I wasn’t sure how to react, so at first, I kept silent. Sitting on my couch were two people expounding an obviously bizarre conspiracy theory. It was apparent they believed every word.
The internet has been a great boon to those who think the world is against them. You can always find someone, somewhere who will believe as you do, that there is a deep, dark conspiracy that must be unmasked. I’m familiar with the type, but never expected to find it in my living room.
I saw the fallacies immediately and started asking questions. Where were the facts? How did they know what they were saying was true? Where could I go to find out more?
It seemed like Donald Trump had come to visit. Facts? They just knew the conspiracy was real. They had heard about it from someone they trusted – and hadn’t asked any questions.
I won’t get into the details. They don’t bear repeating. It was a variation on the world being under the secret control of a limited number of people. The brilliance of course is that the people are very good at hiding their control, so if you don’t know about their conspiracy, that is just your ignorance. Perhaps even your stupidity.
They seemed a little surprised when I pointed out that the two groups they blamed for deliberately creating most of the world’s ills are diametrically opposed to each other. There is no way they would work together. I don’t think that shook their belief though. I didn’t point out that their particular conspiracy theory has been floating around in various forms for centuries.
The situation has me thinking about human nature. What causes people to accept theories as gospel, things that don’t withstand any objective analysis? I suppose you could subtitle this thought: “What makes Donald Trump tick?”
The acceleration of social and technological change has been exponential in my lifetime. What was science fiction in my teen years became fact long ago. Things that were unthinkable two decades ago are social norms today. There is less time to adjust to something new. The world in many ways has become scarier because we can know so much more about what is going on.
That is what makes a conspiracy theory so compelling. Instead of the hard work that requires research to understand something, you can put the blame somewhere else. You can’t control your own destiny because there are puppet masters somewhere pulling the strings. All you can do is dance.
Is the world’s wealth controlled by a small group of people as some allege? Well yes, and no. In any society there are always going to be those with a disproportionate amount of power who take the lead. That doesn’t mean they are conspiring against you. Is there a malevolent conspiracy, groups lurking in the shadows orchestrating a takeover of the world? Nope. Those groups are operating in the light. I can make a list. You probably could too – though our lists would be different. I would worry more about the legality (and morality) of such groups than their goal.
People who are feeling helpless in the face of change, powerless as the tide rolls in, are easy picking for conspiracy theorists. Just believe what you are told and that you are powerless to change it.
Bottom line is: it isn’t your fault. Whatever the situation you find yourself in that you don’t like, you don’t need to accept any responsibility for being there. For the conspiracy theorists, it is always someone else’s fault.
No wonder they find so much fertile ground. Avoiding responsibility is a human trait that goes back to the Garden.
My friends have their minds made up. They left unconvinced by the facts that disprove their theory. I expect the next time I seem them they will have amassed more information to prove to me conclusively that up is down.
I’m open minded. I’ll listen to them. However, I suspect the facts will remain unchanged. Conspiracy theories don’t last long if emotions are removed.