Ed Driscoll

'Belief in Conspiracies Linked to Machiavellian Mindset'

Gosh, go figure. But for what it’s worth, here’s Tom Jacobs of the Miller-McCune.com Website running with this notion for 547 words:

Know any conspiracy theorists? No doubt they’ve tried to convince you that man didn’t really land on the moon or President Obama was born in Kenya.

In fact, they were imparting genuinely interesting information — about themselves. New research suggests belief in such theories may reveal a Machiavellian mindset.

“At least among some samples and for some conspiracy theories, the perception that ‘they did it’ is fueled by the perception that ‘I would do it,’” University of Kent psychologists Karen Douglas and Robbie Sutton write in the British Journal of Social Psychology.

“These studies suggest that people who have more lax personal morality may endorse conspiracy theories to a greater extent because they are, on average, more willing to participate in the conspiracies themselves.”

* * *

The researchers found that “personal willingness to engage in the conspiracies predicted endorsement of conspiracy theories.” So did a propensity to manipulate others for personal gain.

“For example,” they write, “highly Machiavellian individuals were seemingly more likely to believe that government agents staged the 9/11 attacks because they were more likely to perceive that they would do so themselves, if [they found themselves] in the government’s position.”

And who wouldn’t want to see Rosie, Charlie, Jesse, and Van brainstorming together on a cover-up of that magnitude?

Also at Miller-McCune: “Teddy Bears Soften Pain of Social Exclusion,” and “Flowers Make Women More Receptive to Romance.” As Jonah Goldberg wrote a decade ago, I need studies to tell me these things?

What does it say when the media and society generally consider common sense to be news and the existence of human nature to be a revelation?Well, one of the things it illustrates is the degree to which modernist ideology saturates our thinking. For much of the 20th century, enlightened intellectuals argued that the past has nothing to teach us. Science and liberationist ideology conspired to teach us that the past and tradition were so much social ballast keeping us down.

Along came the conservatives. They said, “no, no.” They denounced the arrogance of intellect of social planners who believed they could slay the dragon of social complexity with a slide rule. They denounced those who would throw away our heritage without a reliable replacement. They fought the good fight. But, in the end, the conservatives needed some help.

What the neocons did was fight social science with social science. The new cons published studies proving what the old cons had said all along was true. Indeed, you could argue that the neoconservative project, domestically, was an effort to prove through regression analysis and reams of data that everything your grandmother told you was true.

Of course, today it’s not just a bunch of eggheads talking about “maximum feasible misunderstanding” and the “law of unintended consequences.” Today, we’re all neocons in a certain narrow sense. We’re all “discovering” that the accumulated wisdom of hundreds of generations actually contains a lot of useful information. As science reconfirms human nature, and as the radicalism of identity politics and post-modernism decay into self-parody, common sense is getting a new lease on life.

Consider, for example, the story reported today in The Times of London: that American researchers have concluded that “Adolescents with tattoos are much more likely than other teenagers to be involved with drugs, alcohol or even gang violence.”

Shocking! Though we are still waiting for the results of a study attempting to establish a link between kids who steal hubcaps with getting low grades in algebra.

Still, there’s something sad about a society of neoconservatives, too. The fact that so many Americans need a study to tell them tattoos aren’t merely a form of self-expression is deeply depressing in the sense that it shows how far we have to go (People say “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” as if this is the wisest thing in the world. But the truth is, short of reading a book, looking at the cover is the best way to judge it. The cover tells you what the author and the publisher want you to know about the book).

Or take a famous headline from the New York Times in 1997: “Crime Keeps Falling but Prisons Keep on Filling.” The author and the editors of the Times seemed to think this was some sort of paradox when in fact it’s like saying, “I keep eating pizza, but my belly keeps getting bigger.” For most of human history, it wouldn’t even be remotely shocking that crime went down as prisons filled.

In contrast though, for many on the left, particularly in academia, who believe that human nature is fungible, every day is Groundhog Day.

Update: QED.

(H/T: OJ)