1. Arrogance. They are always fact-seekers, questioners, people who are trying to discover the truth: sceptics are always “sheep”, patsies for Messrs Bush and Blair etc.
2. Relentlessness. They will always go on and on about a conspiracy no matter how little evidence they have to go on or how much of what they have is simply discredited. (Moreover, as per 1. above, even if you listen to them ninety-eight times, the ninety-ninth time, when you say “no thanks”, you’ll be called a “sheep” again.) Additionally, they have no capacity for precis whatsoever. They go on and on at enormous length.
3. Inability to answer questions. For people who loudly advertise their determination to the principle of questioning everything, they’re pretty poor at answering direct questions from sceptics about the claims that they make.
4. Fondness for certain stock phrases. These include Cicero’s “cui bono?” (of which it can be said that Cicero understood the importance of having evidence to back it up) and Conan Doyle‘s “once we have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the truth”. What these phrases have in common is that they are attempts to absolve themselves from any responsibility to produce positive, hard evidence themselves: you simply “eliminate the impossible” (i.e. say the official account can’t stand scrutiny) which means that the wild allegation of your choice, based on “cui bono?” (which is always the government) is therefore the truth.
5. Inability to employ or understand Occam’s Razor. Aided by the principle in 4. above, conspiracy theorists never notice that the small inconsistencies in the accounts which they reject are dwarfed by the enormous, gaping holes in logic, likelihood and evidence in any alternative account.
6. Inability to tell good evidence from bad. Conspiracy theorists have no place for peer-review, for scientific knowledge, for the respectability of sources. The fact that a claim has been made by anybody, anywhere, is enough for them to reproduce it and demand that the questions it raises be answered, as if intellectual enquiry were a matter of responding to every rumour. While they do this, of course, they will claim to have “open minds” and abuse the sceptics for apparently lacking same.
7. Inability to withdraw. It’s a rare day indeed when a conspiracy theorist admits that a claim they have made has turned out to be without foundation, whether it be the overall claim itself or any of the evidence produced to support it. Moreover they have a liking (see 3. above) for the technique of avoiding discussion of their claims by “swamping” – piling on a whole lot more material rather than respond to the objections sceptics make to the previous lot.
- Stereotypes Conspiracy Theorists have against Skeptics (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracy Theorists: No longer harmless (illuminutti.com)
- The Trouble with Conspiracy Theories (illuminutti.com)
- KTH: Newtown harassed by conspiracy theorists (illuminutti.com)
- John Cook: Conspiracy Theorists Respond to Evidence They’re Conspiracy Theorists With More Conspiracy Theories (huffingtonpost.com)
- Be a Proud Conspiracy Theorist, You’re in the Majority (theintelhub.com)
- How To Respond To An Anti Conspiracy Theorist (zengardner.com)