Conspiracy Theories, Confirmation Bias, and our Search for Narratives

I’ve said before that this blog is called Multiple Tracks as I’d like to write about a number of things. It’s also a repository for my thoughts and I’ve often felt that adding long verbose posts to Facebook is somewhat of a waste due to the fleeting nature of the format. So in this blog, I’ll briefly discuss my thoughts on something that came up today as a result of a Facebook post by a friend that also relates to a wider perspective I’ve developed on the world.

The video he posted was this:

I’ve rarely given the 9/11 conspiracy much time. Noam Chomsky calls it ‘a distraction’ and I’d generally agree with that, perhaps. He and a number of others ask a few simple questions that cut to the heart of the matter. If the government were to have actually done this in order to build support for a war in Iraq, then why blame Saudi nationals, their allies? It’s there on a plate to blame Iraqis. No need for the WMD narrative and so on.
Then there’s the fact that there’s a lack of credibility to the idea that so many people, working for so many different agencies, institutions, and organisations; so many disparate moving parts, would be able to keep this a secret, and keep it a secret for 14 years.
One of the best books I’ve ever read is The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In it he talks, as many other have, about how humans look for patterns. We try to make sense of the world by building a familiar narrative to meld together the chaos so that our tiny minds can conceive of agency and causation, good and evil, light and dark.
The JFK assassination was perhaps an earlier exemplification of how something so incredible, so unexpected, and so life-changing can happen that people simply can’t believe it was the random act of such a small and insignificant person. It had to be something bigger, something darker.
Taleb also introduced me for the first time to the concept of confirmation bias. Humans, very often to fit these narratives that we have framed, look to support their hypotheses by finding only information that does so and disregarding that which doesn’t. That video, for example, appears to be exactly this, a single track of cherry-picked disparate facts that fit the 9/11 conspiracy narrative. All conveniently compressed into an easily sharable 5 minute video.
I rather ascribe to perhaps something which I’ll coin right now, ‘the Conspiracy Theorist Industrial Complex Conspiracy Theory’ where conspiracy theory celebrities like Alex Jones and David Icke make millions of dollars every year and their audience continue to huddle in corners of the internet discussing FEMA Camps and chemtrails, while the true ills in society go unchallenged other than by the few genuine activists engaging in real debate, hitting the streets to demonstrate, or simply doing their best to affect real change in their small sphere of influence.
To not be guilty of confirmation bias myself, I’ll admit for the record, that I don’t totally disregard the idea that there was government ‘False Flag’ involvement in 9/11. I’ll just say that I’m undecided yet very sceptical but I’d certainly prefer to be counted among those people doing their best to affect that small real change locally and hope that this can someday be a part of something bigger and better.

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