I’ve just finished reading a quality article at the New York Times, titled: A Theory of Conspiracy Theories. Executive Editor Bill Keller points out that it is not just right-wing racists who harbor conspiracy theories. Even educated liberals fall victim to such beliefs.
The Times, of course, has a dog in this fight too because they are one of the traditional authorities that most (I hope) folks go to when trying to decide between conflicting stories. Keller wrote:
Suspicion hardens into full-blown conviction when people lose faith in authorities, says Knight, who edited “Conspiracy Nation: The Politics of Paranoia in Postwar America.” The present day, he told me, when Internet access has sparked a proliferation of competing, self-appointed authorities, is a particularly fertile time for conspiracy theorists, who might ask: “ ‘Why would you believe The New York Times? Why do they have a monopoly on truth? Surely Twitter and WikiLeaks are just as trustworthy.’”
Some readers might ask a relevant question at this point, and that is: why should we read this blog instead of those authorities? My only answer, and about the only justification for this web site is simply that the issue in its details are not important enough to warrant much coverage from authorities like the Times. Keller makes one suggestion that was very much on point for me when he says:
…evidence, laid out dispassionately, engaging without mocking, is still our best recourse.