Conspiracy Theories of the 20th and 21st centuries

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    This may be more appropriate for the general discussion forum, but I wanted our faculty to weigh in on the issue (of course, I’d welcome input from anyone who has an opinion on the issue). How does one address the issue of conspiracy theories in history? I recently read an article by an economist named Horwitz ( that confirmed most of my thinking on the subject. That is, if one accepts that the government is capable of perpetrating long-term plans for evil, without encountering any unforeseen consequences, then they should be equally capable of implementing long-term good intentioned plans. Clearly, they can’t pull off the latter, so the former seems unlikely. In addition, to pull off an alleged hoax like the Sandy Hook shootings (for example) would require the participation of hundreds of people who would all have to keep perfectly silent about their involvement in the affair. Again, knowing what we know about human nature and the ineptitude of our government in the domain of keeping secrets, this seems highly unlikely.

    I pointed this out to a proponent of such theories recently. “If the government were able to pull off a hundred year plan to destroy the American education system with the intent of rebuilding it in the Soviet model,” I said, “then why is it that they’ve had such a hard time with their well-intentioned plans for eliminating poverty or providing universal affordable health care?” “Ah,” came the reply, “but all of those plans were designed to fail!” There seems to be no point in arguing against this, although it seems absurd to me that everyone and everything is part of an insidious plan. I’m frustrated that these views have such traction, to say the least, and I think that they do substantial harm to our cause.


    I’ve been trying to come up with something valuable to add to this, but I’m at a bit of a loss. You may indeed be better off giving the general forum a try.

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