Today I want to write about something that has been bothering me a lot recently.
When I say recently, I really mean the last half a year or more. It is with regard to a mixture of ‘information’ that has been available on the news and internet sites, although particularly the latter. It is important to me primarily because my first sister is involved directly, personally, and deeply.
‘Conspiracy theories’ may seem like harmless fun at first, and to most people they will continue to be merely mild curiosities. To some people, however, these ‘esoteric’ theories become more than intriguing. They becoming beguiling to the point of deep, daily distraction. Distraction is not necessarily in itself bad, however, there are two points of risk.
The first is that some people are liable to become so involved in all the discussions that they invest not just time but also money, and then eventually even a sense of self-identity in what seems to them to be a ‘community’ of like-minded believers. This may or may not be a good thing, and this potential for good or bad us a topic to which I shall return again soon.
The second point of risk with conspiracy theories is that other people use those believers to their own ends. I am not just talking about the obvious ways, such as by making money from selling books, videos, or seats in seminars on UFOlogy. Powerful people ‘behind the scenes’ have been using ‘conspiracy theorists’ to change society in important ways that you and I may not have even been aware. These ways are, I believe, destructive for most people, and especially for those who believe in these ‘theories’ so intensely to start with.
To return again to the first point above: some people say that we as humans are social creatures. We like to believe that we belong to some group whether it is a family, a religion, or just a sports club. These groups are usually ‘positive’ by which I mean that they help us to direct our daily energy in constructive and maybe even ‘loving’ ways, even if this just means love for a shared interest such as a sport, or a cultural focus such as a singer or style of music. All organizations can, however, corrupt, because all organizations are subject to the influence and control of those people and individual personalities who establish and maintain those groups. I suppose it is a matter of faith, but I certainly believe that the potential for enormous good is in all of us, just as we are all also ‘fallible.’ We can all ‘fall’ to corruption, temptation, and bad ideas and influences.
A topical (and some say ongoing) example of this is ‘the church’ although this phrase is fairly absurdly general. We could say ‘the Catholic church’ and even this is too general. We could cite ‘the crusades’ as a classic example, but I would argue that that was a series of events now isolated in one part of history. Let’s just say ‘some people within the Roman Catholic church’ and use the issue of hiding the names and reputations of clergy who commit pedophilia and sexual assault, and instead of dealing with these issues the clergy responsible for such obvious sins have been merely quietly admonished (scolded) and then moved to a new congregation (or church ‘parish’ or building and the group of people who go there to worship).
It is hard to know whether this behaviour has been ongoing throughout the history of ‘the church’ and to what extent, but a bigger question is whether or not this ultimately colours our perceptions of, or impressions of ‘the church’ overall. Of course for those directly and even indirectly affected it does rightly and fairly so, however, it is also absurd to say that every church minister is guilty of such sin. More than this, many individuals and groups within ‘the church’ have done many forms of powerful good for individuals and society, whatever the extent the hand of god may have played directly.
It is similarly difficult to say that sports, cultural or even family groups are necessarily ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as other individuals within such groups are also able to misuse any form of power other members entrust in them, whether it is taking money or some other illegality or sin. Whatever the fault though, for most people, emotions can quickly cloud judgment, and our opinions can be changed when our feelings are affected. The risk is that these feelings can extend – or be extended – beyond the initial person or cause of those feelings, affecting relationships with others.
This leads me back to the conspiracy theory groups, and perhaps one of the most important modern day examples: the 9/11 ‘truthers’ who could also be known as those who seek ‘the truth’ about the disastrous attack on the Twin Towers on the 11th of September, 2001. This group has evolved, eventually incorporating and branching out to reach people from other groups in society who share one aspect of their favourite conspiracy theories in common: doubt.
‘Doubt’ is a negative emotion as much as it is the unfortunate result of the usually positive mental process of analysis. Doubt can be easily applied to many areas of society and aspects of life. Some people are as ready to doubt as others are to believe. Doubt can, like any other emotion, evolve, spread within a person and between people, and affect moods of entire communities. But doubt left alone and unchecked for too long, and being naturally negative in connotation (or feeling), is ultimately destructive.
