7/7 conspiracy theories: why false flag claims fail


2:01 pm - July 7th 2010

by Dave Osler    


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The 0740 train from Luton to London was cancelled that day. The bombers left enough explosives to equip another full operation in the boot of their car. Either that, or the materials in question were far too sophisticated for amateurs to manufacture without outside help. One of the two.

Yeah, and y’know that guy who was supposed to have blown himself up on the bus, right? He was caught on CCTV in a McDonalds at least 20 minutes after the explosion. And here’s the clincher; the 30 bus route doesn’t even go through Tavistock Square.

I managed to contrive to be in Cardiff on 7/7, the fifth anniversary of which falls today. Even so, I found the events traumatic. Mobile phone networks were hopelessly overloaded, meaning that it was several hours before I was able to establish that my kids were OK. I later discovered that a friend, albeit one I had not seen for a while, was among the dead.

Now, I do not like to think of myself as an unduly credulous individual. People who have, like me, spent 20 years as a news reporter generally develop a certain cynicism. I am also by political conviction a Marxist, and thus do not reject a priori the contentions that capitalist governments sometimes do bad things, and that politicians sometimes lie their arses off.

Even so, the suggestion found in the whackier reaches of the internet that 7/7 was a put-up job – or to use the more sophisticated jargon, a false flag operation – scarcely deserve the designation of conspiracy theory, given that the word ‘theory’ implies at least a minimal degree of coherence.

The assertion here is effectively that a New Labour government either ordered, or at the very least was complicit in, the execution of 52 people, for no obvious purpose of sufficient gravity to require such bloodshed.

Often the claim is that Blair needed to stage such an outrage to legitimate the invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq, or to justify the further erosion of civil liberties. Did he really?

Afghanistan and Iraq were already by this point well and truly invaded. While there was a push for 90-day internment in the immediate wake of 7/7, this measure was rightly rebuffed with no noticeable adverse effect to security. It was clearly a kneejerk attempt to satisfy the ‘something must be done’ brigade, rather than a manoeuvre of vital interest to the state.

Is there anything particularly disbelievable about the most simple explanation, namely that the slaughter was perpetrated by four young Muslim men, in a grotesque response to grotesque atrocities against Muslims in many parts of the world?

Surely the testimony contained on videotaped statements from Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, recorded in advance of the day, put the matter beyond any reasonable doubt? Why should they not be taken at their word?

Those who persist with false flag speculation may consider themselves sagacious all-seeing radicals, who unlike ‘the sheeple’ determinedly refuse to be taken in by the lies of those in power. But if anybody can truly be described as gullible in all this, it is almost certainly them.

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Reader comments


I have to ask, why is one of the (generally) saner bits of the internet actually even bothering to address this idiocy? It is not exactly widespread, apart from perhaps in certain groups who are accustomed to ignoring truth in favour of what they want to be true more than is normal. And I am not sure bringing these rumours up today is the best tribute to the dead.

Surely it was the Bildeberg Group?

Is there anything particularly disbelievable about the most simple explanation, namely that the slaughter was perpetrated by four young Muslim men, in a grotesque response to grotesque atrocities against Muslims in many parts of the world?

The key word here is “simple“. You believe – as I do – that the “four young Muslim men” hypothesis is more probable, as it aligns with our expectations of the world (fewer conspirators, clear motive etc.). Others, though, have studied the events and found the theory wanting. Sure, they may be wrong, but their arguments are fairly empirical and, thus, can’t just be downed by rusty blades of Occam.

4. John Meredith

” Others, though, have studied the events and found the theory wanting. Sure, they may be wrong, but their arguments are fairly empirical and, thus, can’t just be downed by rusty blades of Occam.”

I am afraid that Occam does for them, rusty or not, unless they can show that their theory is more parsimonious that the mainstream one. And it isn’t. It uses a lot more hypotheses to explain exactly as much data.

5. Gaf the Horse

“Sure, they may be wrong, but their arguments are fairly empirical and, thus, can’t just be downed by rusty blades of Occam.”

FFS – the arguments are not empirical in any way. They start with the view 7/7 was a put up job and then cherry pick events and coincidences to support that view.

BBC’s “The Conspiracy Files” ran a fairly comprehensive rebuttal of all of these arguments last year. I suggest you view that before posting again.

I am afraid that Occam does for them, rusty or not, unless they can show that their theory is more parsimonious that the mainstream one.

Well, yes…

And it isn’t. It uses a lot more hypotheses to explain exactly as much data.

If I might play the english teacher for a moment, though, that’s something that needs to be shown not told. (Which is essentially what I was trying to say at 3.)

FFS – the arguments are not empirical in any way. They start with the view 7/7 was a put up job and then cherry pick events and coincidences to support that view.

To be empirical, no they don’t. In fact, most who are sceptical of the “four young Muslim men” theory don’t, as far as I’m aware, present their own hypotheses.

BBC’s “The Conspiracy Files” ran a fairly comprehensive rebuttal of all of these arguments last year. I suggest you view that before posting again.

I haven’t seen it, no. How an hour-long programme that didn’t engage the leading “truth” campaign managed to be “comprehensive” does, however, intrigue me.

There is really only one thing that you can be absolutely sure of in this life and that’s the fact that the government is lying to you. What we have been told is, of course, not the truth, but the result of a series of decisions about what the state wants us to think.

These people don’t do truth.

9. John Meredith

“If I might play the english teacher for a moment, though, that’s something that needs to be shown not told. ”

Why? There is no dispute, is there, that the troofers postulate a more complex hypothesis than the mainstream one? So Occam slices them off. Unless you or someone can show that there is something that the mainstream hypothesis does not explain, which there isn’t.

