Social Question

dpworkin's avatar

Do you feel that widely discredited conspiracy theories should be given any play on Fluther? Why, or why not?

Asked by dpworkin (27050points) December 24th, 2009

In my brief time here I have seen Holocaust denial, assertions of paranormal activity, and much other nonsense. Now we are seeing a recrudescence of 9/11 “Truther” conspiracies on Fluther, where government agents apparently managed to kill 3,000 Americans in deliberate explosions while somehow making it appear that phantom airplanes commandeered by phantom hijackers did the dirty work.

I’m curious as to your feelings about the psychodynamics of these sort of questions which garner what I think is disproportionate attention, considering their fundamental lack of cogency.

Are these discussions like train wrecks, from which it is difficult to look away? Do they perform any service at all? wouldn’t we be better off consigning this type of empty, irresolvable, meaningless conversation to the chat room with the rest of the drivel? Or are they legitimate, meaningful debates which expand our knowledge and contribute to our community?

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78 Answers

rangerr's avatar

I think they are just going to cause fights. There’s no real answer to those questions. It’s gonna turn into bashing. I vote no conspiracy theories.

gemiwing's avatar

I don’t personally like them, yet I worry about the slippery slope. Where would the boundaries be on what is considered ‘conspiracy’ vs ‘truth’?

In the end, I feel that Fluther is a good place for these discussions sometimes because of the level of thought from our Jellies. We can site sources and prove them false. Or just point them towards Scopes. Then these answers are searched via Google and more people can learn.

Perhaps the real issue is that some people will believe whatever they choose because nothing will sway them- even facts.

MrItty's avatar

Who cares? If you know the truth (or at least, think you do), why do you feel the need to participate in a conspiracy-theory discussion with someone who doesn’t? Just ignore it, and eventually it’ll fall off your main screen. I don’t want TPTB (as much respect as I have for them) to start deciding “this is a forbidden topic here”.

UScitizen's avatar

I disagree with censorship. The incalculable part of your question is “widely discredited.” What you see as “widely discredited” another may find to be a conspiracy to suppress the truth.

Silhouette's avatar

One mans conspiracy theory is another mans truth. Unless you are willing to end all discussions about religion and politics etc. I say let them talk. You don’t have to participate if you don’t want to. I generally skip the religion portion of this program.

tinyfaery's avatar

If it’s a question and follows the guidelines it belongs on fluther. Just don’t answer it. To forbid these questions is censorship.

Sebulba's avatar

@pdworkin i know you’ll take my opinion as shit but i’ll give it to you. You can’t give an answer to these “conspiracy theories” questions cause you can’t so you come here with a really meaningless question. talking about how so many many people died is meaningless? are you listening yourself? “oh what matters is who entered the 10k club”! who killed your brothers and sisters @pdworkin? why are they dead? you just came and said “a plane crashed the building” well for some people with technical knowledge this is not enough. and there are also other evidence that may not matter to you cause you don’t care after all.and censorship is fasism. i see you enjoy being a fasist

dpworkin's avatar

I would prefer it if we stay on topic here. Is moving this garbage to the chat rooms really censorship? Or just an acknowledgment that certain topics don’t rise to certain standards.

gggritso's avatar

As much as I agree with @rangerr I think @tinyfaery is still right. It’s immoral to censor a question just because we don’t like it.

What we shouldn’t do, however, is keep asking the same questions. I understand that everyone wants to participate in a fresh discussion, but asking questions over and over to get a favourable response isn’t helping anyone.

I think that the questions should be modded unless there have been recent developments in the story that warrant a second look.

Sebulba's avatar

I should informed you sir @pdworkin that some people unlike you asked for more information via private messages and i was happy to give them anything i had (photos,videos).Even if one person starts thinking for himself (not believing me or you) it is a big fucking great thing to me! Now i must say (knowing that this question refers really to my recent two questions) that i never suggested any theories! I just put up some technicaly detailed facts and evidence and puting them together nothing made sense to me. So i wrote complete question details and asked for you Americans (that should know better) for some technical established answers. Is that a thing for censorship? Don’t you feel bad the way you can’t answer any of them?

dpworkin's avatar

@gggritso You make an excellent point. I agree with you. These kinds of items should not be censored, but also need not proliferate like mushrooms. Everything is archived, and the mods can refer successive posts on the same issue to the original thread.

dpworkin's avatar

@Sebulba Here we are discussing how to handle conspiracy theories on Fluther. There is already more than one question relating to your topic. Please stay on topic here and confine your discussion of Thrutherism to the appropriate thread. Thank you.

