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The Overkill Conspiracy Hypothesis

The term conspiracy theory is wielded as a pejorative, alluding to on-its-face absurdity. But the vocabulary we use has a serious ambiguity problem because conspiracies are not figments of the imagination. There is a tangible and qualitative distinction between plain-vanilla conspiracies (COINTELPRO, Operation Snow White, or the Gunpowder Plot) and their more theatrical cousins (flat earth theory, the moon landing hoax, or the farcical notion that coffee tastes good), yet a clear delineation has been elusive and it's unsatisfying to just assert "this one is crazy, and this one isn't." Both camps involve subterfuge, malevolent intent, covert operations, misinformation, orchestrated deceit, hidden agendas, clandestine networks, and yes, conspiracy, and yet the attempts to differentiate between the two have veered into unsatisfactory or plainly misleading territories.

What I'll argue is the solution boils down to a simple reconfiguration of the definition that captures the essence of the absurdity: conspiracy theories are theories that assume circumstances that render the titular "conspiracy" unnecessary. This is what I'll refer to as the Overkill Conspiracy Hypothesis (OCH). Before we dive into this refinement, it's helpful to explore why traditional distinctions have fallen short.

The section on differences in The People's Pedia showcases some of these misguided attempts. For example, conspiracy theories tend to be in opposition to mainstream consensus but that's a naked appeal to authority — logic that would have tarred the early challengers to the supposed health benignity of smoking as loons. Or that theories portray conspirators acting with extreme malice, but humans can indeed harbor evil intentions (see generally, human history). Another relies on the implausibility of maintaining near-perfect operational security. This is getting better, but while maintaining secrecy is hard, it's definitely not impossible. We have actual, real-life examples of covert military operations, or drug cartels that manage to operate clandestine billion-dollar logistical enterprises.

There's still some useful guidance to draw from the pile of chaff, and that's conspiracy theories' lack of, and resistance to, falsifiability. Despite its unfortunate name, falsifiability is one of my nearest and dearest concepts for navigating the world. Put simply, falsifiability is the ability for a theory to be proven wrong at least hypothetically. The classic example is "I believe all swans are white, but I would change my mind if I saw a black swan". The classic counterexample could be General John DeWitt citing the absence of sabotage by Japanese-Americans during WWII as evidence of future sabotage plans. There is indeed a trend of conspiracy theorists digging into their belief in belief, and dismissing contrary evidence as either fabricated, or (worse) evidence of the conspiracy itself.

I won't talk shit about the falsifiability test; it's really good stuff. But it has limitations. For one, the lack of falsifiability is only a good indication a theory is deficient, not a conclusive determination. There are also practical considerations, like how historical events can be difficult to apply falsifiability because the evidence is incomplete or hopelessly lost, or how insufficient technology in an emerging scientific field can place some falsifiable claims (temporarily, hopefully) beyond scrutiny. So the inability to falsify a theory does not necessarily mean that the theory is bunk.

Beyond those practical limitations, there's also the unfortunate bad actor factor. Theorists with sufficient dishonesty or self-awareness can respond to the existential threat of falsifiability by resorting to vague innuendo to avoid tripping over shoelaces of their own making. Since you can't falsify what isn't firmly posited, they dance around direct assertions, keeping their claims shrouded in a mist of maybe. The only recourse then is going one level higher, and deducing vagueness as a telltale sign of a falsifiability fugitive wherever concrete answers to the who / how / why remain elusive. Applying the vagueness test to the flat earth theory showcases the evasion. It's near-impossible to get any clear answers from proponentswho exactly is behind Big Globe, how did they manage to hoodwink everyone, and why why why why why would anyone devote any effort to this scheme? In contrast, True Conspiracies™ like the atomic spies lack the nebulousness: Soviet Union / covert transmission of nuclear secrets / geopolitical advantage.

Yet the vagueness accusation doesn't apply to all conspiracy theories. The moon landing hoax is surprisingly lucid on this point: NASA / soundstage / geopolitical advantage. And this unveils another defense mechanism against falsification, which is the setting of ridiculously high standards of evidence. Speaking of veils, there's a precedent for this in Islamic law of all places, where convictions for fornication require four eyewitnesses to the same act of intercourse, and only adult male Muslims are deemed competent witnesses. The impossibly stringent standards appear to be in response to the fact that the offense carries the death penalty, and shows it's possible to raise the bar so high that falsifiability is intentionally rendered out of reach.

The moon landing hoax might be subjected to these impossible standards, given that the Apollo 11 landing was meticulously documented over 143 minutes of uninterrupted video footage — a duration too lengthy to fit on a film reel with the technology available at the time. Although only slightly higher than the Lizardman Constant, a surprising 6% of Americans still hold the view that the moon landing was staged. At some point you have to ask how much evidence is enough, but ultimately there's no universally accepted threshold for answering this question.

So falsifiability remains a fantastic tool, but it has legitimate practical limitations, and isn't a conclusive inquiry anyways. Someone's refusal to engage in falsifiability remains excellent evidence they're aware and concerned of subjecting their theory to scrutiny, but their efforts (vagueness or impossible standards) will nevertheless still frustrate a straightforward application of falsifiability. So what's left?

We're finally back again to the Overkill Conspiracy Hypothesis, where the circumstances conspiracy theories must assume also, ironically, render the conspiracy moot. The best way to explain this is by example. Deconstructing a conspiracy theory replicates the thrill of planning a bank heist, so put yourself in the shoes of the unfortunate anonymous bureaucrat tasked with overseeing the moon landing hoax. Remember that the why of the moon landing hoax was to establish geopolitical prestige by having the United States beat the Soviet Union to the lunar chase. So whatever scheme you concoct has to withstand scrutiny from what was, at the time, the most advanced space program employing the greatest space engineers from that half of the world.

The most straightforward countermeasure would be to task already existing NASA engineers to draft up totally fake but absolutely plausible equipment designs. Every single aspect of the entire launch — each rocket, lunar module, ladder, panel, bolt, glove, wrench — would need to be painstakingly fabricated to deceive not just the global audience, but the eagle-eyed experts watching with bated breath from the other side of the Cold War divide. Extend that to all communications, video transmissions, photographs, astronaut testimonies, and 'returned' moon rocks. Each and all of it has to be exhaustively and meticulously examined by dedicated and highly specialized consultants.

But it doesn't stop there, because you also need absolute and perpetual secrecy, as any singular leak would threaten the entire endeavor. The U.S. was well aware Soviet Union spies had successfully snagged closely-guarded nuclear secrets, so whatever countermeasures needed here had to surpass fucking nukes. Like I said before, secrecy is not impossible, just very difficult. I suppose NASA could take a page from the cartels and just institute brutally violent reprisals against any snitches (plus their whole families), but this genre of deterrence can only work if...people know about it. More likely, though, NASA would use the traditional intelligence agency methods of extensive vetting, selective recruitment, and lavish compensation, but now all measures would need to be further amplified to surpass the protective measures around nuclear secrets.

We're talking screening hundreds or thousands of individuals more rigorously than for nuclear secrets, alongside an expanding surveillance apparatus to keep everyone in line. How much do you need to increase NASA's budget (10x? 100x?) to devote toward a risky gambit that, if exposed, would be history's forever laughingstock? If such vast treasuries are already at disposal, it starts to seem easier to just...go to the moon for real.

