Question: What kind of people believe in conspiracy theories? The Short answer: People who have investigated and verified them.
But that’s too simple, too accurate, and too subversive. No psychologist could scare up funding for research based on such a common sense hypothesis. So instead, our tax dollars are paying for an endless parade of studies designed to find that “conspiracy theorists” are driven by various mental quirks. Like the politicized psychiatry of the Soviet Gulag, the mental health industry’s accelerating attempt to demonize dissidents using pseudo-scientific claptrap is a shameful episode that will one day be universally reviled and deplored.
The weaponized term “conspiracy theorist” was put into mass circulation by the CIA as part of its effort to stifle research into the JFK assassination. CIA document 1035-960 ordered the Agency’s thousands of media assets to launch ad hominem attacks on independent researchers, rather than debate them on the facts.
Is someone today issuing marching orders to psychologists, ordering them to pathologize dissidents by applying the CIA’s “conspiracy theorist” label? Probably not. Such orders are unnecessary. Everybody in academia knows that research designed to attack “conspiracy theorists” will bring in grant money, whereas research designed to validate critical inquiry into ultra-sensitive topics (JFK, 9/11, false flags, privately-issued fiat currency, vaccines and autism, etc. etc.) will kill your career.
Almost all critical thinkers are open to many of the ideas that the CIA and careerist psychologists demonize as “conspiracy theories.” During my two decades of teaching at colleges and universities in the San Francisco Bay Area, Paris, and Wisconsin, I never met a single colleague who believed the Warren Commission’s fable that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The many dozens of academicians with whom I discussed the matter all agreed that JFK had in all likelihood been killed in an American coup d’état. Their degree of certainty was directly proportional to time invested in research.
Likewise, from the time I became aware of the questions surrounding 9/11 (December 2003) until I was attacked by Republican state legislators for discussing my research on the radio (June 2006) I found that not one of the many University of Wisconsin-Madison colleagues with whom I discussed the matter believed that the “inside job” hypothesis was especially unlikely. Over and over, I heard the same refrain: “I don’t want to look into this, because I’m afraid it might be true.”
So the real question psychologists ought to ask is: Why have so many professional critical thinkers exhibited such an apparently irrational aversion to doing their job when it concerns such overwhelmingly important questions as “who killed JFK and why,” and “who did 9/11, and why?”
Some psychologists are asking those questions. The most accomplished thus far is Frances T. Shure, M.A., L.P.C., whose 20-part series “Why Do Good People Become Silent – or Worse – About 9/11?” may be the best thing ever written about psychology and “conspiracy theories.” (Shure’s work will be published in book form by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth.)
Compare Shure’s lucid, encyclopedic work to the dumbed-down bureaucratese psychobabble emitted by the minor army of Gulag apparatchiks dedicated to demonizing political dissidence. A recent example of the latter genre is John Grohol’s “The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories: Why Do People Believe Them?” From the clumsy first sentence (“Conspiracy theories are as old as time but it’s only in more recent years that psychologists have begun to unravel the belief that some people have in them”) to its final pronouncement urging readers NOT to EVER argue the facts, Grohol’s vacuously flatulent piece would barely earn a passing grade in a Freshman Composition course.
Grohol begins by defining his terms: “According to researcher Goertzel (1994), conspiracy theories are explanations that refer to hidden groups working in secret to achieve sinister objectives.” Translation: Any time two or more people plan to do anything illegal or immoral, they are by definition part of a conspiracy. Any attempt to explain such an event is therefore a “conspiracy theory.” Since the most-prosecuted federal crime is conspiracy, that means that federal prosecutors are the world’s leading professional conspiracy theorists.
Perhaps Grohol believes that the only conspiracies that really exist are the ones that end in a prosecution or conviction; all others are purely imaginary. If he naively believes this, he is wrong. About half of all serious violent offenses in the US are not even reported to police. And when they are reported, as NPR tells us: “For most major crimes, police don’t even make an arrest or identify a suspect.” And in the rare case when someone is arrested, it is often (perhaps usually) the wrong person. And these are just garden-variety crimes, often committed by impulsive non-professionals. The unfortunate truth is that when highly skilled professional criminals (especially those from elite backgrounds) conspire to commit carefully-thought-out crimes, they are very rarely prosecuted or exposed. (If anyone gets prosecuted, it’s the patsy or someone low-level and expendable.) Therefore, almost all incidences of political assassination, false flag terrorism, elite pedophilia and human trafficking, and other forms of elite deviance are guaranteed to go undetected or at least under-detected by courts, police, journalists, academicians, and other mainstream institutions. Those who seek the truth about such events, and pursue the possibility of justice, are the people Grohol derides as “conspiracy theorists.”
Grohol’s article is full of major factual and logical errors. He writes: “Even climate change has a conspiracy theory attached to it (the U.S. government is to blame, naturally).” Actually, climate change deniers/minimalists blame globalist forces, not the US government. So why is Grohol lying about this? Presumably to build a straw man case that “conspiracy theorists” irrationally blame the government for everything.
