We cannot confront the fallacies of conspiracy thinking in our political culture if we do not understand it. In recent weeks Van Jones, the President’s Green Jobs Czar, lost his job because of his embrace of conspiracy thinking. More recently popular talker Glenn Beck has been smeared by his opponents as a conspiracy nut. We can only decipher these issues and win these intellectual fights if we know just what kind of thinking needs to be isolated from political life.
Again, I’d chosen not to reply to the 9/11 Truther Crackpot’s last email. So he tried a new strategy. He would appeal to one of my passions — the American Idea.
What benifites are there to living in the American democracy?E. V.
Are you that blind? You don’t see that you have the freedom to create the life you want to live? You can say what you want, practice the religion you want, have the career you want, raise your family as you want, participate in the political process and help shape the laws that govern us… You don’t see that we’ve created a society in which someone like Oprah Winfrey or Jay-Z can go from rural or inner-city poverty to billionaires on the strength of their own talent and hard work?
Very good! Now what kind of republic?
I have better things to do with my time than this.
Really? Or are you stuck? I’ll help you if you like.E. V.
No, I’ve just got a job (maybe you should get one too) that’s more important than trying to educate conspiracy theorists. You’ve overstayed your welcome and I think I’ll just set all your emails to go into the trash.
And I did, his reply went into my garbage, and I have yet to hear from him again.
That my friends is how you deal with a Conspiracist Crackpot. You can’t really reason with them. You can’t indulge them in the intricacies of their argument. They’re not particularly different than talking with a troll or a racist. All one can do is properly diagnose the person as such and move on after you’re done having fun with them. The problem is not the specific conspiracy they embrace but how they think.
When Lionel Chetwynd emailed me the other day thanking me for linking to his discussion with Roger L. Simon about the Left’s defense of Roman Polanski he shared a Samuel Johnson aphorism which applies here perfectly:
“You cannot dissuade a man with reason from a position he embraced through passion.”
Understanding this element of passion as integral to conspiracist thinking we can understand why some of Beck’s opponents might try and stick the talker into the conspiracist bucket. Beck is certainly enthusiastic about defending the American Idea and can get a bit theatrical sometimes. So what? It’s showmanship, not a way of thinking.
Beck does not think like E.V. As a postmodern conservative Beck is a searcher, not a True Believer.
So now that we know how to identify and deal with Conspiracist Crackpots here’s how NOT to deal with them, unless it’s your objective to reveal to them that you’re secretly with them. Here’s what Congressman Ron Paul had to say when a Truther approached him:
(Hat tip to Calvin Freiburger for bringing my attention to this video.)
And to think people objected to my use of the term “Crackpot” to describe Paul. At the time I was referring principally to Paul’s crackpot, non-interventionist foreign policy. Now I stand by it more than ever.