The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls.
One of the odd things about conspiracy theories is their reversal of truth and falsity. The essence of conspiracy thinking is that the “powers” are effective in covering up the truth; therefore, if a government agency, the mainstream media, an academic consensus, or an officially certified document says something, it must be false. On the other hand when a tabloid newspaper or a fringe talk radio host, a self-proclaimed expert with no credentials or a few bloggers says something, it must be true.
I couldn’t help thinking about this while I was listening to Paul Simon sing the lyrics quoted above from The Sounds of Silence at a 9/11 tribute yesterday. I also couldn’t help remembering something Jesus said from Matthew, Chapter 7:
13 ” Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Matt 7:13-14 (NASB)
I can remember as a child adopting contrarian strategies, for example, looking for Easter eggs a little beyond where the crowd was looking for them (not an effective strategy, by the way) and even now I point my binoculars in a different direction from where most of the others on the nature tour are focused.
There is something to be said for looking for things beyond where the crowd has already searched. That’s how new discoveries are made and knowledge is advanced; however, when one ventures outside of the mainstream where many sets of eyes, some especially skilled, have weeded out the cranks and nonsense, one must use ones own discrimination and critical thinking skills, ones own buncombe filter, to keep from going astray. This is where conspiracy theorists fall down. The combination of valuing arcane knowledge and making novel connections, while lacking the ability to recognize nonsense is what drives conspiracy thinking. Confirmation bias plus validation from like-minded cranks on the Internet amplifies the phenomenon.
Loving ones enemy is a contrarian strategy. Believing that UFO aliens are working with the Illuminati (et al.) to create a world-wide cataclysm that will usher in the New World Order headed by the anti-Christ is nonsense.
I didn’t make that up.