The Truthiness Is Out There

Is the term “conspiracy theory” ever used in a nonpejorative sense, in context with the actual definition of “theory?” Whether or not that be the case, my attention is focused on two aspects of the decidedly unsound variety rooted in speculation and/or outright hoax. First is overestimating the human capacity for large-scale concealment, cooperation, competence, knowledge, and consistency, violating a set of principles which I will dub Henderson’s Laws of Organization:

1. Concealability is inversely proportional to size. This applies to quantity of resources as as well as size of population. 9/11 trutherism, for example, assumes that vast amounts of explosives were smuggled to the WTC without notice.

2. Consensus is inversely proportional to population. Like fictional and real-life utopias, the mythical vast secret conspiracy incorporates a perfectionistic mission statement. Human collectives can grow only so large until dissent on significant issues arises to such a degree that requires large-scale coercion in order to stay true to mission. When preserving secrecy is at stake, this dissent must be quashed perfectly and undetected by the general public before the dissenters have any chance of upsetting the mission.

3. Aggregate competence is inversely proportional to population. Scott Adams made a career lampooning this principle. The larger the enterprise, the greater the variation in personnel talent and skill. A venture dedicated to not being notced can afford zero mistakes, something human nature cannot offer.

4. There is a point of diminishing returns at which adding additional personnel results in the reduction of the sum of usable information. The vast secret conspiracy also requires perfect information flows to remain intact. Given the widespread blind faith that the regulatory state can attain near omniscience, this may be the most popular misconception that fuels conspiracy “theories.” Every increase in the length of the information chain creates a new opportunity to lose or distort information. This is comically illustrated in the movie Brazil; instead of one office being responsible for generating and issuing arrest warrants, the functions are divided between two offices, and the system prevents the generating office from discovering miscommunications to the issuing office until it’s too late to reverse course.

5. Age of organization is inversely proportional to consistency with original goals. This is applicable not to alleged large-scale coverups (e.g. faked moon landing, JFK shooting, 9/11 “inside job”) but to purported secret cabals with broad agendas that supposedly remain intact over time without encountering mission creep.

(Observing these principles, one can deduce that real-life intelligence agencies maintain secrecy by limiting the scope of the various conspiracies they administer.)

There is another aspect of the vast secret conspiracy trope, one that often gets overlooked: unrealistic motive assessment. This is a factor in a number of conspiracy “theories.”

European Jewish banking conspiracy starting major European wars for profit

If such an entity did beat the odds as noted above and managed to survive for centuries, the high level of competence required would not be vulnerable to the broken window fallacy, especially if the conspiracy itself is in collateral damage range of all the windows.

WTC twin towers rigged explosion

That would require the hijackers to willingly coordinate with a government they don’t trust.

WTC7 rigged explosion

People devoting resources and personnel to a difficult large-scale project aren’t prone to employing significantly more than they need. A US government conspiracy to bring down the twin towers for PR purposes would see no added value – and many additional risks – from including a part of the WTC complex few people outside of NYC were even aware of at the time.

Vast a) sex-trafficking b) Satanist cabal c) in positions of power and influence

This is one of the core QAnon claims. Given the small populations associated with each of the circles of that Venn diagram, it would be hard enough to motivate vast numbers to fill the intersections of two of them, much less all three.

“The Storm”

The QAnon prophecy holds that Trump had in the works a law enforcement operation targeting the aforementioned Satanist cabal. One key assumption is that Q supports both Trump and “the Storm.” But such a person would not be motivated to tip off the targets, thus undermining the operation.

Trump/Russia collusion to leak DNC server data

The Steele Dossier could be dubbed the QAnon of the left if it involved random nobodies instead of prominent and powerful individuals. Among its claims is that Russian officials met with members of the Trump campaign to discuss leaking hacked DNC data. The Russians lack motive on two counts. First, intelligence agencies that pull off high-level information breaches like to keep that sort of thing secret, wanting to be able to pull off the feat again, and will inform only those with the highest security clearances. Second, Russian intelligence is expert at stealing and planting information on its own; a ramshackle American presidential campaign has nothing to offer such an endeavor.

22 thoughts on “The Truthiness Is Out There”

  1. I have a simple way of summing up:

    ‘Never attribute to conspiracy what can be accounted for by stupidity and/or incompetence.”

