Thursday, September 30, 2021

#70 - Conspiracy And Paranoia

Repost from 2019, and includes links from much earlier.  I may comment further, but there's already enough here to keep people busy for a few days.


Well, this got out of hand.  I thought I had written about conspiracy and paranoia a fair bit, but after reviewing the search bar results, I wonder if I have written about anything else. I gave up.  I may have missed the best ones.  Here is the original, 70th-most popular post that kicked it all off. As it concerns Lee Harvey Oswald and the KGB, it is likely that some of the traffic was driven by people search about the topic, not my friends and other sites telling everyone what a great post AVI had today. I wrote about that aspect at least one more time. Okay, two.

What has been more usual for me is writing that paranoia and belief in conspiracy theories precede an actual formed theory or focus. We do not become paranoid because of our experiences.  We interpret our experiences in a paranoid way after developing the tendency.  (I am willing to discuss this in the context of people under tyrannies if someone wants to go there.  I think that is somewhat, but not entirely different.) I did find some posts about that. Categories of Paranoia, Conspiracy and Blue Hats, Paranoia FYI'

The principle applies even when it is mild paranoia or mere suspiciousness. Distributed power. Suspicion and the Liberal Mind. Yet if people really believed even that much, wouldn't they take up arms?  Or leave the country?  No, that pretend paranoia is merely there for signalling, a Poetic essence.

Ted Goretzel talks about who believes in conspiracy theories. It can include PhD's. I discussed why it is hard to convince people Conspiracy theories are unlikely and unnecessary.They are too easy. The truth is harder to fix.

The object of Paranoia can change over time. You can ascribe your troubles to different conspiracies. (Yes, she has now included the Jews.) There are whole lots of these theories, pick one. Sometimes they actually are ture: Journolist. People try to create conspiracies all the time, but the more people you have, the quicker it is going to become public. Daily Kos noticed that George Bush quietly changed a law in 2007 so that he could declare martial law in 2009 and not step down.

Does our style of paranoia choose our politics for us, rather than the other way around? Does the mechanism for accepting blame and responsibility in our brains break before the paranoia? Do fiction or film increase our vulnerability to paranoia or belief in conspiracies?

I'm sure I've said other brilliant things elsewhere, but this is already well more than enough.


Texan99 said...

In my experience it's very, very hard to get people to coordinate. Leaders who can get more than a handful of people pulling in the same direction are vanishingly rare. It's also terribly hard to keep a secret. It follows that a genuine secret collaboration on a large scale is pretty unlikely. I wouldn't make the mistake of assuming it never happens, but I do assume that most of the time it's more of a casual fellow-traveler thing. People in large numbers may go along with something that's not necessarily free of stink, not because they're in on it exactly, but because they're loosely OK with the result and aren't taking the trouble to investigate or stick their necks out. A lot of good can be done by ordinary people doing a bit of "stop, look, and listen" before they go along with a trend.

Christopher B said...

I suppose technically this might be creating a conspiracy theory but still

Frank Figliuzzi drew a numerical connection on Monday between neo-Naziism and the Trump administration's decision to fly flags at half-mast until Aug. 8 in honor of the victims of a pair of mass shootings.

Figliuzzi is a former FBI assistant director...

Sam L. said...

This is why I'm holed up in my secret underground bunker, and use a fake name and a spoofed URL.

Christopher B said...

The link to (Does our style of paranoia choose our politics for us,..) is messed up.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Christoopher B - thanks, fixed. As to Figliuzzi, this is exactly the sort of obsession with details paranoids fixate on. I suppose Trump can't do anything on August 8th, ever from here on in. If he had not ordered them to half-staff, that would have been because of Hitler, too.

james said...

I don't know that paranoia is a requirement for everybody. Maybe initially, but otherwise stable people will go along with the conspiracy-theorists to lynch the albino because he witched the baby. If the predominant world-view, justifiably or not, includes malicious people eager to take advantage of any weakness, believing conspiracy theories becomes more mainstream.

I suppose living in a land populated with witches is not too different from living in a state filled with spies and informers.

Christopher B said...

james, I disagree. Our brains are incredible pattern recognition devices. Figuring out that certain disturbances in the ground and certain .. material .. lying around indicated a certain type of animal, either potentially food or potentially a threat, was in the area was key to us surviving for thousands of years. When faced with an event that we want to either avoid or repeat we're all naturally looking for those indicators, markers, and explanations. That we subsequently determine explanations from previous generations are incorrect, even fantastically incorrect, doesn't make them paranoid. They were just wrong.

james said...

