Saturday, November 5, 2011

Conspiracies and the Attraction of Redaction

I happened to make a comment on Facebook this morning along the lines of “let’s start a rumor that #OWS was actually started by the credit unions in order to get people to dump banks and switch to credit unions – it would be the ultimate conspiracy theory, to suggest that the credit unions masterminded #OWS to attract business”.

It seemed amusing until I received this email this evening:

“Harry, I know you are always encouraging people to think for themselves and to be aware of truth disguised as something  that is not obvious. Did you know that there is a rumor on the street that the OccupyWallSt group is being funded by credit unions trying to steal business from the banks?”.

Sad, isn’t it?  All it takes is something that sounds good and resonates with our need to be on guard against the covert and devious-minded and you quickly have created something that is shared as fact.

The average human mind hates gaps and will fill them in an effort to connect the dots.  Sometimes we send someone a message and if we haven’t received a reply in the time we have decided is acceptable, we wonder if the other person has been injured and can’t respond, is angry with us and doesn’t want to respond or has a devious reason for not responding.

The same holds true for information.  I love reading stories about people who spend years trying to get classified information out of the government until they finally receive the declassified version that is so heavily redacted that it is worthless and yet, the existence of the redaction reinforces their belief that they are “on to something”.

There’s even software out there that will help you set up your own redaction scheme, just in case someone chases after you about your knowledge of aliens, the JFK assassination or J. Edgar Hoover’s favorite dress color.  And yes, I’m being facetious – I know there are legitimate reasons for redaction in the public and private sector.

Accepting legitimate reasons for redaction, I believe that a large portion of human potential is being wasted processing conspiracy theories and is contributing to the mess that the world is in, cluttering our minds with a lot of noise and distraction.

However, I do get intrigued by some gaps in knowledge.  For example, there is a government group that approached me in the fall of 2010 to ask for permission to explore some of my work in the use of predictive analytics to predict human behavior.  When I asked if I had an option to decline the request, I was told that I did not.  The work that has resulted in the last year as a result of a review of my work is classified and not available to me, even though it is based on my work.  An intriguing gap, but probably not as exciting as the great stories my brain wants to weave from such gaps.

That being said, when I listen to #OWS people, conspiracy folks or anyone else who loves to convert gaps in time or knowledge into covert plans bent on the suppression of our inalienable rights or the ultimate demise of the human species in general, I am saddened by the misdirection of energy.

I mean, I agree that it wouldn’t surprise me if groups like  ████████████ or █████████████████ had an interest in hiding information about ████████████, █████████ or even ██████████.  However, I think we need to get over the paranoia that arises every time a ██████████████ says that we must ████████████ █████████ ██████ just because █████████ indicates that ██████████████ ███████████ ████████ ██████████ ██████████ ███████.

There are, however,  people and groups that we should pay attention to.  Just as the magician achieves magic through sleight-of-hand and misdirection, sometimes the people or groups that are doing the redaction aren’t the problem.  They are the “misdirection” required by someone else. The “someone else” are the ones that the conspiracy crowd should really go after.

Such people are probably pretty powerful.  I wonder if the average conspiracy person would really want to tackle what would come out of Pandora’s box once the cover has been removed on some conspiracy theories. 

I doubt it.

Until then, it is best that we not assume that every government group has a conspiracy behind it, every mountain has a UFO base underneath it and the two guys in sunglasses driving the late-model Cadillac behind you for the last two days are looking to zap your mind with a neuralizer.

Well … the last part is probably true.  But if that were the case, then ███████████ was right when he said ████████ ██████████   ██████████████ ████ ███████ ███████ ███████.

And if that were true, then we know that ███████ ████ ████████ is also true.

And that’s when I would really be concerned.

Until then, let’s put our energy into impactful things that can make a real difference where it is needed.  We can find a lot of things that require immediate fixing in the world without letting our imaginations get the best of us by creating a ton of stuff that doesn’t exist but which drains our energy all the same. 

And besides, sometimes we have to watch what we wish for – we might just find it.

Now … if only that Cadillac would stop following me around.

In service and servanthood,


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