OCH® has several benefits. It starts by not challenging any conspiracy theorist's premises. It accepts it as given that there is indeed a sufficiently motivated shadowy cabal, and just runs with it. This sidesteps any of the aforementioned concerns about falsifiability fugitives, and still provides a useful rubric for distinguishing plain-vanilla conspiracies from their black sheep brethren.

If we apply OCH to the atomic spies, we can see the theory behind that conspiracy requires no overkill assumptions. The Soviet Union did not have nukes, they wanted nukes, and stealing someone else's blueprints is definitely much easier than developing your own in-house. The necessary assumption (the Soviet Union has an effective espionage program) does not negate the need for the conspiracy.

Contrast that with something like the Sandy Hook hoax, which posits the school shooting as a false flag operation orchestrated by the government to pass restrictive gun laws (or something; see the vagueness section above). Setting aside the fact that no significant firearm legislation actually resulted, the hoax and the hundreds of crisis actors it would have required would have necessitated thousands of auditions, along with all the secrecy hurdles previously discussed. And again, if the government already has access to this mountain of resources, it seems like there are far more efficient methods of spending it (like maybe giving every congressman some gold bars) rather than orchestrating an attack and then hoping the right laws get passed afterward.

It's also beguiling to wonder exactly why the shadowy cabal would even need to orchestrate a fake mass shooting, given the fact that they already regularly happen! Even if the cabal wanted to instigate a slaughter (for whatever reason), the far, far, far simpler method is to just identify the loner incel kid and prod them into committing an actual mass shooting. We've already stipulated the cabal does not care about dead kids. Similarly, if the U.S. wanted to orchestrate the 9/11 attacks as a prelude to global war, it seems far easier to load up an actual plane full of actual explosives and just actually launch it at the actual buildings, rather than to spend the weeks or months to surreptitiously sneak in however many tons of thermite into the World Trade Center (while also coordinating the schedule with the plane impact, for some reason).

Examining other examples of Verified Conspiracies demonstrate how none of them harbor overkill assumptions that render the conspiratorial endeavors moot. In the Watergate scandal, the motive was to gain political advantage by spying on adversaries, and the conspirators did so through simple breaking and entering. No assumptions are required about the capabilities of President Nixon's security entourage that would have rendered the trespass unnecessary. Even something with the scope of Operation Snow White — which remains one of the largest infiltrations of the U.S. government, involving up to 5,000 agents — fits. The fact that they had access to thousands of covert agents isn't overkill, because the agents still needed to infiltrate government agencies to gain access to the documents they wanted destroyed. The assumptions do not belie the need for the conspiracy.

I hold no delusions that I can convince people wedded to their conspiracy theory of their missteps. I don't claim to have any idea how people fall prey to this kind of unfalsifiable absurdist thinking. But at least for the rest of us, it will remain useful to be able to draw a stark distinction between the real and the kooky. Maybe after that we can unearth some answers.

—sent from my lunar module

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What's often the case is that conspiracy theorists notice questionable behaviour accurately but then develop complete nonsense theories because they don't understand the real motivation.

With school shootings the press usually has two goals: bring in gun control nationally and cover up for obvious screw ups by local left wing government employees.

In Sandy Hook the school system accepted money to secure the schools against shooters, but instead of installing locking doors that would have saved lives they threw it into general revenue and spent it. They didn't want anyone discussing that.

Parkland had similar failures. Nikolas Cruz had a hispanic last name, and the Obama admin had started a program to search for racially disparate school discipline rates. So Cruz kept getting put into diversion programs instead of something to deal with his obvious violent urges. Additionally the Broward County Sheriff was a loyal democrat who was linked to covering up Broward County election irregularites in 2018. The press wanted to save the sheriff and deflect criticism from the program.

if the U.S. wanted to orchestrate the 9/11 attacks as a prelude to global war, it seems far easier to load up an actual plane full of actual explosives and just actually launch it at the actual buildings, rather than to spend the weeks or months to surreptitiously sneak in however many tons of thermite into the World Trade Center (while also coordinating the schedule with the plane impact, for some reason).

This Overkill Occam’s Razor is the #1 reason I believe the “sagging support beams” mainstream explanation of 9/11. Whether or not there was a conspiracy to allow the attackers into America and let them hijack planes (with or without knowledge of their targets/methods), the result was several floors of firestorm in a uniquely constructed pair of buildings.

Standard explanation: Several floors worth of stacks and cabinets of burning office paperwork, fed by a high-altitude windstorm and jet fuel, caused a loss of structural integrity of the beams holding one of the suspended concrete floor layers. The impact of that floor on the one below would shear off the also-weakened steel suspension almost instantly, and then each floor below would have to withstand an ever-increasing stack of concrete floors (“pancake effect”) slamming downward at freefall speeds.

Although paper ignites at around 480 degrees Fahrenheit, it gets far hotter once it's burning. The temperature at the center of a paper fire is 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take a couple hundred. The tips of the flames themselves are usually between 600 and 800 degrees. - Slate, in an article upon Ray Bradbury’s death in 2012


Like all materials, steel weakens with an increase in temperature. Strength loss for steel is generally accepted to begin at about 300ºC and increases rapidly after 400ºC. By 550ºC steel retains about 60% of its room temperature yield strength. However, at temperatures below about 600ºC, if the steel is cooled it returns to its original strength, stiffness and ductility. - Australian Steel Institute

400 degrees Celsius = 752 degrees Fahrenheit

550 degrees Celsius = 1022 degrees Fahrenheit

Meanwhile, the overkill of bringing down the buildings with a sudden explosion which toppled the buildings at the moments of impact would have been more spectacular and cinematic — unless the thermite demolitionists knew of the pancake effect and planned to trigger (or simulate) it late enough that all the news cameras in the world would be watching, for even greater horror and terror. But then they would have needed to ensure their thermite could plausibly be mistaken for the effects of jet-fuel-paper-fire even with the worlds best high-definition news cameras, and investigators they could not ensure wouldn’t be on their payroll/hitlist.

(Reportedly, Bin Laden didn’t like the buildings falling and killing so many; he wished only for a great and terrible fire, and buildings which would forever bear the scars. Instead, he got a declaration of war and the talons of an eagle descending on his co-religionists.)

That reminds me about some seemingly serious article on some alt-Russia page positing something along lines

  • terrorists were controlled by USA
  • thermite was planted to ensure collapse
  • and nuclear weapons were detonated in basement.

Still not sure whether it was their variant of April Fools.

Like I've said once before, conspiracy theories work best with the "Yes, and..." principle

Yes, lots of "conspiracy theories" fall apart with just very basic clarifying questions. For those conspiracies that are cognizable enough to survive the initial who/how/why hurdle, they still have to wrangle with how pointlessly complicated their whole scheme tends to be. I'd be very curious to know if any 9/11 truthers ever offered an explanation for why a controlled demolition was needed simultaneously alongside two jetliner collisions.

I'd translate "Conspiracy Theory" as "Low Status Secret History."

Notably, the secret history doesn't need to involve an actual conspiracy. The idea that Ancient Aliens built the pyramids is low-status and offers a secret-history account of the pyramids. So, "Ancient Aliens Built the Pyramids" is a conspiracy theory, even though no one is accusing the Aliens of meeting in secret.

