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There's almost no secret masterminds or shadowy cabals behind it, just selfish short-sighted power-seeking behavior.

How do you know this?

1.5 is "think tank is publicly incorporated, takes funding in mostly-public ways, and publishes position papers with it's name (and the name of members) on it", right?  I'd classify that as "normal, if imperfect, power relationships", not "conspiracy.

Yeah, I think this is usually how it works. However I also think the way these are written makes them almost impossible for people not in the know to understand them or know that they exist.

Do you think it would be accurate to call the soviet union a conspiracy? In it there were rarely explicit lies, although they happened, people in a sense knew that the power structure was manipulating them and not working in their interest yet regular people (I think) didn't pay this too much mind.

While I don't disagree that "incentive systems causing corruption" is similar to what I would call conspiracy there seems to be a problem of the mundanity of evil. "Everyone knows" "capitalism" is unfair and corrupt, "everyone" doesn't have a very specific understanding of how it is corrupt nor do they really think it can be addressed. It's one of these unsolvable problems of "the system".

Compare that to conspiracy people who for example actively distrust the media, actively resist the idea of large corporations running important parts of their lives such as the town-square. If we buy the idea that the system we have in place right now is systematically corrupt then these seem like reasonable actions to take, especially in an attempt to figure out alternatives.

I'm still having a very hard time to differentiate what people would call conspiracy. If the media knowingly tries to make you believe false thing X is that conspiracy? What about if all mainstream media knowingly try to make you believe false thing X? What if all mainstream media knowingly try to make you believe false thing X because another organization has decided that they should do that and has by some not-secret-but-not-known mechanism convinced all media of this?

What if the CIA tries to get control over how people think, is that conspiracy? What if they do this in a way that technically is not secret but claimed to be for our own good? Would that make it go from conspiracy to not?

What if the Mossad runs an operation to get blackmail on American politicians is that a conspiracy? What if they succeed and those politicians become high-ranking?

J. Edgar Hoover used blackmail on presidents to be in control of one important lever of power. If there was a conspiracy that did not have J. Edgar Hoover as part, why would they let Hoover get away with that?

I can't speak to this because I know very little about J. Edgar Hoover.

I'm not sure what you mean with group. Of how many groups are you a member yourself? Is this forum a group?

I think groups should be seen more as a spectrum than as clearly defined entities, even more so when they are not formal, yet I would say that groups definitely exist and identifying them is usually pretty easy even if the border is fuzzy.

My model of the conspiracy is that it is made up of several fuzzy groups of at least three social groups:

  1. Rich elites
  2. Governmental elites
  3. Soft power elites that either have influence over large groups of regular people or small groups of important people

I can't speak to J. Edgar Hoover or Robert Moses (don't know enough about them). The argument that they should be included in any conspiracy because they held two seemingly high positions of power and since they didn't get their way there can be no conspiracy seems like a suspect argument.

If I would have to make it more clear what I mean by conspiracy theory I'd probably define it in terms of a small group of people that have:

  1. Systematic control or large influence over media and other important levers of power
  2. This group is not known to the general public
  3. This group is generally not working for the betterment of the public

Does this seem like fair criteria to you or do you feel like they are overly broad? What would you define it as?

I feel like you expect this to be obviously true, but I'm at least a little well-read and plenty cynical about society, and I'm not seeing what this refers to 

You are correct, I expect this to be true but I don't have a more specific example in mind more than intelligence services such as the CIA seeming to have a thought-out structure which is good at combating leaks and betrayal in different ways.

If you are well read on this, do you remember some resource that makes you think this is not the case? Are you saying conspiracies are really difficult to contain because it is near-impossible to organize in a way to prevent leaks?

edit to add: I do think there's a whole lot of implicit collusion and non-explicit cooperation against other coalitions.  This isn't conspiracy, because it's not organized and overt.  It's not "secret" in that there are no extraordinary measures taken to silence the snitches, but it is "hidden" in that there's no actual conspiracy to expose, just unpleasant (to me) world models and shared goals.

I feel like defining what exactly constitutes a conspiracy is a common problem I have when trying to discuss them, this makes me think the word has too much baggage and should be left for something else, but there are other problem with that.

Imagine for example that the way the world works is something like:

  1. Think tank that is made up of small group of highly filtered elites analyses the world
  2. Media org listens almost entirely to what think tank thinks should be done and tailors message to that
  3. Govs follow media narrative and puts into practice what think tank wanted

Imagine that regular people don't realize that this is how it works, they think the media is simply reporting the news in an unbiased way (or basically only biased by personal feelings of reporters).

Does this make a conspiracy? If you imagine that it works out in the open to the degree that if you and I, really interested individuals, can figure it out and at least circumstantially prove it, is it a conspiracy? What if the way they deal with snitches is that the entire system is built on "knowing" the right people and if you've been marked as a no-good-snitch you end up being thrown out of any important position of power?

I feel as if you probably wouldn't call this a conspiracy, but what is the required additional aspect? That someone in power does something illegal? That they cover something illegal up? That they are malevolent in their intent at some point?

Another, perhaps more important, question is if that behavior is observed somewhere in this system to what degree does that implicate the system at large? If we find that the Epstein story was literally covered up in mainstream media years before it broke, how should we reason about that in regards to the larger system? Currently we get to see glimpses of serious illegal and heinous crimes being part of the course for elites but the usual thinking is that this is only implicating exactly the parts of the system we see the glimpse of.

It's just that there are pretty few very-long-running, hidden, effective organizational conspiracies.  They get eaten in their infancy by the banal inter-conspirator conspiracies against each other.  I can't guarantee none, but it's certainly a lot less than hucksters would have you believe.


Why do you think the long-running and hidden conspiracies get eaten by inter-conspirator conspiracies? I'm interpreting this claim as the idea that ruling elites only cooperate for short amounts of time and then try to screw each other over.

Here are my off-the-top-of-my-head reasons for why this wouldn't be true:

  • Long term goals are achieved by cooperation, the elites which produce stable alliances should expect to be able to achieve more important goals
  • At an elite level long term goals become much more attractive because you already have way more than your short term goals full filled
  • There exists an entire science for how you would organize in a stable and hidden way, the idea that this is a practically impossible task seems false

My guess is that the last point will be the crux, but other than that I'm wondering what your reasons/evidence are for your belief?