The Real Problem with Conspiracy Theories

conspiracy theoriesIt seems that applying the tag “conspiracy theory” to something is the new way to get rid of it quickly. Evidently, people have been trained to stay away from anything given that title, assured that they will be embarrassed and ridiculed if they don’t gain some distance.

But while this association trick is of some interest, it really isn’t our subject here. Our concern is the problem built into conspiracy theories, not how the words are used as a weapon.

I’ll pass up the easy criticism of wild, irrational conspiracy theories. While these criticisms are legitimate, the risk associated with such theories is fairly minor; any serious, independent observer can see through them. The real problem with conspiracy theories is not easy to see – it is implied rather than directly stated. I’ll give it to you in brief, and then explain it more carefully:

The real problem with conspiracy theories is not that they are scary – it’s that they are too comforting.

My concern with conspiracy theories is not whether they are true or false; it is their implication that the world is being controlled. There is a strange comfort in the idea that the world is controllable.

The hidden thought embedded in most discussions of conspiracy theories is this:

The world is being controlled by evil people. So, if we can get rid of them, the world can revert to control by good people, and things will be great again.

This thought is false. The world is not controlled by any group of people – evil or good – and it will not be. The world is a large, chaotic mess. Those groups that do exert some control are merely larger pieces in the global mix.

The worst conspiracy theories take this hidden thought to an extreme, with a thought process that goes something like this:

  1. We had a glorious and just past.
  2. We lost our glorious days.
  3. It must have been someone’s fault. (“It was our own fault” is excluded, since that would require painful reflection and repair.)
  4. A plausible theory is inserted here, defining a clear villain or group of villains.
  5. Once we get control away from the villains, our glorious past will return.

This formulation is false, for several reasons:

  • The world is massively complex, and is simply not suited to control.
  • No type of control produces golden ages, and what is controlled suffers damage. (I’ll explain this in future issues of the monthly Freeman’s Perspective letter.)
  • Glorious times are created by good people and a tremendous amount of hard work; they don’t come easily or automatically.

This idea, of the world not being controlled, is troubling to most of us. Nonetheless, it seems to be the truth. The good guys don’t control the world and the bad guys don’t control the world. The world is a big, complex mess.

The Guy Who Would Know

I happen to know one of the world’s great intelligence analysts. He has written innumerable classified briefings, over several decades. We see each other at meetings from time to time and chat if we can.

At one of these meetings, we took a few moments to discuss the chaotic actions of intel groups worldwide, which led to a question I had been waiting to ask: Is there anyone who can see the big picture? Anyone with a clear view of what’s really going on?

His answer was unambiguous: “No, Paul, no one really knows.”

So, my friends, if this guy, a super-experienced, high-level intelligence analyst, can’t see what is really going on, and doesn’t know of anyone who can see it – much less being able to control it all – then forget about secret groups intelligently pulling strings world-wide. Such mega-villains do not exist. They make wonderful characters in mystery novels and movies, but they aren’t real.

I fully understand that this can be a troubling thought, but there is every reason to think that it is true, regardless of how it makes us feel.

Yes, there are groups that oppress people and control things – that skim away people’s production and manipulate their lives – but they do this locally, not world-wide. Furthermore, they are not able to control things very completely; there are always people and groups who slip through cracks.

And, it gets worse…

They Are Not Smarter Than You

When we think of people secretly running the world, we may think of them as evil, but we also think of them as highly intelligent. This also is false. And, for most of us, it is doubly scary to think that the guys trying to run the world are not only immoral, but have very mundane minds as well.

The people who have tried to control the world have rarely been geniuses. Even the most successful of them weren’t all that smart. Stalin was ruthless, for sure, but he was not exceptionally bright. Neither was Hitler, neither was Mao, neither were Alexander or the vast majority of Roman Emperors.

Ruthless does not equal smart.

Rulers are called “genius” because armies obeyed them, or because their soldiers had superior weapons and reasons to fight, or because they killed the opponents of a specific cause. But these are not characteristics that can be associated with genius. Real geniuses have never been big on wielding power over others.