[ Update – 13 November, 2010. This post was filmed in February this year. The speaker has published a book entitled Denialism. He has a view very similar to mine on the currently rampant nature of skepticism, saying “Denialism is a virus and viruses are contagious.” His focus is different, however, in that it seems to be focused on the direct benefit and danger relationship of science denialism, whereas I see the issue as extending to political denialism, when then feeds back into science and other areas.]
I think a certain amount of ‘cynicism’ is healthy, and too much faith, misplaced, can be extremely dangerous. Equally dangerous, however, is the risk of those who will take our sense of betrayal, of being merely dismayed, or a feeling of sadness, fear, loneliness, or whatever the other ‘negative’ emotion, and add a sense of doubt against others in whom such may be misplaced. In other words, it is easy to help people to feel further negative emotions once they are already feeling bad, and some people are very good at doing this. In the English language we might call this ‘manipulation’. These ideas lead me to my second point mentioned above.
The ‘Koch’ brothers (pronounced ‘coke’), Charles and David, are very, very rich. They are among the few most wealthy people in the USA, and are amongst the wealthiest of rich people throughout the world. They have not been very famous, yet. Some of their wealthy friends are very famous though, and Rupert Murdoch is one of them.
Murdoch is famous for owning most of the biggest ‘mainstream media’ or ‘mass media’ companies around the world. Many people believe that he has too much control over the media, and some believe that this control even extends to what gets printed in every newspaper and what gets said on every television and radio station news report.
This belief, or conspiracy theory, is not new. Murdoch openly bought his media companies over the last several decades and is recognized widely as being the world’s greatest media ‘magnate‘. What is not so well recognized is that the Koch brothers also have a very wide range of influence, and they do seem to have actually been using that influence, and trying to disguise it at the same time.
The way in which the Koch brothers have worked is by giving money to small groups who again invest that money into other groups. We can call these groups ‘fronts’ or ‘public relations firms’ or ‘fake grass-roots activists groups’ (also known as ‘astroturfing‘). What this means is that people have been paid to lie, loudly and openly. They do this in mainstream media wherever possible, such as by writing articles and letters to the editor, or by conducting interviews or even making movies and TV shows, but also by contributing posts to website bulletin boards and making websites. They lie about many things which have influenced public opinion and thereafter government legislation. Those people have been paid to lie about who they are, and about what they want, and about what they believe, as well as the very information they give out to others.
Even though probably not paid for by the Koch brothers, a classic, ongoing, and recent example of this type of operation is the development of pro-smoking lobby groups. Fake pro-smoking groups have been found out throughout the world for many decades, and new ones in Australia and New Zealand as recently as this month.
The Koch brothers have worked in the same way, and have certainly tried to influence world opinion on global warming.
This is an opinion piece from the very prominent (famous) New York Times, and is fairly brief. It seems to preempt or lead into the next article, listed below.
This is the first full article of which I was aware, and was published in the mainstream media on The New Yorker website. It is much longer and goes into all the detail we need to know about exactly what the Koch brothers and their fake groups have been doing.
This is a short article published on September the 8th and summarizes the other ones. (It is actually a good one to read first.)
So, finally, the Koch brothers have been found out. It has been discovered that they use a lot of their money to pay many other people to tell their lies for them. I am very happy about to learn about this, because now I really hope that there will be a lot less ugly dangerous lies in the world.
I also really hope my sister will stop believing so many of the big ones, even if she is correct about many of the smaller ones that maybe I still believe but that neither of us can prove to be true or false. Anyway, I hope that she will then start thinking about trusting other people again, and I hope that she is only ever right so to do.
By big lies, I mean things like doubting a world full of scientists who are all talking about global warming. I think this will only happen if many, many people learn this news about the Koch brothers and their tricky money investments very quickly. I am not sure that this will happen.
In conclusion then, I do hope all readers of this blog tell other people about this big news, and translate it into other languages, and share it further in the hope that the world can start to work together against global warming, for a healthier world, and for real, honest truth, without the smokey smog of lies, ‘truthiness,’ and big business disinformation.