dismissive of 9/11 conspiracy theories, which he sees as drawing peoples attention and energy away from the real, serious, but less exciting underlying problems.

Chomsky's world view doesn't require the rich and powerful to be conspiring. It just requires them to use their power to protect their own interests in fairly obvious ways. He advocates institutional analysis rather than searching for conspiracies.
If I give an analysis of, say the economic system, and I point out that General Motors tries to maximize profit and market share - that's not a conspiracy theory; that's an institutional analysis. It has nothing to do with conspiracies. That's precisely the sense in which we've been talking about the media. (from Manufacturing Consent, the documentary)
posted by memebake at 2:11 PM on October 7, 2014 [23 favorites]


Metafilter: Due to their fuck-up, they had a fuck-up with the run-up.
posted by jonp72 at 2:12 PM on October 7, 2014


Either way she's as demonstrably wrong as those dickbags that claim Sandy Hook was all staged.

THERE ARE NO SANDY HOOK TRUTHERS!!!!! THEY'RE ALL ACTORS!!!!! ARISE FROM YOUR SLUMBER, LAMBFOLK!
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:13 PM on October 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Naomi Wolf started getting conspiracish quite a while ago, didn't she?
posted by atoxyl at 2:17 PM on October 7, 2014


It's quite likely that I completely misread your original comment, tonycpsu, in which case I have no clue what you're trying to argue.

No, it looks like I traced your reply back to the wrong comment of mine, so I'll take the blame for that one.

This exchange, to me, started with your claim that Naomi Wolf's crackpot theory is being put on a level playing field with views that have actual substance behind them. I don't think that's possible, and I presented a historical crackpot theory that never reached a level playing field with the alternate explanation - 9/11 trutherism.

I said that they're expected to be put on a level playing field, not that they actually are. Intelligent design isn't on a level playing field, but its adherents say it ought to be, even though they have no compelling evidence that meets the standards for inclusion in a scientific curriculum. In other words, Wolf has not a shred of evidence, other than, well, it could be faked (just like the Government could have faked 9/11) but she's demanding that her questions be taken seriously.

When you start demanding that you be taken seriously despite lacking evidence, you're not "just asking questions", and when you're a respected academic doing it, it becomes particularly dangerous, because your credentials can make people overlook the fact that you don't have any evidence, or perhaps think "well, I trust her on other issues, maybe I should trust her on this even though she's got nothing."

That's the dynamic I was trying to talk about in my first comment. Not that Wolf's theory is on par with other theories, but that the template for turning random ramblings into a full-on thing a-la 9/11 troofers is well-established.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:24 PM on October 7, 2014


A concept I like to use to myself is "functional conspiracy." Basically, that's just a widespread social or cultural trend that ends up serving a particular set of interests as if it were a massive conspiracy even though the individual actors aren't knowingly in on any grand conspiracy. Sometimes a particularly widespread error in thinking can have the same effect as a conspiracy if it accidentally benefits particular political/economic interest, and so our economic incentives may subtly encourage the error because it gets the job done.

We have a very results oriented approach to measuring the effectiveness of our efforts: as long as profits go up, we get rewarded, regardless of what methods we use to achieve the effect (unless of course we get caught doing something that costs more than it increases profit). That can lead to certain patterns of behavior getting reinforced by the system blindly, independent of deliberate human judgment. People accidentally conspire to deliver certain outcomes because their jobs only depend on getting those outcomes; the methods and motivations are irrelevant.

We build functional conspiracies unconsciously and unintentionally all the time by what we choose to value and how we choose to economically reward different patterns of behavior.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:26 PM on October 7, 2014 [14 favorites]


American culture has also always strongly valued opportunism--that helps to further complicate things, because it encourages trading on other people's errors and ignorance, which can have the effect of reinforcing our errors and ignorance, socially and culturally.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:30 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Basically, that's just a widespread social or cultural trend that ends up serving a particular set of interests as if it were a massive conspiracy even though the individual actors aren't knowingly in on any grand conspiracy.

