Popper, the conspiracy theories and the pedants

Jordan Peterson was recently asked to explain how he and Justin Trudeau looked at Canadian truckers and explain how they both saw such different things. After all, Jordan Peterson had asked truckers to keep their heads up, as they are an example to the world, while Justin Trudeau said that “this has to end”, because truckers attacked the Canadian population by displaying swastikas and Confederate flags. Peterson replied that the difference between the two was that he himself was honest and Trudeau was a liar; a narcissist who has set up a character and says things he doesn’t believe. What intrigued him was how Trudeau still had support after declaring a state of emergency that left the country indiscernible from a dictatorship.

Peterson took to Twitter to see what Trudeau supporters thought: they believed that the truckers were subsidized by Russians and Trumpists in order to end Canadian democracy. Very well, and why did they believe that? Why would the Russians and the Trumpists be so interested in Canada? Anyway, Trudeau solved the problem, that is, saved democracy, kicking ass around the world, freezing bank accounts and suspending civil liberties. Why do Canadians believe in this no-nonsense thing? Peterson comments: “I don’t know what kind of world I exist in, where these things are happening. Why do Canadians swallow this? I think they are faced with a tough choice. In my country, for 150 years, we could trust the basic institutions: we could trust the government (no matter the political party in charge), we could trust the political parties, we could trust the media . None of this is true now, so Canadians are asked to make a tough choice: either all their institutions are almost irretrievably corrupted, or the truckers have been financed by right-wing Republicans in the United States. Well, both are absurd. You can choose the one that doesn’t shake your whole sense of security. So I think that’s what most Canadians did.”

The world we live in

The whole mess of truck drivers was started by the pandemic. Come to think of it, everyone in the West had to make a similar choice to Canadians. At the beginning of the pandemic, when the issue of chloroquine came up, for me it was barely an issue. Newly elected, Bolsonaro was in a drooling over Trump who killed me with shame. Also, politicians in general like to come up with simple solutions that relieve you of the task of working. So, when Bolsonaro appeared defending chloroquine, I thought he was a mere imitator of the extravagant orange man. As events unfolded, however, I was forced to take the toughest guess in the dog world. In the case of chloroquine in particular, this newspaper showed that Fiocruz scientists committed to discrediting it are a case of the police. This is a dog world, and this is the world we live in.

The Canadians have a more privileged sample than we Brazilians of what the dog world is. Since the pandemic, Canada has considered life in poverty to be unworthy and therefore those who suffer from this evil can request euthanasia from the State. Canadians fear the US Republicans so much, but it is the Democrats who now support using the school to induce mental illness in children and then castrate them.

Meanwhile, the West is judges it very virtuous and points the finger at Russia, saying that Putin is satan on earth. It is necessary to choose the side of “democracy” and support a state whose army includes an openly neo-Nazi battalion. It is humanitarian to support intervention in ethnic Russian regions so that Ukrainian neo-Nazis can continue to take care of them, even if images of people burned alive on a cross appear every now and then. If a human rights NGO that denounced the “Jacarezinho massacre” in Bolsonaro’s Brazil only denounces Russia, we must believe that Ukrainian democracy thrives. And that ethnic massacre and state neo-Nazism are compatible with this democracy defended by the West today. No wonder, since euthanizing the unproductive population and encouraging abortion in racial minorities is really a Nazi thing.

Psychological explanation of conspiracy theories

But let’s leave Ukraine alone; let’s focus on our scholars. We saw some time ago that there is no correlation between being a self-declared conservative liberal scholar and supporting the more illiberal and less conservative things. Today I want to note that there is no correlation between having read Popper and knowing how to deal with conspiracy theories.

Every pedantic liberal likes to quote The Open Society and Your Enemies, by Karl Popper. In it, the epistemologist deals with social science; more precisely, he exposes his thesis according to which Plato and Hegel are the great patrons of the enemies of the open society, which he defines as the society in which one can change rulers in peace (a democracy whose elections can be rigged with impunity is not a open society, therefore).

Among the theoretical enemies of the open society would be the conspiracy theories of society. A conspiracy theory of society is based on “the opinion that the explanation of a social phenomenon consists in the discovery of the men or groups who are interested in the occurrence of that phenomenon. and who plotted and conspired to bring about it.” Vulgar Marxism is such a theory, since the professor of sociology points out the culprits and ends the investigation, soon turning to diatribes (Popper distinguished vulgar Marxism from original Marxism. For him, Marx had a hypothesis capable of being taken When his predictions proved to be flawed, a pseudoscience emerged whose purpose is to prove that Marx is right even when he was wrong.