Grohol claims that “a small minority of the population believe, and even thrive, on conspiracy theories.” In fact, polls show that from the late 1970s until today, fewer than one-third of Americans believe the Warren Commission’s “Oswald acted alone” theory, while huge majorities varying from 65% to 75% agree with the 1978 House Commission on Assassinations finding that the JFK assassination was a conspiracy. Likewise, more than 100 million Americans (36% of the population) believe it is likely that 9/11 was an inside job designed to trigger the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Only 16% fully believe the official “19 hijackers” theory. Many other “conspiracy theories” command similarly high or higher poll numbers. The truth is that only a minuscule minority of the population DOES NOT hold at least some beliefs that Grohol would deride as “conspiracy theories.” So why is Grohol lying about this? Presumably because he wants to belittle people he disagrees with by falsely claiming they are a small minority, while buttressing his own position by falsely ascribing it to the majority. In so doing, he is appealing to the fallacy that “what the majority thinks must be true.”
Grohol dreams up a straw man assertion that belief in a “Las Vegas second shooter points to some ‘new world order’ plot that is intent on taking over our government and society. Or something like that. The rationale for a second shooter requires a suspension of your belief in reality and simple critical thinking.” In fact, extensive scholarly research has shown, and the European parliament has confirmed, that Operation Gladio, commanded by the Pentagon through NATO, massacred thousands of people across Europe during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in false flag terrorist attacks designed to push the public towards accepting authoritarian leadership. Virtually all of the major “leftist terrorist attacks” of the Cold War era – the Brabant shootings, the Bologna train bombing, the murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, the depredations of the Red Brigrades and Baader Meinhoff Gang, and much more – were committed by a secret US military program! Since only a few low-level perpetrators were ever prosecuted, there is no reason to think Operation Gladio ever ended. (For the gory details, read Professor Daniele Ganser’s NATO’s Secret Armies; Paul Williams’ Operation Gladio, and Richard Cottrell’s Gladio.)
Why does Grohol invent a straw man rather than try to argue rationally against the likelihood that Operation Gladio is still operating? Because he would lose the factual argument. So he sets the facts aside, insists that we ignore them, and instead uses fallacious arguments designed to sway readers into joining his fallacies, chief among them the ad hominem fallacy: that the truth of a proposition depends not on the facts, but on the character or psychology of the person presenting them.
Many people feel they lack the time or capacity for arriving at even a cursory informed judgment on the facts of disputed questions. Such people are easy prey for the likes of Grohol, who tells them they don’t need to worry about the facts. Just dismiss dissident arguments in advance, Grohol advises, because all dissidents are “conspiracy theorists.”
Learning about the facts, and thinking through them logically, does require a certain amount of hard work. Some throw up their hands and leave all such matters to the experts. But those of us trained in critical thinking know that one does not have to be an expert to judge opposing arguments based on their rationality, coherence, and comprehensiveness. For example, I am not a climate scientist, but I have read two serious defenses of the mainstream scientific position on climate change—Richard Wolfson’s Earth’s Changing Climate and David Ray Griffin’s Unprecedented—as well as a great many attacks on the mainstream consensus. My conclusion, unpopular as it is in some quarters, is that the mainstream arguments as presented by Wolfson and Griffin are stronger than their “conspiratorial” challengers. This does not mean that “climate change is real” or that the challengers are crazy. It just means that I lean towards accepting the consensus position because at this moment, based on the best arguments I have found on both sides, the mainstream position has a stronger case.
The same method can be used to investigate other controversial questions. One can compare David Ray Griffin’s Debunking 9/11 Debunking to the leading debunkers’ best efforts. Or one can watch September 11 the New Pearl Harbor, which covers both sides of the argument. Warning: Anyone with critical thinking skills who tries this experiment is almost guaranteed to become a “conspiracy theorist” !
Likewise, we can read Gerald Posner’s Case Closed beside any or all of the best books presenting the case for conspiracy: James Douglass’s JKF and the Unspeakable, Michael Collins Piper’s Final Judgment, David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard, Laurent Guyenot’s JFK-9/11, David Lifton’s Best Evidence, Peter Janney’s Mary’s Mosaic, and so on. Try it! If you actually read Posner and any two from the other side, and possess rudimentary critical thinking skills, you will quickly mutate into that most detestable of human forms, that of the dreaded conspiracy theorist!
You can use the same method to explore the psychology of “conspiracy theories”: Read Grohol’s article and the studies he cites. Then read Fran Shure’s 20-part series alongside Lance DeHaven-Smith’s Conspiracy Theory in America.
And by that point, if you aren’t a conspiracy theorist, you’ve got to be crazy.
Dr. Kevin Barrett, a Ph.D. Arabist-Islamologist is one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror.
He also has appeared many times on Fox, CNN, PBS, and other broadcast outlets, and has inspired feature stories and op-eds in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chicago Tribune, and other leading publications.
Dr. Barrett has taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin; where he ran for Congress in 2008. He currently works as a nonprofit organizer, author, and talk radio host.