As an example, look at the clusterfuck that is St Louis County. I doubt they could have contrived a more fucked up system for poor minorities if they *had* gotten together to plan it. But no one did. Just a bunch of people showing up to work every day, putting one foot in front of the other until one day they woke up inside of Cube and don't know how they got there.
posted by empath at 2:38 PM on October 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


I find it simplest to assume that anyone who calls you a conspiracy theorist is in on it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:52 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait what happened to all those comments I made above? The ones proving that keyboard cat and grumpy cat are the same cat? Memory hole much big brother?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:58 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wait what happened to all those comments I made above? The ones proving that keyboard cat and grumpy cat are the same cat? Memory hole much big brother?

Real convenient to leave Li'l Bub out, PA. REAL convenient.
posted by josher71 at 3:04 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


New York Times foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi said "What she fails to understand is that the kidnappings — 23 in total — have been under blackout for much of the past two years because ISIS told families of Henning, Foley, Kassig, etc., their sons would be killed if it became public."

This might be the bigger story. Which news organizations were involved in the blackout? Who pressured the news organizations for the blackout? Were government officials involved?

This censorship of news is a important topic of discussion. Is it possible that if U.S. citizens had been aware of a rash of abductions two years ago that they might have demanded an earlier response to ISIS before it achieved its current strength? If certain governments were secretly negotiating ransoms within the blackout, are they responsible for funding more terrorism and encouraging more abductions? Do news organizations, because of their blackout, bear responsibility for the current state of affairs? Is the press complying with blackouts in return for other favors such as source access.
posted by JackFlash at 3:08 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, if a news organization does report something even though they've been told that the kidnappers will execute the hostages if the kidnapping becomes public, and those hostages are subsequently executed, is the news organization responsible?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:19 PM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


if you've had a couple of go-arounds where everyone said "that's crazy" and you were right, you might learn to tune out the people saying "that's crazy" this time as well.

This.

I know a guy who is widely renowned as the best activist researcher in his part of the country. He has broken multiple secret government operations - not just on his say so, but where the government has had to reluctantly admit it and pay people money and all sorts of stuff.

He's also a 9/11 truther. Which kills me. How can such a smart guy believe such crazy things? Because he's had to turn off the portion of his brain that says "this is crazy" and it has not been replaced by actual independent data.

Science and politics are now too complex for broad general knowledge to be capable of telling the truth. We must trust other actors. And if your trust has been broken, it's easier to believe stuff.
posted by corb at 3:25 PM on October 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


Naomi Wolf.

Naomi Wolf.

Wolf.

Sheep.

Sheeple.

CONNECT THE DOTS
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:49 PM on October 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


As an example, look at the clusterfuck that is St Louis County. I doubt they could have contrived a more fucked up system for poor minorities if they *had* gotten together to plan it. But no one did.

...and now it turns out that voter registration in Ferguson, despite earlier claims of hundreds or thousands, amounts to just 128 valid new registrants. The relevant point here being that the structural problems will continue, and a 2/3 black town will continue, most likely, to be led by members of the 1/3 white minority -- without it even being a conspiracy as such.
This may not be as significant a factor if it turns out that a lot of existing registrants just haven't been voting in local elections. We won't know until next year, though.
posted by dhartung at 4:28 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


He's also a 9/11 truther. Which kills me. How can such a smart guy believe such crazy things?

If you do not know a single smart person who believes some crazy shit about the 9/11 attacks I think you might need to get out more. I personally know four different people who are ostensibly normal healthy rational who think the 9/11 attacks were either done by the government, done by the Israelis, known about in detail beforehand by the government, and/or known about in detail beforehand by the Israelis.

