A Critique of Conspiracy Theories
by Benjamin Studebaker
Increasingly just about any time anything tragic happens there will be some number of people who will immediately jump to the conclusion that the government did it. 9/11? An inside job. Newtown school shooting? A government plot to take our guns. Boston Bombing? A false flag operation. The most recent one that spurred this post is the killing of Ibragim Todashev, a Chechen immigrant whom the FBI chose to question as part of its investigation of the Boston Bombing. He was questioned by an FBI agent and two state troopers. The FBI says that Todashev attacked their agent, presenting an imminent threat to that agent’s life, and as a result the agent chose to shoot him. Corroborating the FBI’s account, the agent was hospitalised with injuries. Regardless, the FBI is investigating the incident.Yet, despite this, some people think that the FBI just went into Todashev’s home and killed him for some reason, or no reason, and that this incident suggests that our government is totalitarian and just goes around shooting people all the time. Why do people believe these conspiracy theories?
Key to the conspiracy theory mentality is the belief that the state is a monolithic entity with inhuman characteristics. The people who buy into these conspiracy theories do not think of the government as a collection of people, each of whom is very human and can be expected to act as any human being would act. They instead think of it as some kind of psychopathic hive mind which acts more like some kind of evil super-rational computer from a bad movie.
What possible motive could the state have for bombing the Boston marathon? The same reason it supposedly blew up the twin towers–to keep people afraid. Can you imagine how monstrous the people who run the state would have to be for them to think in this way? Does anyone truly believe that the people we elect are malicious psychopaths? George Bush certainly does not strike me as a malicious psychopath who orchestrated 9/11–Bush loves this country and cares deeply about it, he’s just a bumbler who routinely made mistakes in evaluating what course of action was in the US national interest. Nor does it seem the least bit likely that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or someone else in the administration would desire to blow up buildings for political purposes. These guys were so proud that there hadn’t been another terrorist attack on their watch, and the policies they pursued to achieve that goal were often silly or ridiculous, the kinds of policies you enact if you’re having an emotional overreaction to something which you had nothing to do with. It’s very easy to just come back to Hanlon’s Razor—never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity.
The way the authorities shut down the entire city of Boston while they went on that manhunt for the alleged bombers is similarly characteristic not of an emotionless psychopath or group of psychopaths killing people for some nefarious end but of deeply concerned, emotionally frazzled government officials earnestly trying to prevent more bombings. It was crude and bumbling, neither brilliantly planned nor brilliantly executed. The shooting of this Todashev character is much more likely the result of an investigation that did not proceed as intended than it is a deliberate home invasion and execution.
These conspiracy theorists do not consider just how many psychopaths we would need to have in the government for it to act in the way they imagine it does. Not only would the decision-makers need to be psychopaths, but all of the underlings, all the people carrying out those decisions, would have to obey them unquestioningly. Soldiers often obey ethically suspect orders, but do we really imagine that your run of the mill government agents are happy to plant bombs in major American cities, no questions asked? Do the conspiracy theories suppose that every last one of these underlings is just afraid or intimidated? The government is not a video game. It’s not as if the higher ups are all Darth Vaders, capable of force-choking underlings who leak their psychopathic plans to the press or refuse to carry them out. Authority does not equal ass-kicking.
Many of them are inspired by a libertarian streak. They read dystopian novels like 1984, and assume all governments and all people who are part of the government to be sources of endless, soulless malevolence. They don’t treat government officials like real people, they treat them like the subhuman nameless villainous mooks of literature and cinema. They think it is perfectly acceptable to scold government agencies for not giving people like Todashev a fair trial before they shot him (ignoring that, if what the government says is true, this would have entailed allowing Todashev to kill the agent) while simultaneously denying that fair treatment to government agents themselves. They don’t take seriously that they are calling into question the integrity of real people, people who are just as worthy of fair treatment and the presumption of innocence as anyone else. I’m sure the FBI agent who pulled that trigger and went to the hospital found the incident all rather traumatic, but the conspiracy theorists will not give him any due consideration as a fellow citizen because he wears a badge.
Conspiracy theorists want the world to be like their books and movies. They want a black and white world where there are big organisations that act with malevolence and cause all of our problems. Why do they want the world to be like this? Because it’s simpler. It’s easier to just assume that the big, faceless organisation is out to get you than it is to really think about how it works or how the people within it feel. It’s easier to use narrative labels, to pick out villains and heroes, than to really take seriously the moral complexity of the world in which we live.
Ironically, conspiracy theorists will always accuse those of us who don’t believe them of failing to think ourselves, of “blindly trusting” the institutions in question. Their black and white view has blinded them. “Blindly trusting” and “blindly accusing” have one thing in common–they are both blind views. The government often makes mistakes, it often messes up, because many of the people in it are not competent. It does not, however, deliberately do awful things, and often times, when it does make a mistake, it’s a systemic or structural failure. You can almost never pin causation on one individual and label that person the bad guy.
We grow up with narratives that are very black/white, that are very villain/hero, and so it’s a natural sociological consequence that we become inclined to view the real world that way. But there is no truth in such simplistic art, and if we want to live in a truly fair, just world, we have to remember that “the government” is full of people, too.
I just wanna qualify I’m not talking about Bush here….but i have a question…suppose you are in a scenario in which you are a passive observer of another person’s life….like a narrator in book let’s say…and that person is at a point where he’s been making the wrong decisions for a long time and people have been hurt because of it, and now suddenly, he has all the information available to him that would lead him to stop doing what he has been doing for such a long time if he took the information and applied it, but he still decides to keep doing what he’s been doing. Is that still incompetence to you, the passive observer? I’m not criticizing. I’m just trying to gauge if there’s some kind of cut-off point where incompetence which causes suffering becomes maliciousness which causes suffering…or if to you that never occurs? now the “all the information” part in this scenario is key because it demonstrates that the person has all he needs to make the right decision to stop all the suffering he is causing. and also suppose there’s a corrupt power structure which a a non-corrupt person enters and becomes a part of….how do you determine whether people should pity him for succumbing to the corruption and therefore attribute incompetence to his transformation…or blame him because they believe he should have been good and virtuous enough to resist the corruption and transform that structure into a less corrupt structure. what I’m getting at is what you said…structures are in fact just made up of individuals….and of course as you say the psychology of the structure can start enveloping and transforming even generally good individuals who enter into it…but then how does the structure change if not by the force of individual people? And if we can’t blame the ones who succumb to the corruption of the structure then how can we praise the ones who transform the structure? I guess you would probably say we can’t praise or blame either. Am I right?
