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Apparent Conspiracies


Techniques General Persuasion > Conspiracy Theories > Apparent Conspiracies

Over-zealous monitoring | Common cause | Local action | Copying | See also


Conspiracies, or at least what are taken for conspiracies do occur, though they are seldom driven by evil geniuses, secret cabals or corrupt politicians. Here are four situations where there appears to be a wider conspiracy when this may well not be the case.

Over-zealous monitoring

The classic government conspiracy starts with snooping and monitoring of possible criminals. This is then widened to monitoring ordinary, lawful people (who just could be criminals). It then progresses into wider and wider monitoring and data collection. Then comes the temptation to use the data for purposes other than its original intent. And eventually somebody leaks this information or the world at large otherwise finds out.

Rather than being a grand plan orchestrated by secret government organizations, it is more a matter of enthusiastic monitoring that has been taken too far. It is wrong, of course. But it happens.

Local action

The structure of this conspiracy is that one person does something wrong, which is exposed. But then this knowledge generalized to an assumption that many others doing the same thing, and that they are all following an organized conspiracy.

People are autonomous agents. We all think for ourselves and do not always do as we should or what we are told to do. Particularly when they are motivated by hitting targets or looking good, people can act on their own volition, outside their real remit. When this independent action gets exposed, it easily looks like just one example of many, that it is a peek into a broader intent.

This is typical of problem in companies where a local manager acts against company values in order to meet pressing objectives. The false assumption is that this is company policy or is orchestrated by the managing board.

Common cause

Sometimes multiple people do take similar actions, but this is often due to a common cause rather than them working together as a secret organization.

A typical example is rich people who seek to make money, perhaps in immoral but not quite legal ways. The common cause is the desire for more money. A similar method does not mean they are collaborating. Likewise companies who compete may have products with very similar prices, which go up an down together, appearing as if they are price-fixing. In practice, they may well be responding to each others' competitive actions or perhaps variation in supply costs.


Sometimes one person does something and others think 'That's good idea' and copy them.

This is how autonomous terrorist cells can work, or even outside sympathizers. They have a broad but common intent or desire. They see effective action elsewhere and, lacking a better idea, they adopt and adapt it to their situation. It also happens in society, where rioting is copied. Note that these can also have common cause. 

Again, it looks like there is a grand plan and a higher intelligence guiding the plot.

See also



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