The other day Justin Raimondo posted an article saying the 25 page redaction in the 9/11 commission report is Israeli agents tailing the attackers continuously for three months.
posted by bukvich at 4:34 PM on October 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


By contrast these two videos are designed exclusively to provoke western audiences. There's no strategic value for ISIS in that.

sure there is - by provoking the west into attacking then, they then can "justify" whatever nasty acts of terrorism in our countries that they've been planning

it's twisted, inhumane thinking, but it's exactly the kind of thinking they're prone to - and i don't think they have any clear strategic thinking at all

1) start invading and killing in one of the most fractious and divided regions of the world as savagely as you can
2) ??????
3) caliphate!

so i wonder what the goal is of those who are funding and supplying ISIS - keeping their enemies in the middle east tied down? - keeping us too occupied to interfere with whatever things they want to do? - getting dangerous elements of their countries out into a battlefield somewhere else?

there are players using ISIS and their enemies as proxies, but it's not anyone in the west - we don't seem to have a clue as to what we're doing or what's going on
posted by pyramid termite at 5:27 PM on October 7, 2014


I know a guy who is widely renowned as the best activist researcher in his part of the country. He has broken multiple secret government operations - not just on his say so, but where the government has had to reluctantly admit it and pay people money and all sorts of stuff

Link(s)?
posted by josher71 at 6:15 PM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


By contrast these two videos are designed exclusively to provoke western audiences. There's no strategic value for ISIS in that.

Well there's also the thing about discouraging aid workers and journalists from coming to muslim countries and spreading untruths about human rights and health care and education and reporting on atrocities and such.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:45 PM on October 7, 2014




The other day Justin Raimondo posted an article saying the 25 page redaction in the 9/11 commission report is Israeli agents tailing the attackers continuously for three months.
The redaction only feeds stuff like this. I'm extremely curious about what was redacted and I hope it is released in my lifetime.
posted by osi at 6:40 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The other day Justin Raimondo posted an article saying the 25 page redaction in the 9/11 commission report is Israeli agents tailing the attackers continuously for three months.

To my knowledge, Raimondo has been saying this for several years now, at least while Dubya was still president.
posted by jonp72 at 7:07 AM on October 8, 2014


I would bet dollars to donuts that the redacted material mostly concerns information which would have revealed then-current sources, or information showing unsavory things like cooperation between the US and other members of the bin Laden family, or maybe even stories of disorder, incompetence, and missed opportunities. Things like that. Not insignificant things, but not the sort of stuff which would really blow people's minds.

...

For all conspiracy theory stuff, I keep coming back to Errol Morris' short about the Umbrella Man.

At the heart of a "conspiracy theory" narrative is the idea that life necessarily has a narrative which we can follow. People are pattern-finding machines. We see something unusual, we assume it must fit into the story. We sense something missing, and we fill it with mystery, and then fill in the gaps. When it turns out there is no singular coherent narrative, we are often not merely disappointed, but agog in disbelief. This is especially true when you assume that the conspirators have a tightly-constructed, singular motive, and that they never mess up.

A 9/11 Truther sees redactions in the record, and he creates a narrative. The redacted material must be extremely important, and extremely damning, otherwise it wouldn't have been redacted. It must utterly change how we would perceive 9/11. That would make for a coherent and satisfying narrative. He does not explore the more likely explanation, that the redacted material would mostly elicit a "hunh". He certainly does not explore the argument that a sufficiently advanced conspiracy would have simply never left anything to redact in the first place.

I mean, yes, obviously real conspiracies have existed and will continue to exist, but they don't typically unfold like that. I guess MKULTRA's main revelations were a little like that - weren't there files which people had forgotten to shred? - but even then, the results were nowhere near as sexy as others thought they would have been. There were stupid, sadistic, and unethical experiments - they did not succeed. Frank Olson was quite likely murdered. No whiz-bang tales of hypnotized assassins killing the Kennedys, just a lot of sadness, and also a lot of incompetence.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:09 AM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


My favorite refutation to most conspiracy theories is a line by the Deep Throat character in the movie version of All The President's Men: "The truth is that none of these are very bright guys, and things got a little out of hand." It's amazing how much that seems mysterious can be explained as the result of not very bright guys (and gals) letting things get out of hand.
posted by jonp72 at 7:11 AM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