I wanna ask another question and again I’m not being critical… it doesn’t seem like there”s anyone to blame for genocide…we can label the committers as incompetent but not malevolent and therefore there are no villians or heros… but if indeed this is true then what is the moral complexity you refer to here…because it seems the world I just described is pretty simple, and I know from other posts you’ve written that prefer simplest explanations to explain human action.
“It’s easier to use narrative labels, to pick out villains and heroes, than to really take seriously the moral complexity of the world in which we live.”
No person who truly possesses all the information will act wrongly–by definition, someone who acts wrongly is ignorant of his own interest and/or of his community’s. In view of that, I think the hypothetical you present is an impossible scenario.
Bad structures create their own solutions. For example, the economic structure prior to the great depression was deeply flawed–it led to a distribution of wealth that did not provide for adequate consumer demand. This eventually brought about consequences so catastrophic that it inspired significant revolutionary change across many different societies in favour of either communism/fascism/Keynesianism. While there are individuals who carry out what the structures dictate, all change is, at its heart, structurally produced. A John Maynard Keynes simply could not exist a generation earlier.
The complexity I allude to is the difficulty of locating the problem in our systems that produces the bad outcomes. The simple solution is to just attach blame to an individual or group of individuals for problems. The complex approach is to look for the structural element that creates the problem and seek to alter it. This is more difficult to do and requires a higher level of competence. I do not like to add unnecessary complexity in view of Occam’s Razor, but the explanation offered by the black/white moralists is not an adequate explanation of behaviour.
“by definition, someone who acts wrongly is ignorant of his own interest and/or of his community’s.”
This I understand.
“No person who truly possesses all the information will act wrongly”
This I don’t understand. There are so many other forces working in a person’s mind that could lead them to just ignore all the necessary information he/she needs to make the proper decision ..Is that not possible? or is it just your assumption that when presented with all the right information, a person will act in the interest of the community and his/herself? cause I don’t understand how you could characterize this as anything but an assumption. Yes I’m saying he has all the right information, but what if he has a pile of wrong information sitting right next to that one? having truly right information doesn’t disqualify one from having truly wrong information simultaneously and he chooses to follow the latter because he sees that as having his self-interest even though you the passive observer, (he can’t hear you) would be, all the while saying “No No you idiot pick the other one.”
If someone is ignoring the information, the implication is that this person is irrational or otherwise defective in thinking. At that point, the individual is to some degree fundamentally broken; he is incapable of making rational decisions.
Failure to pick right information out from wrong information is a failure of the decision-making faculties rather than an indicator of malevolence.
ok so what if a person is advocating for a policy which will advantage one group and disadvantage another….and let’s say they belong to the advantaged group…and in their mind that is why they are advocating for that policy. do you still call that incompetence?
for example the trans-pacific partnership….if they truly believed this thing was not only good for them but good for everyone, then there would be no reason to have negotiations behind closed doors with armed guards.
If that person is part of the government, it’s symptomatic of a state that is structured such that the rulers’ interests do not align with the national interest. Such a state has a flawed structure that must be corrected, or it will inevitably decay and collapse.
If that person is not part of the government, he would not make a competent ruler and should not be given political power.
Just because an agreement is in the national interest does not mean that all, or even a majority of citizens will agree with it. Keeping negotiations private could prevent insidious private interests from hijacking negotiations. There are many cases in which it is in the national interest for the public to be left in the dark. Of course, given that we’re in the dark ourselves on this issue, I can’t say for certain if it’s for a good reason. If it’s for a bad reason, it would imply that the structure is broken and that the wrong people are ruling as a result.
“If it’s for a bad reason, it would imply that the structure is broken and that the wrong people are ruling as a result.”
Well in the case of the trans-pacific partnership you would undoubtedly go with this explanation I guess then. Cause its definitely your first one
Click to access TPPLeesburgReportersMemo.pdf
ok here’s a little background on the trans-pacific partnership…its another potential free trade agreement between the U.S. Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, and Chile and Canada and Mexico have also been invited to join….so this will be larger than NAFTA if it is ratified…the advisors to the texts and the negotiations of the agreement are overwhelmingly corporate executives…not even our Congress is privy to these negotiations
even though the negotiations have been closed, portions of the draft text have leaked out.
“CTC published leaked text of the TPP’s draft investment chapter. The document revealed that the United States and all but one other TPP country (Australia) have agreed to a so called “investor state” dispute resolution process that would grant transnational corporations special authority to challenge countries’ laws, regulations and court decisions in private tribunals that circumvent domestic judicial systems. Expanding this proposed “investor state” system throughout the Pacific Rim would: (1) increase the use of extrajudicial legal systems accessible to transnational corporations, but not to citizens and domestic business owners; (2) increase attacks on environmental, consumer safety and other public interest policies; and (3) create an incentive for corporations to move employment overseas, where they’d be granted a powerful new tool to challenge future regulations. the U.S. Trade Representative has reversed reforms designed to enhance access to affordable medicines that were made during the
George W. Bush administration. Instead, U.S. negotiators are now demandingnew rights for pharmaceutical corporations that would expand their monopoly control over medicines and empower them to challenge drug formulary policies designed to keep prices in check. The U.S. intellectual property proposal would lengthen pharmaceutical monopolies, eliminate safeguards against patent abuse, grant additional exclusive controls over clinical trial data and otherwise favor giant pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly interests. Leaked texts pertaining to drug formularies seem aimed at undermining Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits
Scheme (PBS) and New Zealand’s Pharmaceutical Management Agency(PHARMAC), both of which have been successful at reducing sky high drug prices; if enacted, however, the proposed language could also impact efforts by state and federal agencies in the U.S. to negotiate lower drug costs.
“The TransPacific Partnership is viewed by Wall Street
as a mechanism for expanding financial service agreements throughout the Pacific Rim. Doing so would not only provide U.S.
based financial corporations with greater market access abroad, but, if past trade deals are any guide, would further enshrine measures that handcuff governments abilities to regulate banks and insurance companies. Past financial service
trade provisions explicitly ban regulations that limit the size of financial institutions, that erect firewalls between them or that prevent the sale of toxic derivatives ; they also impose severe limitations on the use of capital controls.”
Here’s the link. You can read more if you so desire
Click to access TPPLeesburgReportersMemo.pdf
Now you can tell me that this all a product of the neoliberal ideology that has come to dominate America and indeed the world today that disadvantages the worker and the common man while enriching the rich even more, and I would agree with you and indeed this is a structural problem. What I can’t agree with is the idea that these guys don’t know that what they are doing is bad for labor, bad for the world economy and good for them and their bottom line and that’s why they are keeping it behind closed doors. Corporations are legally obligated to do what is best for their shareholders, do what is best for their bottom line at the expense of a lot of people, and even, as we find out, at the expense of country’s entire economies. That’s clearly a structural problem but don’t tell me that these corporate executives don’t know just how much this structure advantages them and disadvantages everyone else.
