Thursday, April 2, 2015

Not Even Not Zen 4: Conspiracies

I'm reflecting on conversations I've had about conspiracies.  I may write a story on the subject but to approach the task I have to get my thoughts in order.

Types of conspiracies, real and imagined:

1. First, there are professional ones: government clandestine operations, surveillance, organized crime, and international business arrangements.  These are conspiracies in the strict sense but, except for organized crime, they are regarded as benign or at least normal because they are acknowledged.  Except for the organized crime, they are completely official.

An example: any government intelligence organization, especially as viewed from another nation.

2. There are semi-professional conspiracies, such as those that occur in loose knit business arrangements, crimes coordinated by less-than-cohesive groups, and businesses that engage in possibly illegal activities and so don't want them questioned.  These are not always regarded as conspiracies except when it comes to their attempts to evade the law. After all, cooperation is not the same as conspiracy and does not rely on remaining secret.

An example: in the Enron case, financial and executive officers were accused of conspiracy to commit fraud although, without a company bankruptcy, their actions would have evaded notice or been regarded as normal business practice.

3. There are popular non-conspiracies labelled as conspiracies.  Many of these are impossible because they require deception on a scale that even modern governments can't achieve.  Believing in these involves a naivete about the world and failure of insight into how large organizations work.  Noticing how often large organizations can't maintain the secrecy of professional conspiracies should provide a clue to how tough they are.  That's why professionals compartmentalize knowledge.  A conspiracy of five individuals is difficult.  One with a few hundred is bound to fail.  One that requires the participation of millions can't even begin.

Examples are: faked genocides or other crimes that happened in public and are well documented.

People with emotional problems take the impossible conspiracies seriously so they're important in that respect.  Some conspiracists also point out good pieces of evidence in their favor or find important lacks of evidence in official accounts, which is always interesting.

4. Revisionist history is a conspiracy of sorts.  It doesn't pose a threat in the usual sense but the revisions amount to cover-ups committed to avoid placing blame or to keep threats hidden.  Governments have always been good at this within their own borders.

An example: In Chile, the Pinochet government covered up war atrocities by ascribing them to the opposition. Later, members of the government also conspired to hide money for Augusto Pinochet.

5. There are conspiracies hiding behind popular non-conspiracies.  In some cases, members of professional organizations feel duty-bound to spread misinformation.  It can be seen as part of the job.

An example: top-secret government flight programs have been happy to hide behind the concept of alien flying saucers in the sky.  One can easily imagine that members of the armed forces felt duty-bound to do so.


  1. There are also the things we tell ourselves for one reason or another that aren't true. Maybe it is to hide something we are ashamed of or don't like about ourselves. Sometimes it is a story that we've made up to make us feel greater then we are. All these in the end take over like a conspiracy and we hide the truth of the matter deep down from ourselves where it can become forgotten.

  2. When I wrote a story about our tendency to see conspiracies a few weeks later, it ended up being a small, rather quiet story.

    But it made someone laugh, so I'm happy.

  3. There's a good argument that we've evolved to see hidden tigers in the grass (even when they're not there) and other aspects to our thinking that make conspiracies natural to us. Maybe I should find a reference to that.