Similarly, there are actual conspiracies. The 9/11 hijackers met in secret, planned to commit a criminal act, and then took steps to commit that act. That's a criminal conspiracy. But, "Hijackers Did 9/11!" isn't a conspiracy theory because it's not a low-status belief, nor a secret-history explanation.

Finally, "Conspiracy Theory" is a bit of a sneer. The Russel conjugation is that I'm a skeptic. You believe in an alternate history. He's a conspiracy theorist. So, calling something a conspiracy theory is me implying that it's status-lowering to believe.

This is how some beliefs ("Epstein Didn't Kill Himself" / "COVID-19 very likely came from an animal in a Wuhan Lab") can count as conspiracy theories, or not, depending on the social circle and the time frame. There was a while where it was low-status to think that COVID-19 came from a lab, so that was a conspiracy theory. Now, we haven't gotten much new evidence, but the tribal politics changed, so it no longer counts.

"Low Status Secret History."

You nailed it. @ymeskhout and many others in this thread are searching for the rationalist equivalent of the philosopher's stone — a meta-criterion for determining whether a position is reasonable without reference to the facts. I too have been beguiled by such a formula. That I could tell whether someone's claims are worth evaluating, just by their posture and disposition in the debate. That I coud tell the difference between a "framework" and an "epicycle" without learning the theory. That I could separate "motivated delusions" from "suppressed truth-speaking" without knowing the facts. I can't.

The reason I don't bother investigating whether interdimensional aliens built the pyramids is purely because my social sense tells me that people who make those claims are not worth entertaining. Progressives do the same to people like me when we talk about HBD or cultural marxism.

The reason I don't bother investigating whether interdimensional aliens built the pyramids is purely because my social sense tells me that people who make those claims are not worth entertaining. Progressives do the same to people like me when we talk about HBD or cultural marxism.

This was my concern over this "low status" standard. It's another Russell conjugation that doesn't help cleave the issue.

I agree that the label "conspiracy theory" carries a connotation of "only an idiot would believe that".

Apart from the label, there is still the epistemic issue of assigning probabilities to various claims about the world.

To apply this to a couple items from @JarJarJedi's list:

There is a concerted sustained multi-generational effort from the leftists in academia, entertainment and other institutions to subvert and transform Western society to undermine traditional Western values and make the society accept Marxist values instead. Identity politics, political correctness, and other culture war phenomena are part of this effort.

This is a great example of the "Low Status" prong.

Can I find groups of academics who support Marxism, coordinate to advance Marxist interests and object to many traditional Western Values? Sure. These groups exist. Many of have websites.

If this were an in-person conversation, I'd wryly notice that the alternative to the "Conspiracy Theory" sounds even more conspiratorial and crazy:

Lots of people say that our institutions have been moved towards Marxism by the hundreds of Marxist Student Associations and thousands of Marxist professors who've been active in political advocacy in universities since World War II.

But the truth is that these people were NOT making a sustained multi-generation effort to transform Western Society. They might have claimed that this was their goal, but they were all independently lying; Marxist societies do not communicate or work to promote Marx and are instead all secretly apolitical.

(NB: The above passage describes a secret-history and would be low-status to believe. It feels right to call it a "conspiracy theory" even though it's a claim that there's NOT a conspiracy.)

During an in-person conversation, I'd expect my conversation partner to roll their eyes at this and explain that, sure, obviously there've been hundreds (or thousands) of pro-Marx groups on University Campuses. And, obviously, there'd have been ten-thousands or millions or informal discussions by colleagues who supported Marx and talked about how to vote on various faculty issues. And, obviously, these people would be supporting Marxist values.

But, OBVIOUSLY, that's not what the conspiracy theory is saying.

Except, if we spell it out like that, what exactly is the conspiracy theory?

We could say that the difference between the mundane belief (hundreds or thousands of pro-Marx groups existed, promoted Marxism for decades and have been more-or-less successful at winning policy objectives) and the "conspiracy theory" is one of scale. The conspiracy theorists is implying that the Marxists are responsible for a LARGE fraction of the change in universities, while the non-conspiracy-theorist is only attributing a small fraction of the cultural change in universities to Marxists.

Except, I don't think that magnitude-of-change is really important. For one thing, neither the Conspiracy Theorist nor the other faction have offered any specific percentage, and the conspiracy theorist would still feel like a conspiracy theorist if they lowballed the number and said, "actually, those marxists sucked at getting stuff done; they've been trying for a long time to minimal effect."

Instead, the difference seems to be purely about vibes. The conspiracy theorist is adding a vibe that these meetings are shadowy and secret and bad. The other side of the conversation is likely using the "That didn't happen. But, if it did, it would be normal and good." approach.

So, to me, the difference between the "Conspiracy Theory" version of this belief and the mundane version is mostly about the status someone wants to attribute to Marx-sympathetic professors.

Obama have been born outside the US and his birth certificate was faked, and this fakery is supported by government officials for partisan political reasons This is a secret history. It's low status now, so it's a conspiracy theory. If we find that Obama's records were described in an office fire in 1983 and the PDFs released by Hawaii were reconstructions by a Hawaii official, then this belief will cease to be a secret history.

North Steam gas pipeline has been blown up by Ukrainians or the CIA (or both in collusion) Secret history, but not low status, so not a conspiracy theory.

DNC emails were leaked by somebody from inside of DNC and not stolen by Russians, but Russia was blamed in service of the political narrative. Secret history. This becomes a conspiracy theory in-as-far as the believer makes themselves seem kooky.

Epstein did not kill himself This would be a literal conspiracy; multiple people would have met in secret and coordinated the commission of a felony to make this happen. But it's not a low-status belief, and I'm not sure it even counts as a secret history.

Yeah, this reminded me that while there's a lot of conspiracies going on, a lot of them will:

  • simply fail to achieve what they were conspiring to do (an example: I recently read a book about Sweden's royal struggles during the late 1500s, which are obviously a huge part of Finland's history as well, and the related culture war between the newcomer Lutheranism and recently disestablished Catholicism, and one of the points the book made was that there was a Jesuit conspiracy to bring Catholicism back in Sweden which actually came pretty close to succeeding; however, as we know, it didn't eventually do so, and one of the specific reasons were that they were so damn conspiratorial and secretive about trying to do this by bringing in Jesuits to secretly serve as mentors for young Swedish nobility, when they could have actually achieved more by simply being open about their goals)

  • achieve what they were conspiring to do, only for it to lead to unexpected consequences (an example: German general staff in WW1 decides to facilitate the entry of an obscure radical to Russia so that he can foment a bit of chaos to aid Germany... expect this obscure radical happens to be Lenin, a generational political talent who actually manages to achieve a socialist revolution with such force and fervor the effects end up boomeranging all the way back to Germany with a variety of results the German general staff probably would really have preferred not to happen)

  • achieve what they were conspiring to do with such success that only a few people even realize that there was a conspiracy in the first place, since they now think that what the conspiracy set out to do was an unmitigated good and conspiracies are bad (an example: the Germans in WW1 ALSO facilitated the entry of numerous Finnish young men, or the "Jägers", to the German army to form an unit to fight against Russia in preparation for potential Finnish independence struggle, with these guys and the movement facilitating their entry being an obvious conspiracy to commit rank treason against the Czar, from Russian point of view... expect Finland then became independent and the Jägers now such a huge part of Finnish patriotic myth that their name still serves as the basic rank of Finnish Army and the memory of Germany training reverbates to this day as a part of the reason why Finns feel a certain amount of kinship to Germans)

a generational political talent who actually manages to achieve a socialist revolution with such force and fervor the effects end up boomeranging all the way back to Germany