10. John Meredith

“What we have been told is, of course, not the truth, but the result of a series of decisions about what the state wants us to think.”

The ‘state’ does not want you to think anything. In fact ‘the state’ does not have wants at all. It is just a collection of institutions which are themselves made up of collections of individuals.

One thing that has become hugely clear from the spate of recent histories of ‘secret states’ and the latest revelations of spy ring shenanigans in the USA, is that the state very rarely knows more about what is going on than the rest of us do. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Anyone who has worked in any large corporation or institution knows that secrets cannot be kept. Want to know who the CEO is sleeping with? Just ask someone in the post room.

11. Shatterface

Apophenia is the bane of the critical mind. We’re hardwired to see patterns even where they don’t exist.

Spotting symmetry peeking through the grasses of the planes protected our ancestors from tigers but the same mental processes can decieve as much as they inform.

One other thing to point out is that the terrorist attack actually contradicted a key claim of Blair’s government: that invading Iraq would make Britain safer, by eliminating terrorist threats to us. Instead, it suggested that fighting overseas made us less safe, by stirring up resentment and encouraging new terrorists. I know a lot of people think New Labour is incompetent, but a false flag operation that actually undermines your own position seems to be going a little far.

There is no dispute, is there, that the troofers postulate a more complex hypothesis than the mainstream one? So Occam slices them off.

Well, no, because the Razor – here, at least – is heuristic not an arbiter of truth. It seems probable that the theory with the fewest conspirators/clear motive will be kosher but it’s not axiomatic.

Unless you or someone can show that there is something that the mainstream hypothesis does not explain, which there isn’t.

Well, I’ve no idea; this isn’t a field I’ve ever tramped across. That’s their claim, however, so anyone who wants an argument – as, one assumes, is true of Dave – should get aquainted.

14. John Meredith

“Well, no, because the Razor – here, at least – is heuristic not an arbiter of truth. It seems probable that the theory with the fewest conspirators/clear motive will be kosher but it’s not axiomatic.”

Axiomatic is precisely what it is. If your hypothesis has more terms than are required to explain the phenomenon, you must reject in favour of the more parsimonious hypothesis, all other things being equal.

15. Gladis Stratégie de la Tension

2/8/80

Bologna railway station

Never forget the victims of Communist terror….Oh, wait…

Still, that sort of thing could never happen again, eh?

16. Gaf the Horse

“I haven’t seen it, no. How an hour-long programme that didn’t engage the leading “truth” campaign managed to be “comprehensive” does, however, intrigue me.”

As you say you haven’t seen it, so you aren’t really qualified to comment on how comprehensive it was. I followed your link BTW, and from what I read it seems that the BBC attempted to engage with the “truth” campaign but was rebuffed once it became clear that they weren’t about to produce a program saying exactly what the “truthers” wanted, but were going to examine all of the alleged “evidence” carefully to see if there was any truth in it, (there wasn’t, there I’ve saved you the problem of tracking down a copy of the program).

Empirical, as far as I know, means that you have to have some evidential basis for a belief, this being something you have observed or directly experienced or proved by experiment. I don’t think the “truthers” claims fall into this category.

I think there’s an important distinction to be made between people who believe that the government were responsible for the events that day and people who believe that the real perpetrators were neither caught nor killed that day.

Are you drawing that distinction?

John…

Axiomatic is precisely what it is. If your hypothesis has more terms than are required to explain the phenomenon, you must reject in favour of the more parsimonious hypothesis, all other things being equal.

It might imply that a theory’s favourable but it doesn’t show that it’s true (or, on the flipside, less favourable/wrong). Even then, one needs some workable “terms“, which are hard to come by when Occam’s dragged out into the world.

Gaf

As you say you haven’t seen it, so you aren’t really qualified to comment on how comprehensive it was.

Fair ’nuff.

Empirical, as far as I know, means that you have to have some evidential basis for a belief, this being something you have observed or directly experienced or proved by experiment. I don’t think the “truthers” claims fall into this category.

It means that one’s beliefs are drawn from experience, not merely reason/intuition. Clearly, those folk have engaged with the day’s events (however competently).

RL

Good point.

19. Chaise Guevara

“Axiomatic is precisely what it is. If your hypothesis has more terms than are required to explain the phenomenon, you must reject in favour of the more parsimonious hypothesis, all other things being equal.”

You’re joking, yes? Occam’s razor is a philosophical observation, not the equivalent of the first law of thermodynamics. It’s a shortcut. The idea that you can always use it to identify the most accurate account is ridiculous.

20. Charlieman

OP, Dave Osler: “Is there anything particularly disbelievable about the most simple explanation, namely that the slaughter was perpetrated by four young Muslim men, in a grotesque response to grotesque atrocities against Muslims in many parts of the world?”

Whilst acknowledging grotesque atrocities against Muslims, I don’t accept that the four bombers were motivated solely by British foreign policy. Their acts demonstrated a contempt for UK society that required less rational belief. The IRA bombed mainland UK for political reasons, but members did not intentionally blow themselves up.

For obvious reasons, the police and intelligence services have provided as little information as possible about the four bombers and their plot. Information has been provided because it was public knowledge (eg lifestyle of the bombers) or expedient (eg to generate more information). In the absence of much public information, conspiracy theorists fill in the gaps with speculation.

The explosive that was used, TATP, can be made easily by a bright A Level chemistry student. Or less effectively by somebody who has been taught the recipe (NOT an untrained person who downloaded the recipe from the internet). A bright A Level chemistry student would also have understood the risk to the manufacturer and his neighbours; an untrained person would have blown their fingers off before they produced enough for a tiny bomb.

