To complete this series on conspiracy theories and blogs, I’ve invited one of my dearest friends, Nancy Bixler, a public speaking teacher and doctoral candidate in Rhetoric, to help you learn how to develop your own conspiracy theory, or keep one going, on your blog. I chose her because she abhors bad reasoning, but enjoys explaining the inner workings of a good conspiracy theory. Nancy offers a three step plan for building your own conspiracy theory on your blog.
By Nancy Bixler
Do you want to put forward a conspiracy theory of your own on your blog? Perhaps you suspect that the CIA and U.S. government, in an unholy union with Muammar al-Qaddafi, are, for nefarious reasons of their own, raising the taxes of middle class U.S. citizens to fund AIDS research in Libya. Or that the Catholic Church, environmentalists, the PLO, or [fill in the blank] are working underground to [fill in the blank] put hallucinogens into the local water supply, make burping in public a capitol offense, or suppress a cure for warts. No doubt they have their methods and motives.
It’s your job, as a buddying conspiracy theorist, to find some troubling elements of life that, so far (in your opinion) lack an explanation and point out the ways the hidden conspirators plan to achieve their aim. With tongue firmly in cheek, let’s look at how to create a conspiracy theory, and if all else fails, you can make your own conspiracy theory with a conspiracy theory online. read more
Snopes and Urban Legends are specialists who debunk the urban legends, myths, and conspiracies that plague us worldwide. I highly recommend anyone with email or a blog check the facts before forwarding or blogging.
While many bloggers can spout a conspiracy theory once in a while, there are some blogs that specialize in conspiracy theories, from making them up (okay, to be fair, investigating and proving them) to debunking them. The top post on one such conspiracy theory blog, Above Top Secret, is The Coming Revolution:
Back in the 1940s the governing forces on this planet were warned by certain parties not from this planet, to change the course of the direction they were headed in, so that the peoples of Earth could unanimously have a better and positive future. Not only did the governing forces of this planet ignore the issues that they were warned about, they irrationally reacted by interpreting this warning as a declaration of war. They then diverted all their attention to developing interstellar weapons and systems to prepare for an interstellar war. They also systematically developed highly advanced technology that would control the populations of the world in every area of life. The governing forces were helped by certain extra-terrestrial intelligences that supplied them with the specifics of technology that this civilization was in no way prepared for.
This technology was used with the specific intent of controlling the minds of every individual on the planet…
You may laugh, but some take this very seriously, finding evidence all around them to support their positions. Read their evidence long enough, and you may start to see pieces of the puzzle clicking together as the irrational and disconnected are brought together in a way that makes sense.
As part of this ongoing series on Blogs and Conspiracy Theories, let’s look at how conspiracy theories get started and developed. They begin by trying to make sense of the puzzle pieces. read more
Stirring the pot. Mixing it up. Making noise. Creating controversy. Attracting attention. Driving traffic stats up.
If you want to get a lot of attention, create a controversy. This has been true for thousand – maybe millions of years – of human history. It started the moment language developed into the art of storytelling. Along with stories came gossip, and rumors, and then conspiracies.
Having spent a long time living in the Middle East, I learned a lot about conspiracy theories, and the truths and lies that lie behind their creation. After all, a good conspiracy isn’t worth much unless it has a measure of truth, or at least believable fiction, within the lies and falsehoods. It helped that I’ve long been a fan of some of the best conspiracy theory fiction authors, especially authors who specialize in taking current events and exposing the dark bellies underneath the events. True or not, who cares! It makes for great reading late at night when the mind keeps asking “Why do these things happen?”, “Why me?”, or telling yourself, “They’re out to get me!”
This week, I’ll look at some of the famous conspiracy theories, on and off blogs, and how many bloggers are using conspiracy theories to attract attention and traffic, the economics of conspiracies, blog-specific conspiracies and hoaxes, and offer tips you need to know if you are going to start your own conspiracy theory on your blog.
A conspiracy theory can be anything, involving any one or any subject. There are conspiracies about war, drugs, politics, governments, health, medicine, science, history, religion, sex, economies and investments, space, animals, and even weather.
