This post is a response to Naomi Wolf Thinks The Snowden Story Is A Conspiracy by Corin Faife
Naomi Wolf recently published an brief analysis on the developing NSA-Snowden story, which showcases what she deems a conspiracy.
I find her points incidental and derivative. They don’t make a convincing case because they can’t be proven or disproven.
What they do is raise awareness to how conspiracy theories fuel, and often serve, nefarious agendas. Their effect is paradoxical and counterintuitive.
Take 9/11, for example, after which a ton of conspiracies came up. What these theories achieved was to expose the fallacies and inconsistencies behind some of the official stories, pointing public opinion to what may have been a carefully hidden truth, or an elaborately constructed ploy, the aims of which were, and still are, dubious. At the same time they also served to fuel the impression that the US government, and everyone accused of being involved in said conspiracy, were powerful enough to pull it off.
Some people took this a step further, doubling down on the connivance ante and going on to say that these conspiracy theories were part of an even greater plot
Given the scope of what was proposed (training the suicide bombers, using controlled demolition to bring down two towers and a block, planting evidence on the scene, applying a huge coverup with frightening effectiveness etc) the allegations paint a scary picture.
Some people took this a step further, doubling down on the connivance ante and going on to say that these conspiracy theories were part of an even greater plot. Their existence, some argued, was designed to galvanize the impression in people’s minds that the agencies in question were truly almighty.
In other words, the security agencies of America fed the conspiracy theories because it made them look and feel terrifying. If they can cover this up, imagine how powerful they are, what they can do to any single one of us!
See where this is going? One story reinforces the other until everything is part of a vast and ongoing paranoicon, all sanity lost.
Naomi Wolf’s take on the Snowden story does exactly that. It makes sense to a degree, point per point, steering the reader to questions that should be asked, while at the same time painting the suspects – the NSA and the US federal government – even more powerful than they really are, or ought to be portrayed.
I, for one, take Wolf’s arguments with a huge grain of salt. If there’s something to impart from her analysis, it’s the fact that seeing a conspiracy behind every single development leads to a paranoid state of mind, with no end in sight.
But since I don’t want to close on that frightful note, let me point out a solution. To avoid the vicious circle of intrigue, it’s wiser to stick to the simplest explanation. Occam’s Razor works. If it doesn’t, let’s look at the more complex options, but not before.
See, regarding 9/11, some people hedged their bet with common sense. They focused on the effect conspiracy theories had, bringing attention to the fact that, as things stand in the era of mass communication, these theories inadvertently help fuel more of the same, by default, ad infinitum, sometimes even facilitating the cause of the ‘conspirator,’ should he or she exist.
In other words, imagination can be counterproductive at times.
By the way, sometimes the simplest explanation isn’t the one with the fewest steps and ploys, but the one most feasible. If the technology and know-how exists on how to monitor people by collecting their meta-data, for example, then chances are that somebody has already put that capability to effect. And if they can drive a story about themselves, exposing only what they want to expose, planting messages in the narrative and painting themselves all powerful (a controlled demolition? a total whitewash?), they will.
If it’s possible, it’s doable – and probably underway, somewhere
In other words, “if it’s possible, it’s doable – and probably underway, somewhere.” As simple as that.
Which brings us back to Wolf’s conspiracy theory on the NSA story, albeit with a twist. This time we’ve raised the flag, noting that every time we voice a conspiracy theory, we make ourselves aware of how we may be facilitating the very thing we want to expose, should it exist. Knowing how this works, how a conspiracy theory muddies the waters, promoting a debate as well as paranoia, lets us filter all possibilities and think hard about what we’re going to say before crying Wolf.