At the same time a corrupt structure advantages certain people over another, the people in that structure are perfectly aware of how much it advantages them and disadvantages others. yes I agree that this kind of structure where the national interests does not align itself with the ruler’s interest and the corporate interest, will eventually decay and indeed I believe that is the road we are headed down, but there’s no reason to think that these guys are thinking that far ahead into the future with regards to the consequences of their actions… And indeed they may be reasoning that they’ll be dead by then. what do you call the ignorance of very probable long-term negative consequences for other people once you might be dead and buried? i might call it rational and meticulous malevolence. unless you define as one of your aspects of being competent (defined by you as person working in their own true interest) as caring about the long-term negative consequences of your actions on other people once you will be dead and buried in which case I will say they are incompetent because they are being malevolent….why can’t incompetence be the all-encompassing, and the malevolence be just one offshoot of that. being malevolent is leading them to not perceive what is in their “true” interest, and instead pursue short-term purely self-serving interests at the expense of others, which they’re incorrectly perceiving as their “true” interest.the thing is that these guys are aware that they are hurting others..you can’t argue with that part.. for example the option is there to pay your workers a living wage but you don’t., …that to me is malevolence…and I would agree its also incompetence..because in the end if we were all so callous like that, well we would have destroyed ourselves from the inside a long time ago…and to destroy yourself and the society you live in would be the ultimate form of incompetence…and malevolence.
Indeed I believe, if I remember correctly from my reading about catholic social teaching, this is one of their big teachings about sin and how hurting others is a sin because, in the end, however much you may think your working in your own “true” interest by hurting others, you really never are and this is indeed one of the laws that govern human existence. this makes more sense to me than your philosophy which says that a person is never malevolent, only incompetent. This also conforms with the idea that humans possess no true agency. It just doesn’t make the non-existence of malevolence as a pre-condition, rather it makes it an offshoot of incompetence.
the thing is you say you don’t care about motivations but the understanding of them is key here because people don’t wake up one morning and say I’m gonna be incompetent today…corporate executives don’t go behind closed doors and negotiate somethiing like the trans-pacific partnership and think in their minds, “Oh we’re being so incompetent today.” they think malevolence…because they’re aware of what their putting into the agreement and that it advantages them over others.” now I will agree that they are being incompetent…but that doesn’t automatically disqualify the malevolence…malevolence can be just one offshoot of incompetence and still logically fall in line with everything else you say about agency and determinism
People obviously do not wake up in the morning and go “I’m going to be incompetent today”. They wake up in the morning and go “I’m going to make the world a better place for me and for the people I care about or consider morally deserving”. Many people are under the neoliberal hegemonic ideology and consequently have very different ideas about what makes the world a better place, both for themselves and for others. They also disagree with us about who is deserving of consideration–they often think only hard-working and/or otherwise naturally gifted people deserve to do well. We disagree with these positions; we think them philosophically foolish and mistaken, but they genuinely believe these things, and it is our failure to understand just how honest their mistake is that causes us to be so unsuccessful in opposing them.
“I’m going to make the world a better place for me and for the people I care about or consider morally deserving”. Many people are under the neoliberal hegemonic ideology and consequently have very different ideas about what makes the world a better place, both for themselves and for others.”
You have made an argument for why the neoliberal hegemonic ideology is completely incompetent and I agree with you. What you have not done is disprove my assertion, that it is malevolent as well. And in fact you contradict yourself…first you say that neoliberals believe that some people, the naturally gifted and hardworking, are more deserving than others, (which I agree with) but then you say they have ideas to for how to make the world a better place for themselves and for others. How can they believe in advantage for one group of people over another, and have ideas for how to make the world a better place for not only themselves but also for others? If they actually believed the former they wouldn’t care about the latter. They would only care about making the world a better place for themselves….which again falls under my explanation of malevolence as an offshoot of incompetence….in this case caring about only yourself and your own little clique over everyone else in a very specific short term selfish manner where power and money are deemed the most important aspects of your life.
Neoliberalism has had a grip on this country for the last forty years. If we don’t fight back, it will strengthen its grip on this country until we basically run ourselves into the ground. Your assumption is these corporate execs and other neoliberals are so stupid that they wouldn’t be aware of the fact that eventually wealth inequality and social suffering caused by their pet ideology will eventually lead to the disadvantaged rebelling against the advantanged. I don’t accept that assumption…again it leads back to the question of “Why are the TPP negotiations closed to the representatives who would fight for the rights of labor, environment, etc? You think these corporate execs don’t know history of the fight between labor and capital? And guess what…that destruction doesn’t just include all the middle-class and poor people…when it comes to a society destroying itself, the rich people are killed too. Again here’s another aspect of the neoliberals being incompetent and failing in pursuing their “true” interest, as you would put it. But again where does this incompetence stem from….it stems from their value of short-term financial and massive power gain over everything else, and their view of this as their “true” interest.
I think I understand perfectly how the neoliberal ideology works. Its incompetence as an ideology that can run the world effectively stems for its malevolence, from its purposeful privileging of one group of people over another. Your saying that this interpretation, somehow prevents me from adequately opposing it? How do you figure? I think the reason this country is so asleep to the consequences of neoliberalism, is that they believe its inevitable that their country is and will always be structured this way. Its this apathy and feeling of inevitablity that fuels non-action…not an inadequate perception of the problem, as you put it. People know politicians are corrupt. They know the system is corrupt and why it’s corrupt. They’re not so stupid as you think they are They just don’t know how to organize and do anything about it. They have this apathy and it also has to do with the fact that a good number of people in this country are still economically stable and well-off. It’s well-known that most who are economically well-off are not gonna be driven to make hay about anything.
Neoliberals do want to make the world better for others. The difference is that what they believes improves the world is in actuality harmful, and the group of people they care about is not identical to the group of people you or I care about.
What you’re presuming is that all right wingers secretly know that they’re wrong about their moral beliefs, but continue acting in a right wing fashion because they are evil. This is not possible. Human beings do not work in this way. Neoliberals, Randian Objectivists, Libertarians, and so on all genuinely think what they claim they believe is truly correct. They legitimately do not agree with us on what the boundaries for moral concern are or how we can best pursue moral objectives. Their philosophical conception is utterly dissimilar from our own. We propose that they are mistaken, not that they are evil.
