“I HIGHLY recommend this very accessible, insightful, and well researched book: Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories: Rob Brotherton.
“I HIGHLY recommend this very accessible, insightful, and well researched book: Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories: Rob Brotherton.
26 thoughts on “‘Suspicious Minds,’ (why we believe conspiracy theories)”
Slate has posted yet another sneering look at “conspiracy theories,” this time written by neoconservative historian Anne Applebaum. Inevitably, she classes Warren Report skeptics with “birtherism,” UFOs, moon-landing hoaxers, and whatever Donald Trump said this week.
I’ve read more than enough dime store “analysis” of people that believe in conspiracies. Somebody needs to write a book analyzing why some people believe everything they’re told by the government.
Maybe believers should be called Official Theorists, people who adamantly believe official versions of events.
Another ‘Conspiracy Fact’: COINTELPRO
I agree that many conspiracy theories turn out to be bogus, such as the so-called “faked lunar landing” etc. The entire “Illuminati” stuff brings out a yawn from me as well.
But if you look at the tobacco lobby and it’s conspiracy to bend public opinion away from thinking that nicotine was addictive or that tobacco smoke vastly increased one’s chances of getting lung cancer, that’s fact-based, and it was a conspiracy. Same thing with the fossil fuel interests conspiring to keep average citizens in the dark about the dangers of carbon emissions unbound, leading to global warming.
So we know that there ARE conspiracies; that they do exist, and that the media (mainstream, corporate funded) often but not always is either not critical enough or is actively going along with the corporate interests, because in part they rely on corporate funding and don’t want to rock the boat. I would be willing to wager that the JFK case is one of the mainstream media not wanting to rock the boat, especially not to poke a stick too hard at CIA and the military, because it come back to bite them in the ass, and scare away investors who are allied with the military and security state organs.
The JFK case is political. Like global warming, there are many who seem to be in denial about the inconvenient facts, or who just don’t want to dig up information that could paint an ugly picture of elements of our government. If anyone has seen the film “The Nasty Girl” about a woman who grew up in Austria after WW2 and tried to ask her elders “what did you do in the war?” — I highly recommend it. Her dogged determination to get at the truth regarding the “Hitler years” reminds me of young people today asking uncomfortable questions about US history, such as slavery, the removal of entire Native American tribes, the internment of Japanese-Americans, and the JFK assassination.
One need not look much farther than “yesterday’s paper.” This item published online yesterday by the NY Times will appear in the Sunday Book Review section. It involves attempts to sway public opinion, in this case, the issue is global warming. This excerpt is from a review of Jane Mayer’s new book on “Dark Money” in American politics.
Quoting book review:
… [O]ne of the most important Koch crusades of recent years: the fight to prevent action against climate change. The Koch-sponsored advocacy group Americans for Prosperity has been at the forefront of climate-change opposition over the past decade. When the Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 2011, Americans for Prosperity lobbied lawmakers to support a “no climate tax” pledge, and by the time Congress convened that year, 156 House and Senate members had signed on…. [T]he Koch brothers are also acting out of tangible self-interest, Mayer argues. The Kochs made their money in the carbon business; they have diversified far beyond it over the years, but a stiff tax on carbon could have a significant impact on their bottom line. Mayer reports that an E.P.A. database identified Koch Industries in 2012 as the single biggest producer of toxic waste in the United States….
Recommended reading: David Talbot’s “The Devil’s Chessboard,” a biography of Allen Dulles.
I just finished reading “Devil’s Chessboard.” I think Talbot hit the nail on the head with his bio of Allen Dulles. To me it is just so obvious that power exists in concentrated forms in our Republic, and that secret power is the absolute worst threat to democracy. If the Koch brothers had to stand up in a public forum with knowledgeable scientists to try to debate their denialist position on global warming, they’d fall flat on their faces. Similarly, as Talbot pointed out, when Allen Dulles was subjected to ANY kind of public questioning (such as by young David Lifton) the wheels of his Warren Commission denial began to shake and come loose, because when held up in the sunlight to honest public scrutiny, the whole “logic” of Dulles’ lone nut story began to fall apart. Sunshine is the best antidote to corruption, and informed, public and peer-reviewed study is the only way to have a chance at learning what really happens in this world, be it global warming or the JFK assassination, to give two examples.
