The annual conspiracist mind meld, Conspiracy Con, celebrates its 10th birthday – and 10th year in Santa Clara – on June 5 and 6 at the Santa Clara Marriott.
Conference organizer Brian Hall, describes the event as "a forum for… the most controversial speakers in the world," on "Mind Control, Secret Societies, Shadow Government, The Federal Reserve, 9-11, Occult Technologies, Suppressed Knowledge, New World Order, etc."
Even including, Hall continues ominously, "the manipulation of humanity by non-human intelligences...alien, inter-dimensional, demonic, satanic... operating on (and in) this planet, that looks upon humankind as sheep and cattle to be herded and slaughtered at will."
This jeremiad seems surprising coming from the preppy 30-something Hall, a Livermore resident who looks more like a Young Republican than the eminence grise of contemporary American conspiracy theory.
Indeed, Conspiracy Con's success is likely due more to Hall's talent for business administration – and friends in the event-planning business "who held my hand" – than his knowledge of secret cabals. Hall chose Santa Clara for Conspiracy Con for many of the same reasons the 49ers give for wanting to build a stadium here.
"The cost is less and right along there is hotel row," he ticks off methodically. "There are great convention services. It's much closer for me [than San Francisco] and it's much easier to get to. It's very close to the airport."
(This is invariably disappointing to those who expect the city to be a vortex of cosmic power, or the Illuminati's home away from home. Although -- hat tip to blogger Adam Gorightly -- I bet if you plotted it on a map, you'd find that the Santa Clara Marriott sits at the mystical center of secret Kabbalistic geography connecting the Rosicrucian Museum, Winchester Mystery House, Santa Cruz Mystery Spot, proposed 49ers stadium, and the CERN super-collider in Geneva.)
Anyway, Hall's business acumen paid off. The conference draws hundreds every year and features a veritable who's who of the contemporary conspiracy scene.
Past guests include George Noory, host of the popular all-things-conspiracy radio talk show Coast to Coast a.m.; 9-11 Truther movement founding father Richard Gage; and memory-recovering, MK-ULTRA sex slave Cathy O'Brien. This year's lineup includes host of the syndicated late night cult film TV show Cinema Insomnia, Mr. Lobo (www.cinemainsomnia.com).
Hall is vague about what exactly he did before starting Conspiracy Con – "not a heck of a lot." More to the point is what he calls his "waking up journey," which began 15 years ago and culminated in launching Conspiracy Con.
"Some friends showed me some materials that went against everything I had been told. It made its point well enough to [make me] look further.
"There are things going on here right under our noses that are much more serious," he continues. "What is commonly known as the global elite. Are they connected? Is there a conspiracy? No one was putting on a conference on the research, to generate awareness."
ince then, Hall has been a man with a mission. "I see a great imbalance on this planet that gets greater every year. From Kennedy [assassination] to 9-11 and beyond, it will lead to the same people: the people that have manipulated human events for eons." Getting the message out, Hall says, "is the most important thing I can do."
Conspiracism's All-American Pedigree
Conspiracism is as American as the proverbial apple pie, according to Professor Jeff Pasley who teaches Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracies in U.S. History and Culture at the University of Missouri.
"For example, one thing that was widely believed [before the American revolution] was that the British were going to force Americans to become Catholics, based on Quebec's act tolerating Catholicism," Pasley explains. "[This was seen] as the first step in the plan to Catholicize America."
Conspiracy beliefs also use the language of enlightenment, "exposing truth by gathering proof," Pasley explains, while neglecting the rest of the scientific method – experimentation, data collection, analysis, peer review, and retesting.
The age of mass media adds fuel to the conspiracy fires, says Pasley. People have access to a lot more data, but their powers of analysis haven't grown to match it. "Most people's idea of weighing evidence is, 'It's hot today so it must be global warming,'" he says.
The flaw here isn't in the conclusions. Human beings do, in fact, engage in conspiracies; for example, Watergate. The flaws in our global warming conclusion are classic reasoning fallacies: questionable correlation and unsupported assumption. A further problem with conspiracism is un-testability: Contrary evidence is just evidence of a cover-up. For example, the reason you don't agree with me about the reality of global warming is that you're manufacturing the evidence to discredit me, you're just revealing yourself as a tool of the puppet-masters, etc.
Of course, conspiracy theorists have no monopoly on fallacious rhetoric. Politics inspires it in spades. Consider for example: "Dolores Carr: Supported by law enforcement. Jeff Rosen: Supported by bail bondsmen." (Questionable correlation, unsupported assumption, loaded words, impugning motives).
This ad doesn't tell me anything about Rosen, but it does tell me one thing about Carr. Namely, that she's a lawyer, judge and District Attorney who's willing to put her name on this mean-spirited propaganda. It's enough to make me vote for Jeff Rosen, but that would be another questionable correlation: Because Carr runs an ad that I find ethically questionable, therefore Rosen would be a good DA.
Where was I?
Oh yes. In the final analysis conspiracy theories don't stand up to pragmatic test that the best
explanation is usually the one requiring the fewest unsupported assumptions. In other words, if you hear hoof beats, it's probably horses, not zebras.