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The Latest Conspiracy Theory
Here's a nauseating claim made by someone in a comment to my post about Meron:
Have you researched the possibility that it was the government or police that was responsible for the deaths? There are countless write ups about this. Some say that the reason they were killed was so that people would say “chareidim are irresponsible” and use it as a pretext to take away power from their ideological enemies.
Why were the CCTV cameras disabled before the event?
Why were the bleachers damaged purposely in the days before the tragedy?
Why did people pour water on the slope and make it slippery?
Why did the police block off some of the exits?
Why were the police brutalising chareidim before the tragedy? On video btw.
All these need answering too.
Now, there are different ways of responding to such offensive stupidity. One is to respond, point by point, to each of the claims:
Q. Why were the CCTV cameras disabled before the event?
A. They weren't. There is plenty of camera coverage.
Q. Why were the bleachers damaged purposely in the days before the tragedy?
A. They weren't. They may well have been in poor condition, but that's just because of general incompetence in maintenance.
Q. Why did people pour water on the slope and make it slippery?
A. They didn't. Water was spilled, not deliberately poured.
Q. Why did the police block off some of the exits?
A. To try (possibly very incompetently) to make some order in the chaos.
Q. Why were the police brutalising chareidim before the tragedy?
A. Fights between police and charedim happen all the time. (It's generally because of extremist charedim that misbehave, as can be seen in plenty of videos from this week alone.)
But this point-by-point rejoinder neglects the larger issue here. This conspiracy theory about a secret government/ police plan to kill large numbers of charedim in order to make them look bad and remove power from them (whatever that means) suffers from the same basic problem as every conspiracy theory, whether regarding the Holocaust, Jewish control, Covid, the vaccine, or the "stolen" US election.
The basic logical flaw in all conspiracy thinking is that it negates both Occam's Razor and Hanlon's Razor. Occam's Razor states that a simple explanation for events is much more likely to be true than a complicated explanation. Hanlon's Razor, which is based on Occam's Razor, states that one should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Conspiracy theories look for the most complicated, sinister explanation of events instead of the simplest explanations. But the reality is that most events can be very simply explained by ordinary phenomena. In particular, it's always much more reasonable to attribute problems to the prevalent problem of human incompetence than to deliberate, malicious, complicated plans to create them. Conspiracies, on the other hand, require levels of organization and cooperation and secret-keeping which human beings are just not very good at, as anyone responsible for managing large teams of people can attest.
Note too that the comment about Meron uses a tactic popular among conspiracy theorists, of making a list of (alleged) questions. Asking questions is a good thing when the questions are based on fact and the person asking actually wants the answers. But in these cases, it's a sneaky way of spreading disinformation while maintaining an appearance of intellectual honesty. The conspiracy theorist who presents a list of questions is not looking for the most plausible answers - he is looking to plant a wild accusation in people's minds. Presenting this in the form of questions means that when people ridicule it, the conspiracy theorist can accuse them of just trying to shut down open debate and suppress truth. (See this excellent article about the problem, and this article about how this disingenuous technique is used to great effect by Tucker Carlson.)
There are all kinds of psychological mechanisms which make conspiracy theories appeal to people. It's appealing to think that you have access to "suppressed" or "secret" information. And it can actually be psychologically reassuring to believe that events, including harmful events, are not random or unplanned (or, in the case of Meron, the result of charedi unwillingness to take professionalism seriously), but are the calculated result of a plan - even if it being planned by evil forces. And in the modern world of social media and electronic communication, it's very easy for people thus inclined to hook up with many other such people to reinforce their attitude.
It wasn't that long ago that conspiracy theories were a joke, fodder for a TV show called The X-Files, and nobody took them seriously. It's a pity that this flawed line of thinking is making a resurgence.
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