When is a conspiracy theory not a false witness?

It was the way you worded them that did not include defamatory statements, that is what made them different. There are people who present the same theories that you did that are filled with defamatory accusation and racism.

I’m not sure where you got that, unless you are saying that scientists are Trump opponents. Is that what you are saying?

That’s true, but I don’t want this thread to turn into a new place for stuff to be repeated, and I hope you can respect that.

I have one specific person in mind who is repeating defamatory accusations against entire groups of people. He is quoting extremists who have not considered all sides of an issue. He is quoting extremists who make money by putting out extreme positions and rashly judging groups of people.

Wow, this is an excellent example! Can we agree that when a talk show host gains greater audience when he puts out conspiracy theories, that this can be a conflict of interest? Viewers always want to hear the truth, not falsehood, but talk show hosts can rake in more advertising dollars by rashly judging groups of people.

Their intent is good in that they are trying to do what they think is best for a cause or ideology, but in doing so they sometimes make defamatory statements that do not consider ccc 2478.

A “more favorable way” is giving people the benefit of the doubt in terms of motive.

That would be okay if you want to discuss a very well-known example, and that the approach to that example would be one of finding that favorable interpretation of the words, actions, and motives of all people involved.

It’s not really an example. I was just asking you to clarify what you meant by:

I don’t know that we can agree. Different show will attract different audiences. I tune into shows like To the Best of Our Knowledge because I like material that is factual but intellectually provocative. I don’t think it’s a “conflict of interest” that they’re appealing to me and audience members like me.

Also, is it a “conflict of interest” that my priest provides excellent homilies to those who share his Catholic beliefs? Even if that means he attracts more people to my parish?

Alex Jones and people like him are spreading a lot of misinformation and bizarre factoids. But I don’t think it can rightly be called a “conflict of interest.”

Again, their motive would be a mitigating factor. I cannot quote the CCC and decry them as sinners when, for all I know, they could genuinely believe what they say and feel a pressing need to convey it to their followers.

Sure - I could get on board with this.

A person presenting news and information is trusted to present the truth, but the conflict arises when they are saying things that are not necessarily true but instead because the statements increase ratings/advertising revenue. This is a conflict of interest, as defined in the link, but it is difficult to prove. This is only a problem, however, if the presentations are defamatory or may harm the consumers or others in some way.

Obviously a priest doing great homilies is likely speaking the truth. His interest is the spiritual well-being of people.

Yes, saying that they are sinners would be uncharitable. Instead, we can present ccc2478 as a guide, we can ask questions and leave their own self-evaluation to their own consciences.

Yes, this is exactly what CCC2478 is saying. It is a specific application of “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”.

Well, that goes back to motive. Do they believe what they’re saying, or making up a bunch of garbage to get ratings? Without a crystal ball or psychic mind, I can’t jump to conclusions - i.e. rash judgments - either way.

It’s a lovely thought but would only work if they’re Catholic. Infowars has some pretty anti-Catholic conspiracy theories, so don’t try it there, lol!

Correct, but consumers can beware of those who only present one side of the story. In addition, if the talk show host himself is not scrutinizing his own sources this way, and what he says is defamatory, then this is very irresponsible behavior.

Yes, the people I know doing it are Catholic, claim to be Catholic.

So, you have judged that he and the people he quotes are sinning.


Now what…?

Are you going to warn at least some of them?

Are you going to learn to avoid rash judgement yourself?

Or are you merely going to accuse him of rash judgement right here giving just the right amount of details to make one wonder if we are supposed to be able to guess who he is…?

And also to wonder if that accusation is actually well founded.

For example:

Well, it looks like that prevents us from considering both sides.

And when you talk about someone else, you talk as if things like that would be undeniably bad and seem to take that as clear evidence of rash judgement:

I think you should consider the ways to make your position a bit more consistent.

Who knows, maybe you only need to be more precise to show what is supposed to be the difference between those cases.

Not sure where you saw that. :man_shrugging:

I think you are accurately pointing out that if I accuse him of rash judgment, I am already on the wrong path. No, I think we can gently present Catholic teaching and let him learn from it, and let him discern what God is telling him through his own conscience.

Not sure where you are getting that. Are you reading my words favorably? :wink:

Yes, but without CCC2478 he probably won’t even consider another way of looking at the situation. His moral education has been through talk radio, and unfortunate outlying extremist(s) who also happen to sometimes be Catholic.

Let’s see:


  1. You say they are “rashly judging groups of people”. (premise, from the quote)
  2. Objectively, rash judgment is a sin. (premise, from Catechism).
  3. You say they are doing what, objectively, is a sin. (from 1, 2)
  4. Someone who is doing what, objectively, is a sin, is sinning. (premise, from definition)
  5. You say they are sinning. (from 3, 4)

There would be some complications if you didn’t know rash judgement is a sin. But you do. You have seen that part of Catechism, and have referred to in in this very thread.

So, what are you still doing here in this thread?

Do you need help in formulating a plan or what?

Wouldn’t it be less favourable without this “as if”? :slight_smile:

Also, I have asked you for clarification. And you answered:

Not exactly a helpful answer to that question…

So did you start this thread to ascertain how you should respond to people you know who are spreading conspiracy theories?

If so, how close are you to them? It may or may not be your place to do or say anything.

Now that I’ve re-read your original post, this stood out:

These are uncharitable accusations. The first is judgmental, the second is a stereotype, the third is judgmental speculation, and the fourth is just a sweeping, cynical generalization.

An actual conspiracy theory involves explaining a tragic or upsetting event by attributing it to a covert group of powerful actors, something I’m not seeing in any of your examples.