I think more accurate statement would be "manages to take over the socialist revolution and ensure it is not suppressed by either domestic opponents or outside intervention". Lenin had surprisingly little role at all in overthrow of Tzarism (we do know there actually was two revolutions in Russia in 1917, not one, do we?) and even his role in the October coup was not as towering as it has been later presented. There were many other people and movements that took part. He was a tactical genius though and he managed to take over the whole enterprise and simultaneously push out and destroy all the competition and not let his power fall apart (being both very smart and complete psycho probably helped some). The Germans actually didn't get so bad a deal from it as such - the conditions of the peace treaty of 1918 have been an utter humiliation for Russia. Quoting Wikipedia:

Under the terms of the treaty, Russia lost control of Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, its Baltic provinces (now Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), and its Caucasus provinces of Kars and Batum. The lands comprised 34% of the former empire's population, 54% of its industrial land, 89% of its coalfields, and 26% of its railways. The Soviet government also confirmed the independence of Finland, which it had recognized in January 1918, and pledged to end its war with the Ukrainian People's Republic, which the Central Powers had recognized under the prior Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (9 February 1918).

(as a side note, here you see the source of the claim Ukraine was "invented by Germans" and such)

Too bad for Germans they had only a few months to enjoy the fruits of their labor, after which they lost the war themselves and it was their turn to be humiliated.

Yes, well, I wasn't counting the February Revolution as a socialist revolution in the same sense, obviously, and achieving a revolution also means the part where they successfully defended it against the Whites. However, the point was that the reverbations of October also affected the events in Germany and contributed to the processes leading to the establishment of the republic there etc.

Really, if Lenin was as influential and powerful of a figure as he was claimed to be, then Russia would've gotten off much lighter at Brest-Litovsk; he was the one pushing for peace, and Trotsky ended up convincing the rest of the Bolsheviks to follow his harebrained "neither war nor peace" strategy instead.

There were multiple other cases where Lenin basically managed to almost single-handedly wrangle skeptical Bolsheviks to back his position, which ended up being the correct one for the takeover to proceed.

Really, the Bolshevik Revolution is something where I've done a fair amount of reading and my conclusions have ended up being that it was an incredibly unlikely thing considering how small and radical even by Russian socialist standards they were before the process started rolling and what made that unlikely thing happen was Lenin's tactical genius, and the some degree the fact that Trotsky, who was an unlikable bumbler most of the times, turned out to have a momentary flash of hidden genius for military affairs during the war and the formation of the Red Army.

Lenin and Trotsky BTFOing Marxism through the very act of a communist revolution, how ironic.

Yeah, it's ironic that Lenin ended up serving as a proof-of-concept case for the Great Man Theory of History.

I don't think he was the proof of concept? I was under the impression that that was the prevailing theory before Marx was even born, with examples going way back to ancient history.

More comments

I feel like moon landing or flat earth is a kinda weak conspiracy theory examples. For the method to be powerful it needs to be tested on something real and strong, not some fringe lizardman conspiracy theory that is proclaimed more for lulz than anything else. Let's go to Wikipedia and get some fresh, pungent conspiracy theories and see how many you can knock out with OCH. Note for the purposes of this experiment I trust that anything that Wikipedia would call a conspiracy theory actually is. Full disclosure: I personally believe some of these are proven facts, some of them are very likely to be facts but can't be proven, at least for now, some I have no slightest idea whether they are true or false, and for some I am convinced they are false, and only a kook could believe in them. I am not going to disclose which are which.

So, in no particular order, which of these could you knock out:

  1. There is a concerted sustained multi-generational effort from the leftists in academia, entertainment and other institutions to subvert and transform Western society to undermine traditional Western values and make the society accept Marxist values instead. Identity politics, political correctness, and other culture war phenomena are part of this effort.
  2. Obama have been born outside the US and his birth certificate was faked, and this fakery is supported by government officials for partisan political reasons
  3. North Steam gas pipeline has been blown up by Ukrainians or the CIA (or both in collusion)
  4. JFK was assassinated by the CIA, either controlling Lee Harwey Oslwald or murdering him by other means and framing LHO.
  5. DNC emails were leaked by somebody from inside of DNC and not stolen by Russians, but Russia was blamed in service of the political narrative.
  6. Epstein did not kill himself
  7. George Floyd died of drug overdose, but for political and ideological reasons his death was presented otherwise, and the following legal proceedings were heavily influenced by political pressure to produce necessary convictions.
  8. COVID originated from Wuhan Virology Institute, where it has been either engineered as bioweapon or modified for research and has inadvertently leaked out.
  9. Biden family had extensive corrupt business in Ukraine, China and/or other foreign countries, and Joe Biden has been personally aware and participated in it.
  10. 2020 election has had sufficient cases of electoral fraud to meaningfully influence the results
  11. Bin Laden was not actually killed but the whole operation was staged to benefit Obama politically.
  12. The federal government is purposefully sabotaging immigration enforcement in order to change the demographic composition of the country
  13. White farmers in South Africa are systematically targeted and attacked, to drive them out from their land
  14. COVID mRNA vaccines have dangerous side effects well beyond recognized by current medical establishment consensus, and the reason for this lack of recognition is political or financial
  15. Global warming is not as big of a threat as presented by most climate scientists, and its threat is being exaggerated for political and ideological reasons, while any research suggesting otherwise is being actively suppressed.
  16. Vaccines have meaningful casual connection to development of autism but the medical establishment is concealing this fact, for either pecuniary or other reasons.
  17. Accusation about Trump being in collusion with Russia has been fabricated by Clinton campaign with no evidence, and has been supported by the intelligence community for partisan political reasons.
  18. COVID deaths were systematically overcounted to create the atmosphere of panic and enable drastic measures the politicians wanted to take
  19. There exists a phenomenon called "deep state", where most of top federal government officials do not represent the will of the electorate and do not serve the interests of the people and the good governance, and are largely out of control of elected nominal leadership, but instead are concerned with extending their power and their political influence, and perpetuating and enhancing their control over every aspect of the society. The "deep state" is generally aligned with Democratic party and largely hostile to the Republican party policies.
  20. Antifa is an organized violent leftist movement with cohesive political goals, organizational structure, financing, recruiting and support networks, membership, goals, and not a vague idea of "opposing fascism" that anybody could use - and routinely does - as a mask.
  21. Violent leftist movements are funded by certain very rich people (such as George Soros, but not exclusively) in order to affect massive political transformation in the US.
  22. There exists a massive pedophile network encompassing large number of members of the political elite, which use pizza symbols to communicate and are involved in child sex trafficking. Discussion if this fact is forcefully suppressed by the members of the elite.
  23. On January 6, there was a large number of FBI (or other law enforcement) agents in the crowd, which played significant role in instigating the violence and provoking the protestors into lawless actions.
  24. US or some powers within US (e.g. CIA) purposefully provoked Russia to instigate Ukraine invasion and begin a large war, in order to profit from it and increase its political influence.
  25. UFOs - or at least some of them - are of extra-terrestrial origin, and certain officials in the government are in possession of the conclusive evidence of that fact but are hiding it, for selfish or political reasons.
  26. There exist governmental projects for clandestinely implanting RFID chips or similar technology into humans, without their consent, for purposes of tracking, identification or others.