Conspiracies in History
Some of the best of Shakespeare’s work dealt with conspiracies. What was Romeo and Juliet all about if not for the underlying conspiracies. What about Hamlet? Othello? Oooh, those were conspiracy theories within conspiracy theories, who-done-its of the highest magnitude. Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, another historical classic, was a mine field of conspiracies in and out of court, still capturing our imagination after all this time.
As a storytelling (and in some cases “newsy”) communications tool, conspiracy theory is typically defined as the bringing together a wide variety of arguments, not necessarily related, and connecting them together as “evidence” to support a theory to justify, or excuse, an event, belief, or action.
In the CBC’s report on recent conspiracy theories, they cited a historical example of how a conspiracy theory was used by Philip IV of France in 1307 to bring about the downfall of the wealthy and popular warrior monk group, the Knights Templar. His accusation that the Knights were guilt of “heresy, ‘homosexual vices’ and idol worship” ensured they were blamed for the loss of Jerusalem in the sacking of the “holy land” in the Crusades, even though blame was spread all around. Hey, in war it’s always better to blame someone else other than the responsible ones, right? A good conspiracy scatters the truth with finger pointing in the wrong directions.
The article questions why conspiracy theories continue to be popular:
Some sociologists describe conspiracy theories as illegitimate and pathological, threats to political stability. Others dismiss them as entertaining narratives, as populist expressions of democratic culture.
Some have pieces of supporting evidence, some can be discredited with only a little digging, yet continue to endure.
While conspiracies are rarely true, they last because we love a good story. A well-told conspiracy makes for a great story. Add some mystery and mayhem and it’s even juicier. And gets better with the retelling.
JFK, Martin Luther King, Elvis, O.J., Princess Diana, 911, Katrina, Watergate, Irangate, Gitmogate, and something about a cigar and a president – we’ve all experienced great conspiracy dramas within our own recent history that fill the news for months and months as everyone tries to guess whose right, and whose wrong, and what’s the real truth behind the truth. These conspiracies are part of our culture.
In the newly released version of the movie Hairspray, dragged to the television to watch something “amazing”, the mother says to her daughter’s best friend, “I read all about it. It’s a big Hollywood set… you want me to actually believe he’s really up there…” referring to the popular conspiracy theory that in its rush to get into outer space and to the moon, NASA faked it. This conspiracy theory is a part of our recent collective memory, so it’s familiar, and funny.
Television shows like The X-Files entertain the world with conspiracy theories every week, even in rerun. What better story-telling device than an ongoing conspiracy which involves governments and aliens. A very popular conspiracy theory movie and book, The Da Vinci Code, continues to incite the imagination with “what if” mixed with “hey, it’s possible”.
Bloggers are not exempt from the need to take two or more disparate facts and bang the drums of conspiracy in order to attract attention to their blogs.
There are so many things that people don’t realize about Google, and its ranking strategies, but recently it seems that Google has decided that they have to control how, who and when we link to other people.
Heading up Google’s Webspam team, you have to wonder is Matt Cutts the link nazi? These are the people deciding who and how we are allowed to link people. Do we need to “no-follow” every link other than those we implicitly trust? What sort of rules to we have to follow to be ranked well by Google, and not be flagged by the web spam team.
As a blogger, do you worry about being flagged by Google or do you just keep blogging the way you always have?
As you write your blog, you are viewing the world through your lens, your filter, your perspective on the issue. Like Twoflower, is your view so narrow that you are blogging through your ears and brain as well as your eyes? read more
Competition is a good thing in any business. It drives up quality and often drives price down. Competition in the WordPress theme design business is good thing as well, and we’ve seen some great quality in the premium themes that have been released recently, as I mentioned last week. You can get a very professional site for a very reasonable price, and it has been great for the community of WordPress users. My question is, why can’t we keep this competition friendly?
At the end of the post, he shares this great summary of the lessons learned:
Again, the best part of the traffic coming from related blogs is that those visitors are interested in my content. It’s up to me if I can retain their interest long enough to convert them into regular readers.
…Every new visitor on a new blog brings with him tons of new hopes for the blogger, and helps shape the future of the blog.
…Don’t be afraid to link out to others, participate in contests, volunteer to post on other blogs, and make contacts in the social media world. You have to do all this to survive, if not to succeed.
Sometimes we are so concerned about linking to sources to help further educate and enlighten our readers that we forget that links are communication, connections between the blogs, and those links are a two way street. read more