Expanding on my previous comment: all that said, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that the redacted sections would show that the US had failed to heed warnings, or had failed to listened to others' intelligence analysis. However, I would chalk that up to a combination of systemic incompetence and bad luck. It's just another form of narrativization to straight-up assume that this would have been the result of active, malevolent complicity. (I don't know if Raimondo himself makes this assumption.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:16 AM on October 8, 2014


jonp72: "The truth is that none of these are very bright guys, and things got a little out of hand." It's amazing how much that seems mysterious can be explained as the result of not very bright guys (and gals) letting things get out of hand.

I see it as kind of a corrolary of Arendt's concept of the banality of evil. People aren't always marching in lockstep on orders from high above in some carefully-controlled conspiracy -- sometimes they're just freelancing, plodding along, toward a terrible end state.

And it's really kind of sad to see people above endorsing the idea that conspiracy theorists are sometimes right, so it's understandable that people are listening to them. Kind of reminds me of the football bookie scams that start with 100+ "experts" at the beginning of the season and end up with one guy in the middle of the season with a perfect record based simply on the fact that they've covered every possible permutation of winners across the larger pool of experts. Nobody hears about the predictions the conspiracy theorists are getting wrong, just like nobody hears about the 100+ "experts" who picked losers.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:00 AM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


"The truth is that none of these are very bright guys, and things got a little out of hand."

This is why I don't put any stock in conspiracy theories a priori: human beings are mostly too short-sighted and too motivated by self-interest to sustain a vast conspiracy about anything. Not that conspiracies don't occur, but they usually occur right out in the open for us all to see and are, in my experience, mostly about collective self-interest (ref: financial industry).
posted by LooseFilter at 8:14 AM on October 8, 2014


And it's really kind of sad to see people above endorsing the idea that conspiracy theorists are sometimes right,

I always hear this, but what do you say about the conspiracy theorists who for years insisted that light bulbs had been designed with built-in obsolescence only to be dismissed as nuts? They were absolutely right, weren't they? It undermines the credibility of people hoping to combat wild conspiracy theorizing to deny that some conspiracy theories have actually been right in the past.

Another example: for years. conspiracy theorists insisted the US had played a key role in the toppling of Iran's democratically elected government. We now know they were right. Even our own government has admitted it by this point.

Are you saying these conspiracy theorists were not right, or that because they weren't right for the right reasons, we shouldn't give them credit for being right?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:40 AM on October 8, 2014


I always hear this, but what do you say about the conspiracy theorists who for years insisted that light bulbs had been designed with built-in obsolescence only to be dismissed as nuts? They were absolutely right, weren't they?

Actually, that isn't as clear as you might think, if you go back to that thread. It was less a conspiracy than an industry standard that had benefits for consumers.
posted by JackFlash at 9:56 AM on October 8, 2014


It was less a conspiracy than an industry standard that had benefits for consumers.

The words you are using here are not neutral facts. They are a political position. There was literally a cartel whose deliberate aims were to raise their own revenue by promoting those new standards. That they could rationalize their own behaviors to themselves as ultimately in the best interests of consumers doesn't make it true.

Who gets to decide what benefits consumers? The producers of goods? That's a pretty dangerous and dumb idea.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:03 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Another example: for years. conspiracy theorists insisted the US had played a key role in the toppling of Iran's democratically elected government. We now know they were right. Even our own government has admitted it by this point.

Conspiracy theories aren't simply theories about conspiracies. Conspiracies are real and relatively common.

"Conspiracy theories", in the pejorative sense, are not verifiable/falsifiable positions about conspiracies, but rather unverifiable/nonfalsifiable positions which can only be held if we employ broken epistemology.

Regarding Iran, it has been common knowledge for a long while that the US has backed "friendly" regimes and tried to tear down "unfriendly" regimes. We can find plenty of evidence to support this.

