The Tin Foil Hat Party, http://​www​.tfhp​.org/

Michael Sher­mer over at Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can Blogs has just posted an entry called “The Con­spir­acy The­ory Detec­tor” where he offers a heuris­tic for test­ing a con­spir­acy the­ory: bull­shit or not?

We here at Log­a­rchism are fas­ci­nated by con­spir­acy the­o­ries, and after the New Year we plan to kick around a few.

(Okay, it’s fil­istro who’s inter­ested, but she’s so damn cool the rest of us like to humour her, most espe­cially by spelling things like a Cana­dian does.)

I found Dr. Shermer’s argu­ment espe­cially con­vinc­ing. He’s been con­fronted by a 911 denier from the Uni­ver­sity of Leth­bridge. (I won’t name the guy here, because clearly he doesn’t need to add me to his list of “pseudo-​​skeptics” after he Googles him­self.) I didn’t think Alberta had any tin­foil hat-​​wearers but clearly I was wrong.

Maybe we can run each of the the­o­ries we cover, early next year, through Dr. Shermer’s “detec­tor” and assess their vorac­ity. (I used to fre­quent alt.folklore.urban, where many of these con­spir­acy the­o­ries were dis­cussed. Some­one, long before I came, had mistyped “verac­ity” as “vorac­ity” and it had a nice ring to it, so we all started using it. Now it’s become a habit. The alpha cou­ple of alt.folklore.urban started snopes​.com and the rest is history.)

I’ve had a long-​​standing fas­ci­na­tion with urban leg­ends ever since I was a wee sprout and my Mother told me about “The Lady of White Rock Lake” in Dal­las, Texas—and I believed her. (She is my Mom, after all, and she believed it.) I know now the story is the “Van­ish­ing Hitch­hiker”, Brunvand’s ur-​​urban legend.

Fil­istro loves con­spir­acy the­o­ries and those who spout them.

The Venn dia­gram of “urban leg­ends” and “con­spir­acy the­o­ries” has sub­stan­tial over­lap. I’m look­ing for­ward to our series. If you have any sug­ges­tions for (ahem) alter­na­tive expla­na­tions for events that you want to see “Shermer-​​ized”, please post them in the com­ments thread below.