Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Me Conspiracy

Alex Jones: The King of the Selfish Idiots
I HAVE AN ADMISSION.  I despise the concept of conspiracy theories.

Now, I'm not saying I despise rigorous, intellectual, critical thought.  Quite on the contrary, I believe that critical thinking skills are exactly what is missing in the minds of most conspiracy theorists. An article featured on Salon goes into some detail about this very issue.

I recently got into a hell-born deathmatch spicy debate with my father (whose views can be readily consumed at his blog: "From the Outhouse," natch), who is a fairly-moderate conspiracy theorist himself.  Meaning, he doesn't buy into the faked moon landing mumbo-jumbo or the more heart-on-sleeve rhetoric about the Boston bombings being an inside job, but he does call into question the unseen who are harnessing powers across the globe.  I think he's a 9/11 Truther, too.

It's mystifying to me.  Not specifically my dad, of course.  I think he's a very smart guy.  I think he demonstrates empathy and critical thinking.  What I'm mystified by is the ability of people to create a narrative for every event.  As though to assign meaning to it.

If you can assign meaning to something as horrific as the Boston bombings when it happens, it allots governance over the feelings involved. It assigns pattern -- predictability.  In what is, obviously, an unpredictable world.  This would have a pretty substantial appeal to a person who feels as though they are "out of control" in their life.

What the Salon article discusses is the overwhelming correlation that science is finding between those who believe multiple conspiracy theories and mental disease.  I don't bring this point up in a sense of "told you so."  I am using it to illustrate what seems to be the problem.  The lack of agency, or the lack of self-perceived control, is a hallmark of the caricature of your right-wing, gun nut, conspiracy theorist.

The conspiracist finds (and believes) the story that best fits their narrative.  I need my guns to protect myself from a more-and-more radical government that has its sights set on my rights, land, family, life, etc.  The paranoid delusion isn't difficult to discern for most people; the simple undertaking of contriving something like the Boston bombings, let alone something on the scale of 9/11 would be an unbelievably difficult task for the government to undertake.

But, it fits the narrative.  A malevolent government.  A harsh reality which YOU have the ability to see.  Your mind is open and you don't have your head in the sand like the rest of the sheep.

The tragedy lies in the mundane details.  The tragedy is that people are willing to take the focus from what the important discussion is (understanding what drives people to terrorism and preventing it) and issuing a diverting narrative (how to change the context of a situation unrelated to you, and make it your own).

That's the part that I hate.  I hate the selfish aspect of conspiracy theories.  I hate the denial of the victimization of the actual victims, in place of victimization of the people who think/say they're being lied to.  It's self-centered at its core, and its a plague that an ever-more self-focused world is going to continually face.  That's the conspiracy.

The Odd Designs Of American Currency

AN ARTICLE ON caught my eye today.  It features some of the more interesting designs of American currency in the late-nineteenth century through early-twentieth century.

Some of my favorites are:

This amazing five-dollar bill from 1896.  I love this one because the text is just gorgeous and they were still hanging on to the Roman numerals (which, I still think would look nice).

This one's a bit more strange.  This bizarre art-deco thing they were going for doesn't quite work.  It certainly doesn't fit into the style that had been evolving for some time.  It's like a b-side to the currency of the day.

Anyway, there's a whole bunch more on that article I liked.  I recommend checking it out!