Why Are We So Obsessed With: Conspiracy Theories?


No, 5G doesn’t cause Coronavirus.

Ever since time began, mankind has been enamored with finding alternate solutions to major historical events:

Was there an armed man on the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza during the Kennedy assassination? 

Is Area 51 really a secret arena of alien life?

Was Pearl Habour actually a false flag operation conducted by the U.S. government to justify war with Japan?

Did Smithers actually shoot Mr. Burns, rather than Maggie Simpson?

Ok, maybe that one is not so important.

Our quest for getting to the bottom of things has lead us down some interesting rabbit holes over the years. Some intriguing, some plausible, some batshit insane. You’ve been there, I’ve been there – we’ve all been there. I remember spending countless hours on YouTube watching every Tom, Dick, and Harry proclaim that the Moon landing was faked because they zoomed in on a grainy photo and saw a boom mic’s reflection in Buzz Aldrin’s helmet. I knew it was nonsense, but, still, I gladly invested my time into watching it.

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they often need an additional conspiracy on top of them to make them even remotely plausible. Let’s say the Moon landing was faked, for example – and it was indeed an elaborate Hollywood hoax. Well, that would mean every single employee at NASA, in conjunction with every single employee at a Hollywood studio, would have to be on the act. Not to mention all the broadcasters who shared the event with millions of people worldwide – and all the technology companies who made the phony rockets. That’s a lot of people involved – oh, and not one of those people has ever come out and revealed the hoax and sold the story for billions of dollars.

It’s just ludicrous. Yet we can’t help but be sucked in by them.

The world is a fucked up, confusing, random place. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. Countries are torn apart by war, famine, disease, or political and economic meltdown. Random nobodies like Mark Chapman can take down beloved cultural figures like John Lennon. There’s no reason or rhyme to the world sometimes. Things just happen.

I don’t think human beings are content with that, however. We’re a deeply empathetic and inquisitive species. We like order, we like resolution, we like meaning. The fact that paradigm-shifting events can come out of nowhere and Presidents can be assassinated by lone nobodies (although that one is dubious) are notions that just don’t sit well with us. In the book Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories, author Rob Brotherton explains this further, much better than I could, by stating that ”conspiracy theories resonate with some of our brain’s built-in biases and shortcuts”. He goes on to explain that our childlike ‘intentionality bias’ sticks with us into adulthood. When we’re young, every event has to have a meaning behind it. This is why small children will ask ‘why?’ after every attempt an adult makes at explaining something. Young minds need order and structure in order for them to make sense of a world that is brand new to them.

I don’t think we ever grow out of this – the world is too huge of a place, events are sometimes too complex for us to even comprehend, and the need for explanation is too large for us to simply go without. Chances are, you believe in a conspiracy theory right now, perhaps several, or have done in the past. Now, some of them might hold water, that’s ok – but it’s the very fact you have these beliefs in the first place that make conspiracy theories continue to flourish and thrive in minds off all ages. No matter how crazy or grounded they are, the need for alternate endings is a quintessentially human quality. We all feel the need to have some kind of power and control over our lives, and conspiracy theories provide exactly that. The unknown is a dark and scary place, and human minds do not like being there. Furthermore, our governments are hardly known for their transparency and unbiased agendas.

Ultimately, conspiracy theories appeal to our most human emotions. Perhaps we’ll sleep better at night if we reassure ourselves that there is a deeper meaning to the most tragic and callous acts that humans do to each other. If every X has a corresponding Y behind it, our pattern-seeking brains can achieve catharsis and closure. This is why logic is not paramount when creating conspiracy theories, as the emotional need we all have for them is greater. Even as adults, we still hope that the World is indeed a pragmatic and calculated place rather than an area for random and sometimes unjustifiable events.

Conspiracy theories definitely have the potential to make us crazy – however, perhaps we’d be even crazier without them.

 

 

12 thoughts on “Why Are We So Obsessed With: Conspiracy Theories?