  2. There are also CTs which ascribe to the C abilities far beyond what would be needed to achieve its purported goal.

    For instance, many Kennedy assassination CTs assert that the Warren Report was a cover-up. But that would mean the C controlled Chief Justice Earl Warren, former CIA chief Allen Dulles, and future President Gerald Ford.

    If the C had so much power, what could they possibly want that they couldn’t get without the assassination?

  3. A modern day “conspiracy theory” is any topic the political establishment doesn’t want discussed.

    My personal reaction to this realization has been to become much more open to the various conspiracy stories floating about, even if I still think most of them are nonsense.

    For example, I’m old enough to remember when the Kennedy assassination was a live topic of debate. Eventually, after a lot of reading of conspiracy books, I concluded that Oswald acted alone.

    Imagine my surprise when I recently found out that Nixon apparently told his CIA director “I know you killed John,” and that Oswald apparently worked for the CIA. I don’t recall ever reading of either back when I was interested in the topic.

    Now perhaps that’s just my faulty memory, but I also note that Oswald fits a pattern. That is, a putative lone gunman who commits a murder that advances the political interests of the regime. Apparently Kennedy was about to reform the CIA somehow- the conspiracy-minded people I’ve lately read were a bit vague about this- and that inspired the murder.

    Since then we’ve seen a long list of “lone gunmen” who manage to commit massacres that have advanced the agenda of the left. Every “Five Eyes” country- the US, England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand- has had a massacre that immediately led to efforts to end private gun ownership, failing only in the US- so far. Recently, RFK jr- who says openly that the CIA killed both his father and uncle- had yet another “lone gunman” show up at a rally, only to be stopped the private security he was forced to hire because he’s been denied secret service protection.

    I could go on, but I think that’s enough crazy for today.

  4. Certainly the support system for the hijackers was much larger and for some reason the 9-11 commission left the 28 pages out of the document, a willfull omission

    so nxim and epstein’s circle, among other networks of operators,

    early on, one of the lesser known tabloids suggested the Russians had killed Seth Rich, but that wasn’t followed up much, because it conflicted with the narrative, Crowdstrike’s reports left much to be desired,

  5. As AVI has noted, one reason conspiracy theories are popular is because conspiracies are not uncommon–though most of them fail, some for the reasons stated above, others because of random accident or stupidity.
    One very successful large conspiracy was to conceal the target of the Allied invasion of France. The reasons for its success don’t carry over well to other situations, though.

  6. Well, maybe a little more crazy.

    If the C had so much power, what could they possibly want that they couldn’t get without the assassination?

    The removal of JFK from the presidency.

    But that would mean the C controlled Chief Justice Earl Warren, former CIA chief Allen Dulles, and future President Gerald Ford.

    Weirdly enough, the conspiracy-minded folks I’ve lately read do so assert.

    And it’s kind of odd how Gerald Ford later ended up president, isn’t it? Not like a payoff at all, was it?

    I just can’t unsee these sort of coincidences lately, real or imagined, after watching the endless shenanigans surrounding the 2020 election.

  7. the x files back in the 90s appreciated this milieu, sometimes with a wink and nod ‘Confessions of Cigarette Smoking Man, when they came back in the last decade, they did not appreciate how much stranger the world had become, and they were infected with TDS, which is a vector in Hollywood, which had reached stage 4 on shows like Homeland by around 2020

  8. ok but the same advisors were around jfk as were johnson, one might thinking he was considering pulling the advisors out, re john newman, but there is no guarantee that would have come to pass,

    Phillip Shenon has pointed out the testimony of Charles Thomas, who subsequent to the Warren Commission uncovered Oswalds ties to the Cuban Mission in Mexico city, then there is Gus Russo’s research about Abrahantes and Escalante training in Minsk

  9. Escalante rose to the head of Cuban Domestic Intelligence, Abrahantes to the top of the Ministry got caught up in the Ochoa purge trial

  10. AKH’s original post needs to add something about time. It plays a role in determining whether a conspiracy is viable.

    The Manhattan Project demonstrates a vast conspiring that remained, for all practical purposes, secret from intelligent opponents who actively sought to discern its details. Even when the Germans, the Japanese, and the Soviets knew something was going on, they did not know beyond a vague description much less successfully unpack the details. Until after the fact.