Are we disagreeing? From their point of view, everybody knows there are witches. The novelty is the claim that Momo, who you've known all your life, is now known to be a witch. (It may not even be his fault--the "witchness" have taken hold of him.)

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think a tendency for false positives on patterns of all sorts must be adaptive, because it is so common. Conspiracy-thinking and paranoia may be that faculty exaggerated.

Interesting bit: older people, or anyone with dementia, will grow increasingly suspicious of their environment as their memory fails, because things are not what they should be. Someone has drunk the orange juice. People they don't know are coming around and asking questions. The dentist isn't where he used to be. They are being billed for something they didn't receive. All can be based on truth, but they leap to a suspicious narrative.

RichardJohnson said...

Your posting on "Conspiracy and Paranoia" was rather prophetic in light of Jeffery Epstein's recent death. Before, I usually laughed at conspiracy and paranoia. Now, I see that conspiracy and paranoia may well have an explanation for what happened.

For a plausible conspiracy theory, consider Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S. It now appears that some KGB rogue agents, under the direction of the likes of Kremlin ideologue Suslov and KGB head Andropov, had taken over a nuclear sub to send a nuclear missile to Honolulu. Certain "signatures" from the nuclear sub and the missile, it was hoped, would lead the US to conclude that China was behind the attack. The missile exploded before it left the sub, sinking the sub. Brezhnev wasn't a party to the conspiracy- which is why it is called "rogue."

Morris Childs was a former Commie who worked for decades with the FBI as the Kremlin's bagman for the CPUSA. Childs brought back valuable information about the Kremlin, making Gus Hall's living in comfort a small price to pay. While Childs had known Kremlin ideologist Mikhail Suslov since the 1930s, it appears that Suslov never told Childs what really happened with the sunken Soviet sub. Operation Solo: The FBI's Man in the Kremlin (Cold War Classics.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I loved Operation Solo. What was fascinating was how much time he spent in the later years convincing that Soviets that the US, including Nixon, was not about to pre-emptively bomb them, but really were adopting a stern defensive posture. The Russians were forever sure, likely because of projection, that all the American talk about "defense" was merely a ruse. Many Americans believed (and still believe) that as well. The example of a dozen Latin American nations shows how ridiculous that was. We went into those countries because of the Russian buildup, not the other way around, and when the Soviets went broke, collapsed, and left, so did the Americans, just as we always said. You will notice that we leave those countries to do whatever stupid things they want with their governments now. The difference was that Americans wanted to be able to trade freely and favorably (sometimes extra-favorably, and that got uglier); they did not want to actually rule other countries, even through puppets. Trade, not control, was the objective. The Soviets could never quite believe that was true.

Wars and secret actions to secure trade could also be brutal, but they are not the same thing.

Texan99 said...

It continues to make sense to me that conservatives generally resent intrusion while liberals generally resent not being taken care of. If they go "sproing," one group may hole up with hypervigilant armed perimeters, ready to massacre anyone who threatens to shatter their brittle autonomy. The other group may go on shooting sprees in places filled with people who stand in for the caretakers who have betrayed them in their need--often bosses or ex-wives, but perhaps just "normal" strangers in a family restaurant or church, folks who are hogging all the good stuff and withholding attention.

When we see paranoid mass violence, we may be hearing the message "I can't bear to confront needs or demands from other people" or "I can't bear your failure to comply with my needs and demands."

Aggie said...

I think it's become an overused word, and we need a new one to compliment it and improve nuance. Antifa has demonstrated a commonality of purpose that gets the job done and yet also avoids direct conspiracy. They simply have a set of principles that the individual anarchists follow - break, burn, yell, attack, so forth. With a simple set of rules and commitment to a commonly-held sense of purpose, the net effect of individual efforts begins to take shape as the anomalous events start to aggregate and the their similarities begin to make themselves evident. And yet no direct criminal conspiracy can be demonstrated. The only possible evidence is the suggestion of where and when to start the riot - but with the right of Free Assembly, no prosecutor in the world can make that case.

Narr said...

I thought I might be the only person in the world who read Red Star Rogue.

I am not entirely convinced of the truth of the tale, but I read a lot of debunking that had the perverse effect of making it more plausible to me, not less.

Need to take a look at that Childs book I think.