Thus conspiracy theorists assume, quite reasonably, that the bombers had assistance in the manufacture of their TATP. But TATP is a bonkers explosive. It degrades quickly when unrefrigerated (note the failure of the 21/7 bomb attempts) or may go bang when your car rides over a speed hump. No intelligence agency would go near the stuff.

We don’t know whether the bombers made their own TATP or had outside assistance. The intelligence services might know. Conspiracy theorists might wish to reflect on why MI5 and MI6 were formerly called the secret services. It’s about that word “secret”.

BTW, much respect to the forensic scientists who investigated 7/7.

Charlieman

TATP was not the main explosive charge. The evidence presented at the “7/7 helpers” trials was that it was a mixture of concentrated hydrogen peroxide and organic material.

There has been no credible scientific explanation of how the concentrated hydrogen peroxide could have been produced.

I must be reading a different internet then. I’ve never even heard of people claiming that 7/7 was a false flag operation.

23. John Meredith

“The idea that you can always use [Occam’s razor] to identify the most accurate account is ridiculous.”

Far from being ridiculous it is the case (assuming the usual conditions). Or can you think of an example where it isn’t applicable?

The idea that you can always use it to identify the most accurate account is ridiculous./

The point is that without it, there are an infinite number of hypothesis which can explain any given phenomenon, since the action of any single entity in any hypothesis can always be replaced by the interaction of two or more entities. Without Occam’s Razor, it is impossible to reason at all.

Hypotheses, damn it!

Far from being ridiculous it is the case (assuming the usual conditions). Or can you think of an example where it isn’t applicable?

One can use it to try and “identify the most accurate account” – tease out the most likely explanation – but one can’t stake too much on it because, well – it’s not that accurate.

Please use Occam’s Razor to decide between these three explanations.

The set up: scandium is a rare and extremely expensive metal ($10,000, $15,000 a kg, same sort of expense as gold) because:

1) There’s not much of it on the planet.

2) Not that many people have found a use for it so not many people have bothered to find a way to extract it so it’s all made at artisanal scale rather than full on large scale mining and manufacturing so it’s expensive.

3) The hydroxide is insoluble. This means that it (almost) never forms ore bodies and so has to be extracted from the residual amounts found in some 800 different minerals.

So, I think we’d all agree that Occam’s shaving stuff would lead to 1) being chosen as the correct answer. Which, given that the Clarke number is 22, would be the only one of the three answers which is wrong.

The correct answer is a combination of 2) and 3).

There we go then. Occam’s facescraper is a useful logical tool but no more: it is not an infallible guide. It is not always true that the simplest explanation is the true one.

There we go then. Occam’s facescraper is a useful logical tool but no more: it is not an infallible guide. It is not always true that the simplest explanation is the true one.

Firstly, it doesn’t actually say anything about “simple” – the correct formulation is “most parsimonious”. Secondly, you’ve missed the massive, all-important qualifier: “all other things being equal”. When you actually have evidence which favours less parsimonious explanations over more parsimonious ones, those are obviously preferred.

So, I think we’d all agree that Occam’s shaving stuff would lead to 1) being chosen as the correct answer.

No, we wouldn’t, because all three options are equally parsimonious.

All you’ve demonstrated is that you don’t understand, at a very basic level, what Occam’s Razor actually says or means.

The correct formulation is that one must always favour the most parsimonious explanation which is consistent with all of the available evidence. Using your examples, without any evidence on the relative abundance of scandium, we would be unable to distinguish between the three options presented solely through appeal to Occam. However, we could discard option 4: “It’s expensive because invisible space aliens are buying it all.”

29. Chaise Guevara

“Far from being ridiculous it is the case (assuming the usual conditions). Or can you think of an example where it isn’t applicable?”

Off the top of my head… the 7/7 bombings. I’d assume along with you that the conventional account is accurate, and for the same reasons. But I’m not going to declare that I’ve proved it’s the case, because I don’t think “reality” = “whatever requires the least assumptions”.

On the other hand, I think these “usual conditions” of yours may be the precursor for some heavy goalpost shifting.

30. Chaise Guevara

“The point is that without it, there are an infinite number of hypothesis which can explain any given phenomenon, since the action of any single entity in any hypothesis can always be replaced by the interaction of two or more entities. Without Occam’s Razor, it is impossible to reason at all.”

Agree with that, no problem. Disagree with Meredith’s “Occam’s razor is an infallible guide to reality” hypothesis.

31. Chaise Guevara

However…

“No, we wouldn’t, because all three options are equally parsimonious.”

No they’re not. One require a single assumption, the other several. Occam’s razor selects 1.

In fairness, though, 1 may very well be the most probable answer given the known facts. It’s just not definitely true.

Conspiracy theories after tragedies are like mushrooms after rainfall. They crop up with almost mechanical regularity, and the bigger the event the more enthusiastic the proponents.

99% of all government conspiracy theories don’t fail the basic sniff test — how did an organisation as prone to leaks, failures and general incompetence as the Labour government (or any government, in general) manage to orchestrate and keep silent an operation such as this? How come *nobody* leaked about false flag and murder when the government can’t keep a lid on expenses scandals and marital indiscretions?

But this is somewhat by the by. In general it’s pointless engaging with them on the basis of their arguments because it’s impossible to reason someone out of an opinion they haven’t reasoned themselves into.

What is interesting is the psychological and social reasons behind the emergence of conspiracy theories. What is it about them that makes them attractive to a particular kind of mind? Why do they always crop up sharing the same basic structures, even if the details change?