You have to understand this if you want to persuade people not to be neoliberal/objectivist/libertarian. You have to understand that they disagree with you in good faith, not because they are malevolent.
your not making any sense…if neoliberals consciously don’t care about a certain group of people and their policies reflect than how you can you say they are not acting in an immoral fashion by leaving out a whole sector of people from their considerations? you want everyone to be stupid and ignorant and its just not so.. what I see with my own two eyes just doesn’t conform to that. yes they be being ignorant in respect to what is in their “true” interest which would be to give a damn about people outside their rich clique….but again it is perfectly logical to say that type of ignorance stems from malevolence.
neoliberal policies have been going on for a long time now….your gonna tell me that these corporate execs and the people who benefit in terms of power and money from those policies and work very hard just to keep those policies in place…are actually thinking about a better world while their doing it…that’s ludicrous…and your naive to think that if you actually asked some of these narcissistic bastards that they would tell you that they care their workers who they can’t even pay a living wage….your gonna tell me a corporate exec thinks it’s good for the health and well-being of their workers to not pay them a living wage…..again absolutely ludicrous…no one is that stupid….a lot of people are that calculating and that selfish….. you don’t give these guys enough credit for being able to think things through about what they might perceive as their “true” interest but in actuality you and me know is not. we can agree that their true interest would be to stop being neoliberals…we can agree that they are being ignorant of their “true” interest…but nonetheless incompetence in realizing your true interest is not a reason for not realizing it….all it tells you is that your being incompetent…why are you being incompetent?,…well that’s where motivation comes into play and no stupidity is not a motivation…and you can’t explain why a person does something just by saying they’re being stupid and incompetent. that’s what I meant when I said “No one wakes up in the morning and thinks “Oh I’m gonna be incompetent and stupid today by denying my workers a living wage.” we do things for reasons. they may be reasons that stem from a corrupt structure that has a big influence on us but that doesn’t mean they aren’t motivations. As human beings, we are motivated by one thing or another…you may think its convenient for you just to ignore that but its….but in actuality it would fit in perfectly with everything you say about agency and determinism if you would just allow it to. The incompetence or competence of whatever we are doing stands outside of the motivational force that is driving us to do what we are doing whether it be malevolence or hatred or pleasure or love or whatever else. just because something is not in a person’s true interest doesn’t mean they’re not thinking it through and coming to some conclusion that what they are doing is beneficial to them, based on what they believed is in their interest, which in the case of neoliberal corporate exec, would be to not give a damn about the people outside their rich clique. now you can still say that they are not to blame for their malevolence and indeed I can not argue with that…but that doesn’t mean there’s no malevolence there. i suppose you would argue their malevolence is pre-determined….what’s wrong with that…would it not be plausible? Placing importance on human motivation does not presuppose the existence of agency as you clearly think it does, and that’s the reason you’re rejecting it. You can believe that humans have no agency and still explain their various motivations. Denying that we do things out of love and malevolence and whatever other motivation is just illogical cause guess what, a person will tell you that they performed an action of out of love…that they performed an action out of a thirst for revenge…What are you gonna tell them? No you denied your workers a living wage because your stupid and ignorant. We can agree that person was being ignorant of their “true” interest. But that doesn’t change the reason why they did what they did. Because at that moment they weren’t thinking about their “true” interest. they were thinking “ok it’s more profit for the me, the company and the shareholders if I deny my worker a living wage.” no question it’s a malevolent decision…no question about it…was it also ignorant…yes it was…but that ignorance stems from that malevolence.
If i made a flow chart it would go something like this: first competence and incompetence….which is defined are defined as “what is in the “true” interest….and then under that all the motivations which lead someone to do something that is characterized as incompetent or competent
and you still didn’t answer my question about praise…if we can’t blame people for their misdeeds…we also can not praise people for their good deeds. that’s logical…is it not?
“You have to understand this if you want to persuade people not to be neoliberal/objectivist/libertarian. You have to understand that they disagree with you in good faith, not because they are malevolent.”
you actually think that as long as I talk to people in good faith and present them evidence that their philosophy just does not work for the best interests of people, that they will be convinced by me? because if they are acting in good faith then that automatically implies that they care about the interests of people, because that’s what the phrase “Acting in good faith” means, it means that they would listen to other points of view on how to best serve the interests of people…it means that they wouldn’t be so stubbornly ideological and ignore evidence that may contradict their ideology if indeed that evidence would help serve the best interests of people.. that just doesn’t happen in the real world…people who care….people acting in good faith..have to fight and fight hard to make the world a better place. look at all the evidence out there against the idea that school closings somehow makes our school system better and help kids succeed and yet Rahm Emanuel in Chicago still decides to go through with the biggest school closing in U.S. history…54 to be exact. And he had all the evidence before him…he had all the forces…people who were experts… screaming in his ear telling him to stop this madness, but he didn’t listen…now you might not blame him for it and I can’t argue with that point…but don’t tell me he was acting out of good faith when he made this decision because blaming him for something and accusing him of acting out of bad faith are two separate things…according to you, his acting out of bad faith would be pre-determined…that’s fine…I can’t argue with that.
I can’t believe that you could be that naive to think that it’s that easy to persuade people….by acknowledging their good faith? if it was that easy, then this world would be a much better place by now. you think if I went in a room where they are negotiating that TPP and said “Hey look guys, I know your really all good at heart and I know you guys really care about making the world a better place, but here are some provisions of your free trade agreement where the average worker is gonna work suffer and I presented all the evidence for why…that they would actually give a damn and change their minds…they would all laugh at me….this is the whole reason that environmental and labor representatives are being closed out of this deal.
You can only act malevolently if you know your beliefs are wrong but act on them anyway. This is psychologically impossible. A sane person cannot separate what he believes from how he acts in this way, and an insane person is insane, and therefore not malevolent.
All people who have immoral beliefs believe those beliefs to be correct and moral.
The corporate executive who mistreats his workers believes himself to be acting morally–he either does not believe that his workers have moral value, or that the way he is treating them is in their interest. He might for instance think that if he did not pay them so little, he would have to fire some of them, thereby making them even worse off. We may argue that he would be wrong, but he is mistaken, not malevolent.
I agree that giving people credit for acting rightly is as ridiculous as blaming them for acting wrongly is.
I never suggested that it is easy to persuade people. If it were easy to persuade people, I would support democratic government. Understanding the problems such that you can solve them requires understanding the nature of the people that cause those problems. Labelling them as “malevolent” is the incorrect label, and it leads to incorrect solutions such as the vindictive character of the communist revolutions. View the immoral not as evil, but as sick. Search for cures, not weapons. Fix them, don’t fight them.
