Sunday, 1 April 2018

What counts as a conspiracy to you?

(This is just a thought experiment, until the internet notices it and it goes completely out of control and I shut it down.

It's also not inspired by any particular internet argument, but it is inspired by the whole tenor and action of the various culture wars.)

Imagine there's a group of people in a room or a private digital space and that these people come to a decision about you and that decision affects you in what you would consider a negative way. So you don't get a particular opportunity or your options are restricted in some way.

In one version of this reality you regard the moral nature of this decision as reasonable, non-creepy, an unpleasant but acceptable aspect of the worlds operations. You might be upset about the decision but you don't regard the mechanism of taking it with any sense of deep threat.

In the other version, you regard this as a conspiracy. Not just private, but secret in an illegitimate or immoral way. Not neutral but part of a specific threatening structure aimed specifically at you or at a group that includes you.You are afraid and angry.

What, for you, is the dividing line between a decision you don't like, and a conspiracy?

If you imagine different kinds of decision-maker, different kinds of decision, different circumstances, and you think of one situation which doesn't feel threatening or conspiratorial and of another which does, what elements form the border between the two situations?


  1. I think I'd bag this with "truly tolerant people are hard to offend"; that is, all effort should be made to assume the best. It depends on the unpleasant decision, of course. What if the decision isn't just to exclude you from that friendship group (say), but to encourage other groups to exclude you, too, based on whatever criterion has been declared valuable? You are probably allowed to resist that and decide your former friends are needless wreckers. You needn't pursue vengeance, of course; but you can tell the other groups the facts of the matter.

  2. Part of me rather leans towards frequency as a factor: "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action."

    Not the only aspect of a conspiracy, but in telling it apart from the 'reasonable decision by the group of chaps', this has some bearing. Vis., You were picked four times in a row to stand night duty as an emergency draftee with the Civic Guard; Your group is always given the unpleasant or especially arduous tasks.

  3. If online conspiracy is even a possibility in your life, you spend too much time online. Not that you should go outside or anything horrible like that, but maybe play some Connect Four instead.

  4. I think, for me, the dividing line often tends to lie in the judgement against someone being prejudicial in nature. If someone acts like an ass, and a group of friends or people decide, in secret, to just not invite them to further events or associate with them then I would not call this behaviour conspiratal in a 'negative' way as the term is often received. Even if the person being excluded doesn’t think their behaviour warrants exclusion I don't see any problem with the judgement placed upon them. We live in a free society where, within the bounds of the law, you can act in any manner you want and as part of this freedom, people are largely free to decide if they want to associate with you or not. You can't simultaneously claim the right to act however you want and whine that others must accept your actions as you are denying their right to free decision and action.

    The 'negative' conspiracies I find are the ones that are prejudgemental in nature and are based around 'noun' instead of 'verb'. A conspiracy against the Jews, the Blacks, the homosexuals, etc. Where someone is making a judgement upon a person, or their association with a group of people and the person, or group of people, in question have not committed an actual action 'verb' they just are 'noun'. Judgements like these are often based as the person or group in question is largely serving as a scapegoat for some societal reason or problem.

    To determine the difference I find the answer largely lies with the 'conspirators' being able to provide evidence of the act of wrongdoing that they are basing their judgement upon. If the answer is yes, then I wouldn't view it as a negative conspiracy. I have no problem with swearing or foul language. If someone does and excludes a person from their group, I wouldn't agree with this decision personally, but have no problem with it. They are free to decide what kind of behaviour and expressions they want to surround them self with and so am I. If they cannot provide any evidence of the person committing any action, and then evidence itself is based wholly on them belonging to 'noun' then I do think they are acting in a prejudgemental and flawed manner.

  5. Well, first, to be a conspiracy, this thing has to happen in secret. For instance, if I'm competing for a publishing spot over at LotFP with Scrap Princess and Raggi sends me an email that says, "I looked at x, y, and z and decided to go with Scrap's project," that's not a conspiracy. It might make me sad, but it's not a conspiracy.

    If, on the other hand, Raggi and the Hydra Cooperative crew and some others put their heads together (virtually or in reality) and secretly decided amongst themselves never to publish something I made, never share anything I posted, and to do everything in their power to prevent me from having any sort of publishing success, that would be a conspiracy.

    On the other-other hand, if Raggi and the Hydra Cooperative folks and some others publicly declared their intentions to never publish anything I did and to never share or spread anything I wrote and to do all in their power to prevent me from having any sort of publishing success, that would still really, really suck, but it wouldn't technically count as a conspiracy. Though, for the purposes of the current argument, that might be splitting hairs.

    1. tl;dr: Someone is targeted with the intention of doing harm by a group of folks who try to hide the fact. If the harm is accidental or a side-effect to the main purpose, or the action is overt and advertised, it's not a conspiracy.

  6. To me, a conspiracy is when multiple people get together to plan something action or series of illicit actions in secret. The secrecy is necessary but not sufficient. That there is more than one person is necessary but not sufficient. What turns this collaborating planning into a conspiracy is that the actions are deemed illicit in the eyes of the person or group labeling it a conspiracy.

    If you and your BFF plan a birthday party for me, that's probably lovely. If you collectively plan a surprise party for me, now it's secret but it's still probably lovely. If you collectively plan a surprise birthday party so that you can exclude some other person you don't want at my birthday party, particularly somebody that really enjoys birthday parties, you're probably conspiring.

    I do not believe that the person labeling something as a conspiracy must personally be a target of the conspiracy. I also do not think that an ongoing structure of suppressive actions are necessary for a conspiracy. There can be overlaps between persecution and conspiracy, but neither is a subset of the other.

    In any case, one should generally avoid being seen to label something as a "conspiracy" unless in a highly-technical context such as court briefings if one does not want to appear to be a kook that believes in things like chemtrails, primary source water, and Finland (which we all know is not a real place).

  7. Conspiracy is either

    a plan made in secret by two or more persons to commit an unlawful or treacherous act, or,

    a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose.

    If they come to a decision about you and that decision affects you in what you would consider a negative way, in the first definition it might or not be cospiracy depending whether it was illegal or treacherous, but, on the second definition, it's conspiracy only beucase it was made in secret.

    For me, the difference between conspiracy and decisions I don't like, it's the secrecy, being done at your back, without you being allowed to know.