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Nov 15

7 facts about conspiracy theories

Paranoid Donald Sutherland pointing

Just as I expected! Conspiracy theories always are.

If you like to debate politics (and I use the word “debate” rather than “fight about” to seem more civilized than I am) as much as I do, you know that such conversations online are stuffed with claims of conspiracies. It doesn’t matter whether you are on the Right or the Left. Someone’s always spouting nonsense conspiracy theories about secret evil-doers secretly doing evil. They will wonder why you don’t see the obvious while you struggle to get them to give some reasonable proof.

I found a great article by Steven Van Hauwer published online in May of 2012 called The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories.  I tried to boil it down to a quick and dirty list of ideas from the article as well as a few of my own observations about conspiracy theories (CTs) and those who swear by them.

 

  1. Historically, the majority of CTs have been proven incorrect.
  2. CTs are a tool for widening the gap between “us” and “them”. (Right & Left, Government & People, Muslims & Christians, gun-nuts & peaceniks…)
  3. Most CTs involve blaming some “other”. Sometimes this will occur even when the incident that sparked the CT comes from an accidental source or a natural disaster.
  4. CTs are the products of people trying to fill in the blanks when they aren’t fully informed or don’t have the understanding they need. This “filling in” coincides with a belief system or an emotional need / response.
  5. Disproven CTs are often replaced by other CTs to bolster the same belief system. Disproving one creates a vacuum that must be filled with more CTs.
  6. When someone accepts one CT, he becomes susceptible to accepting others. He gets increasingly further from what is known and is real.
  7. When people invest in pet CTs and see them as important, they usually find it hard to accept new and more rational explanations. They start loving the convenient theories more than they love the truth.

So the next time you think you have the goods on someone, stop and consider it again. How many real facts, apart from assumptions, opinions, or beliefs, do you have? It might be less than you think. What can you prove? If you can’t give definitive, objective proof to support your CT, do us all a favor. Just stay quiet. There’s too much noise out there already..

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