Facts, Fallacies and Fantasies about Jewish Power
By Will Banyan Copyright © 30 August 2012
According to their strongest critics, conspiracy theorists (or conspiracists) are, at best “harmless lunatics and amusing eccentrics”, but at worst, they resemble “the totalitarian immersion of cult members into herd thinking.” The litany of conspiracist sins, as compiled by Professor Stephen Plaut from the University of Haifa, is long:
Conspiracism feeds on misrepresentation of facts, outright lying, and tendentious twisting of unrelated factoids into a grand theory. Conspiracists take the logical fallacy, the non sequitur, to incredible heights. They are notoriously prone to rearrangement of their perception of reality based upon the mere power of suggestion.
Chip Berlet, an American researcher long associated with the Southern Poverty Law Center, also charges conspiracists with utilising “common fallacies of logic in analyzing factual evidence to assert connections, causality, and intent that are frequently unlikely or nonexistent.” More colourfully, Canadian journalist Jonathan Kay, in his book Among the Truthers (2011), asserts that all conspiracy theorists share the common trait of having “spun out of rationality’s ever-weakening gravitational pull, and into mutually impenetrable Manichean fantasy universes of their own construction.” Of course, neither Professor Plaut, nor Mr Berlet, nor even Mr Kay can be considered disinterested observers when it comes to the apparent dangers posed by conspiracism. But that does not invalidate their essential observation about the fallacies and fantasies that populate the conspiracist sphere.
One of the common fallacies often employed by conspiracists is the “straw man”, which is defined by Wikipedia as:
an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.