Saturday, July 29, 2006

Conspiracy Theory

POSIWID appears to encourage the creation of conspiracy theories - looking for the hidden agenda that will explain actions - especially when the official story doesn't seem to add up.

But it is one thing to search open-mindedly for a hidden agenda, and another thing entirely to presume its existence without evidence. Sometimes it is not conspiracy theory but chaos (cock-up) theory that best explains some complex series of events.

For example, Anthony's post entitled Boom Bang-a-Bang attributes the latest events in the Middle East to the cock-up theory, and rejects the "received wisdom" that the bombing of the UN Lebanon post (BBC report) was a deliberate act.

The BBC report ends with an interestingly ambiguous comment:
"The UN post was on high ground, in an area once occupied by Israel."

Anthony's reason for choosing cock-up over conspiracy is that he cannot see how this outcome delivers any advantage to the Israelis. Doubtless correct in this case, although of course well-crafted conspiracies are often complex and obscure - like grandmaster chess - and not intended for public scrutiny. By arguing in this way, Anthony is leaving himself the option to advocate conspiracy theories in other cases, where the balance of advantage may be different.

But I need to say more about the relationship between POSIWID and conspiracy. The purposes to which POSIWID refers are not always consciously planned purposes, but can often be emergent and unplanned. Complex systems often resist and frustrate the actions (even the conspiracies) of the leading actors - it is as if these systems had a purpose of their own. Thus POSIWID is just as amenable to cock-up explanations.

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