As those who read this forum have probably noticed, conspiracy theorists are uniquely frustrating to me from a logical standpoint. Instead of trying to jump into an already existing discussion forum topic regarding the latest conspiracy theory in which the narrative of the thread has already been established, I suppose I should create my own topic addressing these posts.
From the Wikipedia page on conspiracy theorists, I find this passage that sums up my general view on conspiracy theorists more eloquently and thoroughly than I could:
"According to political scientist Michael Barkun, the appeal of conspiracism is threefold: First, conspiracy theories claim to explain what mainstream narratives cannot. They appear to make sense out of a world that is otherwise confusing. Second, they do so in an appealingly simple way, by dividing the world sharply between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. They trace all evil back to a single source, the conspirators and their agents. Third, conspiracy theories are often presented as special, secret knowledge unknown or unappreciated by others. For conspiracy theorists, the masses are a brainwashed herd, while the conspiracy theorists in the know can congratulate themselves on penetrating the plotters' deceptions."
As I can recall, all of the described elements of conspiracy theorists above have been exhibited in posts throughout this discussion board, buzorro's in particular. I will cite examples if asked.
From a logical standpoint, I view conspiracy theorists as a confusing fallacy. Let me provide some background of my own views on the topic as a whole. Personally speaking, I do not believe that JFK was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, or if he was that Oswald acted alone without influence. In this particular case, I see all of the different people and organizations who were threatened by Kennedy and/or would benefit from his death. In this particular case, I take that into consideration and I view the established story about the event (The Warren Commission's report, to be precise) as being less logically compelling than the alternative of the Warren Commission not being fully truthful. Now, but here is where I differ from you folks. I do not pretend to know as a certainty which particular anti-Kennedy force was responsible for his assassination, and to back up my certainty I do not cherry pick information from questionable sources whose sole operating purpose in most cases is to produce conspiracy theories.
Speaking of those shady sources, that is one major source of amusement for me in particular regarding the conspiracy theorists. They will always tell you how foolish people who believe the mainstream media are, since mainstream media has an inherent bias towards the establishment and the status quo due to the establishment's massive investment in the mainstream media. I find no disagreement with that line of thinking, as I agree that corporate owned media conglomorates usually are much more interested in their bottom lines as a first, second, and third priority as opposed to making their best effort to accurately and ethically report the news as it happens without a filter. It is hypocritical, however, when conspiracy theorists point this out, since they themselves rely on mostly online sources unverified by credible experts on the matter, and whose stated purpose is to publish conspiracy theories. For me anyway, that gives me all the evidence that those sources too are biased and cannot be trusted as unbiased sources of news. That is to be said, if there are no credible conspiracies to be found, your favorite conspiracy site will find one anyway by manufacturing one. The mainstream media does the same thing. They will manufacture a major story if there is none to be found. Remember when the news kept talking about the epidemic of child abductions a few years ago, even though child abduction rates were actually on the decline? I recall that, in the summer before 9/11, the major story gripping the news was a rise in shark attacks, even though in this case too, shark attacks were actually occuring less frequently than usual that summer as I recall. See what I'm trying to say here? I view your sources to be unreliable for exactly the same reason I view the mainstream, corporate owned media to be reliable. More than any other principle, I believe in the golden mean. That is the ancient Greek principle that extremes are usually inaccurate and destructive from both a logical and practical standpoint, that moderation is the goal of the freest thinker, and that personal emotional attachment to an issue only makes one less reliable as a source of accurate information on said issue. This is why you will not convince people by citing conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory when you have already proven yourself to be personally attached to conspiracy theories, since that fact alone makes you appear biased and unreliable. This is why I view conspiracy theorists as an equally unappetizing extreme, opposite from the other extreme of believing what the corporate owned media tells you en masse.
Another point I want to address is how frequently conspiracy theorists utilize black and white thinking, or splitting, in their arguments. Splitting refers to the practice of subsconciously splitting people into two categories: "good" and "evil." This bothers me greatly, since, as I have said, I am a firm believer in not black and white thinking but in gray thinking. The complicated, mucky, often uninteresting gray middle is where truth is usually found, not in the shrill combination of bias and logical inflexibility that the extremes represent. Trying to lump together all the evil and wrong that goes on into one shadowy group, such as the "Illuminati," is too easy and too simple to be believed. It also gives too much credit to the self-absorbed and typically questionably competent people who usually wind up climbing the rungs of the ladder of power anyway (see the Peter principle).
But here is the ultimate point of frustration I want to address. Nowhere is the logical inflexibility of a hardcore conspiracist more apparent than when they brand those who refuse to accept the conspiracy theory dogma as being "sheep" or "sheeple" who are incapable of independent thought and who believe whatever those in power tell them. The mistake they make here is that they see something that is readily obvious and very frustrating (the continuing takeover of the American people by greedy corporate interests) and twist it into something that is so simple that it can't be true. In their search for meaing as to why we as Americans have allowed ourselves to be so thouroughly manhandled by our corporate overlords, they revert to the easiest possible solution. They mistakenly think that those who don't believe in conspiracy dogma therefore are blind to the wrongs of those who rule over them. Talk to people on the street today and tell me that's true. The problem isn't that the everyday American doesn't see the evil of those who rule us, it is that he is powerless to stop it. Just because someone refuses to accept your own specific dogma or doctrine does not mean they are oblivious to the problem the dogma addresses as a whole. This is essentially Logical Fallacies 101 level stuff.
There are so many different tangents I could go on and there is so much more I could say about this, but I won't risk angering the carpal tunnel gods by posting any more right now. I suppose I shall wait and see if buzorro, penteller, and any other conspiracy folks on here will even respond to this in the first place before I go on any more. But, all unpleasant past correspondences between any of us on this forum aside, I am interested in your perspective on this matter. I am also interested to hear what you have to say about any or all of the information within this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspiracy_theory