In the JFK assassination, the way of thinking about conspiracy is deeply rooted in human logic. The plain observation of a sitting U.S. President killed in broad light on the street by an ex Marine, re-defector from the Soviet Union, known as pro Castro activist, detected —at least through tapped phone calls— visiting both the Soviet and the Cuban embassies in Mexico City, who was in turn killed in the very basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters by an outsider, favors the hypothesis of a conspiracy against the hypothesis of the lone gunman. And the former has been increasingly reinforced by undeniable conspiracy facts.
One point about that outsider who killed Oswald, i.e., Jack Ruby. Reporters not native to Dallas had noticed him over the course of the previous 36 hours as he walked around police HQ as if he owned it. More than a couple of them assumed he was some important public official. Once his true profession became known, every single one of those reporters, and probably at least 75% of the adult US population, would have realized that he had to have had Mob connections. You didn’t run a strip joint in those days unless you did, and in fact you were most likely some kind of gangster yourself. So just what the hell was a man who was at the very least a quasi-gangster doing wandering freely about police HQ, and finally murdering the man accused of killing the President?
I do not usually comment about the specifics on the fly, but if I don’t reply to your points now, I probably won’t
return to it. Although Chief Curry dramatically downplayed the number of DPD personnel acquainted with Ruby and
accepting of his “generosity” towards police at one time or another,
(see testimony of Nancy Perrin Rich, pg. 341, as one example- http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/russ/testimony/rich_n.htm )
I’ve read estimates as high as 600. On Friday,
DPD were involved in the failure to protect the life of the most important person in Dallas that day, and they did
better on Saturday, but on Sunday it can reasonably be argued that they failed again at the same task, but this time
the DPD was at the center of a failure to protect the life of the most important person in Dallas that day!
An apology for a controversial source, and now a weak one.:
Thanks Tom S., I’m aware of the various claims that Ruby simply “liked to be where the action was,” and hung around with cops in groupie-like fashion. When I was very young, I worked at a few places in NYC — restaurants, after-hours clubs — that were owned by the Mob. These were low-level jobs, parking cars, serving drinks, restocking the bar, etc., but you end up learning a fair amount about how the Mob operates from the wiseguys themselves, who are remarkably chatty about a number of things, as long as their talking about things on which the statutes of limitations have expired, or are misdemeanors or the most minor of felonies the DA probably won’t even waste time prosecuting. You also get to see them sucking up to cops. A lot. It’s good for business. Ruby had doubtless often done things like this because he knew the cops he did favors for would then be less likely to vigorously prosecute him when he beat the living daylights out of somebody, which he did pretty frequently. In fact, the cops could probably be counted on to tell the victim “hey, Jack’s willing to pay your hospital bill and give you some cash, if I were you I’d take it.” At the same time, he had the temerity to interrupt Henry Wade at that late night press conference.
BTW, the people who downplayed Ruby’s Mob connections probably had excellent reason to do so, as anybody taking a close look at Ruby might find out about some shady business that Ruby had been involved in with them.
Jack Ruby was a Mob connected police groupie. From working for Frank Nitti as a child in Chicago to meeting with Joe Campisi the night before 11/22/63, he had mob ties spanning his whole life.
He worked for Al Capone as a child.
Ruby wasn’t bringing sandwiches to the Dallas Police Station on Sunday morning. His story was that he’d come into town in order to forward money to one of his strippers.
