So many conspiracy theories out there right now. Here’s the first filter I use.
Okay, let’s start working our way through the conspiracy theories that are out there right now.
We’re a couple of posts into this now.
In the first post I showed you how our biology makes the pursuit of perfect truth incredibly difficult. In the second post I made the point that there’s so much information out there nowadays, that you need to be using filters to sort the plausible from the implausible.
There’s just too much out there to crunch all that data yourself.
In that post I gave you a list of my filters. So let’s talk about the first one.
I call this The Comfortably Numb Filter.
Now, this is probably the most subtle filter, but I would say it’s also the most important.
Because the truth is a lot of conspiracy theories are completely disempowering – they suck the life out of you and freeze you up.
And the only thing that they offer you in return is a feeling of smug righteousness.
(A devil’s bargain if ever there was one.)
This is something I noticed a lot in the early days of investing – when I was starting out, and hadn’t learnt to be selective in who I listened to and who I didn’t.
And in those days, I can guarantee you that for every idea I had, I could find someone who was going to tell me it was a disaster waiting to happen.
“Oh you want to get into stocks? Don’t you know that there’s a massive cover-up of just how much debt is on corporate balance sheets. All the accounting firms are in on it. The whole market is about to explode.”
“Oh, you want to trade commodities? Don’t you know that the Rothschilds have the silver and gold markets stitched up, and will destroy those markets if any government steps out of line?”
“Oh, you want to trade property? Don’t you know that the banks are artificially juicing valuations to boost profits? Any day now, they’re going to sell out and the market will come tumbling down.”
For ten, maybe 15 years I listened to stuff like this.
But then, I noticed that even after ten years, that crash was always “any day now”.
And I noticed that the people who clung to these theories weren’t using them to invest. They weren’t short-selling these markets.
They were just using them as an excuse to do nothing.
And what I could see, when I watched that part of myself that wanted to believe them, is that I wanted that excuse to do nothing.
Doing something was hard. It required education, research and work. It required taking risks.
Doing nothing was easy.
And so if there was a story that justified doing nothing, it was very tempting to believe it.
Nowadays, I’m on to it.
I recognise the bias that I have – that everyone has.
And I am highly suspicious of conspiracy theories that justify inaction.
“No point engaging in politics. It’s all controlled by space lizards anyway.”
“I could recycle more, but global warming is a con perpetrated by Big Green anyway.”
“I’m not changing my behaviour. The Corona Virus isn’t a real thing anyway.”
For a theory to have any value, it needs to guide action.
But it’s also worth watching for the ‘viral’ nature of certain theories.
Like these ones. If they just left you feeling overwhelmed and helpless, no one would buy it. They also needs to make you feel smug and righteous. That’s the pay-off. That you know more than other people. That you know the truth. That you’re too smart for the trap that’s waiting for them.
That’s why these theories are popular. They justify inaction, and make you feel righteous.
That’s a toxic drug.
So this probably isn’t as hard and as fast as the other filters, but it’s still the most important.
Beware theories that make you feel smug in doing diddly-squat.