I happen to think, personally, that they are an evolution of the ancient human skill of mythmaking. Even negative mythologies – devils and demons and lizard men taking over the bodies of all heads of state and shylock-style jews running the global markets – are useful in formulating a view of the world because they create a system that simplifies the chaos of life into something understandable. Most events are mostly random, with human agency playing very little part, and that agency itself mostly being hopelessly confused. We are unlikely to find any clear cut answers to most of the historical problems that conspiracy theorists dwell on, not because they are being kept from us, but because they don’t exist. Hence, for those to whom this lack of definitive understanding creates a psychological problem, they seek out ways in which to fill it with certainty. It doesn’t matter if such certainty doesn’t hold up under serious scrutiny. For the most part it’s not there to be scrutinised, it’s there to be certain.

Basic psychological behaviours take over from there, and like all people once a conspiracy theorist has decided that something is true, he will embed that in his mind and disregard evidence that contradicts it. The more fervent the belief, the more the insistence that the evidence supports it. The belief doesn’t come from the evidence, it’s the other way round.

However, this is a barebones skeleton of an understanding, and I still remain fascinated by the process by which these mushrooms sprout.

33. Chaise Guevara

Interesting point RE mythmaking. What seems to mark conspiracy theories as separate is that they’re always negative, but that’s because we define it that way. Other, positive popular myths, such as astrology, rely on all the same impulses and logical lapses, but we happen to call them by a different name.

McDuff

But this is somewhat by the by. In general it’s pointless engaging with them on the basis of their arguments because it’s impossible to reason someone out of an opinion they haven’t reasoned themselves into.

How does one decide whether somebody’s “reasoned themselves into” an argument without first engaging with it? Because they’re “conspiracy theories“? If so, what are these darn theories and why are they so inherently rotten?

All you’ve demonstrated is that you don’t understand, at a very basic level, what Occam’s Razor actually says or means.

Why don’t we list all of the possible meanings of Occam’s Razor and accept the one which is simplest.

36. Just Visiting

Hey guys – it’s not actually uncommon round the world for people (mostly young men) in the name of Islam to kill people and themselves!

Just today, 3 British Mulsims were sentenced for planning just that – and had even recorded their own suicide videos.

Again today – Norway arrests 3 Muslims regards terrorist planning.

Yesterday: “German authorities said Wednesday they arrested a Syrian suspected recruiter for Al-Qaeda who allegedly used the Internet to fish for new members for the militant Islamist network.

Yesterday again: “Radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is back under a police microscope for his alleged support of terrorist activity, a security analyst said on Tuesday.”

Yesterday: ” Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) — The relentless violence against Shiite pilgrims intensified Wednesday evening, with at least 33 people killed by bomb attacks, officials said.”

Islamic inspired terrorism is sadly a daily event world wide.

37. Matt Munro

@ 32. The mythmaking thing is interesting – the idea that we have an innate need to beleive in some sort of higher order is the basis of all religions (even secular ones) but conspiracy theories are also about control.
9/11 and 7/7 have a lot of their psychological power because they were unexpected, and uncontrollable, they impacted ordinary people doing the same sort of ordinary stuff we all do in a completely random way. A conspiracy, on the hand is a plan, it’s controlled by the generalised other (“they”) but it implies order, control and intent, on other words it’s something someone chose to do. We (in the west particularly) are brought up to believe in the concept of freewill, the idea that we are in control of our lives and actively make choices about them. Random, uncontrollable events are a threat to that control, whereas a conspiracy is not random, it’s someones choice, and is therefore less threatening.

38. Chaise Guevara

In fairness, Just Visiting, most people on here aren’t saying the 7/7 bombers were innocent. Instead, we’ve meandered off into a weird conversation about Occam’s Razor and whether or not it’s God incarnate, which andrew adams has just taken the piss out of in a rather likeable way.

Random, uncontrollable events are a threat to that control, whereas a conspiracy is not random, it’s someones choice, and is therefore less threatening.

Presumably, though, you believe that 7/7 was Sidique Khan and others’ choice; that 9/11 was bin Laden’s; that the Kennedy assassination was Lee Harvey Oswald’s…

40. Chaise Guevara

” A conspiracy, on the hand is a plan, it’s controlled by the generalised other (“they”) but it implies order, control and intent, on other words it’s something someone chose to do. We (in the west particularly) are brought up to believe in the concept of freewill, the idea that we are in control of our lives and actively make choices about them. Random, uncontrollable events are a threat to that control, whereas a conspiracy is not random, it’s someones choice, and is therefore less threatening.”

Bloody hell, another good point about conspiracy theories! I’ve tended to think about them as the symptom of a general contrariness (i.e. if the powers that be say something, the opposite must be true), but both you and McDuff have clearly actually bothered to think the issue through. Fair play (or lay on, as the case may be).

@37

Definitely there with you on the finding meaning thing. It’s a variant of the Just World myth, I think, that crops up in religions. Some explain the bad things that happen in the world with devils, some with government conspiracies. Either way, despite appearances it’s actually some kind of comfort, it seems, to put a villainous face on the bad things. That way they’re explicable, and in some way theoretically solvable. If only everyone would sacrifice the goats/turn to jesus/read my pamphlet, then the droughts and the killings wouldn’t happen.

One of the truly terrifying things about the world is that so much of it is completely outside our control.

@34
I do engage with them, just not in the way you obviously like. I mean, surely you’d agree that there are some claims that are palpably outside the pale, that it would be silly to entertain. If someone comes up to me and claims that he’s discovered fairies at the bottom of his garden and they’ve crowned him their king, I’m less likely to engage with his theories in a substantive manner than if he claimed he’d found a rare species of hawthorne. Similarly, there are many bad things that people claim governments do that I will give credence to. But, experience of the patterns of conspiracy theories helps me understand who are talking about possible injustices and who believes they’re the king of the goblins.

