How about the title of the blog…
As you’ve probably noticed, in the title of this blog, we’ve got a “UU” inserted into the the word “Truthers”. I trust that the UU part’s obvious, but maybe you’re not familiar with the Truther part.
The term “truther”, refers to someone who disbelieves or is skeptical of the officially-presented and broadly-accepted story surrounding a particular event, believing that available evidence indicates cover-up and deception. The term originally came into use around the 9/11 truth movement: “9/11 Truthers” are people who question and/or reject the government’s official story surrounding the attacks on September 11, 2001.
It has generally been used as a pejorative label, and is closely associated with the term “conspiracy theorist”: both unflattering terms used to denigrate people and delegitimize certain areas of inquiry.
A Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning
To bring in UUism, let’s consider our fourth principle. As a guideline for our collective values and morality, UU congregations expressly affirm and promote “A Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning”.
Naturally, since we are talking about church and religion, we might understand this principle to be referring to spiritual truth and meaning, about finding fulfillment and one’s own truths the realms of life purpose, theology, morality, metaphysicality, and so on. So I can understand if you think it may be a stretch to include in this principle questions like how the 9/11 attacks or the Oklahoma City bombing really went down, or whether the assassins of JFK or MLK were really “lone nuts”, or whether the vaccine industry and government agencies really have our best interests at heart… It really does seem like these are different kinds of truths.
Well, as it relates to the 4th principle, what actually constitutes truth and meaning is deliberately left open ended:
Institutionally, we have left open the questions of what truth and meaning are, acknowledging that mindful people will, in every age, discover new insights. – Rev Paige Getty (quoted on uua.org)
When it comes to conspiratorial questions, you can’t thoroughly explore these areas without digging into many different disciplines: history, psychology and epistemology are the big ones. You’ve probably read an article or two on how to deal with conspiracy theorists and how to understand their thinking (like this one, or this one). Such articles always have to dig into the psychology of why people believe conspiracy theories, considering that their beliefs are so obviously contrary to logic, reason and evidence. Then, on the other side of the coin, “conspiracy theorists” like myself, who see such obvious logical fallacy in blanket dismissal of conspiracy theory, struggle to understand why it is that people are so readily able to jump to a confident dismissal of a certain topic and completely reject a line of inquiry as untouchable because it’s had a particular label slapped on it by media and the powers that be. It is amazing how something that is so obviously true to one person can be so obviously false to another. And underlying all of this is the question of what constitutes “evidence” in the first place? How do I know what I know? What does it even mean to believe or disbelieve?
These are basic questions extremely relevant to the search of truth of any sort. But with conspiracy theory – and weaponized language in general – we’re getting out of the realm of abstract philosophy into the very concrete realm of corrupt power structures, systems of mass manipulation & oppression, and large scale deception. We’re getting in to the realms of social engineering, behavior control, and propaganda. We’re looking at powerful forces that affect our ability to differentiate moral and immoral, good and evil.
Let’s talk about the phrase “conspiracy theory”. As a weaponized wordpair, it gains its destructive power in its ability to repress the very idea that powerful people in our society could be collaborating in any way to deceive, exploit, program, or dominate us. Internally we can use the wordpair to help us rationalize that anything that might require any degree of secret collaboration, large-scale deception, or psychopathy on the part of the wealthy and powerful, must be so improbable, that it isn’t even worth seriously considering as possibility. If we buy in to the popular conception of conspiracy-theory-as-mental-deficiency (as we educated intellectuals are heavily indoctrinated to do), we are primed to readily dismiss a whole host of horrible possibilities offhand.
It’s understandable why folks would be keen to buy into this conception; it’s much easier and more pleasant to live in a world where all conspiracy theory is just fantasy from books and movies. That’s part of what makes the wordpair weapon so effective: it jibes so cleanly with wishful thinking of an idealized reality. Compound that with the broadly accepted orthodoxy that someone who “believes conspiracy theories” is some combination of mentally ill, paranoid and/or stupid, and the idea that the upstanding, educated intellectual critical thinker is “too smart” to fall for conspiratorial thinking. Then, compound that with the tendency of humans to become trapped and tightly bound by social stigma and groupthink!
