Yes, Conspiracy Theorists ARE Crazy

Many people have given talks, and written articles and books about how "conspiracies" are a well-recognized legal principal, about documented conspiracies throughout history, and about the overwhelming evidence that some recent events were conspiracies.

But it has just dawned on me that - much of the time - the opposite approach might be more effective.

First, let me summarize the suggested approach, and then I'll explain why it works.

An Example

You start speaking about 9/11.

They guy you're talking with immediately says "Conspiracy theorists are crazy!"

Instead of getting defensive, you respond:

Yeah, conspiracy theorists are crazy. Little green men on the moon, and all that craziness. Some people are gullible!

But here, the 9/11 Commissioners themselves say the government lied about what happened on 9/11. The senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission - John Farmer - said

"At some level of the government, at some point in time...there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened".

And the co-chairs of the Commission - Republican Kean and Democrat Hamilton - said that the military's lies to the Commission were so bad that the Commission considered recommending criminal charges for willfully lying.

And ...

Why This Works

People make snap judgments about others. Salesmen, dating experts and trial lawyers tell you that first impressions are very important.

Moreover, people tend to like those who are like themselves. If you come across as being completely different, people will often take a dislike to you.

Moreover, the fear of being labeled a "conspiracy theorist" has been so thoroughly taught to the American public that many people automatically discard any theory that even sounds like a conspiracy theory.

Instead of trying to fight this wave, it is better to surf with it. If you start off by dissing crazy conspiracy theorists, and then launch into the authorities who say the official explanation cannot be true (such as this in regards to 9/11), then you will sidestep the whole us-versus-them defense against conspiracy theories.

And remember, there really are some crazy conspiracy theorists. Have you ever had street people yell at you that you killed Elvis, or that you and the CIA are out to get them or some other nutty thing?

Have you ever heard that claim by mass murderer that devil worshippers were broadcasting messages to kill into his skull?

Some people really are crazy, and crazy people tend to spout crazy theories.

You may know the facts so well that you know it is obvious that there was a conspiracy, and that anyone who doesn't see it is an idiot or a fool. But you have to look at things from the other guy's perspective. How does he know that you're not one of the crazies? Until you show him otherwise, he doesn't.

So you want to distinguish yourself right off the bat from these nutters, so that your listener can put you in the "not a nut" category in their mind.

This insight came to me today when I was speaking with an intelligent person about 9/11. He asked me "don't you think that a person who sees a picture of a frisbee and is convinced that it is a U.F.O. also thinks that everyone else is blind to the truth?"

His question made me realize that I had to distinguish myself from the frisbee person before he would listen to anything else I had to say. I could have mentioned the many psychiatrists and psychologists who say that those who question 9/11 are the sane ones, but - in a verbal conversation - there is not always time for that. Unless we instantly can distinguish ourselves as not-nuts, we may push the person we are trying to persuade into a defensive position of shutting out all "conspiracy theories".

UFO argument

Note that I fully understand and support your argument about the right psychological approach, and I would like to add that there are effects on other persons listening in as well, which calls for even more complex discussion tactics.

There are serious problems with the reasoning of the person you talked to. He said:

"Don't you think that a person who sees a picture of a frisbee and is convinced that it is a U.F.O. also thinks that everyone else is blind to the truth?"

First, U.F.O.'s, crop circles and moon landings aren't in the same category as political assassinations, military incidents and terrorist attacks. Not by a long shot. This is a very important distinction.

Second, a U.F.O. is an Unidentified Flying Object, so a person who sees a flying object and cannot identify it, is right to say it is an Unidentified Flying Object. That's the whole reason for the term existing.

Third, when somebody claims a photo depicts a U.F.O., they usually mean that the photo proves an alien encounter. This is a non-sequitur.

Fourth, if it really is a frisbee, provide proof it is a frisbee. If it really is an alien vessel, then provide proof it is an alien vessel. Proof is not in suspicion.

Fifth, "don't you think that a person who sees a picture of a U.F.O. and is convinced that it is a frisbee. also thinks that everyone else is blind to the truth?" (All I did was switch the words U.F.O. and frisbee)

Sixth...I could go on and on.

Basically, what happened to you was a cunning but cheap rhetorical trick, and I would appreciate it if somebody here could explain to me the term for the exact logical fallacy employed here.

Thanks for another great story, GW.


Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?


Low and behold, today, the NYPost decided to jump on the newest of the Scripps Howard polls. They referred to us as the "Blame U.S. For 9/11" Idiots, and said that "anger at the federal government and skepticism in general by younger Americans is fueling the popularity of crackpot conspiracy theories (plural)."

That's extremely funny because the NY Post was targeted in the Anthrax attacks. Maybe somebody should remind the NY Post who it really was that attacked them.

I have had great success with this approach

If you start the conversation, "Have you heard about the 9/11 conspiracy stuff?" This instantly makes you *not* one of the conspiracy theorists. Then you can go on and present the evidence. "Well, the conspiracy theorists (I like hypothesists) think that the 3 WTC buildings were brought down with fall speed into footprint etc." Completely disarms them and you can have a rational dialogue. But don't get too carried away with the conversation. Just tell them you will send them a link of this guy who does a really interesting analysis of the collapses.

Good article. We make friends, not "debate opponents".

I like to make friends with people. Just be friendly. Sometimes it is difficult to "not react" when a person responds antagonistically to the subject of 9/11, but when I maintain a friendliness despite another's emotions we often both leave the conversation with a good mood trailing.

What I need are some jokes or items which contain humor.
I need a list, an arsenal.
Cheerfulness, clowning around, funny anecdotes, humor, jokes, a lightness help to open the communication. It makes the subject more approachable and improves receptiveness.


Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?