Calling Bullshit!

I don’t entirely agree with it. It’s a bit aggressive, a bit crude, to be so direct. Still, I’m thinking it can sometimes be a proportionate response to how much we have to deal with that is passive aggressive. For instance, the sickening phenomenon that has become so prevalent lately as to acquire a name – cry-bullying. The powerful or privileged making victims of themselves. More specifically, I’m thinking how, every time someone tries to understand some strange anomaly in public life, and this leads to questioning an official narrative of the powerful, the dismissal is ever at the ready: “conspiracy theorist!”[1]

As someone whose job is to be a theorist, I find it hard to see why this is used as a term of disdain: if there is evidently some possible conspiracy, surely it is better to have a theory of what is going on? Theories generate hypotheses that can be tested. That way, knowledge and wisdom lie.

Or should we just take it that conspiring never happens and everything not conforming to what official sources say is all pure coincidence?  No matter the odds?

Frankly, I would say, let’s call out these coincidence theorists! Let’s watch them, aghast, as they pronounce – as I suspect they may have plenty of opportunity over the next day or so[2] – about how any manner of strange circumstances are either inexplicable or purely chance.

But in calling them out, let us not dignify their mendacious contortions with the name of theory, which I would reserve for those who take the trouble to investigate conspiracies.

Let’s call it what it is – bullshit!


Brad Bauman: disgusted by conspiracy theories, and Russia

[1] Some serious scholars of the derogatory term ‘conspiracy theorist’ show how it was coined for a specific purpose of narrative control. See, for an overview, the recent interview with Mark Crispin Miller of New York University: . But be aware: that’s on the RT channel, which is, of course, a hotbed of conspiracy theorizing, with the R standing for, yes, RUSSIA! So maybe Mark is a conspiracy theorist about conspiracy theorizing…

[2] I have particularly in mind today the bringing back into public awareness the unexplained death last year of DNC staffer Seth Rich. Stefan Molyneux has put out an informative video about this: There are theories about that terrible event which stand to be tested, and, insofar as it is a matter of public concern, I believe it is better for them to be tested than to be ignored or dismissed.

To be clear, my point is that a theory is worth testing and should not simply be dismissed.  Dismissive tactics can involve bullshit.  This does not mean that any of the hypotheses dismissed should be assumed true; it just means trying to be clear about what we know as opposed to what we are merely instructed to believe.  Conspiracy theorists could themselves engage in bullshit if they try to prop up a theory in the face of contrary evidence.  This mistake is presented by narrative correctors as the defining feature of conspiracy theorists.  I would say it is what separates a bad conspiracy theorist from a more competent one.


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10 Responses to Calling Bullshit!

  1. mog says:

    It’s Mark Crispin MILLER (not WRIGHT).
    Check work of Philosophy Professor, Charles Pigden.

  2. Adrian D. says:

    A favourite tool of the ‘coincidence theorists’ is to portray questioners of the narratives as necessarily having accepted a particularly preposterous extension of whatever their projected ‘conspiracy’ may entail.

    Sorry to bang on about it, but this is obvious from the Alarby Chomsky hatchet-job piece that I raised in your Monbiot rejoinder…

    “Deductive logic more rigorously applied should of course have led Chomsky to also consider that if Postol’s theory is correct, then the OPCW, Human Rights Watch, World Health Organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres, the US government, the British government, the French Government, The Guardian, The Times and the AFP’s judgment is incorrect.

    And since they all appear to have reached the same conclusion, there must be coordination among them. But according to Chomsky’s logic, this scenario is more plausible than the notion that Assad – with his pattern of chemical attacks – might have carried out another.

    He finds more plausible that rebels would go through the trouble of producing sarin only to use it on their own people, twice! To quote journalist Anand Gopal’s response: “that’s on the level of Big Foot or UFOs.” “

    However if all the evidence is coordinated at source (as even a cursory reading of the references and sources for the above indicates was the case) then no coordination – or grand conspiracy – between the agencies is necessary other than a general lack of scepticism and a willingness to roll over contradictions when they do occur (which of course they do).

    Running with the big-foot analogue is worth a moment of your time – imagine if we had evidence for bigfoot attacks as meagre and tightly controlled as the KS attack. A few pictures of footprints (now concreted over), partially recounted sightings of an unspecified number of hairy humanoids with some witnesses reporting that they stank, others that they didn’t smell of anything, some said they howled, other that they were silent. Very distressing videos of victims would be shown, but if you listened carefully you’d find that no one would actually go on record to stay that they had been killed by an animal, let alone a half-man-half-bear beast – and we know for a fact that there were lots of wolf attacks in the area anyway.

    Then we’d had a load of paid-by-the-stitch park doctors reporting injuries and deaths from savage bear-like mauling and seriously anti-big foot governments confirming Sasquatch or Sasquatch-like bite marks on samples they’d been given by an anonymous (but very heavily bearded) park ranger. Finally we’d be told by a very serous and trusted Park-Peoples rights agency that actually it was almost certainly a dastardly Siberian Yeti rather than a nice cuddly Sasquatch as a couple of people on twitter had identified the species from an image of a hairy ring-piece (that may or may not have been tampered with anyway) because it looked a bit like one they’d seen on Scooby Doo.

    That’s the level of evidence we have for the KS ‘attack’.

    • timhayward says:

      You’re absolutely right of course. I haven’t even commented on that piece – or others of its ilk – because I can’t see them as other than barroom brawling. I’m hoping we can attune more and more people to take distance from this kind of thing. (I think/hope George has set all this aside now…)

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