Sebulba's avatar

I accept the fact that there are more than one questions related to the 9/11 and i should add that this is very natural. I believe though that there must be not many (if any) answers with so many included details and real facts and evidence (not opinions) as in my questions. If any give me a link! Thank you too

gggritso's avatar

Hmm… this makes me think that a way to “bump” questions could be useful. For example, @Sebulba could find a question about 9/11, add more details to the discussion and bump it to the front page. That way, there is no need to ask a new question and a discussion can progress naturally.

Has someone already suggested this?

Sebulba's avatar

@gggritso that could work in some cases. Besides the titles of the questions are very often driven by the modds

Sebulba's avatar

The truth is though i don’t believe that there is a problem in seeing a question after a while. different users will answer and debate each other constructively.This is always a good thing and even if i posted the same question every week there would be some new interesting things coming up from different users

gggritso's avatar

@Sebulba The main reason why I think it’s better to add to an existing discussion is to preserve all the arguments that have already been made. Fresh perspectives are necessary, but so are past insights.

dpworkin's avatar

Any reaction from the mods? Must we have metastasizing threads on these topics all over Fluther?

tinyfaery's avatar

Questions are repeated all of the time. Examples: gay marriage, grammar and spelling, what’s your favorite, etc.

@pdworkin I think that horse is a little high.

dpworkin's avatar

So you think that these repetitive questions are good for Fluther, @tinyfaery? Or that because we have done it in the past we should continue do do it? You would not prefer things to be more orderly? I, quite frankly, am sick of this crap littering the pages of Fluther, and would prefer that they be banned altogether, but I have already agreed that banning would not be necessary if the rhizomes were somehow contained. Does that lower the horse any?

Sebulba's avatar

Banned? haha! you’re so funny @pdworkin i like you a lot man! i already invited you today to my new question haha! well what i believe litters the pages of fluther is not the constractive conversations users have on the questions you hate but the questions talking about lurve amount clubs, apple itunes problems, what is the worst/best questions, what would you do if questions and other meaningless non-productive thoughtless questions.

laureth's avatar

I think if it were more obvious that we were supposed to search for them, it would help. For instance, when someone asks a question, one step could be to see an automatic search for questions with those key words. “Did you mean one of these?” (People would bypass it anyway, I’m sure, but at least it would make the point.)

Also, I wonder if the search feature itself could be improved, perhaps with a ticky box for what you want to search, i.e., Fluther members, or questions, or contents of answers. The latter two are mixed in together as of now, so a search for particular words is just as likely to find you a comment or even a profile. It’s hard to find the questions sometimes.

smartfart11's avatar

I think it’s interesting to read people’s opinions on popular conspiracy theories, and the crazy theories; those are just funny! I think it’s healthy to argue with people about those things. Maybe you’ll read someone’s controversial answer and change your whole aspect on a situation! We’re just giving each other ideas, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

P.S. Is it even fighting if we’re online?

tinyfaery's avatar

No. It means that it happens all the time and you, yourself take part, with no complaint. This is obviously a personal issue for you, but fluther is not yours.

dpworkin's avatar

@tinyfaery Perhaps you are right. I confess to being quite annoyed whenever I encounter Holocaust Denial, “paranormal” activities and baseless conspiracy fantasies. I imagine I feel about them the way @gailcalled feels about rogue punctuation and textspeak.

Sebulba's avatar

And for the last time @pdworkin the conspiracy theories for Titanic are baseless of course. The 9/11 conspiracy theories are far from baseless. Actually what is really baseless is the official report on the matter

dpworkin's avatar

I keep flagging your off-topic responses, but for some reason it seems to be OK for you to be off-topic in this thread. I wish you would stop.