This is a really great list to test my framework! I intentionally used kooky conspiracy theories as examples to avoid controversy while I establish the meta framework.

Your list of examples is very helpful. I'll put PLAUSIBLE, KOOKY, or insufficient next to each one and explain why. Please bear in mind the following:

  • What I mean by PLAUSIBLE is not necessarily that the theory is indeed true, but that it's plausible enough to investigate further. Meanwhile, KOOKY means a theory that should be discarded because its premises inherently obviate the need for a conspiracy.
  • This is not necessarily a definitive adjudication, and it's subject to change if different/additional information is provided about the who/how/why. I wasn't able to evaluate most of these because that information was lacking or insufficiently clear.

I want to avoid the common pitfall within these discussions of being distracted with the object-level debates. If you think my dismissal of a theory is unwarranted, it would be helpful to be explicit whether your objection is how I applied OCH, or whether you're challenging OCH as a useful framework. I am very open to hearing examples of the latter and you could establish this by pointing conspiracies with similar assumptions that either have been sufficiently verified, or pointing out other similar conspiracies I potentially believe that I don't dismiss out of hand. This also applies if you think I am working backwards from a preferred conclusion and using OCH to justify it.

  1. PLAUSIBLE Leftist Academia: I'd want more specific definitions of what you mean by traditional Western values and Marxist values, and I also don't fully understand where the conspiracy is because folks in those industries have been fairly transparent about their political aims. Regardless, I don't see any required premises which would contradict the conspiracy. The only assumption needed that I can think of is "ideologically cohesive group of people with members in various fields of influence aim to further spread their ideology."
  2. insufficient Obama Birther: I don't understand the who or why here. Is the idea that his birth certificate was faked around the time he was born because somehow people knew in advance he was going to have a shot at the Presidency? Or is the idea that it was faked around the time he started his political career in earnest in order to lay the groundwork for his future ambitions? In either case, who are these government officials, and what exactly was so special about Obama (compared to any other native-born American citizen with similar political stripes) that these officials would embark on the effort to fake documents and risk getting caught?
  3. PLAUSIBLE Nord Stream Pipeline: The only premise required I can think of is "Ukraine/CIA benefits from and has the capabilities of covertly sabotaging infrastructure that makes European countries economically reliant on Russia", and this wouldn't contradict the need for a conspiracy (warranted for several reasons: avoiding diplomatic blowback or revealing too much about their covert capabilities). If anything, I don't understand the theory that Russia blew up their own pipeline because I don't know what their motive could possibly be.
  4. insufficient JFK CIA Assassination: I'm confused by this, what's the why or how for the CIA? Why kill JFK? Why kill him so publicly? The only reason I can think of is as a warning to other presidential candidates, but a warning to whom and for what exactly? How exactly did they "control" LHO? If he only took minimal prodding, then it assumes there was sufficient assassination proclivity within the general population for it to have happened on its own? If the CIA did it, how exactly did they frame LHO? Was he randomly at the book depository at the wrong time, or was that all fabricated?
  5. PLAUSIBLE DNC email leak: The premise required ("someone working within DNC had access to internal emails and decided to release them") wouldn't contradict the need for a conspiracy ("it's humiliating having to admit to internal discord within one's political organization, especially when a foreign scapegoat is more politically expeditious").
  6. insufficient Epstein suicide: If he wasn't killed then presumably he was murdered. I'd need who/how/why here.
  7. insufficient George Floyd overdose: I need who/how/why here as well.
  8. PLAUSIBLE/insufficient Lab leak: If it's the engineered bioweapon theory, I don't understand who would do it or why, so insufficient. If it was an inadvertent leak then the premise ("sometimes even highly trained and specialized scientists can make mistakes working in laboratories") does not contradict the need for a conspiracy ("it's humiliating for a country to admit blame for a destructive and deadly worldwide pandemic").
  9. PLAUSIBLE Biden Family Corruption: The premise ("Biden had the means and desire to sell his political influence") does not contradict the need for a conspiracy ("getting caught for corruption is the death knell for any political career").
  10. insufficient 2020 Stolen Election: There's a wide range of theories here, everything from "Hugo Chavez created Dominion voting machines to flip election results" to "some legislatures made some forms of voting slightly easier and this was unfair". I need way more specifics.
  11. KOOKY Bin Laden Not Killed: How exactly would they stage this? The only way this could possibly work is if they also somehow neutralized Bin Laden to prevent him from releasing his "hey everyone I'm not dead" VHS tape. So either he already was dead at the time of the raid, or they had to...kill him in order to not ruin their staging. Either premise would render the conspiracy completely unnecessary, so this theory is kooky enough to be dismissed. Side note: I personally do have a lot of suspicions about how quickly they got rid of his body, but that's different from thinking he's still alive.
  12. insufficient Sabotaged Immigration: I need who/how/why. I think the theory is intended to implicate Democrats, but with what appears to be an increasing proportion of Trump voters among the Hispanic population on the border towns, I would wonder why exactly they would risk a potential self-own.
  13. PLAUSIBLE South African White Farmers: This is similar to the Leftist Academia one in that I'm not sure where the conspiracy is, given popular political chants like "Kill the Boer, Kill the Farmer"
  14. insufficient Dangerous mRNA vaccines: I'm assuming pharmaceutical companies and various health authorities are the ones behind it, but what exactly is their motivation?
  15. PLAUSIBLE Global Warming Exaggeration: The premise ("various academics have hitched their wagon on a left-ish theory, and ensure that others fall in line") wouldn't contradict the need for a conspiracy ("it's generally not a good idea to publicly advertise that you're suppressing dissenting views within a hotly contested research field").
  16. insufficient Vaccine Autism: I am very interested to know how exactly the medical establishment benefits from more autism, similar to the mRNA vaccine question.
  17. insufficient Trump Russia Collusion: Several different accusations get flattened here: Trump himself was actively seeking Russian collusion for his campaign, Russia unilaterally decided to help Trump without his consent because they assumed his Presidency would benefit them, or a mix of both. So the answer would change depending on which accusation you're referring to, because I'm aware that several Democratic politicians/activists accused Trump of seeking out collusion, but I'm not aware of intelligence agencies endorsing that claim. In contrast, there is widespread endorsement of the theory that Russia made some extremely tepid and largely ineffectual efforts to help Trump get elected without his consent.
  18. PLAUSIBLE/insufficient COVID Overcounting: This one partly depends on specifics, why exactly the politicians wanted this, and what exactly is deemed as "overcounting".
  19. insufficient Deep State: I'm confused by this because you say that the deep state does not represent the will of the electorate, but also that they align with Democratic party? So doesn't that imply that the Democratic party also does not represent the will of the electorate?
  20. PLAUSIBLE Organized Antifa: Subject to more specifics, the premise ("ideologically aligned individuals dedicated to furthering their political goals through violence") does not contradict the need for conspiracy ("given the existence of law enforcement, surreptitious operation is required").
  21. insufficient Funded Violent Leftists: You mention George Soros as one example, but who are they funding, what massive political transformation do they hope to accomplish, and how do these violent groups further this goal?
  22. insufficient Pizzagate: What a tough nut to crack on this one. Why are these elites pedophiles to begin with? Is the theory that you're more likely to join the ranks of the political elite by becoming a pedophile? If so, why? Or is it that pedophiles are somehow more likely to become elites? First, why, but also what accounts for the pedophiles that get left behind and end up in prison? So many questions.
  23. KOOKY J6 Infiltration: Subject to further revision with more specifics, but this scheme could not have been successful without first assuming "the crowd at J6 had a proclivity towards engaging in violence and lawless action". If so, it would obviate the need for the feds to have gotten involved in the first place.
  24. KOOKY Provoked Russian Invasion: Same as above, the required premise ("Russia was motivated and equipped to launch a war of territorial conquest") obviates the need for there to be a conspiracy to "provoke" them into it.
  25. insufficient UFOs: How exactly would government officials manage to prevent all communication from extra-terrestrials? The aliens that are supposedly capable of flying spaceships are presumably also capable of radio transmission, so why don't they just broadcast a worldwide message? Setting that aside, what exactly would the government's motivation be to suppress all this information?
  26. KOOKY Clandestine RFID chips: A government that has the capabilities to surreptitiously plant an RFID chip into everyone would also have the capabilities of just hacking into everyone's cellphone. The amount of tracking required to implement the RFID program (who was born, where they're located, when is their next doctor's appointment, etc.) also obviates the need for a tracking program in the first place.

