Some years ago, someone spoke with me about 9/11 conspiracy theories, and said that he ‘wouldn’t put it past them,’ or words to that effect.
This sentence from the person who spoke with me years ago, arguably shines a light on the problem with conspiracy theory nonsense, e.g. the myths of 9/11 Truthers, or of Holocaust denialists, or of those who fantasise about so-called ‘Cultural Marxism,’ ‘New World Order,’ ‘Neoliberalism,’ ‘Shapeshifting Lizards,’ ‘the Rockefellers,’ ‘the Zionist Lobby,’ ‘Eurabia,’ and so on.
The problem is that such moralistic notions are completely impotent as to explain how such conspiracies, practically speaking, could actually be pulled off. So, the possibility (dare I say the probability?) that a proportion of hard boiled neocon/liberal interventionist hawks in the USA may have been morally and psychologically prepared to commit such an atrocity as a terrorist false flag, has nothing to do with whether such an elaborate swindle is even remotely plausible, materially speaking.
I guess that, yes, psychological arguments are, in a sense, questions of material probability and material possibility too. However, the capacities of individual human minds and hearts are not the only material constraints on pulling off a conspiracy.
The problem with conspiracy theories is that while they may appear to explain too much, they also explain too little.
How could they ever hope to get away with it?
Yes, there are some ruthless people in power. But it is simply incomprehensible that anyone could be so foolish as to even try such an elaborate hoax. There is an old reading of David Hume, admittedly somewhat vulgarised or oversimplified, which says: ‘you can’t get from an ‘is’ to an ‘ought.’
In terms of conspiracy theories, you cannot get from ‘Leader X is morally prepared to do this,’ from ‘Leader X, factually or materially speaking, is able to do this.’
As the old saying runs: ‘if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.’
So let’s not be fooled. The ‘Hume’s Leap’ of 9/11 Truthers is unwise, because starts off with value-laden psychological speculations, and soars off into the realm of sheer material implausibility.
You don’t have to believe either that there were some leaders in the USA that would have ‘done this’ if they could.
Nor do you have to disbelieve it.
But at the very least, you shouldn’t be a fool, and think that the bad character of some figures, real or imagined, somehow enables them to carry out extravagantly improbable feats of power.
It just doesn’t work like that.
Similarly for other conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories are implausible because such conspiracies would be practically impossible to ever pull off. The personal moral characters of the alleged protagonists are thus entirely irrelevant.
But what I am calling ‘Hume’s Leap’ is a fallacy that threatens to hide this fact, and to mystify.
I often think:
The real truth is generally bad enough, without inventing nonsense!
Let’s not discredit ourselves, when there are already more than enough genuine reasons for criticism, satire and denunciation.
P.S. Have a laugh (or at least a look!) my parody of actual conspiracy theorist writing tomorrow: here, at always, at Glossy News!