Infinity + 1

Remember when you were a kid and you’d get into arguments with your friends that would go something like this:

“Are not!”

“Am too!”

“Are not!”

“Am too!”

And remember how, much like Godwin’s Law, sooner or later one of you would eventually pull out the old, “Are not times infinity!”

Mathematically represented as: X = AN x I

This would then quickly be followed by “Are so times infinity plus one!”

Mathematically represented as: X = AS x I + 1

…which would then lead to a lengthy cycle of each party incrementally increasing the value added to infinity by one on each pass.

Most adults outgrow this level of argumentation. But there’s a whole subsection of the populace who never do. We call them denialists.

Denialists apply this sort of argument to explain away holes in their facts with conspiracy theories and then explain away plot holes in their conspiracy theories with even bigger conspiracies, only to explain away the larger plot holes in their larger conspiracies with even grander conspiracies well beyond the point where their claims become utterly unfalsifiable. And like a child, they’re willing to just keep incrementally adding to infinity until they wear down their opponent.

One classic example of this is the Gish Gallop, so named because it was so frequently used by a creationist named Duane Gish. The tactic involves…

…drowning one’s opponent in half-truths, lies, straw men, and bullshit to such a degree that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood that has been raised, usually resulting in many involuntary twitches in frustration as the opponent struggles to decide where to start.

A more faithful interpretation of the Infinity + 1 tactic though is found in the conspiracy theory.

For instance, the typical 9/11 denier will start off by arguing that they’re just asking for a new investigation because there are just a few pieces of “the official story” that aren’t consistent and a few questions that need to be answered. Then when you start to challenge those alleged anomalies in the report, they reveal that it’s not just that there are holes in the report but that people are deliberately covering something up. And when you point out the implausibility of such a cover-up and the enormous number of people required to pull it off, it gets bigger again and now we’re talking about a full blown “9/11 was an inside job” by the Bush Administration. When you challenge the plausibility of a president deliberately killing 3000 of his own people, you’re told it was done to justify the Iraq War because of oil and in order to get the Patriot Act through Congress. When you point out the futility of that plan given Bush’s inevitable departure from office in 2008 and the gradual reversal of many of most alarming policies in the Patriot Act, you’re told that Bush and Obama are in it together and are both part of the evil New World Order conspiracy to control/kill/imprison us all. And when you point how how dissimilar the policies of Bush and Obama are, you’re told that politics are all just a massive distraction among many others in an elaborately organized system of control to keep us from learning “The Truth.”

And eventually the plot holes get so big that the denialist is up to Infinity + Infinity and somehow shape-shifting reptiles from outer space  become the only plausible explanation to them for a few collapsed buildings.

9/11 was either caused by reptiles from space or space prostitutes

9/11 was either caused by space reptiles or space prostitutes. Spaceships were definitely involved.

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