One of my coworkers is really big into conspiracy theories and recently shared a video with another coworker who was much taken with it, and in turn shared it with me. The video “Our history is not what we think!” is packed so densely full of bullshit, pseudo-science, and woo that it instantly gave me a migraine. The entire thing is a long crazy conspiracy theory about how the “official” story of human history is a lie and that the “truth” lies in ancient mystical tablets, 6th dimensional beings, vortexes of energy, and aliens.
The creators of the video use the machine-gun technique of spraying out so many bullshit claims so quickly that it is impossible to adequately address each individual claim.
In another time I would have written down a list of each individual claim made over the course of the hour long video and addressed each one. This process would take days and is ultimately pointless. You see, when it comes to people who believe this kind of stuff and make these elaborate conspiracy videos, it’s not about the facts. They might claim that that is all they care about, but really there are strong emotional and mental factors at work.
People who often feel out of control in their own lives develop grandiose explanations as a way of coping with this lack of control. Making connections, even though those connections might never really be there, and drawing conclusions allows some measure of control that they desperately crave. Arguing over what the “facts” are and what evidence exists in an attempt to change the believer’s mind is a colossal waste of time. It’s never been about the truth, as much as it seems, it’s about the conspiracy theorist’s lack of self control. Michael Shermer grave a great TED Talk here titled “The pattern behind self-deception.” In the talk he discusses our pattern seeking nature as human beings and how we’re prone to conspiracy theories.
That’s not to say that all conspiracy theories are false. Sometimes conspiracies do exist. Example: The plot to assassinate president Lincoln was a conspiracy. The trick is discerning the real conspiracies from the false ones. To that end, Shermer has a great “bullshit conspiracy theory detection list” here.
As much of a pointless time suck as debunking each individual claim in that video might be, I can see how such a long rebuttal might be useful for showing those on the fence how much bullshit is in that video. Since I don’t have the time/energy/ or care to spend that much time creating such a rebuttal, I just decided to show my coworker two videos.
Both of the videos were by the youtube user Qualia Soup. He makes excellent, well thought out videos on a range of topics, but the two I gave my coworker were on open-mindedness and critical thinking. I figured this was the best possible response because, armed with these tools, they could then easily see the video for the mountain of bullshit it was. Furthermore, they would be able to see the red flags the next time someone starts talking about “spiritual energy”, secret undiscovered knowledge, mystical tablets, spiritual pureness, and all other manner of woo.