Friday, July 19, 2013

'Conspiracy theorists' sane: government dupes crazy, hostile: A flawed article about conspiracy theorists and skeptics

A few days ago I came across an article that had been published on PressTV (which is owned by the government of Iran) that was titled "New studies: 'Conspiracy theorists' sane; government dupes crazy, hostile".

The title alone made it quite clear that the article was one sided, and that it is also quite clear what the writer of the article thinks about skeptics and debunkers... and anyone else who believes the reality that the U.S. government did not stage the worst terrorist attack in history.

Let me share with you the first couple of paragraphs of this article:

  • The most recent study was published on July 8th by psychologists Michael J. Wood and Karen M. Douglas of the University of Kent (UK). Entitled “What about Building 7? A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories,” the study compared “conspiracist” (pro-conspiracy theory) and “conventionalist” (anti-conspiracy) comments at news websites. 

    The authors were surprised to discover that it is now more conventional to leave so-called conspiracist comments than conventionalist ones: “Of the 2174 comments collected, 1459 were coded as conspiracist and 715 as conventionalist.” In other words, among people who comment on news articles, those who disbelieve government accounts of such events as 9/11 and the JFK assassination outnumber believers by more than two to one. That means it is the pro-conspiracy commenters who are expressing what is now the conventional wisdom, while the anti-conspiracy commenters are becoming a small, beleaguered minority. 

I can tell just by reading this that what this article is claiming is very flawed.

For one thing it's assuming that the majority of people making comments on an internet news article reflects the views of the majority of the people. Even on non-conspiracy theory subjects where the majority of people posting comments may seem like the overall majority, in reality they are just being the more vocal of the two groups.

The seconded problem is this "coded comments" thing. What exactly does this mean? Does it mean that the people who did this study read comments individually and were able to establish their content and context? Because of the way it was worded it doesn't sound like it to me. It makes it sound like the people who did the study actually let a computer search for certain words and phrases that are commonly used among conspiracy theorists and skeptics, which is a highly flawed way to research something like this because computers can't understand context like humans can.

This of course isn't the only thing this article claims. It also claims that those that believe what they are calling the "mainstream views" are also display more anger and hostility towards those who don't:

  • Perhaps because their supposedly mainstream views no longer represent the majority, the anti-conspiracy commenters often displayed anger and hostility: “The research… showed that people who favoured the official account of 9/11 were generally more hostile when trying to persuade their rivals.” 

I admit, sometimes skeptics and debunkers do get angry at conspiracy theorists, but actual hostility is actually pretty rare (although it this can be questionable as what some people consider to be hostility might not be considered hostility to others), and usually comes in the form of insults to the conspiracy theorist's intelligence or sanity (both of which after time becomes questionable) and rarely includes the form of threats (unless you include threats of getting banned and having your comments removed). Conspiracy theorists on the other hand engage in hostility towards others all the time, including fellow conspiracy theorists.

This paragraph is also making the assumption that just because the majority of people who comment on internet articles about the 9/11 attacks reflects the majority of the population itself. It does not. In fact the majority of the American people have never believed that the government committed the 9/11 attacks.

The next two paragraphs makes it appear that skeptics are the real conspiracy theorists:

  • Additionally, it turned out that the anti-conspiracy people were not only hostile, but fanatically attached to their own conspiracy theories as well. According to them, their own theory of 9/11 - a conspiracy theory holding that 19 Arabs, none of whom could fly planes with any proficiency, pulled off the crime of the century under the direction of a guy on dialysis in a cave in Afghanistan - was indisputably true. The so-called conspiracists, on the other hand, did not pretend to have a theory that completely explained the events of 9/11: “For people who think 9/11 was a government conspiracy, the focus is not on promoting a specific rival theory, but in trying to debunk the official account.” 

    In short, the new study by Wood and Douglas suggests that the negative stereotype of the conspiracy theorist - a hostile fanatic wedded to the truth of his own fringe theory - accurately describes the people who defend the official account of 9/11, not those who dispute it. 

This is of course another common claim and belief among conspiracy theorists in that the skeptics of the 9/11 conspiracy theories haven't done their research and just assume that the official account is correct, when in reality skeptics have done their research and have determined that the official account is for the most part correct, and that it is the claims that the conspiracy theorists make that are flawed and incorrect.

This article also makes it appear that skeptics feel like they are "rivals" to conspiracy theorists. This is completely untrue. Skeptics don't consider themselves to be rivals to conspiracy theorists because skeptics don't consider a conspiracy theorists conspiracy theory to be rival to the truth.

As it turns out this whole article is hugely cherry picked from the original article published by Micheal J. Woods and Karen M. Douglas (read here) and comes to an entirely different conclusion than what the original article did.

This article for PressTV, which was written by Dr. Kevin Barrett, a 9/11 Truther and conspiracy theorist himself, is hugely deceptive, and is nothing more than an attempt to make people who are not apart of the 9/11 Truth movement look like a bunch deluded people who live in a fantasy world, when in reality the opposite is true.

In conclusion, the article is nothing more than propaganda and dis-information.

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