Thanks for this, this was really fun :)


This one is interesting because there's a strong / weak version.

The strong version involving a massive conspiracy to collect adrenochrome is clearly kooky.

But there's a weak version that's clearly true, in that some rich people like to have sex with teen girls and the upperclass turns a blind eye to some obvious cases.

Eg people in Hollywood, fashion, and music have been having sex with the teen talent forever. 14 year old runway models live in NYC away from their parents and attend fashion parties. I'd be shocked if people who regularly attend those parties don't have any stories about seeing inappropriate things.

Adrianne Curry, in her interview with Michael Malice, specifically mentions how she had to explain to a 14 year old Russian model that the photographer who invited her to a private photo session in his apartment was trying to have sex with her.

Additionally no one disputes that the low end market for teen prostitution exists. Runaway girls getting turned out is a very real problem. Some sort of high end probably exists as well.

Regarding 23 (J6), generally, there is a difference between a mob which might be somewhat inclined to violence and a riot. Without agents provocateur, a situation might nor might not ignite. The Asch conformity experiments are a thing, it takes a lot less courage/stupidity to be the third person to scale a barrier or throw a rock or smash a window than it does for the first.

Regarding 26, proponents of that theory can easily salvage the theory by claiming that these chips transmit bio-data not available from the victims mobiles.

As for # 6 there was a lot of speculation that Epstein had been employed by the mossad or some other intelligence agency (or agencies), specifically to get blackmail material. In which case he was killed to bury that connection.

This looks implausible to me for the following reason: Mossad is known to be doing things worse then keeping dirt on people, which is bread and butter of every intelligence agency on Earth, and unless Mossad is found to be directly facilitating Epstein crimes (which they wouldn't have much reason to - there are so much dirt on elites than creating a massive pedophile operation ex nihilo and then risk exposure would be massive overkill), if Mossad got dirt of somebody from Epstein, it's not a huge blemish on Mossad's reputation. Everybody knows spooks deal with dirty people, that's how spooking is done, and people mostly accept it. On the other hand, Mossad murdering somebody on US soil in US federal custody is a very risky thing. It's not like Mossad haven't done international assassinations - they have, but doing it in the US is very tricky, because US does not take kindly to anybody intruding on their soil (see Pollard), and any leak of anything like that could cost Israel way way more than anything Epstein could ever deliver. Such things sometimes go wrong (Mossad history has several examples) and each time the shitstorm is sizeable, but it always has been either hostile or neutral countries. Putting a thumb directly in the eye of the US law enforcement is not something Israel would do lightly. Certainly not to cover something that pretty much wouldn't hurt them at all.

I think you're focussing on Mossad too much, the Epstein conspiracy theory focussed more on US intelligence with connections to other allied nations.

I’m not motivated enough to write a detailed response so I’m linking to a news story if you’re interested:

I’ll also point out that I find it really suspicious that Israel suddenly has so much less influence than they did just 5 years ago. This could Just be a case of Bibi being incompetent.

  1. Does it? Not if you ask any real conspiracy theorist worth his tinfoil hat at least
  2. Dem. party has been corbynizing itself for over a decade now, starting with Obama at least. You don't need Mossad to explain that. Moreover, if Mossad had dirt on people via Epstein, and used it for influence, wouldn't that dirt still be dirty? It didn't become less dirty because Epstein is dead. I mean if you know, say, certain senator was a client of Epstein, revealing it now would be as bad for him as it was 5 years ago. Maybe they don't get the new dirt, but given how few new faces are there at the top, it shouldn't matter much. I don't think this stands even within its own framework.

23 KOOKY J6 Infiltration: Subject to further revision with more specifics, but this scheme could not have been successful without first assuming "the crowd at J6 had a proclivity towards engaging in violence and lawless action". If so, it would obviate the need for the feds to have gotten involved in the first place.

I'm not sure I understand your reasoning here. I think if you replace proclivity with potential, that undermines your argument.

If you start with the theory "the deep state has a preferred outcome the optics of which discredits the right, Trumpists, and election integrity objections",

and the assumption that 'the protestors have the potential to take things too far in a way that has these preferred optics, but you have no assurances they will do exactly that

why is the idea of planting people to ensure it goes in the right direction kooky or unnecessary?

"We need to make sure this doesn't end up looking legtimitate, and we also need to make sure it isn't an actual massacre. We can't leave either of those to chance. Let's direct the powderkeg in a generally safe, but optically horrible direction."

I'm not saying this is true, I'm saying, I am unconvinced that this is Kooky, because the alternative is, "lets sit back and let them hang themselves".

I appreciate your pushback, it really prompted some thinking.

I had a post about Conspiratorial Acrobatics a few days after J6, at the time when the theory was that Antifa was behind it. The Yitzhak Rabin (Israeli prime minister assassinated in 1995 by right-wing jewish activist Yigal Amir) example I cited there remains relevant to explain my reasoning on J6. The accepted consensus is that Amir did in-fact shoot and kill Rabin, but this is an embarrassing thing for the right-wing community of Israel to admit, that not even the assassin's own mother believes it happened that way. But because there is no practical way to deny the fact that Amir had the motive, means, and opportunity to shoot Rabin, they can only resort to deus ex machina interventions involving pickpockets taking Amir's gun on his way to the assassination and replacing it with blanks.

The entrapment defense is extremely difficult to establish, primarily because of the clause requiring demonstrating the defendant had no "predisposition" to commit the crime in question. I'm not saying we should apply this restrictive standard everywhere else but it does grasp at a useful principle, namely how there's usually very little daylight between "I did something on my own" and "The government made me do something I already was going to do on my own". Likewise, I wonder if there is a meaningful difference between "we were going to storm the Capitol on our own" and "The government provoked us into doing something we already were likely to do on our own".