According to Jeffrey Caulfield, MD, in his book, “General Walker and the Murder of President Kennedy”, HL Hunt asked Curington to check out the security at the Dallas jail where Oswald was being held. Caulfield reports that Curington said there was no security whatsoever, and in fact Curington shared an elevator with Fritz and Oswald, indicating just how vulnerable Oswald was.
One may also wonder why Oswald was being paraded up and down the corridors of the Dallas Police station so publicly and so frequently. Ruby stalked Lee all weekend but didn’t seem particularly anxious to do the job on him.
Paged through the Brotherton book in Barnes & Noble. Quite similar to something a Psych undergrad, with an overdue paper, might write by staying up all night on it’s due date.
IMHO the JFK assassination has reached a point where conspiracy is not the issue it once was. The assertion by WC apologists that conspiracy is a theory has been proven false (to me). Through the efforts of independent, not Government paid and/or controlled, researchers it’s pretty well documented that there was a conspiracy. The Warren Omission started with the premise that “something must be done to convince the pubic Oswald acted alone”. So, they created a theory that he did but failed to provide proof of such, in fact ignoring and suppressing evidence.
Conspiracy is no longer a theory it is reality. Oswald acted alone is a (unproven) theory. The magic bullet is a theory. Oswald in Mexico city is a theory. Back and to the left is still a realistic fact. “We never could put Oswald in that window with that gun in his hand” is a realistic fact.
Since you can’t search inside this particular book yet, I went in search of more information and stumbled on an interview with the author. Here’s what he has to say about the JFK case:
“Basically it is when something big and momentous happens in the world, like the assassination of the president of the United States, we assume that something big must have caused it, as opposed to when something small happens and we don’t assume there is a big cause. One of the most powerful people in the world is killed in broad daylight and the official story is that this one guy, Lee Harvey Oswald, just kind of got out of bed that day, got his gun and changed the course of history. That is such a small explanation for such a big event, so it doesn’t seem right according to this bias that is built into our brain.”
In other words, this “academic psychologist” looked at one of the most complex murder cases in recorded history and came away with the old chestnut that “We can’t accept that such an important man could be killed by such a nobody.” This is the same stale meme trotted out by every single mainstream writer on the JFK case.
As clever and profound as this glib line may sound to people who are hearing it for the first time, it has all the analytical weight of a fortune cookie. It is not based on any actual study of the people who hold suspicions about the JFK assassination. What really happened is that some writer (probably William Manchester) came up with a clever line, a bunch of columnists and historians repeated it, and it entered the common parlance.
When I talk to people who were around in 1963, they almost invariably say that they suspected something was up when Ruby shot Oswald. That’s the actual reason people believe in JFK conspiracy theories. It’s curious that people like Rob Brotherton can’t bring themselves to say so.
I have actually discussed these issues with a couple of the “psychologists” on their website. They are utterly loath to actually investigate the nuts and bolts of any of the “conspiracy theories” they critique.
One plus I do give them is that although they aren’t forthcoming in answering substantive questions in the comments section, they do not delete such commentary. Or haven’t so far as I know up to now.
One of their worst attributes is mixing in the truly nutball “theories” with valid research and analysis. You know the “Elvis is still alive” garbage is on the same level as the political assassinations research. Or putting such research on the same level as the “Moon Landing Hoax”. And they go on to contend that those who “believe in” one ‘conspiracy’ tend to buy ALL conspiracy theories.
We must remember, these guys are kids! They have do not have fully developed critical facilities, for the very fact of their “specialization”. A problem highlighted by Jacques Ellul in his book THE TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY.
I am quite familiar with Rob Brotherton and his comrades in propaganda.
They run a blog called The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories, that can be accessed at http://conspiracypsychology.com/
I have interacted with several of these young men in the comments section of various threads on their blog.
I suggest that anyone interested in conspiracy analysis check out the website, and particularly see the “About” page, to get a sense of who and how young and perhaps naive these “professors” in “psychology” are.