One of the tells is that we actually, by and large, find out about real conspiracies, and know what they look like too. Enron was a conspiracy. The initial Iraq invasion was a conspiracy, of sorts, although a bodged one. Real government conspiracies tend to leak like sieves, be fairly ineffectual and fail in unforeseen ways. The conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, imbue their theoretical governments with mystical, superhuman abilities. Not only are they capable of running a false flag operation in their own capital city that kills a significant number of citizens, but they are capable of doing so without any single member of the conspiracy objecting, raising a flag, leaking to the press, or making an error of judgement. Why, given that governments can do nothing else with this level of precision and discipline, are we to imagine that they could do this? Why did the DoD, MI5 and the Blair Government see eye to eye on this, when they couldn’t agree on anything else? Why has the incoming Tory government, with access to the security documents, not used it as a political sledgehammer to destroy the Labour Party, which something of this magnitude, once made public, surely would?

In short, much like the goblin king sat in his underpants with the far-off look in his eyes, any such theorising requires not just the excessive entities that Occam’s Razor suggests that we get rid of, but magical entities who are required to behave in an unprecedented and, frankly, inhuman manner. To err is human, and Blair was not divine. Therefore, it doesn’t pass the sniff test, and I don’t have to look at every single coincidence and piece of half-baked evidence to know that they’re not going to support this clearly bonkers proposition.

Does anyone know how I unsubscribe from email alerts to this thread? I haven’t been so overwhelmed by logical virtuosos trying to outdo each other’s ultra-orthodoxy and moral laziness disguised as crusading individualism since sixth form.

@34
“Therefore, it doesn’t pass the sniff test, and I don’t have to look at every single coincidence and piece of half-baked evidence to know that they’re not going to support this clearly bonkers proposition.”

I’m afraid you do. Otherwise it’s called ‘prejudice’. And if you answer one question today, answer this. Even to yourself. If you haven’t examined the evidence, how do you know it’s half-baked?

Not only are they capable of running a false flag operation in their own capital city that kills a significant number of citizens, but they are capable of doing so without any single member of the conspiracy objecting, raising a flag, leaking to the press, or making an error of judgement. Why, given that governments can do nothing else with this level of precision and discipline, are we to imagine that they could do this?

Indeed.

Another characteristic of conspiracy theorists is that they rarely believe in just one conspiracy, eg 9/11 troofers will also tend to be 7/7 troofers, etc., multiplying the improbabilities you outline above.

44. Just Visiting

If you read ‘The Islamist’ by Ed Hussain: when he was in Saudi and elsewhere brushing up his Arabic and his theology: he met well educated Saudis who were quite convinced that 911 was done by the USA/the Jews: with the thinking being that it was too welll organised to have been Muslims…!

Maybe you guys are missing a big troofer motivation here:

That the conspiracy theory requires the troofer __to do less work__ in recognising that the world is different to what they think it is.

It is very challenging to have to change one’s world view – so instead of having to read-up and find out and explain the motivations of the terrorists: and to conclude that maybe they really DO want to destroy the west! Ouch…. It is much cosier and easier to subscribe it to ‘just another’ case of ‘ our politicians lied’.
And frees the troofer from having to explain jjust what islamic terrorism is and wants.

That same motivation can also be seen here on LC – and not by conventional troofers – but by our feminist fellows!

As raised by Pagar a while back, the avoidance of uncomfortable issues:
Why have the feminists on LC never opened a discussion about Islam/Sharia and women? It’s noticeable by it’s silence: women being stoned etc round the world, honour killed here in the UK…. and yet the feminists here instead get heated here about other, slightly less life threatening issues.

Maybe it is _too much hard work_ for them to have to adjust their world view to accept that Islam is in some areas possibly a less ‘good’, less humanitarian culture than the west.
Not sure what they are avoiding in this?
Maybe the mantra that we should ‘tolerate all cultures no matter how diferent’ ?
Maybe their believe in the inherent badness of’western patriarchy’ makes it impossible for them to believe that other cultures may treat women even worse?

(The 80’s book ‘the Road Less Travelled’ by Scott Peck talks quite a bit about the problem that we humans often avoid the ‘legitimate suffering’ (as he calls it) of finding out what the world is really like and adjusting therefore what we expect from life itself)

McDuff

Either way, despite appearances it’s actually some kind of comfort, it seems, to put a villainous face on the bad things. That way they’re explicable, and in some way theoretically solvable. If only everyone would sacrifice the goats/turn to jesus/read my pamphlet, then the droughts and the killings wouldn’t happen.

I agree that this could account for those who pin all worldly evil on a single, baneful source (this dude with Lady Gaga, say) but I’m not sure it explains “conspiracy theories” at large. Take 9/11: there was a “villainous face” – OBL – and a “theoretical sol[ution]” – bombing him to piecemeal – lodged inside the popular narrative. That, 7/7 and others weren’t inexplicable; heck, in the OP Dave appeals to the latter’s comprehensibility (“namely that the slaughter was perpetrated…“).

But, experience of the patterns of conspiracy theories helps me understand who are talking about possible injustices and who believes they’re the king of the goblins.

I sympathise (generally anyone who writes “connect the dots” can be shunted to the sidelines of one’s interest). By what criteria, however, do you separate “conspiracy theories” from “possible injustices?

The initial Iraq invasion was a conspiracy, of sorts, although a bodged one. Real government conspiracies tend to leak like sieves, be fairly ineffectual and fail in unforeseen ways.

How was Iraq “bodged“? They got away with it magnificently! Just as LBJ evaded blame for the Gulf of Tonkin; all escaped from Gladio; none were charged for the Mosaddegh coup. Sure, these aren’t quite as dramatic as, say, blowing up the twin towers, but they’re still “effectual” and suggest that a) governments will practice covert ops., b) these might be devastating and c) they hold the power to cover them up. Thus, “conspiracy theor[ising]” – for all it may lead to dead ends – seems valuable to me.

The conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, imbue their theoretical governments with mystical, superhuman abilities. Not only are they capable of running a false flag operation in their own capital city that kills a significant number of citizens, but they are capable of doing so without any single member of the conspiracy objecting, raising a flag, leaking to the press, or making an error of judgement.

None of these are “mystical” or “superhuman“: yes, it’s likely that conspiracies will yield whistleblowers but it’s not inevitable (and what’s to say that conspirators couldn’t escape despite “error[s] of judgement“?). Still, would it defy our understanding of the state? Yes. Is it tremendously implausible? Oh, indeed. Is it inherently ridiculous? No. It might be safe, then, to ignore such theories – after all, we’ve only so much time to live – but not to imagine that they’re self-refuting.

I’d like to echo something RL said at 17, by the way. A lot of of supposed theorists don’t propound their own hypotheses, but focus themselves on critiquing official narratives. This can be effective: for example, the 9/11 Commission was, as the “troofers” said, a blind, crippled, muddied wreck. Y’know how, in Poirot or something, “innocent” characters still turn out to be sinister bastards? Well, governments often have things to cover up, even if it’s not their own complicity.

I haz moderate comment. U releees it plz? Kthanxbai.

#44 – straw man argument, much?

@42

It’s not prejudice, but it is discrimination, which is a good and necessary thing when applied to ideas rather than people.

I mean, hell, do you also expect me to weigh up every argument put forward by someone who claims that Jews are secretly running all the world’s banks and that therefore the holocaust can’t really have happened? To fully consider all the evidence marshalled in favour of the hypothesis that alien lizard men have taken over the bodies of all the world’s heads of state?

Some theories aren’t worth taking the time to fully evaluate because they violate too many known facts about the universe. “Tony Blair was behind the 7/7 bombings” is one such theory. The facts that are violated aren’t that he was a good person who wouldn’t kill for his own benefit – we know from experience that he would – but that he was an incompetent leader of a fractured government, prone to massive overreach and a historic tendency of trying to do things that were much smaller than this for much grander purposes, which he couldn’t ever get right.

To get to the “marshalling the evidence in favour” stage, first you have to bypass this massive, completely unwarranted assumption that the government of the time was not merely not incompetent – a bar they never hit in anything else – but actually a smoothly oiled black ops machine, capable of inspiring cold, merciless devotion to the “higher good” in every single individual in every single branch of the security services and police who would necessarily have to be in on it, so that the british government could explode four bombs in the capital city of their country, killing over 50 people, and not have anybody, at any time now or since, leak, fuck up, or blow the whistle. Frankly, on a scale of one to lunatic, that’s up there with “I’m the king of the goblin people”.

Why have the feminists on LC never opened a discussion about Islam/Sharia and women?

Well I don’t know about everyone else, but I am personally appalled that you’ve never opened up a discussion about corruption in Ghana. What are you trying to hide?

@47
“I mean, hell, do you also expect me to weigh up every argument put forward by someone who claims that Jews are secretly running all the world’s banks and that therefore the holocaust can’t really have happened? To fully consider all the evidence marshalled in favour of the hypothesis that alien lizard men have taken over the bodies of all the world’s heads of state?”

Not necessarily you, but someone. Someone, somewhere is doing exactly that. There is an enormous body of evidence amassed to counter the claims of Holocaust deniers because there had to be: the Holocaust is not an event whose denial can be taken lightly. It would be better that you refrained from conclusion unless you are happy to be that person, or that person has taken on this task.

““Tony Blair was behind the 7/7 bombings” is one such theory. ”

You need not presume that to suspect that the official account of 7/7 bombings is not the plain, whole and unvanrished truth.

“To get to the “marshalling the evidence in favour” stage, first you have to bypass this massive, completely unwarranted assumption that the government of the time was not merely not incompetent – a bar they never hit in anything else – but actually a smoothly oiled black ops machine, capable of inspiring cold, merciless devotion to the “higher good” in every single individual in every single branch of the security services and police who would necessarily have to be in on it, so that the british government could explode four bombs in the capital city of their country, killing over 50 people, and not have anybody, at any time now or since, leak, fuck up, or blow the whistle.”

No, you don’t. The ‘government’ and ‘the civil service’ are composed of individuals, some of whom are competent and some of whom are not and some of whom are honest and others corrupt. Some of them even get into bed with editors of scaremongering newspapers who are apt to print made-up shite, so I hear. It is a fallacy to view ‘the government’ as a single mind with a single will. We know that this isn’t the case, and the mistake you make – to see it as a single entity – is one that you share with the ‘troofers’ it has been rather Littlejohnnishly put.

So if we take as a starting point that we cannot neccessarily take the official account as the abolsute truth and ask “someone plotted to use explosives to detonate devices in Central London on the 7th July. Who?” you can see that we have a phase space of suspects consisting of probably hundreds of millions of people.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not for one second suggesting that ‘The guvvermint did it innit’ or that the accused were necessarily not responsible, but ot makes me very uncomfortable when I see intelligent people who are clearly nervous about examining the evidence and resorting to blustering displacement activity and logical acrobatics to avoid doing so.

“Frankly, on a scale of one to lunatic, that’s up there with “I’m the king of the goblin people”.

Yeah, pretty much like that. What does that sentence prove or add to the debate?

51. Shatterface

Apophenia

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki?search=Apophenia

See also:

23 enigma
Clustering illusion
Confabulation
Confirmation bias
Conspiracy theory
Delusions of reference
Face on Mars
Forer effect
Hindsight bias
Jesus in burnt toast
Mohammed in fruit
Paranoiac-critical method
Pareidolia
Projection
Reality tunnel
Synchronicity
Texas sharpshooter fallacy

Feel free to add your own to the list.

As someone rather insistant on evidence based decision making rather than faith based – largely due to the fact I know my brain misleads me – I have an instinctive disbelief in conspiracy theories – though maybe that’s a deliberate side-effect of my medication.

Can’t trust Big Pharma!

“As someone rather insistant on evidence based decision making rather than faith based…I have an instinctive disbelief in conspiracy theories”

Instinct *is* faith, or supersition, or whatever you want to call it. It certainly isn’t evidence.

Perhaps this is connected to a deeper philosophical point: that of the possibility of objectivity, but again I’m seeing someone claiming to be a dispassionate believer in evidence invalidating that claim within the same sentence.

As someone rather insistant on evidence based decision making rather than faith based – largely due to the fact I know my brain misleads me – I have an instinctive disbelief in conspiracy theories – though maybe that’s a deliberate side-effect of my medication.

You have a prejudice against an ill-defined category of hypotheses? Very evidence based!

54. Shatterface

‘You have a prejudice against an ill-defined category of hypotheses? Very evidence based!’

I think you might have missed a level of irony (or two).

55. Shatterface

And ditto Rogue_Leader.

Sorry.

*Wanders off to stand in the corner.*

Since conspiracy theories fall into a category of hypotheses which are (a) ex ante implausible and (b) eventually, or more often quite rapidly, shown to be bollocks, being prejudiced against them is perfectly sensible.

Is it necessary for me to “examine the evidence” against the moon landings?

No.

You haven’t even defined “conspiracy theories“…

59. Shatterface

A defining characteristic of a conspiracy theory is it’s lack of falsifiability: if the theory ‘explains’ everything, it explains nothing. Certain broad structuralist theories of society fall into this category.

60. Chaise Guevara

“A defining characteristic of a conspiracy theory is it’s lack of falsifiability: if the theory ‘explains’ everything, it explains nothing. Certain broad structuralist theories of society fall into this category.”

God does too, by the sounds of it.

I’m not sure that conspiracy theories are actually non-falsifiable; in fact, most have been falsified. The problem is the person proposing the theory will point-blank refuse to accept any evidence against it, while clutching at arguments and evidence that are self-evidently flawed.

A big part of me wants to go around telling people that the government let 70 million immigrants into the country last year, just to see how many people are so desperate to confirm their prejudices that they’ll swallow it hook, line and sinker.

61. Just Visiting

McDuff 49

>> Why have the feminists on LC never opened a discussion about Islam/Sharia and women?
> I am personally appalled that you’ve never opened up a discussion about corruption in Ghana. What are you trying to hide?

That’s being daft. I’m one person, who has not stated a preference on LC for discussions on either (i) Ghana nor (b) corruption

Whereas:
There are many feminists who post on LC. Who often post about the oppression of women, and issues concerning women. And whilst some Muslim and non-Muslim women campaign (not on LC) about the oppression of women under Islam, here on LC the feminists as a group so far have not raised the issue at all.
That lack is noteworthy.

62. Just Visiting

Chaise

> I’m not sure that conspiracy theories are actually non-falsifiable; in fact, most have been falsified. The problem is the person proposing the theory will point-blank refuse to accept any evidence against it

What he said – the non-falsifiable issue is a red herring regards troofers – IMHO.

@45

Indeed, the official narrative for the 9/11 bombings would seem to contain all the pieces necessary for a conspiracy narrative. OBL, trained by the CIA back in the 80s, turns into a loose cannon and constructs a diabolical scheme to strike a blow at the heart of the American hegemon. It’s got evil people, US government involvement, the works. So why doesn’t it satisfy?

Partly, I think, is because both the official narrative and the likely true narrative (which is like the official narrative but with more fumbling around and more luck on the part of a much less organised Al Quaeda) rely too much on failure. The all-powerful US Government is involved, but after the 1980s its involvement becomes increasingly clownish until its role in the narrative is reduced to missing everything important. You can’t fear an all powerful military power if it can demonstrably be fooled by a bearded guy in a cave.

Then, there’s the fact that, if it’s a Just World variant, we’ve basically “solved” the 9/11 problem by now – OBL is dead or missing, AQ doesn’t exist (if it ever really did) – and yet the world is still an unfair place. OBL wasn’t huge enough to answer the question “why do bad things happen to good people?” He could answer a specific one, but he didn’t fit into the broader conspiracy theorist narrative (as has been mentioned, believers in one tend to believe in others, and conspiracies cross pollinate).

Now, perhaps my theories as to the Just World driving need are inaccurate, although there seems to be a common thread and I’m pretty confident that it’s at least a good part of it. But what I don’t think we can disagree on is that there had to be some driving need underpinning the need to invent or rely on these stories.

How was Iraq “bodged“?

David Kelly, “sexed up,” “45 minutes”, etc etc etc. There are two parts to a conspiracy theory – the dark room plotting by “the smartest guys in the room”, and the coverup. The conspiracy, as lame as it actually was, happened, and worked just well enough to convince enough people for long enough to get the UK involved in a war it was almost inevitably going to end up in anyway. The coverup was a miserable failure.