“You can only act malevolently if you know your beliefs are wrong but act on them anyway. This is psychologically impossible. ”
And again the definition of wrong comes into play….wrong means not in the “True” interest? does it not? but if the person isn’t perceiving their true interest than that isn’t even factoring in to their beliefs about what is wrong and what is right.so then I can say with confidence that the corporate exec is acting malevolently according to what he believes will be advantage him and disadvantage his worker…again what is “truly” wrong or right stands outside the person’s motivation for doing what they are doing. and that’s the reason you can’t blame or praise them
The corporate executive who mistreats his workers believes himself to be acting morally–he either does not believe that his workers have moral value
and therefore I can confidently say that this corporate exec is acting immorally
“What you’re presuming is that all right wingers secretly know that they’re wrong about their moral beliefs, but continue acting in a right wing fashion because they are evil. This is not possible. Human beings do not work in this way.”
what now people can’t be aware of the shortcomings of their own ideology? And what real empirical evidence, see with your own two eyes evidence, do you have to back this up.. your only reason for believing this is the fact they don’t switch from their ideology to a way of thinking that would be in the “True” interest of themselves and society…..i’m saying, like in the case of the corporate execs (forget right wingers for a moment) the only reason they don’t change is because they perceive a different interest, a short term financial and power gain as their “true” interest even though we both know its not …now this is what the Christians would call sin…when Catholic social teaching talks about sin it defines it as temptations distracting human beings from their true interest in life, which would be to love and cherish all human beings and build a life that is pursuant to making the world a better place, which translates to making the world a better place for loving human relationships to flourish…certainly being obsessed with gaining unaccountable money and power and gearing one’s whole life towards this goal would be counted as since you will inevitably trample over many other lives in the process. now again you and I may call this ignorant and I imagine so would the Christians. but again ignorance is not the motivation taking hold in the person’s mind when they make this decision…now again you may not blame them for it because indeed they have no agency…but that doesn’t make it any less sinful, any less harmful, and any less evil. just because evil exists in the individual doesn’t mean we have to blame the individual for it…. i think that’s the main problem you have with accepting the concept of evil into your philosophy. Is it not?
sorry in my last comment, I left out the word “sin” from this sentence “certainly being obsessed with gaining unaccountable money and power and gearing one’s whole life towards this goal would be counted as “sin” since you will inevitably trample over many other lives in the process.
It’s logical impossibility. It would be a paradox if we were to encounter it. Just think about it:
I believe the sky is red, but it isn’t, it’s blue.
This makes no sense. Either you believe it’s blue, or you believe it’s red. You can’t believe both. Perhaps you can believe the sky is blue but act as if it’s red because of inconsistencies in your thought, but not once you’re made aware. Once you’re made aware of a contradiction, one belief or the other must fall.
People do bad things, but there is no badness in people. Sin is a deontological fiction. I have done many bad things, but never while simultaneously believing them to be bad at the time. I later come to decide I was wrong to act the way I acted, but this is because my beliefs have since been changed, usually as a result of some consequence that I perceive that I did not expect. This can be as trivial as “feeling guilty about it” later (an intuitionist response that I personally find insufficient for changing a view, but people do do it), or it can be a profound philosophical shift in one’s belief system.
The corporate executive acts immorally, he does bad things, but he is neither intrinsically bad nor malevolent in action.
ok you really don’t understand what I’m saying here…if the “true” interest is there right and we define what is bad and good for society as working for or against the true interest…then a person doesn’t have to be bad for badness to exist…a person doesn’t have to be evil for evil to exist. we can define the action as evil without defining the person as evil…. we can define the motivation as evil without defining the person as evil….and indeed this fits with your idea that we can’t blame or praise anyone for anything, good or bad. this is all that I’m saying…its a good rationale for not just attributing every person’s action to stupidity or ignorance. I never said that the evil is inside the person….it exists outside the person.
and furthermore Christians do not believe that just because a person committed sin that they are to blame for their sins…..Christians believe that morality exists outside the individual…that there is indeed moral law that transcends subjectivity…but this moral law is not deontological in the sense that it credence is gained because it follows a set of rules…its credence is gained because its in the true interest of the individual to place fostering loving human relationships as the highest purpose of life….therefore it is consequential…..therefore I can say a person is being immoral, I can say a person’s motivation and action is immoral without saying that they are inherently immoral. and whatever action is immoral is classified as sin within this moral law. …it’s really that simple.
now are there some flaws to Christianity?…indeed there are…like its classification of homosexuality as a sin but this could be easily altered and indeed I believe it will be..but if you look at the highest law that governs their philosophy, the placement of loving human relationships above all else, it certainly makes sense if you look at the bad consequences of what happens when people don’t recognize that this is indeed their highest “True” interest….
Yes, I broadly agree with your summation there. I’m not as confident that it matches Christian teaching, at least not universally–while there are some Christian groups that are determinist, others believe that people have free will and that sins are a choice for which people must repent.
The fundamental issue I have with Christianity is that it offers no argument for why the behaviour it advocates is in the rightly considered interest of people other than by appealing to the heaven/hell dichotomy. As in, if you act in way X, you will be rewarded by the deity, if you act in way Y, you will be punished by the deity, ergo it is in your interest to act in way X. The deity’s choice in terms of what to reward and what to punish seems arbitrary–based on nothing but itself. That’s what makes it deontological. The negative consequences for acting against the will of the deity are not independent of the system. A determinist Christian theory is even more bizarre–the deity causes you to act badly and then punishes you for it.
oh yes…we finally agreed on something…i’m so happy…i certainly agree that this summation does not match the majority of Christian teachings with all of its sects and various extremist elements…but I’m certainly not speaking for, for example, the radical right-wing evangelicals in America and what they believe…from what I’ve read about Christianity and catholic social teaching, certain papal encyclicals, and also a book entitled The Reason For God by Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC Timothy Keller, there are a lot of people within Christianity who denounce the extremist elements and their various beliefs, for example the extremist evangelicals who claim that creationism is legitimate Christian doctrine. Creationism is not Christian doctrine…it’s bull and it’s derived from a literal interpretation of the Bible which Keller will tell you that the Bible was never meant to be interpreted like that (i’m sure you know its stories are mostly metaphorical) and indeed non-extremist elements don’t interpret the bible like that and don’t call themselves creationists…..If you read Keller’s book, you will find a lot of logical answers to all your logical confusions about God, heaven and hell, and all the rest. I can say with certainty that everything you say here about what Christians believe, Keller will say that these are dominant beliefs by people who aren’t Christian about what Christians believe about God, heaven and hell, and a determinist God and that they are all derived from the beliefs of extremist elements…and indeed people in this country who call themselves atheists are in a large part responding to the lack of logic in the beliefs of christian extremism. I certainly was, back when I was an atheist. i suggest you read Keller’s book, Reason For God, and he will settle all the logical issues you raise below in regards to Christian belief…for example he denounces the people who say that God rewards and punishes people for their actions,…this is the belief of extremists…and he will also cite the Bible in his denouncements…if you wanna learn more about Christianity and the illogical beliefs and misintepretations of its extremist elements that drive people to atheism, I strongly suggest you read this book….I can’t explain everything, because honestly I forget most of what I read. but what I have said here is the gist of the book….Suffice it to say, I didn’t change my tune once I read it because I went in wanting to be convinced of the existence of God or anything like that…I changed my tune on Christianity because I found out all my fundamental assumptions about the nature of the Christian God and the nature of the Christian heaven and hell, were in fact shaped by the illogical beliefs of extremist elements who stray from the true teachings of Christianity. The book is so logical, I really couldn’t believe it at the time…that “belief in god” and “logical” could be used in the same sentence I know it sounds far’fetched but if you read the book a lot of it will make sense, if not all of it, and also you will find a lot of it will matches up with your philosophy of determinism and no free will and transcendent laws and all the rest. my explanation of sin here is, in fact, derived from what I learned from that book.