What I'm trying to grasp at with OCH as a framework is a way of distilling the essence of what makes a "conspiracy theory" kooky, and it's sort of a combination between Occam's razor, begging the question, unfalsifiability, and tautology. It's not going to be a definitive test. So while I think the premise in the J6 Infiltration theory contradicts the need for a conspiracy, I concede that you've aptly demonstrated how reasonable people can disagree over the precise contours here (what premises are required, and what exactly counts as a contradiction).

Edit: I forgot another element, how exactly would the deep state have known about the protestors potential to take things too far on J6? Only answer I can think of is that this crowd already has taken it too far before (or demonstrated the potential in other ways).

how exactly would the deep state have known about the protestors potential to take things too far on J6

Any sizeable crowd on a political event has this potential, especially if hot controversy is involved. Given that this particular crowd was convinced their opponents just stole the election, I don't think you need to be guessing for too long whether it could be further inflamed into action. I mean, those not a bunch of buddhist monks on their annual inner peace retreat, they are bunch of people who has been just brazenly cheated out of electoral victory. Of course they have the "potential", any such crowd has. Given the "too far" they achieved - fighting with the police, breaking into the building, doing some minor property damage - it's not something we haven't been seeing through the whole 2020, and much more (e.g. no arson attempts, no firearms, no firebombs, no serious protective gear or shields, etc.) - so you don't have to go far out of the observed experience to assume you can get some presentable and marketable violence out of it. Taking over buildings is a routine thing, happens all the time - latest happened just days ago, in defense of Hamas of all things.

Interestingly enough, Trump's second impeachment provides a strong argument against your position. If the violence has been inherent in the crowd, for whatever reason, then Trump is at worst negligent, but he was not the main cause of the events. However, if he has been criminally culpable on the level that warrants impeachment charges, then that means his actions were one of the primary and main causes, that he knew that would happen, he foresaw it happening and he purposely made it happen. But if we assume that is the case - in fact, if we even assume this might be the case, that this accusation is not 100% baloney but has at least some legal weight, then we must also conclude some other persons could have foreseen that could happen and acted to make it happen, and entered in the same causal relationship with the violence that occurred as the Trump was accused of. Trump is not a wizard and not some uniquely gifted phenomenon - if he could do something, some other person or persons also could do the same, and if he could be blamed in that happening, then it is only natural to assume some other persons could be as possibly blamed in that as well. One can not call that theory kooky at least without calling the whole second impeachment story, and all the current indictments connected to it, a complete circus. I mean, if you do, then you still could have your argument, but you can't have both.

This is similar to debates about how to apply the proximate cause concept in torts. An example could be that a hiker leaves an open fire unattended in a forest known for dry conditions, and a bunch of buildings burn down. It seems straightforward to pin the blame on the hiker. But what if they find out that multiple fires had broken out elsewhere in the forest almost simultaneously due to a heatwave, is the hiker still to blame? There's no clear answer, it depends.

Impeachment is a political determination and there's no requirement that only criminal culpability counts. Even if it did, there's plenty of criminal conduct that is only negligent. So even if Trump was definitely not the primary/main cause of J6, he could still be impeached under the theory that his actions didn't help, similar to the hiker's open fire. Who "caused" what will remain a philosophical question wherever you're dealing with this many variables.

he could still be impeached under the theory that his actions didn't help

Technically, he could be impeached for having a bad haircut. There's no requirement of legal court conviction, only the vote of Congress, so whatever Congress votes for is the grounds enough. Well, the Constitution says "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors", but you can always declare a bad haircut "disturbing the peace" and count it as a misdemeanor. As we were reminded many times, it's not a legal process. But, it has always been understood before that the requirement is to be serious crimes, not mere "didn't help" (which isn't a crime at all). But if we pretend it's still the case, then this destroys the "crowd can't be manipulated" proposition.

Who "caused" what will remain a philosophical question wherever you're dealing with this many variables.

The impeachers didn't consider it philosophical, they squarely put blame on Trump. So either we declare them utter clowns for blaming Trump for something no man can be blamed for (which btw I don't object because they are clowns, for many reasons), or we have to admit the "inherent violence" argument is destroyed. I think it's a nice irony when blue-tribe actions serve as a basis for red-tribe conspiracy theories.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether the hiker's open fire is squarely to blame for the forest fires, or whether the heatwave and dry conditions made it inevitable. Staking either of those position does not "destroy" the other. Prosecutors could still choose to charge the hiker for his negligent actions even if it was firmly established his open fire made no difference to the total damage.

  1. I was referring to "Cultural Marxism", I thought I made it pretty obvious but maybe I didn't. It is commonly referred to, especially by the left, as "conspiracy theory", and sometimes even as a sign of racism and/or antisemitism (though I personally fail to see the connection).

  2. The fakery (according to the theory) has happened when Obama became the Democratic presidential candidate. Prior to that he was (that's a fact not a theory) sometimes referred to as born in Kenya, because that made him more "diverse" (it is debatable whether or not he personally made it happen, though he certainly didn't object too loudly), but in general nobody gave a rat's behind where he was born, until the requirements for Presidency came into play. Presumably, according to the theory, there should exist his "original" birth certificate - unless, of course, it was destroyed by the conspirators.

  3. Presumably, there were some serious tensions between CIA and the President, and the disaster at Bay of Pigs was one of the outcomes of it (conspiracies within conspiracies!). So, the tensions boiled over to the point where the CIA decided the President is out of control and needs to be gone. The how is a bit more murky here indeed, but the most coherent version I've heard is that they psychologically manipulated LHO into the assassination attempt, but not being sure he can actually succeed, performed certain actions to ensure that by the end of it, JFK was really and truly dead.

  4. Why is obvious - to not let them talk about his clients. Who is also both obvious and immaterial - I mean, if that were true, it'd be some kind of black ops murder team, but their specific identities are not interesting, the interesting part is who hired/ordered them to do it. That would be the same people from the client list, I presume. The how is the hard part - probably bribing the guards, sabotaging the records and then drugging/strangling/etc. him?

  5. Again, who is easy - the political establishment needing to support the narrative. Why is easy too, see above, there is a lot of political careers heavily invested in the notion of "structural racism" and the need to combat it. How - by pressuring the judicial system into supporting the required decision I presume?

  6. Who - the Chinese scientists. Why - well, why countries manufacture bioweapons? It obviously happened, so they had some reasons. I personally don't think bioweapons make much sense, except as terror weapon, but many governments seem to think otherwise.

  7. Who is the US federal government. Why is the immigrants tend to vote Democratic, and tend to be more dependent on government services, which again makes them lean Democratic.

  8. It is listed on Wikipedia as "conspiracy theory" so I included it with the rest.

  9. Selling more vaccines? Also not being sued and bankrupted by the claims of those to whom they already have sold the vaccines. E.g. like tobacco companies.

  10. The claim is they benefit from more vaccines sold, and the side effect is not intended, but since it happened to be there, they decided it's better to suppress the knowledge of it than to lose all that nice business and expose themselves to billions is claims.

  11. The claim is that Trump sought out or at least knowingly accepted Russia's help, and that the following investigation was based on the attempt to genuinely discover whether or not it is the case. The counter-claim is that there was never any evidence to support that claim, and that the whole story was fabricated for political reasons, contrary to claims of the involved parties that they are interested in investigating the matter, they were actually interested on finding any dirt they can on Trump, or, failing that, keep him under the cloud of suspicion as long as it is possible. That's the conspiracy part.