  1. Interesting thoughts. I think it’s healthy to be somewhat skeptical about what’s going on in the world around us. While I agree with you on the number of people it would have taken to hide a major conspiracy like the moon landing or 9/11 if had been an inside job, there are other conspiracy theories that just make more sense than the official story. I don’t think Epstein killed himself. And I think that the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone is batshit crazy. I don’t know if I’m disagreeing with your argument here, I just think that the evidence in those two instances, as far as I understand it, doesn’t point towards the official story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. Like I said, there are some conspiracy theories that hold a lot of water and make more sense than the official explanation. I’m not saying we blindly agree with everything the government/media tells us.

      I agree with Epstein and Oswald – I think it’s obvious that something else happened.

      I was more referring to crazy conspiracy theories, and how our quest for knowledge drives us into wild rabbit holes. Hence why I used the Moon Landing as the primary example.

      I stayed away from using the Epstein case as I don’t believe the official story for a single minute. I did mention the Grassy Knoll, but only because it’s impossible to know if someone was really up there. I didn’t mean that the JFK theories are insane in general.
      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  2. Good stuff Cameron! I agree, conspiracy theories fill an emotional human need for needing to make sense of, well everything! To us everything is a story that needs an ending. We even see our own lives as being one big story.

    “Our whole life has been imagined as one big ongoing dramatic movie with heroes and villain’s, conflicts and resolutions, climaxes and happy endings. We Humans are a story-telling species that thinks in stories.” — YUVAL HARARI

    So to us, everything is a story and all stories need a beginning and an end. Conspiracy theories arise because we are not personally satisfied with the proposed ending. So we fabricate one to our liking, make one up that pleases our brain. Or more correctly, our brain makes one up that seems right to us.

    Or, perhaps more relevant to your topic on conspiracies — we find our answers in “someone else’s” already made-up story and simply tag along. And today, with the plethora of conspiracy theories so readily available at our finger tips we’re bound to find one that fits into our already made-up belief system and thus we’ve satisfied our need for an ending.

    Obviously not all Black and White as I’ve stated, many other human factors of course are involved. But that in context is my personal view. Thanks for the opportunity for me to express it — Be well Cameron!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You forgot one of the most obviously true conspiracies, the one that is most personal to me: the 2002 NBA playoffs were rigged in favor of the team and players that would get better TV ratings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not familiar with that one! Must admit basketball is not my specialist area.
      I’m much more of a football/soccer fan (being in England and all) and there is one that Ronaldo (best player in the world at the time) was poisoned before the 1998 World Cup final against France – as he had a seizure a few hours before the game and missed it entirely – Brazil lost 3-0 in the game. As far as I know nobody is completely sure how Ronaldo got ill so suddenly, and was fine the next day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s entirely possible… I’ve heard of that kind of thing happening several times in sports, where one player will get mysteriously sick. In the same questionable basketball series I referenced, some claim that fans of my team working for the opposing team’s hotel did that with one of the opposing players. But the most obvious thing went the other way, and it wasn’t fans, it was league referees fixing the outcome of the game. They made up foul calls against my team and letting players from the opposing team do whatever they want. The player who died in a tragic accident a few months ago, I mostly kept my mouth shut when everyone was mourning because I can’t stand that guy for so many reasons. He punched one of our players in the face and our player, lying on the court bleeding, got called for the foul against him.

        If you’re curious, all 3 parts together are kind of a lot to read but explains everything well: https://roundballdaily.com/2010/05/12/the-lost-champions-the-story-of-the-2002-sacramento-kings-and-the-fixed-western-conference-finals/

        Like

  4. Truth can be stranger than fiction! Our current situation is one of those ‘truths’ right now… and the gaps in the information we are given are large enough to be filled by any number of alternative explanations. Rabbit Holes indeed.
    Interesting read, Cameron.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great analysis and break-down of why we buy into conspiracy theories. I like your phrasing when you say that we are uncomfortable with paradigm shifts that come out of nowhere. I guess that’s why CT’s are abounding right now–a worldwide pandemic is one HUGE paradigm shift. People are struggling to accept or make sense of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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