furthermore consider this actual real-life scenario…Eric holder says before Congress that no bank is too big to jail…and if the DOJ is able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a bank engaged in criminal activity then they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law…HSBC launders money and then gets fined one month’s profit and no one goes to prison…now I know you don’t believe that jail is meant to punish people…rather it’s meant to keep people who have hurt before and will probably hurt again from hurting other people but let’s just leave that out for a second..
this is lying…it’s pure lying and furthermore they know they’re talking the talk and not walking the walk which has become really a calling card of the obama administration on many issues….do you call that incompetence or do you call it malevolence…and furthermore if I try to say that there’s a culture of corruption in the Obama administration based on this, would that be a conspiracy theory according to you…because it’s not coming out of some narrative…it’s coming out of what I see with my own two eyes…i’m not blaming Obama individually…but I am blaming the most powerful people in his administration as a group of people, as an institution…which , in the end, is a collective group of people making the collective decision that comes out of Holder’s mouth to lie to the American people..am I unjustified in my blaming? Even though what I’m talking about here is not lying about incompetence… Is lying about incompetence just another form of the government messing up? I imagine it would be, according to you.
One of two things is almost certainly the case in that scenario:
1. Holder really did believe what he said when he said it, but something about the HSBC case changed his mind.
2. Holder believed the lie was a good lie–that it was in the interest of the community and himself.
I think the former is more likely. This administration made many claims about what it would do without full knowledge of what following up on those promises would require (Guantanamo would be another example). It has found in practise that it is much harder to do what it claimed it would do. The problem is ultimately structural–the structure of the American political system does not permit the easy solutions to these problems that the Obama administration initially set out to pursue. They were naive, not malevolent, and I’m sure they are extremely frustrated by how utterly incapable of doing anything constructive they are.
The government represents a set of easily-manipulated institutions and it’s safe to presume that the human conscience has a greater moral capacity than these institutions. To suggest that people with power within these institutions don’t occasionally, or even frequently, conspire is ludicrous. The extent of conspiracy is the matter in question. However, I’d encourage you to review my recent article on 9/11 and see if you can refute even half of the points made therein. If you cannot, why risk condemning independent “conspiracy theories” in favor of government-sponsored “conspiracy theories”?
Your foundational assumption is false–people are dominated by institutions and structures and possess no agency. Our political structures are quite good at preventing psychopaths from gaining access to political power, and it would take quite a few psychopaths (and many more cowardly underlings) to carry out 9/11. Furthermore, it was not in the interest of any individuals in the government that the buildings be blown up, so to suggest that the government nonetheless did it is tantamount to suggesting that the government is full of deeply irrational insane people. Our structures are fairly good at preventing those people from getting political power as well.
In answer to your evidence, I do not have the scientific qualifications necessary to assess the value of your claims, which are scientific rather than political in nature. There are people elsewhere who make scientific claims that contradict the ones you make:
your assumption is that the people who posit conspiracy theories are somehow acting without a reasonable doubt of the official narrative of certain incidents that is most often fed to the mainstream media by government officials. in fact most conspiracy theorists tend to be people who are academics, professional historians, and investigative journalists, whose material is peer-reviewed and detailed and well-researched, people who take it upon themselves to thoroughly investigate the holes in official narratives that the mainstream media swallows whole and then spoon feeds to you and me and most often there tend to be lots of holes in official narratives. To make the broad generalization that all conspiracy theorists are cuckoo for coco puffs people who wanna see a conspiracy in everything is extremely irresponsible because that is most often not the case. And to cite Hanlons razor as your proof is no proof at all. Hanlons razor is just a principle in moral and ethical philosophy, and one I find to be rather suspect. we discussed this before, right in the comments above actually, and you agreed with me that it is possible for malevolence to be a form of ignorance in terms of what actually IS in the best interests of that person or group of people is not acting malevolently, but nonetheless they don’t realize it and believe acting malevolently is in their best interests and I would conclude that they are displaying ignorance of their true interest by acting malevolently. The motivation is malevolent. The action is malevolent. But the person is not inherently malevolent. And the point about ignorance still remains valid and true. Its just that I’m framing ignorance in a different way to eliminate what I see as a false binary presented by Hanlons razor that if ignorance exists than malevolence does not exist. Again as I said in my above comments people have motivations for doing things…its a basic fact of life and is validated by experience….ignorance is not one of those motivations….you can not say that people act out of ignorance….what they are doing may indicate their ignorance…but if you ask them why they are acting, they will not give ignorance as the motivation…malevolence is a motivation which indicates a persons ignorance towards what is in their true interests. this is why hanlons razor is fundamentally flawed in its reasoning. it is as simple as that. it is absurd to think that most people in government are genuine psychopaths and entered government as genuine psychopaths as you said, but most conspiracy theorists are not arguing that and it’s equally absurd to think so. I’m not saying this for all people, but when some enter institutions and positions in which they can wield great power, that power tends to corrupt them. they do not become psychopaths or sociopaths but they tend to develop tendencies associated with both those disorders which are essentially the same.. you completely ignore the effects that power can have on human behaviour and decision-making capacities as demonstrated in the Stanford Prison Experiments which showed a randomly selected group of people like you and me being utterly consumed by their assigned roles as prison guards and prison inmates. And indeed institutions such as the Defense Department, FBI and CIA and others associated with our military intelligence complex wield great power, power that often we are not even made aware of until long after the fact by dedicated investigative journalists and academics who are willing to probe and willing to ask reasonable and tough questions. conspiracy theorists are not arguing that the individuals within this complex have agency. a conspiracy does not require individual agency especially in an institution with such corrupting power as the United States government Until you’re going to take it upon yourself to scientifically validate or invalidate the claims and investigations of conspiracy theorists, which I don’t think you are since you are a moral and political philosopher and claim that as your specialty, than the premise of this post to use hanlon’s razor as a way to attack the action of even positing a conspiracy theory is wholly invalid, useless, and pointless. and I want to further qualify that my argument here is not a complete embrace of all conspiracy theories or conspiracy theorists in all circumstances in all events. that would require scientific validation and investigation of the individual events in question. it is only an argument against your generalizations about the motivations of conspiracy theorists and the validity of conspiracy theories.
