“The secret of being a top-notch con man is being able to know what the mark wants, and how to make him think he’s getting it.” Ken Kesey
This is one sentence by Ken Kesey is possibly the best quotation I have ever seen regarding con men and how they operate. This also holds true, I have seen, with the conspiracy theory crowd, whether it be with Alex Jones, David Icke or the likes of the religious conspiracy ilk.
People who are familiar with my any of my blogs or my books will know that I spend considerable effort debunking these bogus myths thrust upon the masses by what I like to call the “Cons-Piracy Mafia“. My first book even dealt directly with all the points that one religious fraudster, Alberto Rivera, claimed in his Vatican Islam Conspiracy. But since the book’s publication in 2006 I have had lots of mail from people condemning me for debunking Rivera and the shots over my bow mainly come from the direction of the very dupes who refuse to even open the book. When I consider who my main critics have been over these years it becomes extremely apparent that Jack Chick and Alberto Rivera are giving their audience what they want to see and hear: That the Roman Catholic Church schemed to create Islam in order to subjugate true Christians.
I can’t but help see the psychological parallels in those who follow these conspiracy theories and the victims who get caught up in the Nigerian 419 advance fee scams (as I am currently reading McMafia by Misha Glenny.)
In each case the victims were drawn closer and closer into the scam until in many cases they have allowed themselves to be fleeced of all their money and then some. Of course, in the case of the Nigerian scams people put this crime down to greed but it goes to a level even beyond. You see, the greed in the 419 scam comes from both sides, from both the perpetrator and the victim as well. And I find that this is exactly the same when we look into conspiracy theories. Both the originator of the theory as well as the follower are both “believers” in conspiracy. The follower, the more they are drawn in, become increasingly self-delusional in their acceptance of the lie. The followers begin to lose their free will to judge in these matters, much like a hypnotized person, like the proverbial zombie.
This is definitely true in the Vatican Islam Conspiracy, though I believe that the roles of Alberto Rivera and Jack Chick were initially quite different. Rivera on one hand, I believe was actually a scoundrel. Rivera found the audience and spun the tales to suit what the audience hungered for. It could be very possible that he suffered the fate of many habitual liars – that Rivera eventually began to believe his own lies. Jack Chick on the other hand, in my opinion, was one of the zombies. Chick was predisposed to the type bullshit that Rivera was selling because it fit in with his theological beliefs that were already in place. Chick was a willing dupe who has in turn become the vehicle of this lie.
Part of the art of spinning these conspiratorial tales is the ability of throwing out facts, quasi-facts and disinformation in a way that is either very difficult to check, beyond the education and background knowledge of the audience or preferably both. The well spun conspiracy yarn is certain to leave their heads in a spin. A general feeling of doubt is created from which distrust of the truth in general is created and the Cons-Piracy Mafia feeds on this scenario. For example, think about the last time you watched a movie such as JFK. For the casual viewer so many facts were thrown out to the viewer as “true” that even a clear headed person would be likely to leave the cinema with no idea of what really happened in the assassination of John Kennedy, but he would be fairly convinced that there was indeed a government cover up.
And the people who went into the movie already expecting a government cover up? Well, the got what they paid for!