I also have a page on my own blog dedicated to these fellows, their background, and the background of their college at:
As a companion thread on my blog I always advise seeing this page there as well:
Here is a another conspiracy theory.
This site seems to have taken a strange turn in the last few months.
Mr. Morely was interviewed by Alan Dale a while ago and he was quite contemptuous of the term conspiracy, noting that it was antithetical and counterproductive to a discussion which ought to focus on facts. Now we are here discussing conspiracy theory on a site called JFK Facts.
I don’t like it. It feels clickbaity as the kids say.
Can you please post a link to that interview as I’d love to read it and then make my own conclusions. It’s my understanding that Mr Morley is writing a book on Angleton, which should be admired.
The only counter point to make here is – I don’t see any ad engines generating rotating ads on this site. That, to me, is good news as Mr Morley seems to be trying to run an honest shop here and creating debate about the case.
I mean, no site is perfect. I know the Mary Ferrell site is also a good one, but it often seems hard to find the documents and files on it. Pat Speer’s site, who I also admire, wrote an opus on the case, but from a visual perspective, leaves a lot to be desired.
And so on…
I’ve found this site to be extremely useful:
It’s a fairly dispassionate look at the assassination written in very succinct prose, with detailed footnotes and links to original documents.
I’m an atheist, so I don’t believe in the fairy tales of miracles, walking on water, and all of the religious stories passed on through the generations. I also don’t believe in the occult, nor do I believe in UFOs. Is there life somewhere else in the universe? Due to its sheer vastness, there could be, but there’s no reason to speculate unless there’s proof.
But until the day I die, I’ll always believe that something larger took place on 11/22/63. There are just too many coincidences that took place that day and over the past 8 months before that day – the impostor posing as Oswald in Mexico with the idea that he was meeting with a Russian assassin; the numerous times that an impostor was going around the Dallas area making memorable events; the ordering of a gun when it was proven that Oswald was at work all day; and on and on.
Then, the “two hits and that’s all” craziness that the government has tried to sell to the country is another sure sign that something more took place. I mean, a bullet going through coarse gristle, bone, and fabric and coming out virtually unscathed, while we also have a cracked windshield, a dent in the chrome, a scar on the sidewalk that kicked up debris and bloodied a bystander?
Meanwhile, a greatly concerned citizen goes around stalking the accused assassin (who, by the way used a word that day that none of us knew the meaning of), yet unknowingly or stupidly corrects a Dallas official on live TV on what Commie organization the assassin was supposed to be a member of? How would this concerned citizen ever have known that if he wasn’t in the know?
Then, the ultimate event where during a so-called tight four-man protective ring, the lead man casually drifts off, exposing the accused assassin so the “concerned citizen” waltzes up and fires a bullet into his abdomen, killing him. From there on out, the rest was easy – control the message (and media) with the official story where it continues on today.
If this makes me a “conspiracy theorist,” then so be it.
quite a concise and persuasive summary.
this scenario reminds us that we have to figure out exactly what LHO and Ruby had been up to in the previous 10 years or so…and that means delving deeply into various threads of intelligence, and even there, because the work of intel agents is ostensibly “secret,” and because their own counter-intelligence operations are designed to mislead and confuse, well — it’s not going to be easy.
researchers such as Newman, Douglass, Morley, Simpich, Hancock and Talbot have kicked open the front door…now what’s behind the doors to the various rooms?
I agree with the general premise that people tend to form their own narrative in order to understand incomplete, coincidental, or contradictory information. The JFK assassination for example is full of circumstantial evidence, strange coincidences, and contradictory witness accounts. It invites Conspiritorial thinking.
However, sometimes “Conspiracy Theories” become “Conspiracy Facts” (i.e. Watergate, Iran Contra, etc). Sometimes it’s necessary to be suspicious and pay attention to Conspiritorial narratives. They just might be true.
Conspiracies do happen in real life and sometimes they get exposed…