On the other hand, conspiracy theories surrounding, say, 9/11 rely on an assumption that 9/11 itself could not have happened as it apparently did, that the government must have instead caused it for reasons which actually don't make any sense, and also that the ensuing cover-up has employed literally thousands of people who have never wavered in their loyalty to their masters. Bad logic, bad science, moving goalposts, all the rest. The Truther position on 9/11 is not a theory about a conspiracy, in the sense that it is simply a supposition that XYZ happened, but rather a broken worldview unto itself: it's a series of ever-unfolding assertions which can never allow for the possibility that 9/11 simply happened more or less as it is understood to have happened.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:09 AM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


And even so, our role in the coup in Iran has been acknowledged.

Were all those conspiracy theorists who argued our government had played that role wrong?

It's just not true that conspiracy theorists are never "right" at the top level. It's sort of coincidental that they're right, as their reasons for believing what they do are usually incoherent or at least partly based on misinterpreted information, but there's a pretty decent chance being right about anything is always in some sense kind of coincidental (as Humean skeptics see it--and honestly, nobody's got a solid working definition of causality that doesn't rely on mere statistical correlation).

I don't know. I don't like defending conspiracy theorists, but as a rhetorical tactic, I think it makes people skeptical and only exacerbates the problem how categorical people can be on the subject.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:13 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The words you are using here are not neutral facts. They are a political position.

"Conspiracy" is a politically loaded term as well. In the case of the light bulb standard, it's a particularly weak example since the standard actually saved consumers money. I'm sure you can come up with much better examples of real conspiracies that cause injury to the public. Enron and JPMorgan manipulating electricity rates comes to mind, causing real harm to consumers.
posted by JackFlash at 10:18 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman: I always hear this, but what do you say about the conspiracy theorists who for years insisted that light bulbs had been designed with built-in obsolescence only to be dismissed as nuts? They were absolutely right, weren't they? It undermines the credibility of people hoping to combat wild conspiracy theorizing to deny that some conspiracy theories have actually been right in the past.

I didn't say they never were right, only that we never hear about all of the times they're wrong. You know the joke that goes "economist X has predicted ten out of the last four recessions?"

Furthermore, I don't think the light bulb example really fits the mold here. Yes, the Phoebus cartel existed, but I am not aware of any contemporary theorists who were alleging its existence, and by the 1950s, it was common knowledge that bulb manufacturers were engaging in efforts to engineer bulbs to increase sales, so much so that the U.S. government sued GE in the late 1940s for their practices. If public knowledge of the conspiracy predate's the theorizing, it's not a conspiracy theory.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:27 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


And even so, our role in the coup in Iran has been acknowledged.

Were all those conspiracy theorists who argued our government had played that role wrong?


Saulgoodman, as my post already said, a "conspiracy theorist", in the pejorative sense, in the Truther sense and in the Naomi Wolf sense, is not simply a person who supposes that some kind of conspiracy must exist somewhere.

Either way, for any kind of argument, whether or not it's about conspiracies, there is a huge difference between advancing a verifiable/falsifiable statement undergirded with good reason and good support, and advancing an unverifiable/nonfalsifiable statement undergirded with bad reason and bad support.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:29 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


conspiracy theories surrounding, say, 9/11 rely on an assumption that 9/11 itself could not have happened as it apparently did, that the government must have instead caused it for reasons which actually don't make any sense

The reasons why the US government (probably) allowed 9/11 to happen make perfect sense (unlike, say, the stuff about controlled explosions etc).

Mossad helped set up Hamas. ISIS are partly our guys. False flag operations are common, and relatively few secret police/agent guys need to actually know the full details.
posted by colie at 10:49 AM on October 8, 2014


it's a particularly weak example since the standard actually saved consumers money

It saved them money in the short term but cost them more money long term. That's an important point that belies your simple formulation of the truth.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:52 AM on October 8, 2014


I didn't say they never were right, only that we never hear about all of the times they're wrong.

