The subculture of Conspiracy Theory: The logic behind the thinking and its social operation

Excerpt from the book, Who rules the World? An Analysis of Conspiracy Theory By Tony Sobrado


Conspiracy theory is like any other world view. It takes the ontology of the social-political world, and often metaphysical world, and postulates theories with regards to the world that the theorists themselves live in. It is an alternative philosophical position to espouse that is controversial and radically challenges conventional conceptions of government, society and existence itself.

Conspiracy Theory is a discourse. The key theoretical element behind this discourse is that what appears to be unequivocal categorical phenomena, liable to intellectual and analytical scrutiny from within the social and natural sciences is anything but under the conspiracy schools. Conspiracy Theory provides some distorted and perverted alternative explanations for “goings on” and phenomena observed. The popularity of conspiracy theories, and their penetration of contemporary society, has even produced academic programmes in the subject matter. Jim Marrs, a prominent conspiracy theorist, has even taught classes in the Assassination of Kennedy at the University of Texas.

However Conspiracy Theory, itself, is severely defective as a credible discourse and theoretical discipline. This is with regards to the subject matter it attempts to engage. This is because it is disjointed, contradictory and often illogical. Furthermore it is rendered inept by complete paradoxes. Conspiracy Theory is deprived of annexing unifying principles or arguments. It is incoherent and various conspiracy theories do not, in any way, support other tenets in other conspiracy theories that engage the same subject matter. This problem becomes even more apparent in recognising the analytical difference between historically continuing conspiracy theories, modern conspiracy theories and meta-conspiracy theories

For a comparison, take quantum physics. As a modern discipline there are radically different positions to adopt in quantum physics. Yet at fundamental levels, there are mathematical principles and theoretical paradigms that are completely adhered to by its scholars. There is variation, but it is variation in one general direction. This also applies to the paradigm of evolutionary theory in the natural and social sciences. This, however, is not the case for Conspiracy Theory regarding the same subject matter whether it is 911, the Kennedy assassination or the Illuminati and freemasons. Here the conspiracy theory regarding one event or orgnaisation is scattered and contradictory. It has no overarching or unified principle. You probably could not get more than three conspiracy theorists to agree on the nature of the particular conspiracy theory in question and what it entails. As where in quantum physics, despite the diversity, scholars adhere to widely accepted theoretical and mathematical principles.    

Moreover, the Conspiracy Theory culture is an industry field and genre itself; where people verily disagree and attempt to desecrate one another’s conspiracy theories and principles. Consequently, because of the nature of the subject matter, fellow conspiracy theorists, in their own proposed conspiracy theory, accuse their rival conspiracy theorists of being in collusion with the “powers that be”. This makes both individual conspiracy theories and overarching conspiracy theories, simultaneously, seem untenable and nonsensical. For instance Eric Phelps and others accuse Alex Jones of being a shiel. You would not get a historian or a quantum physicist accusing another fellow scholar, even if in disagreement, of not being a historian or a quantum physicist. However the broad paranoid nature and the theoretical, abstract and subjective fantasy of many conspiracy theories breed these radically accusative philosophical positions.

Conspiracy theorists, however, depend and hide behind circular logic in order to discredit their rival’s opinion in certain fields of Conspiracy Theory. This is because conspiracy theorists start with the presupposition, and thus incipient principle, that what they are observing is a conspiracy. From this schema, it logically follows that every other phenomena and actor must also be part of that particular conspiracy theory. This even includes rival conspiracy theorists that do not agree with their own proposed conspiracy theory.

 This again illustrates that Conspiracy Theory is just another world view and philosophy to adopt, with controversial elements of ontology and epistemology. The issue that conspiracy theorists argue amongst themselves, with regards to which conspiracy theory is correct, and accuse each other of being conspirators themselves; is reinforced by the analysing of group formation within social psychology. This is “in groups” and “out groups” and what groups and individuals are perceived as threats to a particular ethos or ideal; regarding a certain philosophy. Conspiracy Theory is a political opinion that is contended in its own circles like any other opinion regarding the social world.

Many academic works have analysed Conspiracy Theory in the format of social phenomena and socio-cultural opinions. In an article by Anita M. Waters, published in 1997 in the Journal of Black Studies, Vol 28 No.1 entitled Conspiracy Theories as Ethosociologies she writes “attributing social maladies to deliberate plots by hostile conspirators is an American tradition dating back to the 1760s, beginning with the rumours of a British plan to remove colonists’ rights and continuing through to the John F. Kennedy assassination theories”.

Undoubtedly, at the turn of the millennium, the Bush Administration, 9/11 and the Iraq war increased the propagations, popularity and success of conspiratorial publications and ideas. One of the biggest successes is the documentary Loose Change, which is internationally acclaimed as was even released as a full length motion picture at cinemas. In light of new evidence and changing social circumstances and phenomena, old conspiracy theories of secret societies and “secret world control” become adapted. As Obama is the first President of the United States that is not fully white and mixed race, new conspiracy theorists have come to involve the black Freemasons: a branch of Freemasons for black successful people. This includes politicians, lawyers and musicians. The first black man in the White House must have been pre planned by some conspirators! Or else conspiracy paradigms begin to fall apart.


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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