Sebulba's avatar

Maybe the modds need more time to remove my answers or maybe you don’t have valid grounds for your flagging…
Either way i can’t see the reason you’re doing this. I really like you. You look like “the old mustache non-educated nice grandpa i never had”. I will personaly invite you again in the next question i’ll write concerning “conspiracy” matters. I know you enjoy them as if they were train wrecks. I wish you’ll never stop

Buttonstc's avatar


Pd obviously has both a
mustache AND a beard, so calling him bearded rather than a mustached grandpa would be a much more accurate term.

But if I were you, I’d refrain from personal slams like non-educated. You have absolutely no basis for a crack like that. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

If your writings and pd’s were gathered together for comparison and stripped of identifying names and we were asked to judge whether choice A or choice B revealed an uneducated person, it wouldn’t take three guesses for most folks to conclude that YOUR writings rather than his reveal an uneducated person. Your writings reflect sloppines in spelling and general use of language which educated people put more care into. ( with spell-check programs so widely available for free, NOT using one is just ridiculous) IMHO. I’m not speaking of typos here as we are all guilty in that dept.

Name calling and cheap shots don’t reflect well upon you or your credibility.

But to address the original question, Pd, I’m going to respectfully disagree with you for one reason and that would be censorship.

I understand your being irked by this stuff, but I think going down the path of censorship is a slippery slope and I would hate to see that.

The best counter to hate speech is more speech from more voices. I abhor Holocaust deniers, but I will defend their right to speak and spew their garbage because of the overarching need for freedom of speech. It is one of the many things which make an enlightened country (and a site like Fluther) great. The cream will rise to the top.

dpworkin's avatar

@Buttonstc Thanks, @gggritso made a similar point and I found myself agreeing. I think you are correct that censorship is the wrong way to go. I do feel that the unlimited proliferation of threads might be reconsidered. I have, however, no beard. Just sayin’.

kevbo's avatar

I disagree and not because it’s my thing, but because there’s plenty of room for all kinds of debate. I’m not religious, but I’m against the opinions of users whom I otherwise respect who have habitually lambasted people interested in discussing religion (which according to some is also widely discredited).

Buttonstc's avatar

Well, I guess you should know about your own facial hair, so I apologize to all (and Sebulba) for my ancient eyesight. It looks as if there is at least a patch of hair on your chin also. No?

I should really look more closely at these pics in enlarged form before shooting from the lip.

But, it’s pretty apparent to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that you are definitely not in the “uneducated” category which is the more important of the two.


dpworkin's avatar

If there were any rogue patches of hair on my chin they have long since been extirpated (whatever that means.)

Sebulba's avatar

Well @Buttonstc i was not aiming in slaming my friend @pdworkin. He can tell you if i really invited him today to answer my new question. I never used any kind of language he did refering to me at some other time…I am sorry about my spelling but my english is not yet perfect. Being a Greek though i can call english as my second language so it does not reflect my overall education. Now for the “non-educated” this is the conclusion i got from all the answers (annoying and nothing but trolling) i get on my questions by @pdworkin. After all this i saw this as a good thing to be(non-educated) combined with a mustache grandpa and i said it as a good thing.I am sorry if the truth looks weird to you for one more time

kevbo's avatar

Also, I think you’d benefit from examining why you are so easily annoyed. That seems to be a common element across your responses.

dpworkin's avatar

@kevbo Who put a dime in you?

kevbo's avatar

Ha ha. Case in point.

LeotCol's avatar

I personally believe in Freedom of Speech. Which includes whatever crazy people say.

There is NO SUCH THING as an opinion that is wrong, it is an opinion therefore it can’t be false. If a person wants to ask questions based on their personal opinions then I say let them ask.

There is nothing good about moving certain peoples opinions to another place like a chatroom because they conflict with your own.

That my friend would turn into some kind of dictatorship. I’m not a fan of this idea at all.

Buttonstc's avatar


You may want to reconsider on the extirpation since it’s vaious related meanings include ” to destroy completely, pull out be the roots or remove by surgery”

Ouch ! A bit of overkill for facial hair, dontcha think ?


Buttonstc's avatar


…and on the eighth day God created Spell-Check for situations like yours. Use it.

I never realized that Greeks don’t capitalize words at the beginnings of sentences or shun punctuation. I guess one learns something new everyday.

