Conspiracy Theory 101

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Professor Rozeff asks, “Who started this way of thinking, anyway?”

Having grown up in the conservative movement, I have learned that conspiracy theories represent the easy way out for a mind no longer willing to inquire. Instead of doing his homework – on the market, on the world, on politics – the conspiracy theorist can blame it all on the Rockefellers, Henry Kissinger, the CFR … and then lean back in his chair and relax.

Every year or two I hear from anoher old acquaintance who has just discovered the “truth” – “Do you know about Colonel Schmoo in Colorado? Why, he has this wonderful book, and it explains **everything …**” (sigh … here come the Bilderbergers again)Now, there are real conspirators and conspiracies – the Jacobins; the Left Hegelians of the 1840s (among whom Marx was only one); Lenin; Hitler; Mao. They were usually so egocentric that they put it all on paper far in advance of taking power (witness the neocons in the 1990s with PNAC).

Some of them do not, however: Ira Magaziner, who worked for Hillary and ran her secret (and illegal) health care task force, once conspired with some of his classmates from Brown to take over Brockton, Massachusetts.

So the tougher the question, the more striking the temptation to console oneself with a conspiracy theory that alleviates us from the duty of having to study it thoroughly, and, as Aristotle points out, even then to learn only imperfectly, since human action is not so exact as the sum of the three internal angles of a triangle.

1:40 pm on October 13, 2008