Friday, February 04, 2011

Conspiratorialists of the World, Unite!

One disturbing thing I noticed when I first began to travel in Turkey was their penchant for believing the most bizarre conspiracy theories afloat. My acquaintances over there--largely intelligent, well-informed and college-educated--would nevertheless fall for any crackpot theory making the rounds. Alternative reality scenarios for 9/11 were believed almost unquestioningly. One was convinced that the Israelis were building an airbase in Kurdistan. The Armenian Genocide had become the Turkish Genocide. And I was surprised to learn that the New World was actually discovered by...the Turks. At the time, I would shake my head about this sort of thing. Well, no longer--not because they were right, but because we are just as bad. Exhibit A has to be this, the latest lesson from Glenn Beck, in which he charts the course of the coming Islamic Caliphate. That there are some Muslim extremists who dream of a restored "Caliphate" is a fact. Beck's speculations, however, are pure fantasy, perfectly attuned to a fearful audience who know little of people different from themselves.


Steve Hayes said...

People in the Balkans and the Near-Middle East seem to be prone to the most bizarre conspiracy theories. I have an otherwise pleasant and sane Greek friend on Facebook who rants about Jewish conspiracies. Orthodox are not immune to this kind of thing - see Dr Tarek Mitri's comments in my blog post on Notes from underground: False neutrality. To the outsider Turks and Greeks resemble each other far more than they would ever admit, even down to Greek and Turkish coffee and Greek and Turkish delight.

Milton T. Burton said...

Sounds like Smith County to me.

James the Thickheaded said...

"who know little of people different from themselves"

Kind of captures it huh? But somehow they think these folks think, act and move completely differently... in somehow unimaginable ways. And so they seem ready to believe anything. Either they actually attribute to others their own interior wishes of a sort they'd never admit to - and so really do credit unknown others as they do themselves, or they just can't imagine.

I'm not so sure Glenn Beck is so bad (yes I am) as that the whole TV thing induces or feeds a stupor lulling folks into not a level of comfort in thinking other people's thoughts.

Wes said...

Maybe its not the knowing "little of people different from themselves" as it is knowing some of the folks surrounding them and how they think - friend, foe, or other.

John said...

Read your great post. And I agree with you about Greeks and Turks--much more similar than either would ever admit (at least to us outsiders.) One says ouzo, the other says raki. And the same henna-haired matrons.

Yes, indeed. Speaking of conspiratorialists--one morning this week, I came into the den before I had had my first cup of coffee--still half asleep. I was fumbling with the TV remote, and before I could get it on to MSNBC, I had to listen to about 30 seconds of the local FauxNews Station. They were headlining a "birther" story as if it were hard news.

I can't say this without sounding like an old Coca-Cola commercial--but I have found that people everywhere are much the same. The "other" that we know so little of, whose lives are played out in dusty foreign environs, have the same concerns as we do, at its basic level--keeping a roof over our heads, paying bills, putting food on the table, stashing away a little for perhaps an occasional weekend at the beach or some other indulgence. There's much I haven't seen, but from what i have, I find the "different" is not so very different at its basic level.

Would this be the noted and estimable Wes D. of the greater New York metropolitan area, perhaps? That is an interesting idea. Perhaps the suspicion of the "other" is based on the sure and discomforting knowledge of the self.

John said...
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Wes said...

It would be. And that is my one deep thought for 2011 and now I will just go back to quietly enjoying the posts. Keep up the good work.

Milton T. Burton said...

I think that one thing that is damned near universal among people is to want a better world and easier sledding for one's children.

James the Thickheaded said...

John and Milton: Singing to the choir!