And I don’t know of anyone besides you who considers calling another person uneducated as a compliment. That just doesn’t fly. It can’t pass the common sense test. Seriously, a compliment ? Please…

Response moderated
stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I just try to “spike” them with the truth if I can. Otherwise I ignore them. Some people seem to enjoy conspiracy theories, as if there isn’t enough true nastiness in the world to go around,

Response moderated
Blondesjon's avatar

this is exactly how they want you to act.

Janka's avatar

I do not like the conspiracy theory threads, but I also do not think censorship is a good idea. Slippery slope, who decides, etc.

However, I think it might be a good measure to not allow repetition of conspiracy theories if they have been discussed thoroughly in a thread before – so you could e.g. flag as “does not provoke thoughtful discussion” and put a reference to a previous thread were pretty much all was said, and it will get deleted.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Dump them in a “conspiracy” section and let whoever wants to play with them.

Zackyy's avatar

Sure but only if they have solid proof. Other than that, I don’t want to hear it.

gggritso's avatar

I would like to congratulate @Sebulba (who I had absolutely nothing against) for completely sabotaging any chance of me ever taking him seriously. Bravo, Sir.

Clap. Clap. Clap.

Response moderated
Blondesjon's avatar

oh no he’s nooot. . .

dpworkin's avatar

No @Blondesjon gay innuendo in the Conspiracy Theories thread.

Blondesjon's avatar

@pdworkin . . .@gggritso is 7’1” tall and weighs 190lbs. No gay innuendo here. Just straight science.

dpworkin's avatar

That’s why I know more than you know! I have a Masters Degree! In Science!

janbb's avatar

@pdworkin Who are you, Bill Nye?

dpworkin's avatar

Bingo! I am the Science Gye!

janbb's avatar

But wye, I thought you were the art history, CBT, evolutionary biology, literature gye?

dpworkin's avatar

really, dolling, what don’t I know?

janbb's avatar

You are indeed a marvel among men, bearded or extirpated. And I know you use spell-check.

dpworkin's avatar

Dolling, really. Do I need spell check?

rangerr's avatar

I wanna whisper too!

janbb's avatar

Oh, rangerr, you can come over here and whisper all you want tonight, sweetie!

rangerr's avatar

I leave for a while and come back to gay people and Bill Nye. What in the world.

janbb's avatar

So don’t leave us for long. O.K.?

rangerr's avatar

Well. I’ll be gone for a few days after Christmas, but I’ll be back.

augustlan's avatar

Sorry I’m late! Ahem:

[mod says] Please stick to the topic, folks, and stop insulting one another.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

While you or I may tire of such conspiracy theories, Banning such discussion serves to fuel the fire of those who insist the “truth” is being concealed.

As long as the discourse is civil, it does offer the opportunity for articulate, dispassionate respondents to discuss the factual support for the generally accepted view of things. Opening even one mind, can let in a great deal of light.

HumourMe's avatar

People love conspiracy theories, true or not, they’re interesting to talk about and get people’s imaginations going. I don’t mind talking about conspiracy theories on Fluther as long as they aren’t so far fetched. At least they get people thinking and exploring alternatives.

Response moderated
Dog's avatar

@Sebulba I explained to you why your question was pushed back to you to edit. As you are aware it was not personal but the question had errors that needed to be corrected. Your choice was to refuse to edit thus the only person preventing you from posting is you.

Sebulba's avatar

@Dog may i remind you that i was not prompt to edit my question? i was asked to go to the chat room. Not for one question but for two! Am i going crazy?

Janka's avatar

@Sebulba Maybe instead of going crazy, you are asking questions better suited for the chat room? :D

From The Guidelines: “If your question is an attempt to connect with people (as opposed to an attempt to figure something out), like “Where is everyone from?” or “How old is everyone?” or “Are the Jonas Brothers lame?”, or it’s a yes-or-no, this-or-that question, it will probably be moderated — those questions are better suited for the chatroom.”

