How to do scientific conspiracy theory
A proposal for programmatic research
In principle, the patterns of politics and geopolitics may be more consistent either with:
diffusely emergent and ‘chaotic’ processes; or
centralized clandestine management.
We must not prejudge the issue.
Of course, under any scenario, some processes have to be diffusely emergent. The question is whether an interesting (worrisome) level of centralized clandestine management is taking place or whether Western societies are mostly free.
Thanks in part to the trendiness in recent decades of ‘complexity theory,’ many prefer to see historical processes as chaotically emergent. Yet for historical processes since 1848, the Year of Revolution, this preference—and the invocation of complexity—may be less theoretically solid than might at first appear.
Undeniably, the preference for emergent and chaotic processes confers a social advantage on the theorist. For once this view is adopted, a knee-jerk dismissal of Machiavellian hypotheses becomes effortless and ‘knowing,’ and that keeps the theorist in good standing within university culture, where great pressure is exerted on people to respect that conspiracy theory is a taboo subject.
The conspiracy theory taboo does great harm to social science. But there it is. Hence, those who prefer a model presenting some version of directed history must work harder: our evidence and reasoning must be rigorous and our demonstrations must be dramatically convincing. There can be no special pleading.
The test is meaning
The test is whether a Machiavellian model makes the recent accumulated historical evidence of State (and other dominant institutional) behaviors more intelligibly meaningful than the cultural baseline of chaotic-emergence models that well-behaved professors everywhere in the West now prefer.
To support a Machiavellian hypothesis, then, we must seek to show that what are puzzling or downright absurd behaviors under models of emergence instead shine with meaning when the proper Syndicate-based model is invoked. The latter solution, moreover, must not introduce new and unsolvable complications elsewhere with respect to the body of evidence.
Elements of a Machiavellian model
To be complete, a Syndicate-invoking model must address all of the following:
A. MEMBERSHIP. Who are They? A list of the main players.
B. STRUCTURE. How do the players functionally articulate into various roles? The shape of the organization.
C. MOTIVATORS. What is meaningful to Them? A catalog of their values and ideals.
D. GOALS. What are They hoping to achieve? Short-term aims and long-term ambitions.
E. ASSETS. What do They control? The special tools of power they wield in pursuit of chosen strategies.
F. STRATEGIES. How do They corrupt institutions and how do They use them to achieve their aims? Preferred methods for pursing their goals.
G. CONSTRAINTS. What barriers exist to Their freedom of action and maneuver? Factors that limit and therefore help shape the chosen strategies, forcing the Syndicate either to
a. use a subterfuge or roundabout to try and achieve their aims; or else to
b. momentarily accept a less than ideal state of affairs while they work to remove or undermine a given constraint.
H. NARRATIVES. What specific stories about the world are They selling us? The manner in which they manage reality for us, so that we will act on the basis of what we assume is true (and moral).
Qualitative predictions about the broad shape of future evidence discoveries are implicit in any hypothesized model and may be squeezed from it and made explicit. When some of these predictions fail (as some inevitably will), the model must be modified to make it consistent again with the evidence.
But one may not decrease meaning.
That is, one may not pretend to ‘save’ a given model from failed predictions by adding absurd assumptions. Only reasonable modifications—identified by their easy logical articulation with other assumptions in the model, and by the fresh and successful predictions they generate—can be admitted, thus making the model evolve to become more meaningful. Moving in this direction is always the goal. If such movement becomes impossible, an entirely new model may have to be considered. If no moves are left, the model may have to be abandoned.
The above may seem like a wordy insistence that conspiracy theory must be science. But confusion now abounds over how science ought to work, so this must be said. And it must be emphasized that explaining the evidence is more important than staying ‘reasonable’ with inherited prejudices, wishful thinking, or the claims of some culturally or institutionally sanctioned ‘authority.’
The manner in which evidence is gathered, presented, and interpreted must of course be a matter of competitive dispute so that errors may be found and expunged with the best available rigor. But aside from that, which is relatively obvious, I recommend a theory-driven search for what I call dramatic facts.
A dramatic fact is one that, under the model you are considering, is simply impossible. The documentation of one such fact (and you only need one) would then refute—or ‘falsify’—the model. Thus, consider the following model of the media:
The major mainstream media are independent and autonomous providers of information, competing with each other in a free news market without centralized corruption.
Anyone wishing to argue that only a Syndicate-invoking model can explain the evidence of media behavior should try to document a dramatic fact that defeats the hypothesis of a free news market. Only dramatic facts have any chance of convincing the skeptics for whom conspiracy theory is a moral taboo.
What might such a dramatic fact look like?
If, for example, we could document that the major media, all together, have been lying—that is, knowingly, consciously, and deliberately deceiving us, with malice aforethought—about something of great importance, and that they’ve been doing this for decades, that’s a dramatic fact. Because this sort of thing cannot be done without centralized corruption and centralized management; it is simply impossible in a free news market—even one that is merely moderately competitive. (I have elsewhere analyzed one such dramatic fact, consistent with the hypothesis that the Western media were thoroughly corrupted and disciplined by a centralized power as early as 1938.)
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The beauty of finding a dramatic fact is that you don’t have to keep arguing the case with new data. You are done. (And yet, I do have multiple such demonstrations; here is another).
My method is therefore to investigate and expose key dramatic facts, with a view to building an articulated model of Western institutions that answers points A through H above.
I hope that other researchers will challenge the model and seek to defeat it, helping us find errors so that we may improve it; or else, perhaps helping us to discard the entire model in favor of some alternative. It’s even possible that we will discard all such Machiavellian models in favor of the models of emergence now preferred by the university-educated.
Any such outcome—if it comes from this process—will be progress.