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The line between insane conspiracy theories and credible human rights violatio

  1. Oct 21, 2012 #1
    What is the formal definition of the line between insane conspiracy theories and credible human rights violations? What usually distinguishes the two, and makes some rational, and others not?

    For example, 9/11 conspiracy theories don't seem to be credible nor believable at all. However, US journalists being arrested by the DPRK government for a "grave crime", or virtually all the major Russian opposition leaders being raided and arrested for reasons such as "punching a journalist", "participating in a corruption scheme", etc. (without any proper evidence being displayed) after major anti-government protests they organized seems like a politically motivated abuse of the legal system to me, which is also acknowledged by virtually every human rights organization.

    However, how does one draw the line between genuine human rights violations (ex: legal system abuse, show trials, journalist disappearances) and insane conspiracy theories? I can usually distinguish the two instinctually, but I have no idea what the formal distinction is.

    And what kind of formal rules and practices could aid distinguishing the two? Ex: Probably some which concern mathematical logic, truth tables, statistics, semantic networks, etc.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2012 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    On PF, we discourage the attempt to find the exact line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It's a little like asking how much littering you can do without being fined - while there probably is a minimum amount, the people charged with picking up the litter aren't going to be happy with the question.

    If you are wondering where exactly the line is, chances are you are already too close to it.
  4. Oct 21, 2012 #3
    Not an not an exact line, but just something I've noticed:

    Generally, conspiracy theories start with a proposition and then work backwards to find evidence for it. This is why conspiracy theorists arguments tend to be along the lines: "Well how do you explain [insert small detail or inconsistency here]?" This method of supporting a hypothesis is inherently unscientific.

    By contrast, genuine knowledge of human rights violations tends to stem from verified/credible information, and stay within the bounds of reasonable assumptions. It also tends to be based on repeated demonstration of said violation, thus reducing uncertainty as to the credibility of information sources.

    That is not to say that every case fits these descriptions, but the extent to which the reasoning behind a proposition resembles the scientific method seems to demarcate at least a vague line between off-the-wall conspiracies and genuine human rights concerns.
  5. Oct 21, 2012 #4
    It just isn’t necessary to employ some deep, complex analytical technique to figure out which conspiracy theories have substance and which are bunkum. Dispassionate consideration of the evidence and the application of a little common sense is usually all that is required. The usual problem tends to be far too much being made of ‘evidence’ that is at best tenuous and at worst patent nonsense. With the tendency some have to see conspiracy in all kinds of places (motivated, I think, not so much by paranoia as by the desire to make dull lives more interesting) and with the surprising credulity of too many others, it is probably wise to start with an essentially sceptical view, and only if and when the serious evidence really does start to stack-up, to give it any credence whatever.
  6. Oct 21, 2012 #5
    Thanks for your input.

    But is it ever possible to be certain when using inductive reasoning? For example, we have some information, and then, we construct reasonable explanations based on it, with the degree of certainty which would be proportional to the certainty the information in question gives us.
    However, how can we know what kind of certainty is given by the said information? What sets the said certainties, uncertainties, and impossibilities?

    Here's a concrete example:
    Anna Politkovskaya was a Russian human rights activist, who actively covered the issues of the human rights violations, especially in the Chechen region. Ramzan Kadyrov was the Prime Minister of Chechnya.

    In 2004, Politkovskaya had a conversation with Ramzan Kadyrov, then Prime Minister of Chechnya. One of his assistants said to her, "Someone ought to have shot you back in Moscow, right on the street, like they do in your Moscow". Ramzan repeated after him: "You're an enemy. To be shot....". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Politkovskaya#Conflict_with_Ramzan_Kadyrov) She reported this conversation herself, as well as several death threats, as well as a poisoning case on an airplane flight (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/09/russia.media). This is her anecdotal evidence of course, so it has a rather low priority.

    Two years later, however, she was murdered - she had been shot right in her head in her apartment's elevator.

    What kind of inductions is one supposed to make based on this? Obviously, the evidence in question is anecdotal, but her being murdered shortly after gives some weight to the evidence of the death threats in question.

    However, what sets the certainty of the scenario of her being murdered by any subset of the Russian government (the Chechen region government being a subset, for example)? How can we obtain the certainty based on all this? Are there any models which could shed some light on this problem?
  7. Oct 21, 2012 #6
    The best proof of a conspiracy attempt, aka as 'false flag' operation, is the plan itself, accidentially declassified. Fortunately, it was cancelled by the government.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2012
  8. Oct 21, 2012 #7


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    Not cancelled: proposed and rejected.
  9. Oct 21, 2012 #8

    Vanadium 50

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    Since this thread has turned into "post your favorite conspiracy theories", it's closed.
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