Author: Crissie Brown

Morning Feature: OMG or LMAO? (Ask Ms. Crissie)

It’s Sunday morning here at Blogistan Polytechnic Institute, and the faculty are pursuing our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”) – and avoiding media-borne pathogens – by quarantining themselves in the wine cellar library to drink think up truth.  That leaves your lowly mail clerk to perform our weekly task.  Except our mail has been quarantined, in case someone with an illness licked the envelope flap or the stamp, so we’re stuck responding to text messages.  Some seem to be in English, we think. We don’t have spring break here at Blogistan Polytechnic Institute, or not since the faculty took that bender sabbatical in Tijuana that ended with a missing cue ball and a frantic call for bail money.  There are advantages to that, as it means none of our faculty, staff, or students are returning with viruses picked up elsewhere.  But it hasn’t stopped the pollen, so the staff are sneezing their way through the weekly poker game.  Chef offered a healthful breakfast of rye toast and fresh fruit salad and that helped some, although the Professor of Astrology Janitor was still rubbing his eyes after betting his Ace-high flush into Chef’s full house.  While she makes iced green tea to soothe him, and since the mail bag is in quarantine, we’ll check our IMs, SMSs, Tweets, and other gizmos, with the help of...

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Morning Feature: Conspiracy Theory 104 – Conspiracies of Commonality (Non-Cynical Saturday)

In 1974, F.W. Winterbotham told a story that put thirty years of historical analysis into question.  His story involved a huge conspiracy, amidst one of the most widely studied events in human history, and it had been kept secret for nearly three decades.  And it was true.  It was a conspiracy of commonality. This week Morning Feature has explored conspiracy theories.  Wednesday we looked at valid reasons to consider such theories.  Thursday we explored a common fallacy in conspiracies of conflation.  Yesterday we explored a kind of real conspiracy – conspiracies of convenience – and the dangers of misinterpreting them.  Today we conclude the series. Conspiracy Theory 104 – Conspiracies of Commonality Note:  This series will not attempt to prove or disprove any given conspiracy theory.  The series isn’t about donning a tinfoil hat, but asking why we find them attractive, and how we make them. In 1974, former Royal Air Force officer Frederick William Winterbotham was the first to break almost thirty years of silence on The ULTRA Secret.  This was of course the British code-breaking operation at Bletchley Park where cryptanalysts – first working from models smuggled out of Poland, then using mathematical algorithms and one of the world’s first computers – were able to decipher much of the World War II German message traffic encrypted on the Enigma machine.  It was a huge operation employing hundreds...

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Morning Feature: Conspiracy Theory 103 – Conspiracies of Convenience

Bankers made money under the New Deal, made more from World War II, and even more once banking was deregulated in 1999.  Now with the banking system near collapse, they seem poised to make money from the failure.  Is it a conspiracy?  It is, of a specific kind: a conspiracy of convenience.  Mistaking that convenience for causation can cause a lot of problems. This week, Morning Feature looks at conspiracy theories.  Wednesday we explored good reasons to consider such theories.  Yesterday we explored the common fallacy of conflation.  Today we explore another common fallacy in misinterpreting conspiracies of convenience.  Tomorrow we conclude with conspiracies of commonality. And as it’s Friday, your intrepid Kossologist has looked to the stars for your fortune, and it’s diminishing faster than your 401(K). Conspiracy Theory 103 – Conspiracies of Convenience Note:  This series will not attempt to prove or disprove any given conspiracy theory.  The series isn’t about donning a tinfoil hat, but asking why we find them attractive, and how we make them. Yesterday I argued that Canadian journalist Naomi Klein proposes a conspiracy theory in her book The Shock Doctrine.  I expected some would object to that characterization, and some did.  The phrase “conspiracy theory,” as many have noted, is commonly limited to crackpot ideas of faked moon landings and the like.  Indeed that’s part of what this series aims to overturn,...

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Morning Feature: Conspiracy Theory 102 – Conspiracies of Conflation

Claire Sterling was, at least for a time and by some, considered one of the foremost authorities on terrorism.  Her 1981 exposé The Terror Network purported to prove that the Soviet Union was the organizing nexus for all international terrorism.  Yet terrorism increased after Soviet collapse in 1989.  Where did Sterling go wrong? This week Morning Feature looks at conspiracy theories.  Yesterday we explored a rational basis for why conspiracy theories are so pervasive in political discourse.  Today we will explore conspiracies of conflation, a common fallacy in conspiracy theories.  Tomorrow we will look at another common fallacy, conspiracies of convenience.  Saturday we’ll explore how known people and groups acting on shared and often publicly declared interests can engage in conspiracies of commonality. Note:  This series will not attempt to prove or disprove any given conspiracy theory.  The series isn’t about donning a tinfoil hat, but asking why we find them attractive, and how we make them. Conspiracy Theory 102 – Conspiracies of Conflation In 1981, freelance journalist Claire Sterling became a conservative icon with the publication of her exposé The Terror Network.  The book presented a compelling argument that the Soviet Union was the organizing nexus for all international terrorism.  Defeat the Soviets, the book implied, and terrorism will end.  Yet the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, and terrorism is still a common tactic of political movements in...

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Morning Feature: Conspiracy Theory 101 – Disappointment, Dystopia, Disinformation

This week Morning Feature will explore why conspiracy theories are so pervasive in our political discourse.  Today we explore common reasons people are attracted to conspiracy theories: disappointment of utopian ideals and a resulting sense of dystopia, coupled with the widespread use of disinformation to mask sensitive activities.  Thursday and Friday we will explore two common ways people “find” conspiracies: conspiracies of confluence and conspiracies of convenience.  Saturday we’ll explore conspiracies of commonality, many of which exist and most of which are not really “conspiracies,” as they’re known groups acting on shared and publicly declared interests. Note #1: This is not an April Fool’s diary. Note #2: This series will not attempt to prove or disprove any given conspiracy theory.  The series isn’t about donning a tinfoil hat, but asking why we find them attractive, and how we make them. Conspiracy Theory 101 – Disappointment, Dystopia, Disinformation Several years ago I wrote a series of novels featuring a web of powerful, shadowy groups trying to shape world events toward their own ends.  When their goals were at least temporarily compatible, these groups would work together.  When their goals diverged, they worked against each other.  It was a fun series to write, because it allowed me to cast ordinary events in a very different light, almost like writing an alternative history. In the course of that, I researched scores of...

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