To buttress this point, consider this: How many ‘great rulers’ sowed the seeds of their own destruction? (Attacking Russia in autumn… how stupid is that!?) Read serious biographies of the wannabe world controllers; you’ll find that most of them shot themselves in the foot.

Perhaps a few of the central controllers have been quick thinkers, but most of these people didn’t gain their positions by being smart – they gained position by some external advantage, mostly by being born to it, in one way or another.

The Crucial Importance of Structures

Think about the elite of our time: The Bushes, members of the House of Lords, Hillary Clinton, or the students at top Universities who routinely become the leaders of media and government. Then think about the central bankers: Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Schroders and their various sponsors. Then consider this:

Almost all of these people have obtained power via birth, family connections, or some other type of advantage. They are not there solely because of merit.

As for elected officials, it is a big mistake to imagine that they are in their positions due to merit, regardless of the fact that people vote for them. Winning an election is not about virtue; it’s about manipulating crowds. You win an election by scaring people away from your opponent. Beside, everyone knows that politics is incestuous and that almost every politician lies continually; that’s hard to construe as merit.

The elite are not superior, except at remaining ensconced in structures of power. And those structures matter far more than do their occupants.

A New Understanding of the Ruler

So, if ruling types don’t control as much as we thought they did, and if they’re not especially smart, our assumptions about them should change.

Consider things from the ruler’s standpoint. If they are not really in full control and are not super-smart, they would have to think thoughts like the following, at least from time to time:

1. We must preserve the structure or we can lose everything. If the structures of the world failed, the rulers would not be able to rebuild them. The proof of this are the various dark ages; once the old order failed, it stayed dead. New structures eventually rose up, but not the old ones. The ruling elite, if they understand this at all, will be driven to preserve their existing structures.

2. We must maintain an image of being powerful and wise, or at least as being admirable. Knowing that they are not inherently superior, but that they hold superior positions – positions that ultimately rest upon the agreement of the masses – the elite have to carefully maintain some type of elevated status and to make sure that the masses continue to care about that status.

Another human factor, that plays in the elite, as well as it does in anyone else, is simple denial. Because the loss of their structures would ruin them, they find ways to avoid taking such thoughts seriously. (Humans are very good at this.) So, when they say, “No one saw this crisis coming,” they may be telling the truth, at least as far as they know it. Neither they nor anyone in their circles would entertain such thoughts. Likewise, they may not see the next crisis until it hits them.

And, because most of the elite are subject to self-reflection like the rest of us, they have to find ways to discount the masses. Even if this is as small as calling most of their domain “flyover country,” they need to make some sort of distinction between themselves and the people they rule. Otherwise, they would have to face the fact that, being no better than the mechanic in Cornwall, they yet control his existence from cradle to grave.

[Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from our flagship newsletter – Freeman’s Perspective – Issue #4: “The Real Problem with Conspiracy Theories.” If you liked what you read, consider taking a risk-free test drive. Not only will you gain immediate access to the rest of this issue (which includes two examples of real conspiracies later proved true), but you’ll also be able to enjoy the entire archive – more than 500 pages of research on topics of importance and inspiration to those looking for freedom in an unfree world. Plus valuable bonus reports and all new issues, as well. Click here to learn more.]

Paul Rosenberg

5 thoughts on “The Real Problem with Conspiracy Theories”

  1. “The people who have tried to control the world have rarely been geniuses.”

    I canot agree more with that statement, Paul.

    However, I beg to disagree somewhat with your analysis of what I like to call “The
    Nutwork”, i.e. the crazed international “mafia cartel” that is running this planet. Yes, it is a big and complex mess made up of various entities – but not to the extent of being so elusive as to be unidentifiable.

    Are they smart? Yes and no. Some people like to say, for instance, that “George W, Bush is too damn stupid to have pulled off 9/11″… Of course, Dubya didn’t do it all by himself. To be sure, I can’t see him sitting at an Avid console, creating the fake imagery sold to the public through TV – or scripting the outlandish Binladen fable. The 9/11 hoax was all subcontracted to expert military divisions, Hollywood storytellers and assorted media people. In fact, I personally have far more evidence to indict the clowns at CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS – than I have to indict George W. himself.