  12. Overcounting would be counting somebody as dying because of COVID infection while they died for causes that are not attributable to that infection. Reasons would be political power gained under the premise of the necessity of emergency measures.

  13. This is kinda hard to unpack, because in general political finance in the US works in ways that are extremely hard to unpack. I'd say the claim is that some money, coming from Soros or alike rich people, are intentionally, through certain network of financing institutions, arrive into the pockets of violent leftist groups, and this is done on purpose, to effect certain changes in US politics that Soros, etc. want to achieve (such as make the society move more to the left). This was called "conspiracy theory" in Wikipedia - at least I think this is what they meant.

  14. I'm not sure it's possible to figure out why somebody is a pedophile? I think the theory is more like if you are both a member of the elite and a pedophile, then there's a club for you that will cater for your illegal needs and ensure that indulging your passion would not lead to undesirable consequences. The latter part is the conspiracy, and also the fact that presumably the pedophilia is more common for the elites than widely recognized, but this fact is suppressed, since it'd make the respect for the elites to diminish (the optimistic part of this theory is that there's still really some respect that can be further diminished).

  15. I feel like this makes an unwarranted assumption that every crowd has a fixed quality that can be called "proclivity for violence" and this quality can not be meaningfully changed. I think the experience suggests that it can - moreover, one of the charges against Trump has been that this is exactly what he did! I think if it is plausible to assume Trump could do it, it is also plausible somebody else could do the same. As a side note, I myself a very non-violent man, but I can imagine a situation where there could be enough provocation that I would be tempted to resort to violence, and maybe even succumb to that temptation (thankfully, I haven't found myself in such situations for many years, but it could happen, in theory). I don't see why that couldn't happen with members of the crowd (crowds always make people dumber) manipulated by very skilled operatives (I assume somebody in the FBI could be skilled?)

  16. Presumably, the ETs they have in evidence are dead, or possibly they have just technological evidence, not actual ET organisms, and the other ETs for some reasons (maybe in collusion with the government?) are reluctant to communicate with the members of the public. Maybe they have the Prime Directive? The reasons to hide it is a) to gain the exclusive use of alien technologies and b) to prevent the massive uncontrollable panic which will be caused by this knowledge.

Hopefully I matched this correctly. Overall a lot of these remain very vague and nebulous.

  1. Leftist Academia: I see what you're referring to now, there's a whole wikipedia page about "Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory". I would argue this is a good example of how the term "conspiracy theory" gets inappropriately used as a cudgel. It seems trivially true to say "people often form groups based on shared beliefs and try to promote those beliefs" and I don't see how anyone can argue against that in this particular case. As best as I can tell, this gets decried as a kooky theory not worth paying attention to either by strawmanning (claiming a coordinated secretive campaign) or tarring by association (accusations of anti-semitism). So there is concern about the vagueness of "cultural marxism" but as cogently described, I don't think this matches the dictionary definition of "conspiracy", and even if it did, it wouldn't be dismissed as kooky by the standards of OCH.
  2. Obama Birther: I still don't understand how exactly this played out. So by the time he became the Democratic nominee, he instructed people to fabricate a fake birth certificate to ensure that no one would deny him his chance at the top? I understand Obama's motivations here, but why would other people (especially the DNC) take the risk and go along with his plan? How exactly did he secure the full cooperation of the Hawaii Dept of Health? How do the Honolulu newspaper notices about his birth in 1961 fit into all of this?
  3. JFK CIA Assassination: I still don't understand this. If the CIA's motive was humiliation from the Bay of Pigs, what was their goal with assassination? Was it just pure retribution or did they intend it to serve as a warning for others? How does someone get psychologically manipulated into landing a high marksmanship shot? Why would the CIA bother with relying on LHO to begin with?
  4. Epstein suicide: If the goal was to prevent him from testifying about his clients, I would wonder why that wasn't a concern in his first criminal case around 2005, or the very long litany of civil cases beginning in earnest around 2015. Because trying to murder someone in a federal detention center would be much harder than say on a small island. But maybe the last criminal charges finally made the risk too much to bear? I'm not claiming the circumstances around his death are not suspicious, but this theory is missing too many pieces to properly evaluate.
  5. George Floyd overdose: This is still vague. Who exactly is the "political establishment" and what "narrative"? There's about a 1,000 people killed by police in the US every year, why exactly would whoever put their efforts behind this particular case?
  6. Lab Leak: Yes, countries manufacture bioweapons, but why would China deploy it on its own population? Their economy took a serious hit from COVID and is still struggling to recover. Their lockdown policies also generated the most public and widespread popular resistance since Tiananmen Square protests they're still working to erase. I don't understand the motive here.
  7. Sabotaged Immigration: I can see politicians hoping for a demographic shift they believe would help them, but how exactly are they implementing this sabotage? Do they have the cooperation of Border Patrol and DHS? How does none of this get uncovered during Republican administrations?
  8. South African White Farmers: I see this is labeled a conspiracy theory under the "white genocide" penumbra. Similar to Cultural Marxism, I would say this is another example of "conspiracy theory" used as a cudgel. If we assume that farmer attacks are indeed racially motivated, I don't see what the conspiracy is. These types of feuds have happened everywhere and throughout history.
  9. Dangerous mRNA vaccines: I don't get it. Big Pharma is aware that their mRNA vaccines are dangerous and worried about getting sued, so their response is to double-down on the damage they're already causing? Wouldn't the number of dead become too large to ignore? That's what happened with lung cancer risk for smoking after all, but unlike with tobacco companies Big Pharma sells a broad range of other products and the industry is heavily reliant on a safety reputation. Is the risk only with mRNA vaccines?
  10. Vaccine Autism: Same questions as above. The patent for the MMR vaccine has expired a long time ago, so who exactly benefits from making sure no one knows the risk about a low-margin generic vaccine?
  11. Trump Russia Collusion: Sorry, this is too confusing to follow. When the counterclaim says there was "never any evidence" and that the whole story was "fabricated", I don't know what exactly it's referring to. I also don't know how the well-documented involvement between Trump associates and Russia (Paul Manafort's work before he became Trump's campaign chairman is probably the most egregious) fits into all this. I can maybe understand the argument that it was all exaggerated, but I don't understand what the claim is talking about when it says there was nothing at all.
  12. COVID Overcounting: There's still missing pieces but I would now count this as plausible according to OCH. The premise doesn't contradict the need for a conspiracy.
  13. Funded Violent Leftists: I have no idea what this means. So some money from some rich donors is somehow finding its way into the pockets of some violent leftist groups in the hopes that the groups somehow move society towards the left...what?
  14. Pizzagate: I'm not asking why anyone is a pedophile, but given that pedophiles exist why would they be overrepresented within elite society? If not that, why would elite society accommodate their pedophile minority? If neither of those premises are true, then it necessarily means that this "elite pedophile" ring is also hoodwinking elite society. I don't understand the contours of this.
  15. J6 Infiltration: See my response to iprayiam3 here.
  16. UFOs: Still vague.

Reminds me of Scott Alexander's similar list in Too Many People Dare Call It Conspiracy

Damn it there's always an SSC post, and I somehow missed this