    Meanwhile, and on the other hand, those 3 groups with varying degrees of progress were on their way to figuring out on their own those details. And, also in the meantime, there existed some who were willing to assist them in speeding up that finding. These two meanwhiles illustrate my point about the time factor. Eventually the conspiracy goes the same route as any secret involving more than one person.

  11. Perhaps I should add this: Concealability is inversely proportional to age of organization.

    There’s one CT I didn’t address because I could remember it only vaguely and was unable to locate source material: that Christianity evolved out of some Roman culture that existed prior to the first century AD. Has anyone run across this before? It does call into the question why Romans without the benefit of supernatural encounters would get the notion to aggrandize the religious writings of a subject tribe from the empire’s fringes, and at the same time badmouth the tribe’s conventional wisdom regarding its prophesied saviour.

  12. AKH: “… why Romans without the benefit of supernatural encounters would get the notion to aggrandize the religious writings of a subject tribe from the empire’s fringes …”

    Professor Harl in his Great Courses series “The Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity” suggests that the Roman (really, Byzantine by that time) adoption of Christianity was largely a top-down driven affair. When the Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity and diverted the resources of the empire from supporting pagan festivals to supporting Christian churches, the peons quickly adopted it. Notionally, Constantine adopted Christianity because of a religious experience ahead of a successful battle — but developing the Christian Church may have been a way of extending Constantine’s control over his Empire.

  13. WEF/world government fits in a grey zone for me, and might, perhaps, illustrate another principle for consideration.

    If one says that the WEF is basically SPECTRE, it is a mere conspiracy theory, albeit one that Klaus Schwab’s fashion and style consultants seem determined to support by his appearance. The scale of alleged ambition is too great, the number of alleged participants is too great and, while there is a lot of common ground, the alleged participants come from too wide a range of sectors, industries, governments, interest clusters, and ideological variations to support a single, specific, secret agenda.

    On the other hand, if one characterizes the WEF as one important, arguably paramount, forum, for the gathering of like-minded leaders from government, business, society and technology who have similar values, ideologies, and aspirations for the future of humanity, to gather and share ideas toward how those might be fulfilled, I think one has stated an indisputable truth. It’s just that some of us oppose those values, ideologies, and aspirations.

    So my proposed general principles might be:

    It is much easier to achieve world-changing agendas when they are largely carried out on a semi-private/semi-public basis, with high profile gatherings of [many] known people, on a [mostly] visible basis and with [mostly] public communications, with [some version of] the end goals publicly debated.

    There is room for niche secrets if they meet most of the core principles of successful conspiracy- small subset of participants, most closely aligned by both beliefs and interests and ideally other connections like kinship or mutual blackmail, specific objective, and near term objective, soon concluded, easily ignored/denied in, or conflated with, the wider public context of events. The specific goal achieved by the conspiracy can be either kept secret/denied/obfuscated or assigned alternative explanations once achieved, or can, again once achieved, be allowed to become public knowledge and associated with the wider, public agenda. E.g.- right, we’ve kept secret our agenda to assassinate Caesar long enough to actually assassinate him, now we can go ahead and justify it openly as part of our overall “save the senatorial republic” messaging and ideological agenda.

    If your agenda is still unpopular and you lose message discipline, that’s a different problem. You might more wisely have include Antony in the target list. Again, a separate problem.