    Good guys or bad guys? Well, the “Nutwork” appears to be made up of ‘bad guys’ – how could anyone argue the contrary? Also, although they are a fairly eclectic bunch, I wouldn’t say that those pesky individuals are a just a ragtag, disconnected bunch of sociopaths. Generally, they know how to collaborate when pulling off major swindles, frauds and duperies at the expense of the unwitting public. In the USA for instance, one particularly tight-knit criminous ‘fraternity’ has effectively built up a formidable powerbase – what with their dominant control of the ‘illusion factories’ used to dumb down the populace with – i.e. the news media, NASA and Hollywood (to name but a few).

    At the end of the day, I hope all of us ‘normal’ people may ultimately share the same question and hope, Paul : will this sorry bunch of mass-manipulating control maniacs ever be divested of their powers and securely confined into mental institutions? Only time will tell. Let’s cross our fingers though – keep up the good work – and hope for the best! :O)


    Simon Shack

  2. what a pathetic mess this article is. I mean analyze a particular theory to disprove it. Not all conspiracy theories include complete control of the world.

    This writer is an embarrassment to logical analysis.

    Disprove the collapse of building 7, or show me the gov’t theory is valid and you might have something. Otherwise, worthless non-analysis.

  3. An interesting look into conspiracy theories and all that other stuff. However, is the author condemning conspiracy theorizing per se, or is he just arguing against the more extreme of those theories. While many conspiracy theories can indeed go over the top (like, for example, the Bush administration using super-duper technology to cause Hurricane Katrina), there are others that are indeed sensible. Some of those theories include the possibility of false flag terror attacks, as well as the conspiracies of a New World Order, central banks working for the destruction of national sovereignty, and a host of others. While I don’t hold to the 9-11 truth theory like Alex Jones and certain libertarians do, it is possible (though not definite yet) that there COULD be a false flag created by the media, as Simon Shack suggested in his comment.

    The problem, as both economist Gary North ( and I see it, is more with the conspiracy theorists than conspiracy theories per se. While we should take the advice of Scripture (Isaiah 8:11-13) and not call EVERY SINGLE THING a conspiracy, we should be alert to something which COULD be conspiratorial. While the powerful, artificial “elite” (such as rulers, central bankers, lobbyists, and other stuff) can be incompetent for the most part, there are times when they are indeed “intelligent” enough to concoct concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Dachau, the Soviet Gulag, Ravensbruck, and in our day and age Guantanamo Bay.

  4. I agree with much of this article. However, he has failed to demonstrate that there are not conspiracies. It doesn’t take much to conspire, just a few people that plan to get over on others. The world is rife with conspiracy at every level.

  5. We’re tempted to believe that with all the anarchy and confusion and chaos in the world that any suggestion things might be being controlled by some of us has to be ludicrous. This doesn’t cut the mustard for me. Families have one value in that they let you see up close how things work ‘out there’. My family taught me that there are individuals and groups who are so insecure that they need–I stress need–to control others and things. Needs like that are generally met, because they devout inordinate amounts of time and effort into it. Yes, they get the occasional oar put in to shake their plans but generally they get their way. I think we’d have got to the bottom of the JFK assassination if Paul’s argument here wasn’t mainstream thinking. Eisenhower warned Kennedy of what he was up against–the hidden controllers of America; the people who ordered JFK killed. They don’t rule the world. Like some of my siblings, they run the family well enough to ruin it for the rest of us. I’m quite used to being told by people who don’t know what I know from experience that I’m wrong. I share Goethe’s view (shared also by Voltaire, Lloyd George and Christopher Hitchens and numerous others) that this world of ours is a cosmic lunatic asylum, a dumping ground; a place used by a superior species to dump its duds and rejects. Such a place is bound to be a hotbed of anarchy. But the least insecure of us in that system do use every trick in the book to make life better for themselves at the expense of the herd. To deny this is to invite being taken with the same levity as conspiracy theorists.

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