It seems that applying the tag “conspiracy theory” to something is the new way to get rid of it quickly. Evidently, people have been trained to stay away from anything given that title, assured that they will be embarrassed and ridiculed if they don’t gain some distance.
But, while this association trick is of some interest, it really isn’t our subject here. Our concern is the problem built into conspiracy theories, not how the words are used as a weapon.
I’ll pass up the easy criticism of wild, irrational conspiracy theories. While these criticisms are legitimate, the risk associated with such theories is fairly minor; any serious, independent observer can see through them. The real problem with conspiracy theories is not easy to see – it is implied rather than directly stated. I’ll give it to you in brief, and then explain it more carefully:
The real problem with conspiracy theories is not that they are scary – it’s that they are too comforting.
My concern with conspiracy theories is not whether they are true or false; it is their implication that the world is being controlled. There is a strange comfort in the idea that the world is controllable.
The hidden thought embedded in most discussions of conspiracy theories is this:
The world is being controlled by evil people. So, if we can get rid of them, the world can revert to control by good people, and things will be great again.
This thought is false. The world is not controlled by any group of people – evil or good – and it will not be. The world is a large, chaotic mess. Those groups which do exert some control are merely larger pieces in the global mix.
The worst conspiracy theories take this hidden thought to an extreme, with a thought process that goes something like this:
- We had a glorious and just past.
- We lost our glorious days.
- It must have been someone’s fault. (“It was our own fault” is excluded, since that would require painful reflection and repair.)
- A plausible theory is inserted here, defining a clear villain or group of villains.
- Once we get control away from the villains, our glorious past will return.
This formulation is false, for several reasons:
- The world is massively complex, and is simply not suited to control.
- No type of control produces golden ages, and what is controlled suffers damage. (I’ll explain this in future issues of the monthly Freeman’s Perspective letter.)
- Glorious times are created by good people and a tremendous amount of hard work; they don’t come easily or automatically.
This idea, of the world not being controlled, is troubling to most of us. Nonetheless, it seems to be the truth. The good guys don’t control the world and the bad guys don’t control the world. The world is a big, complex mess.
The Guy Who Would Know
I happen to know one of the world’s great intelligence analysts. He has written innumerable classified briefings, over several decades. We see each other at meetings from time to time and chat if we can.
At one of these meetings, we took a few moments to discuss the chaotic actions of intel groups worldwide, which led to a question I had been waiting to ask: Is there anyone who can see the big picture? Anyone with a clear view of what’s really going on?
His answer was unambiguous: “No, Paul, no one really knows.”
So, my friends, if this guy, a super-experienced, high-level intelligence analyst, can’t see what is really going on, and doesn’t know of anyone who can see it – much less being able to control it all – then forget about secret groups intelligently pulling strings world-wide. Such mega-villains do not exist. They make wonderful characters in mystery novels and movies, but they aren’t real.
I fully understand that this can be a troubling thought, but there is every reason to think that it is true, regardless of how it makes us feel.
Yes, there are groups that oppress people and control things – that skim away people’s production and manipulate their lives – but they do this locally, not world-wide. Furthermore, they are not able to control things very completely; there are always people and groups who slip through cracks.
And, it gets worse…
They Are Not Smarter Than You
When we think of people secretly running the world, we may think of them as evil, but we also think of them as highly intelligent. This also is false. And, for most of us, it is doubly scary to think that the guys trying to run the world are not only immoral, but have very mundane minds as well.
The people who have tried to control the world have rarely been geniuses. Even the most successful of them weren’t all that smart. Stalin was ruthless, for sure, but he was not exceptionally bright. Neither was Hitler, neither was Mao, neither were Alexander or the vast majority of Roman Emperors.
Ruthless does not equal smart.
Rulers are called “genius” because armies obeyed them, or because their soldiers had superior weapons and reasons to fight, or because they killed the opponents of a specific cause. But these are not characteristics that can be associated with genius. Real geniuses have never been big on wielding power over others.
To buttress this point, consider this: How many ‘great rulers’ sowed the seeds of their own destruction? (Attacking Russia in autumn… how stupid is that!?) Read serious biographies of the wannabe world controllers; you’ll find that most of them shot themselves in the foot.
Perhaps a few of the central controllers have been quick thinkers, but most of these people didn’t gain their positions by being smart – they gained position by some external advantage, mostly by being born to it, in one way or another.
The Crucial Importance of Structures
Think about the elite of our time: The Bushes, members of the House of Lords, Hillary Clinton, or the students at top Universities who routinely become the leaders of media and government. Then think about the central bankers: Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Schroders and their various sponsors. Then consider this:
Almost all of these people have obtained power via birth, family connections, or some other type of advantage. They are not there solely because of merit.
As for elected officials, it is a big mistake to imagine that they are in their positions due to merit, regardless of the fact that people vote for them. Winning an election is not about virtue; it’s about manipulating crowds. You win an election by scaring people away from your opponent. Beside, everyone knows that politics is incestuous and that almost every politician lies continually; that’s hard to construe as merit.
The elite are not superior, except at remaining ensconced in structures of power. And those structures matter far more than do their occupants.
A New Understanding of the Ruler
So, if ruling types don’t control as much as we thought they did, and if they’re not especially smart, our assumptions about them should change.
Consider things from the ruler’s standpoint. If they are not really in full control and are not super-smart, they would have to think thoughts like the following, at least from time to time:
1. We must preserve the structure or we can lose everything. If the structures of the world failed, the rulers would not be able to rebuild them. The proof of this are the various dark ages; once the old order failed, it stayed dead. New structures eventually rose up, but not the old ones. The ruling elite, if they understand this at all, will be driven to preserve their existing structures.
2. We must maintain an image of being powerful and wise, or at least as being admirable. Knowing that they are not inherently superior, but that they hold superior positions – positions that ultimately rest upon the agreement of the masses – the elite have to carefully maintain some type of elevated status and to make sure that the masses continue to care about that status.
Another human factor, that plays in the elite, as well as it does in anyone else, is simple denial. Because the loss of their structures would ruin them, they find ways to avoid taking such thoughts seriously. (Humans are very good at this.) So, when they say, “No one saw this crisis coming,” they may be telling the truth, at least as far as they know it. Neither they nor anyone in their circles would entertain such thoughts. Likewise, they may not see the next crisis until it hits them.
And, because most of the elite are subject to self-reflection like the rest of us, they have to find ways to discount the masses. Even if this is as small as calling most of their domain “flyover country,” they need to make some sort of distinction between themselves and the people they rule. Otherwise, they would have to face the fact that, being no better than the mechanic in Cornwall, they yet control his existence from cradle to grave.
[Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from our flagship newsletter - Freeman's Perspective - Issue #4: "The Real Problem with Conspiracy Theories." If you liked what you read, consider taking a risk-free test drive. Not only will you gain immediate access to the rest of this issue (which includes two examples of real conspiracies later proved true), but you'll also be able to enjoy the entire archive - more than 500 pages of research on topics of importance and inspiration to those looking for freedom in an unfree world. Plus valuable bonus reports and all new issues, as well. Click here to learn more.]