just a little historical context on the origin of the term conspiracy theorist and conspiracy theory of which you may be unaware… the CIA developed the idea of a conspiracy theory and its necessary theorist as a perjorative to subdue the Warren Report in the 1960’s. a memo, ca document 1035-960 is titled Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report it talks about the very techniques that government operatives and the media use to subdue and deal with a conspiracy…one of the techniques is to call the person a conspiracy theorist, which automatically makes people look upon them as malevolent looney tunes who hate the United States and what it stands for freedom and democracy and all the rest, and whatever they write or say as not worthy of their ears or eyes by assasinating the person’s motivations, character, and intelligence which is essentially what you are doing here on a much broader basis…that way you avoid talking about the actual event in question, you avoid entertaining what may be perfectly legitimate questions and deeper evidence about the reality of the circumstances surrounding an event and their deviation from the official narrative. now it’s ironic because I consider this to be the ultimate conspiracy…that is subverting any intelligent talk and truth-searching regarding the possibility of a conspiracy surrounding said event. because what else does that logically indicate except that there is some type of conspiracy going on and there is more to the story than is being revealed. if theres nothing to cover up, you wouldn’t try to cover it up. it’s as simple as that.
to provide just one example of an actual government conspiracy which investigative journalists and qualified academics have uncovered and would never have been revealed to the American by mainstream media outlets which have essentially forgone investigative journalism for the more profitable realm of sensationalism, 24 hour coverage, and sound bytes…Trevor Aaronson’s book, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War On Terrorism, reveals how the FBI, under the pretext of engaging in counter-terrorism since 9/11, constructed a network of over 15,000 informants whose main job was to infiltrate Muslim communities to conjure up and provide the necessary materials for phony terror plots so the FBI could claim both that these were very serious terror threats to the American people and that it was winning the war on terror in affectively putting a stop to these plots. Instead of being reactive and seeing an actual terror plot unfolding and working to stop it, the FBI is proactive in giving innocent people who otherwise would not have the means nor the will to carry out an actual terror plot, the means and the will to carry out a plot which the FBI has no intention of letting it actually happen and indeed then takes all the credit for stopping. These are called informant/ provoctaeurs and they have a colorful place not only in America’s history even before the so-called war on terror began but all over the world. To deny this is to deny facts and I can’t believe that you will venture into the business of denying facts. Aaronson’s book is well-reseached scholarship. He is not some delusional crackpot in an underground bunker whose afraid of imaginary aliens. To lump all conspiracy theorists into the category of “wrong and delusional” as you have done here is irresponsible and I’m sure a lot of them would find it offensive.
There’s a big difference between pointing out that the official story may not be true and offering an altogether different version of that story on the basis of gut feelings or whims. A conspiracy theory is not just questioning the official version, it’s proposing an alternative version without evidence, and it usually involves accusing various people of malevolent behavior.
Investigative journalism, which uncovers genuine evidence and does not level accusations of open malevolence at agents of the state, is distinct from conspiracy theories. I am all for investigative journalism, what I don’t like are sensationalist declarations that the state maliciously did bad things for no particular reason. Investigative journalism informs; conspiracy theories disinform.
I’m not saying no one ever covers anything up, either–I’m sure cover ups happen from time to time, and I’m sure the people who engage in them have their reasons, and I’m sure they think those reasons are justifiable even though they may not be so. Investigative journalism to uncover evidence of cover ups is wonderful, but declaring that cover ups exist without evidence is conspiracy theory behavior.
I suppose where I see this distinction between benign investigative journalism and sensationalist conspiracy theories, you see good conspiracy theories and bad conspiracy theories. I don’t think our opinions really differ here, I just think we’re using our terms differently.
well to be fair an investigative journalist or academic has to have some theory and some reasonable doubt based on some prelimenary evidence about the official narrative before they even start investigating…. and it is not fair to level character assasinations at that person on the basis of their mere suspicion which often happens and thus these people become negatively viewed and labeled as unpatriotic in the case of the government or just paranoid in general…the fact is they are conspiracy theorists and investigative journalists and academics at the same time….there’s a reason it’s called a theory before it’s investigated to see whether it is fact and the person doing the conspiracy theorizing knows that just as well as you do.I believe it would have been helpful for your post to make the distinction between this kind of conspiracy theorist and the one your talking about….it was very easy to misinterpret and will be very to misinterpret for people who want to find justification in your post here for dismissing all conspiracy theorists and theories……..nonetheless the derivations of your arguments from Hanlons razor against the idea and motivation behind government conspiracies, I still find extremely problematic for reasons I already laid out.
Reasonable doubt is different from unreasonable doubt. There has to be something wrong with the official story in order for there to be reason to think that the official story is wrong.
I’m not attacking curious or suspicious people, I’m attacking people who assert that the official story is wrong without evidence and proclaim another version of the story right without evidence in a way that itself assassinates the characters of the agents of the state involved. Saying “this is fishy” is different from saying “they’re lying! They did this! It’s all a cover up!” without having any evidence to back up those claims. Theories ought to have evidence to support them. Until then, all it is acceptable to have is doubt or curiosity.
If one can explain an incident through incompetence, choosing to blame malevolence is silly. One needs evidence that incompetence does not fully explain the incident. Without that evidence, we should always assume incompetence over malevolence.
“If one can explain an incident through incompetence, choosing to blame malevolence is silly. One needs evidence that incompetence does not fully explain the incident. Without that evidence, we should always assume incompetence over malevolence.”
ok you basically restated your argument here in different terms without addressing my argument that malevolence results in a form of ultimate ignorance by the actor of what is in the actor’s true interests. again I will assert I don’t see how ignorance and malevolence are in the same field…therefore I don’t see how one cancels the other out of consideration….malevolence is a motivation….ignorance is a characterization of the person based on the action or the results of the action that may or may not result from a person acting malevolently…the FBI conducting phony sting operations against innocent people who they groomed into would-be terrorists and then telling the American people they foiled a serious terrorist plot is both ignorant and malevolent….its malevolent because it demonstrates the clear motivation to instill the necessity of the military-industrial complex foremost in the American psyche so that we do not feel the need to hold government power accountable….it also indicates that the government consciously uses the false threat of terrorism to keep us patriotic and loving America, all the while, focused away from the actual crimes being committed against the American people by that government in complicity with corporations and the richest of our nation…that’s why it’s malevolent because the motivation is in harming people, in taking away their freedom, in subverting and preventing dissent before it even has a chance to surface…it’s essentially pre-emptive…and it’s fear is dissent and revolution….now that’s why its malevolent….the reason it’s ignorant is because it produces bad outcomes long-term and short-term….short-term for the oppressed who have to endure this neoliberal onslaught….long-term for the oppressor who doesn’t realize that a country run in this manner will not sustain itself and will not last and will not prosper. the oppressor’s true interest is to stop being an oppressor. he or she is ignorant because he or she does not realize this basic truth.
