Russell Brand’s Revolution And The Conspiracy Theory Link.

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Conspiracy theories and exponents of revolution have many holes in their arguments, even when they’re not as poorly made and detached from reality as when Russell Brand makes them. One of the main problems though, could be the mindset of the individual making all the noise themselves. Putting the word theorist after conspiracy, doesn’t then mean that an opinion becomes a testable hypotheses or is worth being taken seriously. Calling yourself a revolutionary, doesn’t mean you know what you’re talking about, have a good heart, have the answers, or indeed, any solution at all. In Brand’s case, I don’t doubt that what he says comes from a good place, and I agree there needs to be a change in the way we live together in the world, but it needs to be actionable, and not just polemic that satisfies the idealistic – which is very difficult in the real world. I don’t discount everything he says, indeed, I’m impressed that he cares at all given his extremely privileged position as he might stand to lose out most. But, I’m skeptical of much of what he says for a few reasons.

One of the main problems if you identify as a conspiracy theorist, an anarchist, or a revolutionary, is that you tend to be against the ‘official’ narrative, whatever it is. It’s also possible that you’d object to many of the official positions and policies even if they’re beneficial, and any verdict surrounding unrelated events, even before there’s anything to object to, because you’ve primed yourself to. Another issue is the notion that you have to be open-minded to any alternative, whatever that option might be, even if it’s nonsense or just not feasible. However, without stretching the imagination, there are some theories that potentially have grains of truth to them: That aggressive financial lobbying for oil may have contributed in part to the Iraq war, or that the government are watching everything we do aren’t too far-fetched. There’s definitely a correlation between resources and war. And the government (and the media) are surely watching some of us, they have the technology, hopefully they’re focusing on terrorists though, but not me, I’m not interesting enough…. but maybe that’s what they want me to think!

A glaring worry here is that even if the idea is patently ridiculous, such as the belief that there was no moon landing (you must see Prof Brian Cox’s reaction), or that global warming is a government plot, people might be inclined to believe them, and their opinion becomes the norm: In short, you’re so open-minded that your brain falls out. This in turn leads to the conspiracy theorist often being more closed-minded than those they accuse of wearing blinkers. This is in part due to a rigid obedience to an overarching anti-authority attitude, and which people like Charlie Veitch who change their mind in such circles are vilified and threatened for deviating from. The notion that there must be something more sinister at play, and importantly that it must have been intentional rather than random is also prominent; A phenomenon psychologists call attribution error. Because of this, anything you want to cite as evidence propping up your theory doesn’t really need to be evidence, it just needs to fit with your particular schema, so things become proof through necessity, rather than them actually proving anything. And anything that is contrary to your view is discounted as merely part of the cover up or the establishment’s self-serving narrative.

Take 9/11. Many people, potentially even Brand by his own admission believe, for whatever reason, that the USA blew up the twin towers. Since then many other conspiracy theories abound regarding the USA’s part as an intentional and nefarious actor in many other domestic and foreign affairs. Many people concluded the Boston bombing was the work of the CIA, even before there was any evidence to go by. Alex Jones (who also knew Charlie Vietch mentioned previously, and made a film calling him a “psychopath” with “sociopath eyes” just for changing his views) at Info Wars in particular cites two men dressed in ‘off duty’ Seal attire as proof that it was an inside job, even before anyone really knew what was going on. And that’s what I’m talking about: Two men dressed in a particular way became evidence to fit the pre-existing mould of governmental suspicion, rather than actually being evidence in favour of any explanation of the event in question. By the way, I’m not saying don’t be suspicious of the government, we should be, we should hold them to account, but reasonably so, and actually have an alternative in mind rather than just waffle.

The final problem is that people who claim to be the archetype of open-mindedness (whatever that looks like), could be in their own way, just finding another source of information to swallow hook line and sinker. The lure of celebrity is powerful (it’s why I used a picture of Brand in this post and probably the only reason you’re reading this), and when someone so passionate seems to be fighting the good fight, then they must be right every time…. mustn’t they? In fact, some research shows that there is a link between conspiracy theories and feelings of political powerlessness and a reduced intention to engage in politics, so it might not be such a coincidence that Brand espouses both. It might actually be fear and despair that Brand is unintentionally stoking, rather than revolution or reform. If he’s serious about his politics, perhaps giving up is fortune and committing to focusing on his revolution would convince more of us that he is, now that would be a positive and self-less act.

It requires a huge amount of cognitive effort and attention, as well as an ability to constantly critique one’s own biases (which can be uncomfortable) to do all of the research on every issue you might be interested in. Thus, it’s much easier to watch the apparently open-minded Brand on the Trews because he mirrors your expectations, just like any other social, political, or religious ideologue you might follow. But be wary, you might actually be relying on being spoon fed and misled by such people, rather than actually do the research, vet the sources (including Brand, and governmental mouth pieces), use a critical eye, and truly come to your own conclusions in line with what is evidenced beyond reasonable doubt, and realistic in practice.

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About glencarrigan

Glen Carrigan is a Neuropsychology Postgraduate Researcher and Senior Research Assistant in Clinical Practice at The University of Central Lancashire. Glen is a public speaker, humanist, science presenter, ex-soldier, and social and political activist with an interest in all things related to equality, science, education, and politics.

Posted on October 24, 2014, in Psychology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I think Brand has damaged his (already at times questionable) credibility by indulging in 9/11 conspiracy theories. It is sad, because a lot of what he wishes would change would be of genuine benefit to the people that need it the most. Taking cheap cracks at the Bush administration isn’t going to advance his cause:

    http://lovelanguageloveliterature.com/2014/10/29/whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-brand/

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