Exactly. The problem with conspiracy theorists, generally, is that the process by which they predict outcomes is deeply and intrinsically flawed; saying that 'but sometimes conspiracy theorists are proven right!' is to place an emphasis on whether a system ever predicted a correct outcome, rather than on whether a system consistently predicts correct outcomes, plural. It's a question about how we think and talk about these things.

'Sometimes people win the lottery!' isn't a good argument in favor of investing heavily in next week's drawing. 'Sometimes conspiracy theories are proven right' isn't a good argument in favor of believing in conspiracy theories. Most people don't win the lottery. Conspiracy theories are usually wrong.

Were all those conspiracy theorists who argued our government had played that role wrong?

Looking at a few people who won the lottery, rather than the vast majority that did not, isn't helpful in understanding and predicting whether or not you will win the lottery; similarly, looking at a few conspiracy theorists who made the right call is less helpful in assessing new claims than looking at all the ones who made the wrong call, or made the right call for the wrong reasons.
posted by cjelli at 10:54 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Either way, for any kind of argument, whether or not it's about conspiracies, there is a huge difference between advancing a verifiable/falsifiable statement undergirded with good reason and good support, and advancing an unverifiable/nonfalsifiable statement undergirded with bad reason and bad support.

I fully agree. I'm trying to make a very, very narrow point about epistemology and whether it's accurate or not to say "conspiracy theorists" are always wrong.

It's hard to discuss because the meaning of the term itself isn't very precise and has changed and evolved over time. Either way, it's such a minor point, it's almost off topic. so I'm just going to drop it.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:58 AM on October 8, 2014


It saved them money in the short term but cost them more money long term.

Sorry, but that is not the case. That is not the way the math works. It saved consumers money, period. The cost of electricity saved was greater than the cost of replacing light bulbs. Efficiency and conservation are today considered a virtue, not a vice.

Which goes to show why a standard was necessary to prevent a race to the bottom in longer life bulbs. It's hard to convince consumers that a shorter life incandescent bulb actually saves money.

But that doesn't excuse backroom deals like Phoebus to establish industry standards. Standards should be created with public transparency and failure to do so only begs for conspiracy theories.
posted by JackFlash at 11:09 AM on October 8, 2014


Sorry, but that is not the case. That is not the way the math works. It saved consumers money, period. The cost of electricity saved was greater than the cost of replacing light bulbs. Efficiency and conservation are today considered a virtue, not a vice.

The cost to the public wealth just in terms of most raw materials used in producing bulbs was more than doubled. We're currently very desperately looking for longer-lived bulbs to solve post-consumer waste and production resource problems. You're very sure of yourself, though--too sure of yourself for there to be any point in continuing to talk past/aggravate each other. I don't care as much about this specific example as you do. It's just a counterfactual to the idea people are incapable of planning and doing things on a large scale together, as is often advanced in dismissal of "conspiracy theories" that aren't really conspiracy theories so much as allegations of widespread criminal collusion. For that matter, the great pyramids give lie to the claim people can't ever pull off long term plans. If you accept that much, the only claim is that it's impossible to keep large scale plans and operations secret. That's probably true, given enough time. As in the case of the Iranian coup, sometimes people really did have the right idea before anyone else did, even if there are errors in the work they showed for their solution. I'm honestly not sure if that should count as getting it right or not, but in either case, it's possible no one is ever right about anything by that strict definition, because in daily life, we very rarely apply rigorous, evidence-based analysis to every decision we make or belief we hold, and yet, we still give credit for guessing right answers when we play most games.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:29 AM on October 8, 2014


You're very sure of yourself, though--too sure of yourself ...

Hey, now there's the start for a good conspiracy theory!
posted by JackFlash at 11:35 AM on October 8, 2014


saulgoodman: As in the case of the Iranian coup, sometimes people really did have the right idea before anyone else did, even if there are errors in the work they showed for their solution. I'm honestly not sure if that should count as getting it right or not, but in either case, it's possible no one is ever right about anything by that strict definition, because in daily life, we very rarely apply rigorous, evidence-based analysis to every decision we make or belief we hold, and yet, we still give credit for guessing right answers when we play most games.