Sebulba's avatar

I asked for activity suggestion @Janka is that a yes-or-no question? I don’t think so. Anyway i don’t care i won’t use this website anymore

Janka's avatar

Your call, obviously.

mattbrowne's avatar

I think there are a lot of (young) people out there who are unsure about some of the conspiracy theories floating around. Often it only takes one remark in real life and people wonder and say “oh, really?” Very often it’s people who suffer from spiritual voids and are perhaps overwhelmed by scientific and technological progress. Paranormal stuff for example is sometimes used to fill spiritual voids. Life suddenly seems more exciting if there are houses out there which are haunted by ghosts. What if the Mayas knew more about the world than all of modern day scientists? A thrilling thought. What if Jesus never lived? What if the Apollo moon landing is a fake? What if 911 was an inside job? What if climate change is a swindle?

I think we should be patient. Most of the undecided young folks on Fluther will listen to what we have to say. Next time someone in real life makes an extraordinary claim, instead of “oh, really?” they will use our viewpoints and arguments and simply say “not true because” and ask those people to back up their claims. Which they can’t. And the claims vanish into thin air.

We can also offer this:

Michael Shermer who is an expert on giving good explanations for almost every paranormal claim and conspiracy theory has come up with a list of 25 reasons why people believe weird things and he wrote a book about it.

1. Theory Influences Observations — When you have a theory of something, you interpret the results inside your theory. So when Columbus arrived in the New World, he saw Asian spices and roots. His theory said he should be in Asia.

2. The Observer Changes the Observed — The act of studying an event can change it. This can happen with anthropologists studying tribes to physicists studying electrons. This is why psychologists use blind and double-blind controls. Science tries to minimize this, pseudoscience does not.

3. Equipment Constructs Results — The equipment used often determines the results. The size of the telescope shaped and reshaped the size of the universe. The kind of fish net determines what fish it can catch.

4. Anecdotes != Science — Stories that people pass on is not the same as controlled experiments. Pseudoscience points to anecdotes; science points to reputable studies.

5. Scientific Language Doesn’t Make It Scientific — Dressing up a belief in scientific language doesn’t make it science. This is easily seen with “creation science” and New Age pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo.

6. Bold Statements Do Not Make Claims True — L. Ron Hubbard called Dianetics “a milestone for man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his invention of the wheel and the arch.” But it wasn’t. The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary well-tested the evidence must be.

7. Heresy Does Not Equal Correctness — Copernicus and Galileo and the Wright Brothers were rebels. But just because someone is a rebel doesn’t make them right. Holocaust deniers are rebels, but they need historical evidence for their position. It’s heresy to say Bush planned the 9/11 attack, but that isn’t evidence of the government suppressing the truth.

8. Burden of Proof — The person making the extraordinary claim has the burden of proving their claim is true and better than the commonly accepted position. If a man claims he moved a mountain with his mind, the burden of proof is on him.

9. Rumors Do Not Equal Reality — Rumors begin with “I read somewhere that…” or “I heard from someone that….” Before long, the rumor becomes reality, as “I know that…” passes from person to person. These stories are often false. For instance, everyone knows George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and couldn’t lie about it. He also had wooden teeth. Both stories are false.

10. Unexplained Is Not Inexplicable — Just because you can’t explain something doesn’t mean it can’t be explained. Firewalking seems inexplicable, but once you know the explanation it seems obvious. The same goes for all magic tricks. And even if an expert can’t explain it doesn’t mean it can’t be explained someday. Think of how many things — from germs to atoms to evolution — couldn’t be explained two hundred years ago!

11. Failures Are Rationalized — Scientists acknowledge failures and reformulate theories. Pseudoscientists ignore or rationalize failures.

12. After-the-Fact Reasoning — Also known as, “post hoc, ergo propter hoc,” literally, “after this, therefore because of this.” It’s superstition. Because I carried a rabbit’s foot, I sold more products today. Because I have blonde hair, I’m ditzy. Because I used a dowsing stick, I struck water. All superstition. Correlation does not mean causation.

13. Coincidence — Most people have a very poor understanding of the law of probability. Say you are about to make a call and as your hand touches the phone they call you. How could that be a coincidence? It must be ESP. We forget about the other thousand times we call someone and they don’t call us first. You make 5 baskets in a row, and you’re “on fire.” But statistically your chances are the same as a coin-flip. The human mind looks for patterns and often finds them when there are none.

