Several years ago, I was having dinner with a friend prone to conspiracy theories. She started explaining to me how this coalition of shadowy figures running oil and arms companies were secretly bankrolling the entire war in Iraq when I had to stop her with the bad news -- what she was describing wasn't a secret. You could read about all the things she was talking about on the front page of any newspaper, with the principals' names right there in black and white.

You would really think that we long ago passed the Poe Threshold, beyond which satire and reality are indistinguishable.* Conspiracy theories require a number of rather odd assumptions: that a lot of people are capable of working in secret to achieve some kind of end without this leaking (highly unlikely, if you've ever seen people try to keep secrets or do things in large organizations), that this end is somehow different from what the public sees (increasingly unlikely, because to be any more nefarious than what you see people advertising on their own websites you'd have to be sacrificing babies to bring about the return of the Old Gods) (and even that's pushing it), and that this conspiracy is somehow hyper-competent and secretly controls all things (incredibly unlikely, if you've ever seen how governments, companies, and so on actually run).

The sad truth is this: if there really were a secret conspiracy, it would be being run by complete idiots. The really nefarious stuff isn't done in secret; it's being done by people who boast loudly about it on social media.

(cf also "Real Names," as in "... are supposed to cause people to behave better." It turns out that the world's real assholes are quite proud of their assholism)

* That's named for Poe's Law, named for Nathan Poe, not Edgar Allen Poe.

h/t +Eli Fennell and +Xenophrenia.
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