Monday, February 28, 2011

it's a conspiracy.

My students love conspiracy theories. They love them. Everything that they talk about is either about the Masons, Illuminati, or some kind of crazy American government plot. This is extended to basically everything that we have studied or not studied this year. Everything from 9/11, the founding of Israel, America in Iraq (pretty much any event in history) to the music industry. There is a theory that Eminem was once a member of the Illuminati, but got out because he thought they were doing evil things and that's why everyone is out to get him. I

Anyway, after a heated conversation about 9/11 today after class, I was left thinking. Why is it that conspiracy theories are so popular? I had a conversation with my incredibly intelligent sister about this and I came to two conclusions: people believe in conspiracy theories because ignorance allows any truth to be possible; people believe in conspiracy theories because they have a vested interest in believing whatever the conspiracy is.

Firstly, ignorance allows any truth to be possible. One of my students today maintained that everyone knows that there were explosions (like charges or something) that caused the World Trade Center towers to fall like they did. This student is not an engineer. I am also not an engineer. I can safely say that I do not know the physics behind what caused the towers to fall the way they did. Now it occurred to me while I was listening to this student that because neither of us really understand how these things work, anything could be possible and true. If we expand this idea to any other conspiracy theory, say, the "faked" moon landings, we discover that there's a lot of variables that prevent you from having an easy idea of how these things happen. I understand why people think that we faked the moon landings...I one has been there but 14 astronauts. They're really the only ones who have really experienced the conditions on the moon. So how the flag waves in a vacuum or how the lighting on the moon looks really is something that we have to do some crazy mythbusters type investigations to test. Usually people who believe in conspiracy theories are simply thinking based on public information...or youtube videos that have been proven wrong (yes I'm looking at you "loose change"). So ultimately, for my students and for myself, trying to argue about things like this are kind of pointless. I mean, yes, we need to get these things out in the open and discuss them, but if the student or the teacher cannot really intimately describe the mechanics and physics involved in something as complicated as a building collapse...then perhaps it's not a credible point to make in an argument.

Secondly was the point that my sister brought up. People want (or need, in some cases) to believe in said conspiracy. If my students believe, honestly believe, that 9/11 was an American government/Illuminati/Masonic plot then it lets Islam off the hook. They become the religion that is getting beaten up on; the victim. I know, and I like to think that most Americans know, that it was a group of very disturbed individuals that committed the atrocities of 9/11 in the name of Islam. Just like all Christians do not condone the bombing of abortion clinics or violent action against homosexuals, most Muslims abhor the attacks of 9/11. I had a conversation today with one of my colleagues about the perceptions that westerners and Arabs have of one another. It's built on Fox News and terrorism for most Americans, and American TV and the invasion of Iraq and US support of Israel for most Arabs. What this leads to is a desire to shut out the west and keep them at a distance, while Americans are both afraid of and intrigued by Arabs. Getting back to my point, sometimes people believe in a conspiracy because they want it to be true, and not investigating further is their way of allowing ignorance so that it can be (see how I tied it back to the other idea? You're welcome.)

I'm sure I'm gonna get some comments on this, but it's something that I have really been thinking about and talking about a lot with my students. Our understanding of each other is very limited, and even when we seem to get close, we realize how different we are.

Vicariously yours,


  1. Professulas love foreign students because they are servile and do not make the professulas work for their paycheck. The professullas don’t care about students, they only care about their grant grubbing parasitism at taxpayer expense. They want all their students to be commy nutty ochronosers like Obama, not get real jobs. So many foreign born professullas fled to the USA because we are better but then they have the audacity to insist we become like the places they fled.

    UPI June 6, 1992 Sovern took over at Columbia after student protests of 1968 and New York's fiscal problems in the '70s resulted in less financial support for the school, a situation made more dire by recent federal government budget cuts. . . But Columbia will be looking for a new president in a period troubled by criticism for destroying records that were being reviewed for improprieties. Universities in general have been under greater scrutiny for how they charge the government for federally sponsored research.

    Surely Joking Feynamn p 215 "If I ask you a question during the lecture, afterwards everybody will be telling me, 'What are you wasting our time for in the class? We're trying to learn something. And you're stopping him by asking a question'."

    The Independent October 2, 2010 New charges for 'Dean of Mean' over slave students David Usborne Pg. 32 WHEN STUDENTS at St John's University in New York received a work assignment from Dean Cecilia Chang, the chances were it had less to do with learning than with preparing her lunch - or shovelling snow... specifically targeted students with scholarships, many from overseas, saying they would lose them if they didn't fulfil the household chores she ordered.

    Melbourne Age July 15, 2009 Foreign students 'slave trade'; Colleges exploit quest for residency Nick O'Malley, Heath Gilmore and Erik Jensen Pg. 6 THOUSANDS of overseas students are being made to work for nothing - or even pay to work - by businesses exploiting loopholes in immigration and education laws in what experts describe as a system of economic slavery. The vast pool of unpaid labour was created in 2005 when vocational students were required to do 900 hours work experience. There was no requirement that they be paid.

    Washington Post March 31, 2006 Most See Visa Program as Severely Flawed Mitra Kalita D01 In a working paper released this week, Harvard University economist George J. Borjas studied the wages of foreigners and native-born Americans with doctorates, concluding that the foreigners lowered the wages of competing workers by 3 to 4 percent. He said he suspected that his conclusion also measured the effects of H-1B visas. "If there is a demand for engineers and no foreigners to take those jobs, salaries would shoot through the roof and make that very attractive for Americans," Borjas said. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA says H-1B salaries are lower. "Those who are here on H-1B visas are being worked as indentured servants. They are being paid $13,000 less in the engineering and science worlds," said Ralph W. Wyndrum Jr., president of the advocacy group for technical professionals, which favors green-card-based immigration, but only for exceptional candidates.

    San Jose Mercury News June 26, 2006 Monday Tech visas come with obligation for valley leaders Mike Langberg Pg. 1 Norman S. Matloff, a professor of computer science at UC-Davis and a longtime H-1B critic, counters that claims of low unemployment among engineers don't count underemployment... A former software engineer now working as a teacher or a real estate agent doesn't count in the statistics... employers unwilling to hire older engineers, even if they've retrained themselves... The AFL-CIO, in a February position paper, argued that H-1Bs and other loopholes allow employers ``to turn permanent jobs into temporary jobs.