14. Representativeness — Something may seem unusual when it’s not. Baselines must be established. For instance, tapping and scratching sounds in your house may be ghosts, but it’s probably just pipes and rats. Many ships are lost at the Bermuda Triangle, but only because there are more shipping lanes there than in surrounding areas. When that is factored in, the accident rate is actually lower in the Bermuda Triangle.

15. Emotive Words and False Analogies — Loaded language can be used to provoke emotion and obscure rationality. Industry can be called “raping the environment” or abortion “murdering innocent children” or a political opponent a “communist.” Rarely does this further rational thought, but clouds the issue with emotion and rhetoric.

16. Appeal to Ignorance — This claims if you can’t disprove something, it must be true. So if you can’t disprove psychic power or ESP or ghosts, they must be real. The problem is you can’t disprove Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, either. Belief should come from positive evidence in support of a claim, not a lack of evidence.

17. Attacking the man —Redirect the focus from thinking about the idea to thinking about the person holding the idea. Calling Darwin a racist or a politician a communist or past figure a slaveholder does not discredit their ideas.

18. Hasty Generalization — Also known as prejudice, or drawing conclusions before the facts warrant. A couple of bad teachers and it’s a bad school. A couple of bad cars and that brand of automobile is unreliable.

19. Overreliance on Authorities — We must be careful not to accept a wrong idea from someone we respect, nor write off a good idea because of a supporter we disrespect. Examining the evidence ourselves helps us avoid these errors.

20. Either-Or — This is the argument that when one position is wrong, another must be accepted. For instance, creationists spend much of their time attacking evolution because they think if evolution is wrong, then creationism must be right. But for a theory to be accepted, it must be superior to the old theory. A new theory needs evidence in favor of it, not just against the opposition.

21. Circular Reasoning — Also known as begging the question, this is when the conclusion or claim is merely a restatement of one of the premises. For instance in religion: Is there a God? Yes. How do you know? Because my holy book says so. How do you know your holy book is correct? Because it was inspired by God. Or in science: What is gravity? The tendency for objects to be attracted to one another. Why are objects attracted to one another? Gravity. While these definitions can at times be useful, we need to try and construct operational definitions that can be tested, falsified, and refuted.

22. Reductio ad Absurdum and the Slippery Slope — Reductio ad absurdum is the refutation of an argument by carrying the argument to its logical end and so reducing it to absurd conclusion. For instance: Eating ice cream will cause you to gain weight. Gaining weight makes you overweight. Overweight people die of heart disease. Thus eating ice cream leads to death. A creationist might argue: Evolution doesn’t need God. If you don’t need God, you reject him. Without God, there is no morality. Therefore, people who believe in evolution reject God and have no morals.

23. Effort Inadequacies and the Need for Certainty, Control, and Simplicity — Most of us want certainty, want to control our environment, and want nice, neat simple explanations. But it doesn’t always work like that. Solutions are sometimes simple, but other times they are complex. We must be willing to make an effort to understand complex theories instead of rejecting them out of laziness.

24. Problem-Solving Inadequacies — When solving problems, we often form a hypothesis and then look only for examples to confirm it. When our hypothesis is wrong, we are slow to change our hypothesis. We also gravitate towards simple solutions even when they don’t explain everything.

25. Ideological Immunity — We all resist changing fundamental beliefs. We build up “immunity” against new ideas that do not fit within our paradigm. The higher the intelligence, the greater the potential for ideological immunity. This can be the greatest barrier to changing our weird beliefs.

dpworkin's avatar

You left out credulousness and idiocy.

Ron_C's avatar

I think that the conspiracy theory, UFO, and other paranormal questions are legitimate and definitely fit on a website of this sort. The beauty of this and similar sites is that if you are not interested in the question you don’t have to follow it.

I find the urge to censor such questions disturbing and based on a individual’s subjective value system. I you disallow conspiracy questions, what’s next…anti christian or anti jewish questions.

You would find all sorts of ideologues flagging questions for removal because they disturb their religious, social, or moral set of values. As soon a you reply to such a request you reduce free speech and the value of this site.

If you want to have a site devoted to innocuous subject like home improvements go ahead. If you want a wide ranging and popular site, do not censor anything. You can mark certain subjects as “adults only” but other than that, leave it alone.

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