Your definition of malevolence is not my definition of malevolence. For me, malevolence is when an agent knowingly and deliberately acts wrongfully.
A wrong act is either the result of ignorance of the reality that the act is wrong or of deliberate malevolence. Conspiracy theorists tend to presume the latter, which I think is a mistake. If you define malevolence as “extreme ignorance”, you won’t come to the same conclusion I’ve come to, but that will be primarily because of your differing definition. For me the two are mutually exclusive.
I don’t agree with your account of what motivates state agents. I do not think state agents are attempting to eliminate freedom, I think they are attempting to promote security. They may nonetheless be reducing freedom, but I believe they either do not believe they are doing that or believe that the security trade-off is worthwhile. There’s plenty of room for criticizing agents of the state who make the trade-off without resorting to accusing them of being malicious or evil.
I don’t define malevolence as extreme ignorance. What I’m saying is that acting malevolently with deliberate intention to harm is always ignorant because it will never result in outcomes that will be in the true interest of the actor. whether he perceives it or not is irrelevant to me. humans are fallible and ignorant, some more than others, all in different respects from each other it is obviously not necessary for the actor to perceive ignorance for it to be there. it is a leap to use the terms “always” and “never” but I am willing to make it because I strongly believe and I think it can be demonstrated throughout human history that when human beings act out of love rather than act out of the desire to hurt or marginalize or subdue others in some way, the outcomes will always be positive for both oppressed and oppressor, even though this almost never happens but I think it’s intellectual legitimacy can be demonstrated by what happens in the opposite situation….for example Egypt… Morsi more concerned with consolidating power than actually doing right by his people….and look what happens to him….. the results of genuinely acting out of love, and I’m not talking about false charity or paternalism here, will result in the true interest being fulfilled which I define as the happiness based on loving relationships…because that’s the only kind of happiness that requires one to treat others as you would want to be treated…and therefore results in positive outcomes for all and not just a few or for all groups of people and not just one group…..indeed the oppressed/oppressor dichotomy disappears and both shed their labels in this situation.
“I don’t agree with your account of what motivates state agents. I do not think state agents are attempting to eliminate freedom, I think they are attempting to promote security. They may nonetheless be reducing freedom, but I believe they either do not believe they are doing that or believe that the security trade-off is worthwhile. There’s plenty of room for criticizing agents of the state who make the trade-off without resorting to accusing them of being malicious or evil.”
the FBI Instigating, promoting, and then reporting on the success of their foiling phony terror plots is not promoting security.and for you to think they believe it promotes security is absurd and naive….what it does work for is pre-emptive silencing of potential dissent that arises in people as a result of real problems occurring in the society…there’s a difference between being security conscious in terms of seeking to prevent real attacks on your population and being stability conscious in terms of seeking to protect the current order of the society from being internally challenged and uprooted..the CIA and FBI often don’t work for security…they work for stability at whatever cost…smart people make it into these agencies…you honestly think they don’t recognize this difference..give me a break..perhaps the agent-provocateur is just some bumbling idiot who has been convinced to do the dirty deeds and his motivation may not be malevolent but the institution directing him certainly knows what it’s doing and why it’s doing it…..you seem to ignore the power of the few who benefit financially and power-wise from the neoliberal order and their desire to keep things just the way they are .often the CIA and FBI work for them…not for us and this is one of those cases….in that sense you ignore history and its many instances of the oppressor silencing the oppressed via use of agent-provocateurs and security agencies in order to ensure their continued absolute power …. .you attribute stupidity as a motivation to a situation whose facts clearly beg for a labeling of the motivation behind them as malevolence… ya know its clear that you are reluctant to label people’s motivations as malevolent but in doing so it’s also clear that you overcompensate to a great degree by attributing everything to stupidity without the burden of proof that you so demand for the attribution of malevolence. what’s the point of us presuming what the motivation of a state agent is….go read the accounts of their answers …go read the accounts of why the CIA and FBI and other security agencies in other countries do what they do..you’ll find that cracking down on dissent no matter the legitimacy of the dissent is a big part of what they do..this is anything but promoting security.and why do they do it?because its security but only for themselves..financial security and power security.for the ruling classes and the people at the top of the military industrial complex that benefit….the whole point of propaganda is to keep the masses ignorant of what’s really going on so they don’t rise up and demand changes in the status quo. the truth is if these agencies actually thought they were working in the best interests of the people, then logically they wouldn’t need to use propaganda as a tool to keep them ignorant and brain-washed…they would just tell them the truth and expect them to accept it and not get angry and not rise up, but they know that in reality that would never happen…
I’m sure that the those FBI agents think that their work is justifiable, and if they can convince others that it is justifiable by inventing imaginary successes, I’m sure they think that those inventions are in turn justifiable. You’re too quick to judge the motivations of others. There is more going on. Those who silence dissent are motivated by a genuine fear of what permitting that dissent may lead to. Their wrongness is not evidence of their malevolence, but only of their ignorance.
Malevolence is by definition harmful behavior without ignorance. If malevolent people are extremely ignorant they cannot be malevolent in the first place.
Accusing people of malevolence is character assassination in a way that accusing people of ignorance is not. I absolutely believe that in the absence of firm evidence, it should be assumed that ignorance or incompetence explains the behavior. Those who silence dissent do so because they don’t understand that silencing dissent often does more harm than the dissent itself does. They overestimate the threat and underestimate the damage they do in stopping it. There is no need to include malevolence in the analysis in order to provide a full account of the behavior in question. To do so violates not only Hanlon’s Razor but Occam’s.
ok I suppose we must agree to disagree
i suppose I don’t hold see the validity of the razors as much as you do… but whatever.
They’re not hard, fast laws, but general principles of explanation. There are certainly cases that violate the razors, but when in doubt, I presume the razors hold.
I know…I just see evidence in this case of a pattern…a historical pattern of which I could cite numerous cases and plenty of evidence. But whatever it’s fine. I think the discussion has reached its logical end.