  14. On Christianity, one plausible convention narrative/answer set would be:

    1. It took 3 centuries to get to Constantine. This didn’t happen overnight.
    2. Even at that, it wasn’t even a likely outcome until Constantine made his call. Nothing prior to his decision to embrace Christianity at the state level suggested that Christianity was about to become the state religion. Though it DID by then have a lot of supporters. He just swung things much more decisively. And, he didn’t personally convert until his deathbed. His motives were almost certainly about statecraft. Diocletian had made the position of emperor much more monarchical and more despotic, and had given it a greater religious aura in a pagan context, but his system had failed. Constantine wanted to found it on what he hoped would be a firmer foundation, and perhaps the relative newness of Christianity would serve that. I agree with Gavin Longmuir’s comments on those lines.
    3. Traditional Roman religion built on the Olympian gods or their Roman analogues, early Roman and Etruscan concepts and household deities, ancestor worship and state worship, the amalgam of which had been the state religion of Roman kingdom, republic and empire alike for a thousand years, was more or less collapsed. Largely existing as a series of cultural practices, rote behaviours, and symbolic metaphors. Consider the way Christianity or Judaism exist now, for the large subsets of adherents who are not necessarily active practitioners or who believe in God only as metaphor.
    Or consider the position of “Chinese traditional religion”, the ancient gods of China, still widely cited as a folk religion, and closely integrated with other spiritual traditions and philosophical traditions from Buddhism and Taoism. The old gods by themselves don’t amount to much of a basis for belief systems, but buttressed by these, they form part of a larger world. One could argue that, until redirected by Christianity, there were trends that could have turned Greco-Roman religion that way- the old gods mixed with Mithraism, Neoplatonic philosophy, and Gnostic mysticism with both Greek and Middle Eastern roots. A sort of Roman version of what China ended up as or, even, a Roman version of the complicated mix of traditions in India we now call “Hinduism”.
    But whatever the replacement, the traditional Roman pantheon by itself had lost all head of steam and replacements were being sought.
    Christianity was a sort of alternative software from a culturally external vendor that just happened to have a reasonable installed base over 3 centuries, good marketing, interesting features, and appeared fully formed and ready to be used.
    4. Christianity DID follow an unusual path in building its appeal, one for which I personally have no idea how it happened. But it spread around as a religion of the poor, oppressed and diverse in an empire that had scattered many peoples all over the place, and offered a transnational/multicultural language, idiom, values, and way of life that cut across those boundaries. At some point, though perhaps during the Crisis of the Third Century, when everything seemed on the edge of collapse, Christianity rapidly gained elite converts and urban converts, and indeed urban elite converts. Enough that by Constantine’s time it had begun to be the religion of the urban well to do and right thinkers, looking down on the stupid rustics who clung to old ways. The men of the pagus, the land, the countryside. The pagani. [The origin of the word. It was the equivalent of rednecks, used by upper class right thinking urban and urbane Christians to describe the bitter clingers of the countryside peasantry, still hanging onto their old traditions.]

    but however all that worked out, it was the result of major social trends working themselves out over centuries, filling gaps that had emerged in the society and its old metaphysics over all that time, arguably as far back as Augustus, and, sure, benefitting from decisions by specific men at specific times who had their own agendas. But it was not conspiracy, and certainly not a sudden decision out of nowhere to suddenly adopt what was still considered the doctrines of a fringe tribe. Things had moved on more than that over the preceding 300 years, and the number, distribution and location of Christians in no way reflected that origin by then.

    Similarly, the part about rejecting that fringe tribe’s beliefs about their messiah, well, in the days of Christ there were multiple Jewish factions, only one of which ended up being the rootstock of Rabbinic Judaism, others who disappeared over time, and then the Jesus movement that believed he WAS the messiah and on the strength of that separated from what became modern Judaism and, with huge implications, decided that one no longer needed to become a Jew to become a Christian. That ability to recruit from non Jews made possible everything I said above and over 300 years made sure it was not a fringe tribe’s belief system anymore.

  15. well as I understand it, Klaus’s coffee clatche started like the Club of Rome, as a loose association to take on certain problems, popular then overpopulation the energy crisis and other elements, with a third industrial revolution what happened to the second, one can ascertain some of this mindset in edward rooney’s long dialogue in network, this notion of the individual as a pawn to greater forces,

    of course the vision of SPECTRE was narrow, what do you do with the world, when you want to take it over, how do side step those who will not accept your prescriptions, Fleming didn’t really ponder these notions, any more than the writers of man from uncle,

  16. AKH mentioned conspiracy theories and ability to conceal. An important factor in determining conceability is the nature of what you are trying to conceal; the “information signature” of actions vary. As Alan mentioned, the notion that 9/11 involved explosives being planted in the WTC buildings involves an enormous operation involving places, groups, and coordination that would be nigh impossible to accomplish let alone cover-up. Keep in mind that the criteria used to judge the feasibility of such operations lies not from the perspective of the observer whether they can detect it but rather from that of the operators whether they can conceal it

    It’s much easier to have a conspiracy to cover up an operation rather than initiate it since the former usually takes diversion, creation of conflicting narratives, and the passing of time I would imagine covering-up such actions in the background chatter, hiding in plain sight as it were, will be more prominent in the future given the tremendous amount of information generated by digital emissions and collection, let alone the statutory requirement for records keeping

