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Welcome to project Worldview's Worldview Watch
periodic commentary and analysis on news items from a worldview perspective

 previous issue                                          issue #2,  posted 1 /15 / 2010                   archive of all  issues

Conspiracism on Talk Radio 

in the news:  The Listener  by Timothy Lavin 

"...[George Noory's radio program] Coast to Coast AM, has perfected a charged and conspiratorial worldview that now pervades American media...Paranoia performs an important social function: it’s one way of ordering a disorderly world. Particularly a world in which the problems we face, from climate change to financial collapse to nuclear terrorism, are of a newly existential order, and our options for action are cosmically ineffectual. Through the paranoid worldview—through the belief in dark and interconnected and all-powerful conspiracies, terrestrial or otherwise—one may impose structure in a time of randomness, perceive meaning in a culture stripped of its religious moorings, imagine a degree of volition in a threatening world that increasingly seems beyond our power to influence..."

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org) 

George Noory is apparently rather apolitical--many valuing conspiracism are not.  Those who interject politics into their conspiracism typically believe the human experience is shaped by evildoers who band together and work behind the scenes to carry out plots to subvert the will of the people and hurt society.  In a sense they are seemingly populists--but populists who have a cynically dim view of human nature and are looking for someone to blame.  The scapegoats they find help define their politics.  Left-wingers see multinational corporate executives as everywhere in collusion; right wingers may cast labor union leaders or environmentalists, etc. in a similar role. 

I especially enjoyed Lavin's account of the night physicist Brian Greene was the guest on Noory's show: "For three long hours, Greene acted like a parent debunking a willful child’s belief in Santa Claus. Time travel to the past was surely impossible, he said, and scientists had long ago stopped even trying. The prospect of a UFO visitation seemed dim, and he had seen no evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Life after death, much as we might yearn for it, wasn’t plausible scientifically."  It seems that often conspiracist's beliefs regarding strange phenomena or miraculous possibilities turn out to be short on facts or logic, and in their accounts scientists are bad guys suppressing pseudoscientists' findings or work.  It doesn't surprise me that Coast to Coast AM "national advertisers have found in its loyal and credulous audience a lucrative niche for products that appeal to a certain sensibility."  Skeptical people, those who prefer to do their own analysis, are typically not very receptive to advertising messages; those eager to believe, those with a follow the crowd, herd instinct (obeying the Collective Cognitive Imperative) are. 

Consider the worldviews of a typical person whose worldview is built around conspiracism.  In terms of the worldview themes that they both value and dismiss, I imagine them as follows:

Worldview Themes often valued by conspiracists Worldview Themes often dismissed by them
#36B  Conspiracism #1B  Skeptic
#36A  Cynicism  #6   Scientific Method
#15   The Collective Cognitive Imperative #16   The Golden Rule, Village Ethic of Mutual Help
#2A   The True Believer  #1A   Humbly Unsure 
#7B  Magic   
#9B  Apocalypticism  
#39B  Scapegoating   
#21A   Populism  

Let me end with humility: the above characterization may be much too simplistic, and the picture I paint much too black and white.  And with an admission: I haven't seriously listened to talk radio in over forty years, although I did participate in one show as the guest to whom listeners directed questions.  And with a reminder: a few conspiracy theories have turned out to be validated by the facts!

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