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The Final Word on the Crackpot Conspiracist Mindset

Posted on October 17 2009 7:16 pm
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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Last night I introduced my wife to this film, one of my favorite documentaries. In it a quirky engineer stumbles into thinking he's proven the Holocaust didn't happen.

Last night I introduced my wife to this film, one of my favorite documentaries. In it a quirky engineer named Fred Leuchter stumbles into thinking he's proven the Holocaust didn't happen. In other words, he becomes a crackpot conspiracist.

From October 4 through October 8 NewsReal featured “Crackpot Chronicles: Van Jones, Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, Rorschach, the Truthers, And Me.” The series’s purpose was to define and explain the “Crackpot Conspiracist Mindset” through analyzing a dialogue I had stumbled into with a 9/11 Truther. In doing so we could understand why A) former Green Jobs Czar Van Jones needed to be fired, B) how popular talker Glenn Beck did not fit into this pattern of  thinking, and C) why conspiracists need to be shunned from mainstream political movements.

Here’s a listing of all the parts of the series for those who missed it:

The series also inspired a few subsequent posts highlighting various notable “Truther Punksmacks” by commenters:

Throughout the series various conspiracist crackpots showed up to protest in the comments and promptly proved my point to NewsReal’s readers. (Many especially didn’t like my use of the word “crackpot” to describe them, no matter how clearly they fit the term’s definition.) They showed that I was exactly right in that this sort of thinking is a specific mentality. It’s not whatever the individual conspiracy might be that’s the issue. The problem is that those who stumble into conspiracy advocacy have a certain style of thinking which is deeply different than the rest of us. This approach makes it so it’s all but impossible to reason with them.

In engaging one of the crackpots I pointed out that my series was not about disproving 9/11 Truther garbage but explaining the Crackpot Conspiracist Mindset. He seemed to have missed this and demanded that I write a cliffs notes summary of the series.

I initially balked at the crackpot’s demand. Eventually, though, it seemed like perhaps it might be valuable to make a listing of the various aspects of crackpot conspiracist thinking. In fact there were probably a few more that I didn’t mention in the series which could be added to the list.

So let’s begin:

  1. Conspiracist Crackpots do not have a measured view of human nature and human ability. They are unable to realize that human beings are not capable of keeping the secrets and pulling the massive cons required of conspiracy narratives.
  2. Conspiracist Crackpots do not understand Ockham’s Razor, one of the key principles of logical thought. Even if you explain it to them they’ll just say, “Aha! You contradict yourself. It says right there that the simplest explanation is only usually the correct one.” You pointing out Ockham’s Razor to them is probably the first time they have ever heard of the concept.
  3. Conspiracist Crackpots tend to be obsessed with Nazism to one degree or another. The Crackpots see the horrors of Nazism as somehow evidence that grand conspiracies happen. “If a government murdering its people happened in Germany in the ’30s it can happen anywhere right now!”
  4. Conspiracist Crackpots are oblivious to the fact that their conspiracy of choice tends to relate directly to their political views. Not only that but their embrace of the conspiracy actually flows out of their political ideology. Every single Birther is opposed to Barack Obama on policy grounds. Truthers who think 9/11 was an “inside job” done by the government are almost always politically opposed to the government. Leftist Truthers hate America and Right-wing Truthers hate the federal government. Holocaust deniers hate Jews. Afrocentric leftists who think the government engineered AIDS and crack also think America is fundamentally racist. You can do this with virtually every conspiracy.
  5. Crackpot conspiracists are unqualified amateurs who rarely have any expertise to analyze the events they’re talking about. Yet they have the audacity to come to conclusions that run counter to the majority of trained experts.
  6. Crackpot conspiracists do not understand that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. A youtube video proves nothing. What kind of mind actually gets changed as a result of some video on the internet?
  7. Crackpot conspiracists do not dialogue. There’s no reason for it. They have the Truth and are there to preach, they’re not “questioning” or “chasing truths.” They’ve already found the answers. They are in no way “open minded.” Hence they won’t really answer your questions. They’ll just change the subject.
  8. Crackpot conspiracists usually believe in more than one conspiracy. It’s no coincidence that perennial third-party candidate Ed Noonan, who showed up on one of the threads, is both a proud Birther and Truther.
  9. Crackpot conspiracists are not able to see ambiguity or complexity. In my dialogue with the Truther he said multiple times that I had the fallacy of believing that there weren’t any conspiracies. I never said that. Conspiracies do in fact happen. 9/11 was indeed a conspiracy. Al Qaeda conspired in secret to attack America and they did it. Rational people understand the difference, though, between rationally acknowledging small, individual conspiracies and irrationally seeing grand conspiracies that are unsupported by adequate evidence.

OK, so that’s nine points. I imagine I’ll want to come back to this list as more ideas come to me. Does anyone else have any other characteristics of the Conspiracist Mindset that I’ve forgotten? I’ll add any good ones to the list. (And give credit to the person who identified them!)

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