In an effective deployment of the wordpair weapon against a particular topic, good hefty mental barriers are erected around that topic in the properly conditioned mind. Certain lines of inquiry become walled off. Strong opinion is rapidly formed, as is a repressed fear of contrary evidence. Any contrary evidence that makes its way into the mind is subject to enhanced hyper-scruitny and must be rapidly dismissed and forgotten about. The process is driven not only by a fear of being wrong, but also a fear of being thought of as an outcast. For some, a feeling of intellectual superiority over the idiot conspiracy theorist may add extra icing on the cake.
A successful deployment is aided heavily by the fact that most journalists and reporters understand that there’s more benefit to one’s career prospects to narrative conformity around anything deemed “conspiracy theory” than there is to honest examination and presentation of all available evidence.
It seems obvious that if someone with power and influence ever did have some insidious conspiracy they wanted to keep under wraps, they’d have every motivation to make use of their power and influence to push the narratives so that it is associated as strongly as possible with the wordpair!
Of course, it goes without saying that there are plenty of false conspiracy theories in existence, and there are plenty of psychological pitfalls to watch out for when truth-seeking in this arena. My point isn’t to say that anything deemed “conspiracy theory” automatically has legitimacy and is worth spending any time investigating. Primarily I want to emphasize the need to resist the “auto-dismiss” programming that comes along with the label. To break free from the stigma and mental conditioning associated with the wordpair is to render it useless as a weapon. Without that weapon, obscured truths can become more accessible.
Back to the 4th Principle
Pejoratives like “conspiracy theorist” are specifically employed to obstruct a person’s search for truth. Weaponized language in general is used to shape our thinking, to program our worldviews, creating blind spots in our moral vision. The way it operates needn’t be entirely conspiratorial per se… that is, language/labels that impose tyranny on one’s psyche don’t always come from deliberate malign intention from on high; surely they just as often come from basic human psychology operating in a chaotic world. But to completely rule out or minimize the role that malicious intent of a ruling predator class of humans is a huge mistake.
In my journey thus far, I’ve learned that on almost every level of this reality, there is more going on than meets the eye. Systems in place in society operate in a manner that is significantly different than what we’re taught in school and what were told by the authorities and media. If you manage to break through the propaganda, it’s pretty easy to see that the United States government is an empire ruled by an oligarchy, and it’s status as a “democracy” is shaky at best. The oligarchy that rules over us is clearly driven by much more than just plain greed, as is evidenced by the obscene levels of wealth possessed by a very few. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk Bill Gates in the next article!) A handful of corporations own all the mainstream media outlets, and propagandize us to keep us in a carefully constructed box of allowable thought. A perverted form of “Science” is being sold to us as a “not-a-religion” religion.
There are concerted efforts to deceive and manipulate us, to obstruct our search for truth, to get us to direct our energy and attention toward certain ends.
If we bury our heads in the sand, and commit to the dogmatic belief that “conspiracy theory isn’t real, dammit!”, then we inevitably find our selves robbed of free will, becoming pawns and puppets for the forces that want to control us.
Of course, that’s my opinion. But the purpose of this whole blog is to put my opinion out there along with relevant evidence and reasoning, to hopefully get it challenged, and hopefully get some mental wheels turning!
- The Flawed Psychology of Conspiracy Theory – Iain Davis
- An excellent analysis of an academic paper purporting to analyze psychology of conspiracy theories.
- What Upstanding Citizens Believe vs. What Crazy Conspiracy Theroists Believe – Caitlin Johnstone
- A satirical article poking fun at the ridiculousness of the phenomenon.
- Language is a Weapon – James Corbett
- A slight diversion from the topics here, but an excellent examination of mass-manipulation by leaders using weaponized language (primarily euphemistic political language)