Popper believed that conspiracy theories arise naturally because man tends to assume intentionality where there is none. The Trojan War, for the Greeks, could be explained by the intrigues of Olympus. Even inanimate things, such as lack or excess of rain, are interpreted as the result of some offended or angry deity. Thus, when this innate tendency to assume intentionality appears in civilized society, social conspiracy theories arise. Marxism was the most obvious example of his time, and today there is the “narcissistic pact of whiteness” that operates “structural racism”.

The temptation of conspiracy theories would be fatal to the social scientist for violating the main purpose of the social sciences: to study the unintended consequences of human action. For example, a scientist who analyzes the public security of a city does not end his investigation when he knows that the authorities have good intentions, so they will solve the problem. The social sciences depart precisely from the proposition that the world is too complex to explain everything through the planning of half a dozen.

It does not follow that conspiracies do not exist: “On the contrary, they are typical social phenomena. They become important, for example, whenever people who sincerely believe in a conspiracy theory come to power. And those who sincerely believe that they can bring heaven to earth are the most likely to adopt a conspiracy theory and become involved in a counter-conspiracy to fight nonexistent conspirators. It is that the only explanation of his failure to produce his heaven can only be in the evil intentions of the Devil, who has a special interest in hell. Conspiracies are plotted, there is no denying it. But conspirators rarely consummate their conspiracies.”

Popper doesn’t give cake recipe

It’s rarely different than never. In another work in which he returns to the theme ( Conjectures and Refutations ), Popper cites Hitler and Lenin as exceptions, that is, as conspirators whose conspiracies gave rise to right. We can say that Popper is quite right: conspirators tend to believe in conspiracy theories (the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and vulgar Marxism, in the aforementioned cases), and conspiracy theories provide flawed explanations of the world, making it difficult to successfully act on it. . Of the countless ideological conspiracies that have existed in the world, only a portion has succeeded. The Soviet Union itself helps to show this, as there are more failed communist revolutionaries than successful ones. Marxists went to the Amazon believing that the people would join the struggle! I think the optimistic lesson we can take from Popper is that conspirators are fallible: even if they succeed in their seizure of power, eventually their own mistaken view of the world will lead them to failure.

But the most important thing is that both the Bolshevik Revolution and Nazi Germany are objects of social science research. In other words, a successful conspiracy is not an impossible exception to fit in social science. Anyone who wants to study these phenomena is obliged to take into account the fact of conspiracy. But his explanation cannot be based on the opinion that Hitler’s and Lenin’s intention is a sufficient explanation. The Nazi conspiracy existed, but a social scientist cannot say “Hitler was as bad as a woodpecker and he wanted to seize power” and end the investigation.

What to do today ?

Pedants use Popper to deny any possibility of successful conspiracies to any degree. People who turn up their nose and appear calm make a better image than someone who rants and brags. This is enough for pedants to use any text at hand to say that there is no conspiracy, despite the evidence.

We’ve seen this film before with Foro de São Paulo. The Forum even had a website, but detractors of Olavo de Carvalho said it was a conspiracy theory. It made sense to be suspicious of Olavo de Carvalho’s claims, as the São Paulo Forum could exist and be unsuccessful in its intentions. In fact, the Forum did not achieve everything it intended – even so, the conspiracy proved to be real and quite harmful. And as much as those involved have enriched, it is impossible to despise the role of ideology in the São Paulo Forum.

Now we have the World Economic Forum, by Mr. Klaus Schwab, revealing his thousand claims for a new world order, a new normal, global governance, ESG. A politically correct and neo-Malthusian agenda has been imposed from the top down, either through large transnational corporations or through the UN. The Popperian’s obligation here would be to consider the conspiracy as a typical social phenomenon, to question the degree of its effectiveness and to ask himself the reason for this effectiveness. And the reasons for this effectiveness would not be sufficient reason to exclude the ideological aspect of the conspiracy.

A Popperian would have the humility to say “I don’t know” about many things concerning the World Economic Forum. . The pedantry of the literate, or a complacency equal to that of the Canadians, makes this kind of appreciation uncomfortable.

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