I also can’t call them “false witness” if the people saying them believe them to be true. They’re mean-spirited opinions, and it’s certainly a sin to spread gossip. But I don’t think they constitute “false witness.”

You may just be dealing with people who have forgotten our Church’s doctrine of basic charity.

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Could you please cite where it says this, as well as the definition of “sin” you are using?

I have two reasons: 1. I am answering posts from posters, out of respect. 2. I think this is an important issue, so I don’t mind it staying on the discussion board.

Hmm. Well, I suppose there are always less favorable options, until one decides I am satan himself or something like that! :laughing:

You said:

Actually, there are so many words there that refer to unknowns that it’s difficult to go into more detail. I focused on the “as if”, which are often warning signs.
I guess, for example, the word “undeniably” could be replaced with “possibly”, and that would take the interpretation in a more favorable direction. Does that work?

I already have one, but do you have any additional suggestions, other than the route I planned? I am very open to suggestions.



Not necessarily covert, correct?

Still, what they are saying falls far short of a favorable way of interpreting words, motive or actions. It builds the kingdom to be paying attention to defaming remarks, and avoid them as much as possible, even if one thinks them true. Being responsible and charitable would mean trying to understand all points of view.

Context, please? If you don’t mind . . .

No. I worded that wrongly. They’re acting covertly.

I agree. I think they’re negatively gossiping, which is uncharitable and sinful. There’s no need to get fancy with the Catechism on this one, however. A simple call-out should suffice: “Hey, let’s not disparage others that way. That’s not cool.”

Yes, that is good much of the time!

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What “unknowns”?

In the parts I have cited you do talk as if not considering both sides is bad.

You use the facts that someone has not considered both sides of an issue in places where evidence supporting claims that someone is guilty of rash judgement or being an “extremist”.

You do not indicate that this is an inadequate support in any way.

Thus, applying Grice’s maxims - especially that of Quality, submaxim “Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.” -, and his Cooperative Principle (see, for example, https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2019/entries/pragmatics/#Far1.2), I conclude that in this case you have indicated that you think “not considering both sides” is adequate evidence of rash judgement.

That’s clearly an implicature of the things you have said.

(However, as far as I know, some people simply aren’t capable of handling implicature. If that’s the case with you, you should probably say so.)

Now, had I left out that “as if”, it would indicate something that is arguably “unknown”, although still pretty well evidenced.


You did not write as if things like not considering both sides would be “possibly bad”.

In order to do so you would have had to give additional evidence to support your claims, or to weaken them.

Interpreting words of another in favourable way does not mean deliberately misinterpreting or misreading those words.

“[O]ther than the route I planned”?

Um, you did not present it here to me.

Sometimes I might be able to deduce things people have not said, but that is a bit too much. :slight_smile:

By the way, this “incident” shows something that might be useful to know in your task: you are not communicating very well, even in a forum, where you can take about as much time, as you need - up to 14 days (you do take your time, do you…?).

Take that into account when warning him.

I did not use the word “bad”, but it would be going against CCC2478 to not consider both sides of the story. How can one come up with a “favorable way” to interpret the words, deeds, and thoughts of others without considering both sides of the story in a favorable way?

How do you feel about getting both sides of a story? Does that seem difficult?

You are thinking that my wording meant that I am gauging “adequacy”? Trying to get your meaning here.

You are thinking that something in my writing was more certain than “possibly”? Not sure where you got that, but I can accept your interpretation of my words even if I don’t agree with it.

My goodness!

I will demonstrate (I hope) a communication that I hope summarizes: It sounds like you would like me to be more explicit in my writing. Is that correct?


The problem is not that you write too much, fail to get to the point or something like that.

The problem I see is that you seem to be forgetting what happened previously, failing to notice things and are rather imprecise.

Let me illustrate.

First, “forgetfulness” was already shown when you asked “do you have any additional suggestions, other than the route I planned?”, when you did not say what that “rout” was. Here also, you write:

But the very problem I was pointing out is that in another case you argued as if “both sides of the story” were rather optional.

Right now the important part is the fact that you must have forgotten how we got to this point, why we are discussing that.

Second, let’s look at an illustration of the failure to notice things:

I gave an explanation why I think so. The explanation might have been good or bad, it might have been unclear or incomplete, but it did exist. It is not good if you failed to notice it.

Third, I’d say imprecision has been illustrated sufficiently.

Now, it might well be that all of those are merely symptoms of some other problem.

For example, maybe you are hurrying too much, trying to answer right away and not even considering a possibility of answering after a day or two.

Or, perhaps, the real problem is with memory, and it would be solved if you’d be taking notes (coincidentally, taking notes would also force you not to hurry - it is a technique that might be helpful in many cases).

But one thing is clear: those problems (if they also happen elsewhere) can sabotage your tries to warn the man you were talking about. For then you will have to be able to point out what reasoning is used to support his “conspiracy theories” (maybe you won’t have to point it out, but having such an ability “in reserve” would be very useful), and how it is not sufficient to rule out one or another possibility that puts the “targets” in better light.

There imprecision or failure to notice and remember seemingly minor details could lead to much trouble.

The omission of due diligence leads to a willful ignorance, which the person is both responsible and culpable for.

Most of the time, the appropriate response in political or ideological topics where civility has degenerated is to say nothing (Matthew 7:6). You can try to put the discussion back on course but if several of the involved parties are already in a verbal melee that is unlikely to be successful.


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Excellent advice, thank you.

And charitably offered, if I may add! :slightly_smiling_face:

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