How To Tell If That Conspiracy Is Actually True
Sometimes the biggest liars aren’t people
Next to the chapters on negotiation, the most popular chapter of my book Lessons from the Len Master deals with how to spot liars. It is not surprising that people want to know when they are being deceived before they wreck their businesses, lives and relationships.
But what if the lie isn’t coming from a person, and instead emerges from a conspiracy theory? Can you use the same techniques outlined in the book to detect the obvious fakes? Glad you asked.
About those aliens
The first thing you must understand is conspiracies only work on those that want to believe them. That is the point of liars and subterfuge: they tell us what we want to hear.
When I was a kid I believed in aliens (the kind from other worlds). I wanted extraterrestrials to be real — I still do, actually. To (badly) paraphrase Robert Browning, if there isn’t life out there, then what are the heavens for? I read everything on alien life I could get my hands on, and I soon realized accounts about them fell into two distinct groups.
One focused on eyewitness accounts and the absurdity of the explanations given for sightings. Thousands of credible people have reported seeing UFOs every year: pilots, astronauts, scientists, and even a US president. To pitch the idea that a trained pilot can’t tell the difference between a fluffy altocumulus lenticular cloud and a possible Arquillian battle cruiser is insane. As it turns out, the government was trying to hide these sightings.
Oh, oh, Alice is late
But, the second group of conspiracies suggests that aliens built the pyramids, Nazca lines, Atlantis and every other human accomplishment in between. These are much less credible, and you can tell that from how these articles and theories are structured.
Unhinged conspiracies start with a supposition. For anyone who has read Chariots of the Gods and watched every episode of In Search of and Ancient Aliens (don’t judge me), the pattern is the same.
In this case, they show you a picture of an old painting on a tomb in an Egyptian pyramid (a shout out to Bangles fans) and remark that it “looks like a modern-day astronaut in a space suit.” And it does. It could also be a guy with a box on his head, or an artist doing a rendition of a half-man, half-eagle using a low-res chisel. But from that seemingly innocent observation they plow ahead at warp speed.
“And if it is a space suit,” the narrator/expert/kook continues, “then it must be a being from another planet, since Egyptians didn’t have space suits (logical). And if aliens from another planet landed here, they would need landmarks to remember where they visited (hmm, so they can navigate interstellar space, but can’t remember where they parked?). And if they stayed long enough to oversee the building of pyramids as said landmarks, they likely got lonely and mated with ancient humans. Thus, every human alive today is a descendant of extraterrestrials.” And into the rabbit hole we go.
But the first step on this journey is a lie. You can’t start with a lie (or at least an unknown supposition) and make assumptions three or four steps removed. So, when you see a conspiracy that starts with a “what if” that takes you downstream from there, you can bet you’re listening to a lie.
Another case in point: after 9/11 some conspiracy sites (and a popular book) theorized that 9/11 was a false flag initiative. They claimed the US government, and chess master George W. Bush, had planned it all. The starting premise was that “no steel framed building had ever collapsed because of fire like the Towers did.” Reading this, I asked an engineer friend of mine if that was true. He was able to cite many instances that belied that “fact”. If you stop there, you never get too deep into the fiction.
According to my friend Paul…
The next surefire way to tell a “theory” is a lie is to check the attribution, or lack of it. Like a Wikipedia article extolling the acting chops of Tom Cruise, fabricated rumors have no reference materials or citations. But, alas, liars know that, too, so some will provide mock citations, links that look like they go somewhere but don’t, or else point you to a real source that doesn’t say what the conspirator said it did.
I was on a very partisan site the other day where the author of an article wrote, “Even the New York Times admits that (name withheld) has a criminal past.” But when you click on the link and read the article, it never states that. In fact, it had nothing to do with the subject at hand. If you find a lie like that, you know you are being duped.
People who are telling you the truth don’t lie to you to get you to believe them. Liars lie and boys drool. Well, something like that.
A friend of a friend of a cousin told me
Bad conspiracies also don’t tell you where they originated. Instead of an author stating “I believe the following,” articles on the conspiracy often lack the original source. Because if they mentioned that some guy living in a shack in Idaho came up with the “theory”, you would probably dismiss it. Look for the original source. Can’t find it? Move on and spend your new-found free time binge-watching Netflix (that was a paid placement). With a Pepsi.
You are either with us, or you are one of them
Finally, rumors without foundation try and get you to do something to someone else. They ultimately describe an enemy you should hate, or an action you should take. The Kennedy assassination conspiracy (which kicked off the conspiracy craze in our time here in the US), didn’t really ask you to hate anyone. But many political conspiracies today point you at a perceived enemy and want you to distrust or even attack another person. Is that a good idea based just on a rumor? Actually, it is never a good idea. Liars, more often than not, will get you to hate others so they can benefit. Just don’t fall for it. Don’t be the sucker in the room.
Let it go
Don’t we have enough in life to worry about (killer asteroids, a planet that wants us gone, murder hornets, zombies) to worry about things that never really happened? How much time and energy would you have today to put towards your family, your job, your hobbies or your play time if you learned how to neutralize and ignore liars? Exactly.
Want to know more about how to spot and disarm liars, plus a whole lot of other life hacks to be successful in life and business? Click here to order Lessons from the Len Master at a reduced rate.