So, there I was, browsing the Facebook on the interwebs. I have mixed feelings about that website, and that could be a whole essay of its own. On the positive side, if you’re careful to not let your Facebook Friends bunch accumulate random fools, you can often find interesting and worthwhile items appear before you, that you might not have ever encountered otherwise. Even then, otherwise smart and sensible people can fall into a rut of shoveling out piles of relayed random trash and petty nothings, but, then, that’s part of that whole essay I’ll skip.
One guy who’s sort of an online acquaintance via shared interests, and a bright and wholly sensible character, put up a post linking to an online article that was definitely worthwhile, as it addressed a general and fairly complicated topic that has been grabbing my attention regularly, far too often, for some time now. I actually addressed the general problem in part of my last note here.
The article my online pal relayed referred to the notion of “chemtrails”, with that being one particular item among many, in a kind of general pattern that is a little too common that was the subject of the piece. You might encounter it yourself. I suppose, not knowing all about who reads this stuff, it could be about you, dear reader, and if so, I hope I can help straighten you out.
A pretty broad way to describe it would be to say that what we’re talking about here might often be said to be about “a guy who’s into conspiracy theory stuff“. Whether or not there’s anything resembling either an actual conspiracy or a theory is usually sort of beside the point in the kind of thing I’m talking about. Sometimes people will refer to somebody like this as the tinfoil hat guy.
You know the stuff.
This can be a real problem. As I was saying in my followup comment on the friend’s page, right now, living in a time where the old line truth is stranger than fiction becomes more and more applicable all the time, this kind of thing can really confuse the hell out of things that are probably already confusing enough.
As I also wrote there, this whole phenomenon seems to end up splitting things up into a kind of opposing pair of groups. Most people fall into the group who might often take a glance at things outside some general consensus of what’s regarded as common knowledge or conventional wisdom and dismiss it as “conspiracy theory stuff” or “tinfoil hat” material. The other is the people who basically qualify themselves as earning the label of “tinfoil hat” characters, and along the way, scare off the other sort of mainstream group, with the unfortunate consequence that some things that are actually true, very real, are dismissed and ignored. It all ends up being one hell of a knotted mess.
I’ve been writing about just one aspect of this general problem, mentioning it often, including my preceding note. The term “peak oil” is a useful compact shorthand reference to use to refer to the patterns of Hubbert’s curve and the diminishing-returns nature of petroleum depletion. The big problem is that thanks to all kinds of confused nonsense propagated as memes through the public psyche, way too many people don’t know what it actually means, as the real meaning has been replaced, shoved aside, by the substitute (completely wrong) notion that it means “when the oil is all gone, none left”. Following on from that wrong idea of what the term means, just the appearance of that phrase then triggers some vague pop-culture notions about being some kind of doomsday prophecy found among tinfoil-hat conspiracy-theory buff characters.
Talking realistically and rationally about the oil situation becomes nearly impossible in the midst of all that.
The article pointed out by my friend took a pretty well done concise look at the “conspiracy theory” cult kind of problem, using the idea of “chemtrails” as a featured centerpiece. The contention of the article, which I think pretty much gets it right, is that among people prone to the kind of thing it’s talking about, the idea of “chemtrails” as a sign, as evidence, of some super secret government conspiracy of New World Order malevolent Bond-villain control of the planet, can be found as one idea lodged in their heads along with a whole host of other strange notions with little to no basis in reality. There are probably a lot of things in that tinfoil hat domain that have some actual seed of reality somewhere, but get so massively confused and distorted, often by profoundly ignorant people (or just plain stupid), that they end up in some fog of reality distortion that traveled some convoluted path to someplace far from reality.
That’s a whole kind of cultural thing that could probably make for a long book, not just a short essay on the web. It’s not an unfair generalization to observe that there are people around who will chatter at you about chemtrails who are probably full of other nonsense, like the character I mentioned in the last note with a website filled with pages about their “proof” that the Apollo mission lunar landings were really a giant theatrical hoax, along with other topics of roughly similar combinations of presumptions, lack of understanding, twisted pseudo-logic thinking, and general delusions.
Mentioning that in the last note, I also mentioned that the path to this unintentionally hilarious website started when I read something about the site’s author being involved in some nonsensical “debate”, arguing that the whole notion of “peak oil” was some vast conspiracy of the man to swindle and control us all by this notion of creating false scarcity, and that the supply of oil was endless, thanks to a notion people call “abiotic oil”, an idea asserting that the Earth is continuously generating oil deep within the planet and it then oozes its way upward. As I said before, I’ve never seen anything that looks even remotely credible and plausable, but that doesn’t stop the people who absolutely believe it because, basically, they really want to believe it. Part of this weird subculture seems to often include people having an idea that if you can imagine it, it must be true, existing in secret, in some cases (depending on what the topic is) existing hidden away in some super secret advanced government or corporate research lab, hidden away from us commoners for whatever reason. If you raise the issue of there being no credible evidence of the supposed thing, their response might very well be that this is perfect proof of the extreme power and control of the conspiracy and their ability to keep it secret.
There’s not much you can do with that kind of “reasoning”.
We have problems in this general kind of thing in subjects and issues that are, shall we say, slightly less weird. In the energy issues dpeartment, there are the kinds of problems I’ve written about before, here. It’s especially complicated by people being caught up in thinking that has more relationship with political games than physical reality. On one hand, some people carry around inpenetrable beliefs that we have vast loads of plentiful deposits of petroleum and natural gas, just waiting for us, all we could ever want, if not for some conspiracies keeping us from them (you know, “Liberals” and “The Radical Left” and “eco-extremists” or whatever), and flopping over to a different mode, people utterly convinced that we could just switch everything over to clean green renewable alternative energy, or would have already done so, if not for a different kind of vast conspiracy set of obstacles from Big Oil and The Fossil Fuel Lobby.
All that is not really what people would think of as weird conspiracy theory territory, but the simple and sad fact is that what I just described is actually common, regarded as normal and everyday, and both “sides” are operating on some form or another of detachment from relevant facts and reason.