I think it's okay to hold peoples' arguments to different standards depending on whether they're, say, implying that the U.S. government faked execution videos or playing a board game.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:41 AM on October 8, 2014


And JackFlash, from the second paragraph of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) account about The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy:
Their lightbulbs were of a higher quality, more efficient, and brighter burning than other bulbs. They also cost a lot more. Indeed, all evidence points to the cartel’s being motivated by profits and increased sales, not by what was best for the consumer.
So wait--who's concerned with getting the facts straight in this exchange again, because I confess I'm getting confused.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:42 AM on October 8, 2014


tonycpsu: I agree. But the epistemological point (what does it actually mean to say someone is "right") is what I'm trying to probe here, not trying to lend credence to Wolf's nonsense and similar conjecture.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:43 AM on October 8, 2014


saulgoodman: tonycpsu: I agree. But the epistemological point (what does it actually mean to say someone is "right") is what I'm trying to probe here, not trying to lend credence to Wolf's nonsense and similar conjecture.

And that's an easy one. If someone guesses, they weren't right in any meaningful sense. Conjecture is not logic.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:48 AM on October 8, 2014


Logic isn't logic, either, as philosophers of epistemology have demonstrated handily many times before. Bertrand Russell gave up on his grand project of a formally complete and consistent logical foundation for math in logic, because he discovered that no logical system capable of providing a foundation for mathematics can be formally complete and rigorous. In fact, in formal logic, since Goedel, it's been understood that only formal logical systems expressing trivial (tautological) statements can be formally consistent and complete.

Every formal logical argument requires stipulating assumptions/axioms/premises. Logic can't justify its own premises without leading to infinite regress. Even conventional discursive reasoning is only right by coincidence at a certain point (I mean, when you ignore the role of human intuition).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:02 PM on October 8, 2014


Indeed, all evidence points to the cartel’s being motivated by profits and increased sales, not by what was best for the consumer.

And the only evidence that story provides is a link to an ad for GE light bulbs that states, truthfully, that the brighter bulbs are more efficient and save money. Nothing in the article contradicts that.

That IEEE article is awful. It reads like something from HuffPo. There's no engineering information in the story, no numbers, no analysis. Nothing that shows that consumers were harmed. Just a nice narrative. One would expect more from an engineering publication but there's simply no real content other than a story line.

There is no contradiction between light bulb manufactures making more money and consumers also saving money. That's the benefit of greater efficiency. As to whether manufacturers had more of their own interests in mind than consumers, well, I'll leave you to speculate on the inner thoughts of men a century ago. Regardless, both manufacturers and consumers benefited. There are much better and clearer examples of business conspiracies than this one.
posted by JackFlash at 12:13 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, we do say "Even a stopped watch..." and we do credit lucky guesses in other areas of life as correct once they're demonstrated to be correct in fact. We use aspirin effectively for pain relief though we didn't understood what gave it it's efficacy for years. There are tons of examples from the sciences of discoveries and conclusions that we didn't properly understand or fully reason our way to that we nevertheless came to consider and eventually reaffirm with more rigor as "right." But really, almost all our conclusions and beliefs should be understood to be provisional, given the potential for new information to invalidate them.

And the only evidence that story provides is a link to an ad for GE light bulbs that states, truthfully, that the brighter bulbs are more efficient and save money.

Okay. You win. I'm sure this particular cartel was truly, deeply committed to doing what's best for consumers, not in making more profit, as people in business always are.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:19 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


You probably do know better than the editorial board at the official publication of the leading standards promulgating body of electrical engineers.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:20 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


meant to say "logic isn't perfect either" above, not "logic isn't logic." Point is, even discursive reasoning only goes so far and relies on the use of assumptions that are themselves not derived from rigorous logic. I hope it's clear I'm not trying to argue that wild ass guessing is a better alternative, only that even the application of logic depends on some guesswork.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:23 PM on October 8, 2014




Surely the real conspiracy is that there is no "Naomi" - only secret agent Wolf Klein.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:26 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


You probably do know better than the editorial board at the official publication of the leading standards promulgating body of electrical engineers.

