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Among The Truthers

Jonathan Kay

1755 Lisbon earthquake regarded as watershed in rationality vs superstition. Before then, the explanation was always that God was upset with sinners. But the Age of Reason encouraged thinkers to seek natural explanations for physical events.

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World Wide Web balkanised intellectual activity. Ordinary people with no experience or understanding of intellectual rigour, or training in considering evidence, or in recognizing contradictions, given a pulpit to expound.

Blows to faith in officialdom - things like the Tonkin Gulf incident, which was essentially staged by the US as an excuse to intervene in Vietnam. Denied at the time, but official documents released later revealed that all lies.

Problem that ordinary rules of rational intellectual inquiry are now treated as optional - eg Barack Obama is a secret Muslim plotting to impose Sharia law on US; a totalitarian world government is secretly operating and in control of Western democracies.

A grain of truth at the centre of most conspiracy theories - sometimes something that we just can't (yet) explain. Theorists focus on such nuggets, while ignoring the gaping hole in their logic. The Moon-Landing-Faked brigade point to the flag not behaving the way they thought it should. But they ignore the fact that Russia would have tracked the rocket and capsule all the way, and would have loved to tell the world that the landing was a lie.

The Truther mind
- nihilistic distrust in government
- alienation from conventional politics
- a need to reduce the world's complexity to good-vs-evil fables
- incorporate End-of-Times beliefs
- rejection of basic tools of logic and rationality

- Christianity under siege
- militant gay activists are taking over the classrooms

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