Not every theory is a conspiracy theory


On September 26 last year—exactly five months ago tomorrow—a couple of underwater explosions 70 meters beneath the surface of the Baltic Sea caused three leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines. There is no question of the event having been anything but sabotage.

Western governments still have no idea who was responsible.

Given the resources available for investigation, that’s extraordinary. So extraordinary that “Swedes urge patience and calm in Nort Stream blast probe,” according to a headline at earlier this week.

Sweden has urged faith in its “unique” Nord Stream blast enquiry, as Russia repeats allegations of a Western conspiracy.

“To my knowledge, this is a unique investigation,” a spokeswoman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority told EUobserver, referring to efforts to find out who blew up Russia’s gas pipelines to Germany in Sweden’s maritime zone last September.

“When an investigation is completed and the prosecutor decides to indict, everything in the investigation becomes public,” the spokeswoman also said.

“There are exceptions though — information that concerns the security of Sweden,” she said.

Denmark, Germany, and Russia are also investigating the Baltic Sea explosions.

“We have already conducted an on-site forensic search, with support of research vessels. Our investigations are ongoing and I cannot predict when they will be finalised,” a spokeswoman for the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office said.

The Danish probe into explosions in Denmark’s maritime area is being done by Copenhagen police with the help of the Danish Defence Forces and the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET).

PET is handling media queries and saying little, however.

“The investigation is still ongoing and we usually don’t comment,” it said.

I’m not surprised. My own reaction just days after the blast:

My best guess is therefore that Russia will blame Ukraine and Ukraine and the US will blame Russia, but we’ll never see a smoking gun because it’s not in anyone’s interest for the fingerprints to be identified.

It’s just a guess, but I certainly hope it’s correct because it was an escalation. So if the party responsible is positively identified, the question moves from “whodunnit” to “whattayagonnadoaboutit?”

That was just speculation (note the recurring acknowledgments of my guessiness), but it’s held up pretty well. It’s certainly not conspiratorial to acknowledge that positive identification of the party or parties behind the sabotage could have very dire consequences that we’d probably all prefer to avoid.

Nor is it conspiratorial to wonder who might be responsible in such a public case.

It’s my own opinion that America did this, either independently or with the cooperation of its European allies. That’s just an opinion based on my own interpretation of the information available to me.

It’s also my opinion that we’re all better off if this remains a great Unsolved Mystery, the kind of thing that provides endless fodder for experts and idiots to argue about on the History Channel.

Our Prime Minister doesn’t seem to share my broad-minded view of inquiry.

Mette Frederiksen warns against conspiracy theories in wake of gas pipeline story, February 25

The explosions on the gas pipelines Nord Stream 1 and 2 remain a mystery, and it is unknown whether there will ever be an official answer to what happened in late summer under the sea near Bornholm.

Danish authorities, like their German and Swedish colleagues, are investigating the case, and the lack of answers has given rise to many theories, but there is nothing to be done about it, states Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (S).

“I want to warn against conspiracies in any context and in general. I do not acknowledge the premise that the authorities are responsible for conspiracy theories.”

“It’s actually those who put them forward who must bear that responsibility. I would caution against conspiracy theories, but an investigation is underway. No conclusions have been drawn on its basis,” says Mette Frederiksen.

The article mentions Seymour Hersch’s February 8 article on Substack claiming to have established proof of its having been an American operation carried out with European allies.

The article then seems to be citing a question asked specifically of Mette Frederiksen: can she deny that America was responsible for the explosions?

Actually, in relation to the explosions, which, I believe, caught a great many Danes by surprise, the responsible authorities in the countries to which this relates are in the process of investigating. Nothing’s been concluded from that investigation, so I have no comment on that question.

The question was whether she could deny American responsibility: the answer was that the investagtions are ongoing and she therefore has no comment.

Will Danes get an answer to what has happened out in the Baltic Sea?

“Yes, it will depend on what the investigation might result in. You can’t pre-emptively dismiss what it might come to.”

So it may well remain unanswered what actually happened?

“The investigation hasn’t been concluded. I can’t say anything other than that,” says the prime minister.

“Sure, you’ll get an answer, but only if it’s the right kind of answer,” said the Prime Minister who doesn’t want to encourage or promote conspiracy theories.

I’m not actually knocking her, but it’s worth noting that if my own guesses and opinions are correct, this is exactly how she (and other heads of state) would have to respond.

Which doesn’t mean my guesses and opinions are right. It just means they’re not provably wrong.

It also means the theory underlying my guesses and opinions is not conspiratorial.

And that’s where I am knocking Mette Frederiksen.

Her wording is very careful: she’s not saying that any particular theory about the Nord Stream sabotage is a conspiracy theory: she’s just noting, when asked about it, that she’s generally opposed to conspiracy theories and doesn’t think the government should put any conspiracy theories out there.

In other words: “We can’t rule anything out, but conspiracy theories are bad.”

Okay. But what’s a conspiracy theory?

What specific alchemy transforms a harmless hypothesis into a conspiracy theory?

I asked my good friend ChatGPT: what’s a conspiracy theory?

A conspiracy theory is a belief or explanation that suggests that a group of people or organizations are secretly working together to achieve a particular goal or outcome, often involving deceitful or illegal actions. These theories are often not supported by strong evidence or rational reasoning and are usually seen as unlikely by mainstream experts.

That “people or organizations” are working together to achieve a particular goal in the pipeline case is obvious. They’re also doing it secretly—which is appropriate, but which means we have no way of knowing whether there’s any deceit involved. (I’ll give our governments the unearned benefit of the doubt and assume they’re not doing anything illegal.)

Any theory that takes all that that into consideration is therefore neither unsupported by strong evidence nor devoid of rational reasoning, and is therefore not a conspiracy theory. At least, not by ChatGPT’s relatively straightforward definition.

Mette Frederiksen’s use of the conspiracy card is therefore both unnecessary and counterproductive.

“The investigation is still underway and we can’t rule anything out until it’s been completed” would be a perfectly legitimate answer. It’s a commonplace reply heard from investigators of every kind, everywhere.

But she had to go the extra kilometer and make weird insinuations about conspiracy theories, which perversely reinforces the particular theory that everyone knows she’s talking about, even though she’s careful not to refer to that particular theory.

Which is a little deceitful.

And if that deceit is being perpetrated in cooperation with other people and governments, it actually fits ChatGPT’s definition of a conspiracy theory.

Again: we’re all better off never knowing who sabotaged the pipelines. The quantum state in which it may have been anyone, but is not definitively someone, is actually the safest state to be in because no one can retaliate against an unknown enemy.

The act of opening Schrödinger’s box in this case would immediately transform it into Pandora’s box.

So I’m fully onboard the “we may never know” bandwagon.

But let’s not have heads of state casting aspersions on anyone who disagrees with the government narrative, especially when the government narrative is (and in this case must be) that there is no narrative.

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