And you should know better than a naked appeal to authority. Even good publications come up with a clunker now and then. You need to think for yourself when evaluating conspiracies.

I'm sure this is quite boring to everyone, but it is a good example of why substantial facts and numbers are important, not just a good story.

You can buy bulbs that have a longer life than the standard 100-watt light bulb. It's called a 60-watt light bulb. This is how the numbers work.

Here are the standards below.

100-watt:
1700 lumens
750 hours life


60-watt:
850 lumens
1500 hours life


Note that while the 60-watt bulb has twice the life, it puts out only half the light. So you need two 60-watt bulbs where you would need only one 100-watt bulb. But the 100-watt bulb burns out at half the life so that over a 1500-hour span of the two 60-watt bulbs, you need to replace the 100-watt with a second 100-watt bulb. So far its a wash. In either case you need two bulbs to provide the same amount of light for 1500 hours.

But 100-watt bulbs cost about 25 cents more than 60-watt bulbs, so the dastardly bulb manufacturers are getting an extra 50 cents over their lifetime. Some of the extra 50 cents is the extra expense to manufacture, but certainly some of the 50 cents is profit.

But we aren't done yet. Notice that the 60-watt bulb uses 60% of the power but only puts out 50% of the light of a 100-watt bulb. That's because longer life bulbs are less power efficient. Assuming a rate of 10 cents per kilowatt hour, the two 60-watt bulbs (120 watts total) use $18 of electricity in 1500 hours. (You can do the math). Meanwhile the 100-watt bulb uses only $15 worth of electricity, a savings of $3 in electricity costs.

So for the 100-watt bulb, the user spends 50 cents more for shorter life bulbs but saves $3 in electricity for the same amount of light. It is a win for both the manufacturer and the consumer. In fact, this is the argument that conservationists always make. Conservation is a win for everybody.

But imagine trying to sell this to the public. And we don't have to imagine because we know how hard it is even to convince people that more expensive CFLs and LED lights are cheaper in the long run. In fact it took an act of Congress (which some call a conspiracy) to ban most incandescents because it was too hard to convince people to do the rational thing.

What manufacturers found in the 20s was that it was much easier to say "my bulbs last twice as long" than to say "my bulbs last half as long but trust me, you'll save money in the long run." You are a smart guy and its been difficult to convince you of that fact. What you end up with is a race to the bottom as manufacturers sell longer and longer life bulbs even though they waste more and more electricity. So manufacturers headed off this destructive trend and said, lets create standard bulbs at an efficiency and lifespan that makes economic sense and then compete on production efficiency and price.

Maybe the bulb manufacturers had evil motives, but its hard to argue that it harmed consumers. That's the same argument that right-wing nuts apply to the recent banning of incandescents to be replaced with more expensive yet more efficient CFL and LED lamps. I don't think that's a side of conspiracies that you would want to take.
posted by JackFlash at 4:05 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have a conspiracy theory that Naomi Wolf has several MeFi screen names and uses them to derail threads with pedantry.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:02 PM on October 8, 2014


You're ignoring the energy and raw materials used to produce the two for one lightbulbs. Those were not reduced by half.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:38 PM on October 8, 2014


Also, I wasn't just appealing to the IEEEs authority, but also imagining that their people have seen the actual specs and actual dollar amounts involved and were competent enough to evaluate them with more rigor than back-of-the-envelope math before reaching the conclusions they did.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:03 PM on October 8, 2014


Sorry for feeding the pedantic derail. But if we're trying not to think like conspiracy theorists, the finer points matter.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:07 PM on October 8, 2014


« Older clickety clack   |   Adobe Digital Editions 4 spying on users Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments