The schema and ideological belief system of Meta conspiracy theorists

Excerpt from the book, Who rules the world? An analysis of Conspiracy Theory By Tony Sobrado

 

Meta conspiracy theories are a form of ideology. They posit alternative political and social explanations to Governmental and social theory akin to the political philosophy of Liberalism or Socialism for at their very root they postulate an ontological framework for how society, politics and the economy operate. But what is it about this form of political ideology that makes Meta conspiracy theories untenable in the light of other political ideologies. With fantastical claims comes the need for rigorous evidence, which Meta conspiracy theorists dramatically fail to produce. Meta conspiracy theories of secret Governmental world rule function in a haphazard and non systematic manner. They amalgamate disparate sources of information and convolute them in desirable ways to felicitate conspiratorial paradigms. To invoke their conspiracy theories, conspiracy theorists pick and choose what they will with regards to information.

However the use of data and inference of evidence and what constitutes “proof” is far more difficult, if not impossible, to assimilate in the social world, due to the unpredictability of social agents and events. For it is men that make their social world and their choices, behavior, and motivations cannot be predicatively pinned down like particles and atoms can be in natural science, for the latter do not posses reflexive cognition. One can look at social phenomena through many lenses, be it Marxism, Liberalism, Anarchism, Postmodernism or Structuralism. The fact that conspiracy theorists play the analytical card of Meta conspiracy theory to explain a range of seemingly unrelated events from the death of JFK, to alien abduction, to the faked moon landings and 911 simply illustrates that they operate with their own schema and belief system.

In this respect we are all the same as cognitive thinking creatures. From the internal position of Meta conspiracy theory, logic and rationale operates in concordance with beliefs that connect the dots and answers conundrums to social phenomena. You have to ascribe to the belief system of Meta conspiracy theory for it to be rationally acceptable and applicably consistent just as religious people play the game of rationality when justifying the belief in a deity – a term often described as “reasonable faith”.

This analysis of belief systems, world views and psychological schemas are the focus of much study in Social Psychology. A schema can be loosely described as a mental structure that represents some aspect of the world. Schemata are an effective tool for understanding the world. Through the use of schemata, most everyday situations do not require effortful thought – automatic thought is all that is required. People can quickly organise new perceptions into schemata and act effectively without strenuous conscious labour. The social world can be understood and represented via internal rationale and self sustaining logic. This produces a disposition to perceive phenomena in a particular way through a particular perspective.

So what can be said about the schema of Meta conspiracy theory? Does the cynical disposition in adhering to Meta conspiracy theory say something psychological about the believer or the social and cultural values of a specific community in anthropological, sociological and social psychological terms? Research conducted at the University of Virginia concluded that people who believe in one conspiracy theory are more likely to believe in others. Unsurprisingly there is a good chance that someone who believes the moon landings were faked will also believe that JFK was killed by a second gunman upon that infamous grassy knoll. Dr Karen Douglas at the University of Kent goes one step further. In her article entitled Does it take one to know one? Published in The British Journal of Psychology she explains how belief and endorsement of conspiracy theories is influenced by a personal willingness to conspire.

How endemic are Meta conspiracy theories and belief in general Conspiracy Theory? Meta Conspiracy theories themselves have a long and distinguished history. This was made evident by books propagating conspiracy theories, with regards to Government, in the nineteenth and twentieth century. One book of notoriety is Nesta Webster’s Secret Societies and Subversive Movements. In it Webster argued that the secret society of the Illuminati were occultists, plotting communist world domination whilst simultaneously using the idea of a Jewish cabal, the Masons and Jesuits as a smokescreen. The 1920’s also saw the publication of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This was a fraudulent anti-Semitic text purporting to describe a Jewish plan for achieving global domination and naturally propagated by the Nazis and Stalin for political reasons decades later.

 Conspiracy theories also have historical veracity in claiming metaphysical and transcendental elements. For instance, in medieval times social randomness, mishaps and unexplained events, both natural and political, were often explained, and accounted for, as being the direct work of the devil. This, in analytical and definitive terms, is a pre-ordained transcendental Meta conspiracy theory. Before the advent of scientific methodology, both social and natural phenomena were explained via supernatural elements and this applied to conspiracy theories as well, with unmarried women often the scapegoat for witch hunters.

 Conspiracy theories have been around as long as man has been a social animal. The tenets of psychology, sociology and anthropology academically account for groups or individuals in society adhering to, and depending on, conspiracy theories. A study carried out in 2002 by Bruce Scheiner explored a way of thinking called “major event – major cause” reasoning. Essentially, people often assume that an event with substantial, significant or wide-ranging consequences is likely to have been caused by something substantial, significant or wide-ranging itself. Social structures, intentions, causes and meaning can have greater saliency, in terms of order and purpose, when aligned with conspiratorial explanations than they do when they merely presented as social randomness and ad hoc events. Conspiracy theories give socio phenomena some additional meaning that would otherwise be a product of socio randomness, in terms of actor/situation dynamics and thus eventually meaning and intention. No matter how perverse or fantastical the explanatory conspiracy theory is, for its adherents, it is often more comprehendible than random and spontaneous occurrences. In a dappled and unpredictable social world conspiracy theory is often better than no theory  

As well as certain anti-government conspiracy theories having a historical presence and vicissitude themselves, there are also dividing and distinguishing conspiracy theories across the political spectrum – reinforcing the overlap between Meta conspiracy theories and political ideology. This is with regards to conspiracy theories of the State, individual liberty within society, and certain religious and transcendental elements that pertain to conspiracy theory. For instance, with regards to the One World Government conspiracy theories, generally speaking, those on the left on the political spectrum see the conspiracy as a globalist, fascist and authoritative State conspiracy. In this context, the One World Government conspiracy is the antithesis of the natural rights of man as a social being and animal. This is the philosophy of political liberalism expanded to realm of conspiracy theory. Those on the right of the political spectrum perceive the same conspiracy of world domination and authoritative State control as being a threat to America’s Republicanism and constitutional liberties. They often employ dogmatic Christina values in defending their conspiracy theories. This includes the much popularised idea that the Freemasons and Illuminati as devil worshippers. They also see those on the left of the political spectrum as their foes, often believing that that there is a Marxist conspiracy to “rule the world” in the form of totalitarian State control.

 These two radically different positions, with regards to the conspiracy to “rule the world”, adds to the confusion regarding this Meta conspiracy theory paradigm. One is left with no clarity as to what the One World Government conspiracy is; and who or what is responsible for it, or how it is draconian to individual liberties and the rights of man as a being. Both schools in the political spectrum are suspicious of one another and blame one another for the One World Government conspiracy. This not only demonstrates the ideology of Meta conspiracy theory but highlights what happens when world views and belief systems collide in the political-conspiratorial realm.

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About tony sobrado

Tony Sobrado is a Research Analyst and Social Scientist woking in London. He Sobrado holds a BSc in Political Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science as well as an MRes in Social and Political Theory. He is the author of the forthcoming Who rules the world? An analysis of Conspiracy Theory which addresses the phenomena of Conspiracy Theory from the perspective of the social sciences
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