That also demonstrated why more involved conspiracies are unnecessary. The Iraq WMD thing was clearly and demonstrably bullshit from the get go, and it worked. It was exposed as a deliberate fraud, and it still worked. You don’t have to be good to fool enough people enough of the time to get your way.

@50

There is an enormous body of evidence amassed to counter the claims of Holocaust deniers because there had to be: the Holocaust is not an event whose denial can be taken lightly.

I’m afraid you have this exactly backwards. People haven’t amassed evidence of the Holocaust to counter the claims of the deniers. Indeed, most of the evidence we have that it took place was written down by the Nazis, while they were doing it; by definition, before the category of “holocaust denier” even existed. The evidence exists and is gathered because it was a major historical event that resulted in the deaths of millions of people. The Holocaust museum in Israel wasn’t erected in order to show people “hah, look, the holocaust deniers are wrong!” The deniers themselves are parasitic on the event, not a driving force behind its documentation.

You need not presume that to suspect that the official account of 7/7 bombings is not the plain, whole and unvanrished truth.

You’re correct here, but doubt is not a conclusion, and the transition between doubting the official documents and staring at timetables in order to support a conspiracy is an important one.

There are similarities in the shift between the two frames that are familiar to those who argue about other evidence-free claims. “We don’t know exactly how everything works,” they say “therefore astrology is true!” Wellllll, no, actually, one doesn’t follow. “According to the cosmological argument it’s plausible that there was a divine force underpinning the creation of the universe somehow,” they say, “therefore the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church is precisely correct!” Again, the argument is a non sequitur. “We should doubt the official narrative given to us by the government,” you say. “OK,” says I, “therefore….?”

The issue is not the doubt, but what conclusions one expects that mere doubt to support in place of evidence.

The ‘government’ and ‘the civil service’ are composed of individuals, some of whom are competent and some of whom are not and some of whom are honest and others corrupt. Some of them even get into bed with editors of scaremongering newspapers who are apt to print made-up shite, so I hear. It is a fallacy to view ‘the government’ as a single mind with a single will.

Which is exactly why conspiracy theories fail. The more complicated, the more people involved, the more points of failure are introduced. Add in the necessary cover up and you extend those failure points throughout time. You end up having to assume that millions of things that could go wrong, that do go wrong in other cases, not only don’t go wrong in these specific cases, but also continue to not go wrong for years on end. It stretches the definition of “plausible” somewhat.

You seem to be under the impression that people who don’t buy into the various conspiracies going are instead blindly following whatever government line is spoon fed to us. That’s a totally false dichotomy. To question something doesn’t mean that one is open to all other possibilities. Part of the process of reasoning through something is discriminating between plausible ideas, and disregarding the ones that aren’t worth the time to look at. Just as one can question the official line without embracing moon landing denial, one can also deny that Tony Blair was behind 7/7 without believing that everything the government says about terrorism is true. Figuring out what is most likely true necessarily involves disregarding things which are not just outlandish, but frankly impossible. Otherwise we waste valuable time listening carefully and politely to people who are, frankly, more than a little unhinged.

As a corollary to that, if someone is a crank, it pays to disregard other things they say and “evidence” they claim to have found, since their crankitude is unlikely to be leading them in the direction of reasoned argument. 9/11 Truthers sit and look at photographs and blurry CCTV footage and claim with absolute certainty that the object that hit the Pentagon couldn’t have been a plane. However, I have a number of friends who live in DC, one of whom saw the plane hit the Pentagon. Post hoc rationalisations from blurry second hand evidence do not win that argument, except if you’re a conspiracy theorist devoted to believing that it couldn’t have been a plane. Given that their methodology is so fundamentally flawed, why should I spend my time looking at their other claims and “evidence”? Arguments do not spring from vacuums; if someone has a history of making horrendous errors of judgement, I’m going to continually question their judgement on other things. That’s just basic pattern recognition and common sense.

Yeah, pretty much like that. What does that sentence prove or add to the debate?

It tells you that if you believe Tony Blair was behind the 7/7 bombings that you’re displaying the same level of sense and judgement as people who believe that the stock market can be predicted from watching Venus. Simple, really. You disagree?

@61

What you’re doing, my boy, is called “concern trolling”. Knock it off.

65. Rhys Williams

“A defining characteristic of a conspiracy theory is it’s lack of falsifiability: if the theory ‘explains’ everything, it explains nothing. Certain broad structuralist theories of society fall into this category.”
Very true , thank god for Popper.

This is all nonsense but are all conspiracy theories untrue.

66. Rhys Williams

There are many feminists who post on LC. Who often post about the oppression of women, and issues concerning women. And whilst some Muslim and non-Muslim women campaign (not on LC) about the oppression of women under Islam, here on LC the feminists as a group so far have not raised the issue at all.
That lack is noteworthy.

Yes and they should mention the attitude towards women in the other religious communities such as the Jewish, Christian or Mormon fundamentalist groups. Who treat women as second class citizens.
But I have suspect you don’t mind that.

religious communities

+1

68. Quietzapple

I used to think there was a left wing conspiracy to split the left whenever there is a leadership election, but this time there was a left and right wing conspiracy to nominate Diane Abbott, which is a true novelty.

Al Queda by comparison are models of clear thought, and HMG is not required to co-operate.

69. Rhys Williams

used to think there was a left wing conspiracy to split the left whenever there is a leadership election, but this time there was a left and right wing conspiracy to nominate Diane Abbott, which is a true novelty.
I would have thought that would be evidence for the cock up theory


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