    I think when it comes to modern day conspiracy theories, the most interesting man to consider is Ray Epps (Queen Creek’s Finest) of Jan. 6 fame for two reasons. The first is that he represents an action that could not be long hidden given its large information signature and prominence so that it was planned from the beginning as something that would be exposed. Meaning that even when it became exposed it would be too late since the operation was designed to feed other actions downstream. Think of the cover-up of George Floyd’s death by fetanyl which would have been revealed by the autopsy report; however, by that time it wouldn’t have mattered because the downstream effects of his “Killing” that resulted in calls for racial justice would have been rolling too fast to be stopped by something as simple as facts.

    The other dimension to Ray Epps is that by revealing that some conspiracy theories are true (that there were agent provocateurs on Jan. 6th) while concealing other information as to the number of said agents, you enable more and even wackier conspiracy theories which can further discredit your opponents. In fact I wonder if the entire arc of Ray Epps’ involvement in Jan. 6 was simply an information operation to do just that, to simultaneously show intent of both subversion and cover-up to the point that not only do people not know what to believe but they would believe anything.

  17. they seem to be drawing from here there’s also Berzin and the Latvian Guard,

    as well as the case of Rolando Cubela, he was the revolutionary, that the CIA had made contact to target Fidel with a poison pen, on November 22, some two years later he sprung the trap and rolled up the entire Escambray network in Cuba,

  18. Conspiracy theories are superstitious. Since nothing happens without intent, and nothing happens in isolation, they resemble religious beliefs. For example, the Christian devil who lurks behind every sin and is capable of the most sinister manipulations acts similarly to a global conspiracy that can be blamed for everything wrong with the world.

    Like other supernatural concepts, humans find conspiracy theories instinctively appealing, and this should help to explain something puzzling: Why do believers insist that they care about the truth yet invest almost no effort into find it?

  19. Let me discuss various topics I’ve seen described as conspiracy theories over the years. I’ll make a list. You’re all welcome.

    1) Flat Earth. Widely discussed, lots of YouTube videos.

    2) The moon landing was a hoax. Ditto.

    3) UFO/UAP coverup and disclosure of same. More ditto, but lately with added congressional hearings.

    4) 9/11. Again, widely discussed, with endless nonsense, but some questions never seem to get asked, others never stop getting asked, despite good answers.

    5) Qanon. Apparently nonsense, except for the pedophilia aspect, but I won’t go there.

    6) The 2020 election and the vote fraud question. I watched the fraud happen live on election night/overnight and have subsequently watched the deranged reaction against anyone in public life who dares suggest the election was fraudulent. Compare and contrast how Stacey Abrams and her claims to be the rightful of governor of Georgia have been treated.

    7) The 1/6 event. Almost every day we see more violence and destruction from leftist mobs than anything that happened that day, yet the regime is still pursuing people who were merely present in DC that day, because insurrection. The conspiracy angle here- btw- is the leftist idea that the protesters were somehow intending to overthrow the US government because- as one person said to me- they were caught with zip ties. In other words, the most heavily armed demographic in the United States attempted to overthrow the government and yet forgot to bring any guns.

    8) Russiagate. Rather extensive investigation has revealed that Trump did not collude with Russia, period. Leftist conspiracy mongers are not interested in the reality.

    9) The “Great Replacement.” Mention of this appears to generate frothing hostility from the left, even though it is rather plain that both in the US and Europe the ruling class is striving mightily to import as many foreigners as possible, as soon as possible, for some reason.

    Anyway, I can discern a pattern. So-called conspiracies of no political relevance are ignored. Conspiracies that advance the political interest of the left are encouraged. And discussion of putative conspiracies that might threaten the regime are targeted for suppression by any means necessary.

  20. Why do believers insist that they care about the truth yet invest almost no effort into find it?

    How do you know how much effort believers invest into finding the truth about their subjects?

    I know at least one flat-earther had enough interest in the topic to build a balloon to investigate the matter in person- thus demonstrating more interest in the scientific method than the entire CDC- but also subsequently losing their life when their balloon crashed. Other folks folks spend a good portion of their lives investigating their topic of interest, writing lengthy tomes few people have heard of and fewer have read.

    That sort of thing is effort, whether you like their conclusions or not.

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