denialism blog : Deus ex machina

Ξ June 16th, 2008 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Uncategorized |

Conspiracy theories: may be invoked when accepting the normal rule of cause and effect, and all it implies, is too much to handle.

First, there seems to me to be two types of conspiracy believers: those seeking a superficial excuse for their situation and those who are deeply wounded and cannot muster the cognitive dissonance to bridge the gap between the assumptions they grew up with and accepted as undeniably true and their present situation.

The former tend to have grown up with few expectations or hope but they can't just come out and tell you they ended up where they were headed from the start. In deference to the social context that everyone has an equal chance and it is what you do with opportunity and effort that matters they act as if they believe it when, usually, they never have. This seems to me to be pretty common in poor communities. communities which have always known the deck was stacked against them. When they get the trope that they didn't try hard enough they can toss off a conspiracy theory to excuse their lack of standing. It is easier than bucking the assumptions about will and work and opportunity.

The other group are people who grew up inculcated in the idea that the world was your oyster. That anyone could be president. That all you had to do was show up, work hard and it would all work out. These are people who viscerally believe that they are in charge of their situation. They are often from lineages which saw an ever increasing standard of living. The expectation was that with every generation the children would be better off than their parents.

These are middle age folks, mostly white men, who are faced with a contradiction. They hold as sacred their belief in that capitalistic, free-market system that served their fathers. On the other hand they are seeing their economic and social situation deteriorate.

One one hand they believe that they are responsible for their situation. Believing otherwise in any way would be liberal and soft and contradict all they have felt about those they hold below them. The accepted formulation is that if you're poor and lack power it is because of a character flaw.

On the other they know they have worked hard every waking hour. They have played the game diligently and honestly. But the results aren't showing up.

They know deep down the system works. They are working the system as hard as they can. They are falling behind.

Their assumptions and efforts can't be to blame. And the system can't be wrong. So ... there must be a nefarious external force at work. Obviously someone, probably liberal elites who never believed in the holy free-market system, is not playing by the rules. They have been conspired against.

It is a useful delusion. They don't need to question their beliefs. Or feel bad about blaming the poor for poverty. Even as they get closer to poverty themselves. They don't have to blame themselves for their deteriorating status or look for any character defects that might be holding them back.

Conspiracy is a lot of bang for the buck. A quick diversionary excuse for those who never had hope to use when faced with moralistic scolds. And a workable internal excuse system that eliminates any need to ask difficult questions or square expected outcomes with the experienced results.

ed: personally I feel conspiracy narratives would probably have been a better term to use in this context.

ed2: To clarify further, the use of the word 'conspiracy theory' in the comment above has to be taken in the context of the 'Deus ex machina' article it is appended to. Which is to say, it is referring to that particular type of conspiracy theory that people are prone to invoking when the alternative would be accepting that their current belief system is invalid. Continued in next post..


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