Sunday, January 18, 2009

Foundation of Woo: The Perfect Conspiracy

I haven't done anything for that wiki Akusai put together, so I thought I'd lay out a thought here for critique and approval: One of the foundational assumptions I find in a lot of woo is the idea that a giant, "Perfect Conspiracy" is possible.

A Perfect Conspiracy is the idea that a staggeringly large organization can carry out complex operations without leaving any evidence of their activities. This clearly violates Occam's razor by positing two new, unnecessary entities: The activity and its coverup. These entities are typically unnecessary because the conspiracy theory usually exists to explain why everything looks like there was no conspiracy: If the conspiracy theory is true, the predicted evidence is the same as the predicted evidence if the conspiracy theory is false.

Additionally, there are many costs that make such a conspiracy implausible:
Money for materials, tools, etcetera, to perform the operation.
Money for false evidence to cover up the operation.
Money to collect and conceal or destroy evidence of the real activity.
Money for silencing potential whistleblowers through bribes, assassinations, and threats.
Money for paying willing members or people willing to work without being paid.
Time and planning to ensure the activity and the cover up don't leave evidence behind.
Time for logistical planning.
Time and money to quickly conceal or discredit leaks that do occur in the information age.
Time and money to silence experts who find inconsistencies in the cover story.

In order for the conspiracy to remain hidden, the masterminds must know almost absolutely how every potential leak will react: They must know for certain that they assassinate those who cannot be bought or threatened. They must know for certain that those they pay off will not later confess anyway. They must know those who they threaten will not grow courageous enough to speak out.


King of Ferrets said...

That's actually not a foundational assumption of most woo, just one made by the individual people who believe in it. For example, some homeopaths think doctors are just misguided, and some might think there is a conspiracy to suppress homeopathy to line the evil doctor's pockets. It is required, and actually is the only thing required, for conspiracy theory, though.

Bronze Dog said...

It's a foundation of a lot of woo, not all of it. Different types of woo have different foundations.

Don said...

I think it's definitely a great foundation. Relying on a perfect conspiracy definitely fucks up your prior plausibility.

King of Ferrets said...

Huh. I can't think of anything besides conspiracy theory that requires a perfect conspiracy to work.

Bronze Dog said...

And there are a lot of conspiracy theories out there.

King of Ferrets said...


Valhar2000 said...

I think that a lot of woos simply do not appreciate how big a conspiracy would have to be to do something.

It seesm to me that a lot of people beleive that "The Man" gives order and his minions carry them out; they never stop to consider that the minions could be lazy, incompetent or unlucky, and therefore they do not stop to consider the measures, failsafes and double-checks that would have to be put in place everywhere to correct for any failure of one particular minion to do his job.

We, on the other hand, do think of those things when we come up against a conspiracy, and find it ridiculous, but I really do think that a lot of woos simply do not stop to think about the difficulties in running such an organisation.

I mean, you only have to look at governments and corporations to see how much such an approach is doomed to failure. It is easy enough to find out about the corruption and inefficiency that exists in government and big business, but most people are just not interested, or have given up in disgust.