Thursday, June 28, 2012

Goertzel On Conspiracy Theories

I was poking around reading about conspiracy theories and their meaning today. I came across an essay by Rutgers prof Ted Goertzel that I found quite sensible.
A survey of 348 residents of southwestern New Jersey showed that most believed that several of a list of ten conspiracy theories were at least probably true. People who believed in one conspiracy were more likely to also believe in others. Belief in conspiracies was correlated with anomia, lack of interpersonal trust, and insecurity about employment. Black and hispanic respondents were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories than were white respondents. Young people were slightly more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, but there were few significant correlations with gender, educational level, or occupational category.
Whole thing here.Yes, he does touch on how much conspiracism among blacks may be due to being an outgroup and historical victim and how much seems independent of that (at first cut.)

Interesting for us here, where we have previously noted that belief in conspiracies does not seem to be related to education or class, and further observed that previous measure of this belief seem to have been unintentionally designed to score conservative conspiracism and miss liberal versions.

Background for those who haven't been around for years: I have lots of direct experience with paranoia in mental illness and the anosognosic lack of insight, and have tried to tease out how it may be related. I also have had, for similar reasons, contact with specific conspirazoid groups of the tax protestor, New World Order, and fringe Christian varieties. We've also slammed the vaccine and GM food issues pretty hard.

In fact, nearly everything I read at his site seemed eminently sensible, so I pass him along to you for enjoyment. He kicks both Linus Pauling and Noam Chomsky, but narrowly and appropriately. His personal stories of his uneasy relationship with Marxism are deft and engaging. He differentiates cleanly between conspiracy and herd mentality in discussing climate change.

Bethany over at Bad Data, Bad!, whose post on conspiracy theories (with xkcd cartoon) started me roaming around researching again, is also likely to enjoy scrolling down to the essay about Myths of Murder and Multiple Regression. Gringo will be interested in his heavy South American emphasis, including a new book about Lula. To those AI freaks who think the name is familiar, but can't fit it in, you're thinking about his son, Benjamin, a mathematician who writes on AI, especially Artifical Global Intelligence.


Texan99 said...

Could it be linked to a feeling of helpless failure? Dark forces are allied against us, and so on.

Sam L. said...

I know of many conspiracies that I cannot name because I'm not sufficiently hidden for them not to find me. Maybe someday...