Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories

An Editorial

Recently, I got an e-mail from somebody I know and love who was once again telling me how the Islamofascistcommunistatheistelite-who-run-the-government-schools-courts-and-Democratic-party-and-are-out-to-get-Christians is preparing the way for establishing a totalitarian state. Some people would make the mistake of arguing with him and his fellow believers, saying something like “Look around you and use your common sense, dude.” But it would be a failed endeavor. For this friend of mine and all the other people who believe in conspiracy theories, there is a deep psychological NEED to believe. It doesn’t matter what the conspiracy is: the moon landings were faked, the CIA shot John F. Kennedy, rich conservative capitalists run the world through a secret society, the Freemasons/Illuminati run the world in secret, or there are aliens being held by the military at Area 51; in the end, they all boil down to the same thing.

1. “I have secret knowledge that the poor, deluded masses don’t have.”

Think about that for a minute. We all like to believe we are smart and that everyone around us is an idiot. Feeling superior gives us a sort of self-esteem high. It’s why people watch America’s Funniest Home Videos or World’s Dumbest. We watch other peoples’ stupidity and laugh, and think to ourselves, “Man, I’m glad I’m not that dumb!”

The core of any conspiracy theory is some sort of knowledge that only you and your small group of believers has. While the rest of the world calls you crazy, you can smirk about “Oh, what fools you all are. You’ll see.” It’s about the delusion that you are smarter than everyone around you, because you can figure out something other people refuse to see. If you think making fun of Jersey Shore makes you feel good about yourself, amplify that by twenty.

2. “There is a massive cover-up hiding this secret knowledge from everyone.”

It is impossible to reason with a conspiracy theorist, because in their minds, they can only be proven right. You can’t prove them wrong because they will say any evidence you present is just another part of the cover-up. As my dad puts it, “The surest proof of a conspiracy is lack of evidence, because it has been covered up.”

Of course, as soon as something comes along that might-could-maybe-if-you-stretch-it-and-turn-off-your-brain be interpreted as supporting their claim, they will seize on that and never let it go. Mysterious aircraft flying above the Nevada skies? It couldn’t be that there is an Air Force R&D facility in the area, it must be an alien spaceship! Several key Founding Fathers were Freemasons? It couldn’t be that Freemasonry was just a popular club in colonial America, it must be that the Freemasons created America as part of their world conquest plans and secretly run our country!

3. “This secret knowledge makes me a threat to the evil powers-that-be.”

People that believe in conspiracy theories are also naturally paranoid. But have you ever wondered why people get paranoid? Why would anyone conspire against them? In order to be a legitimate target for anything, you must be some pretty big, important dude. Paranoia is a form of egotism.

Conspiracy theories exist because they are power trips. With this secret knowledge, you are a threat to somebody powerful, and that gives you a sense of power. And if there is one thing many humans desire more than anything, it is power.

That, in the end, is why people who believe in conspiracy theories do so. They feel powerless in their daily lives, so they join some group of fellow powerless people who rally around a ridiculous idea in order to make themselves feel more powerful. They NEED to believe, on a deep psychological level, because this misplaced sense of power gives them an addictive rush. It is useless to try to show them that they are wrong, because they will not accept that this power they feel isn’t real. So my advice to people who know conspiracy theorists, that I have learned from experience in dealing with my good friend, is to quietly smile and nod and ignore. He or she will just think you’re one of the deluded sheep who will pay when the bad guys do take over. And that’s just fine.

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9 Responses to Why People Believe Conspiracy Theories

  1. rlg says:

    RJG

    I just read your flame denying conspiracy theories. It gave me an idea! Lets have a conspiracy theory to deny all other conspiracy theories! I think you have provided the basis for it! That way, our conspiracy will never be taken seriously! I love it! Lets DO it… but… we need a conspiracy…

    RLG

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  3. rlg says:

    I do not believe for a moment that RJG originated the thoughts in this editorial. It is too well designed, far beyond the wit of its supposed author. It is at the same time insulting and absurd. It denies in advance the credibility any response to it, including this one, as it arrogantly presumes itself flawless.

    I thought for a moment that proposing an absurd conspiracy might expose the absurdity of this editorial, but I muffed it by writing the word “theory” where it was inappropriate. Later I realized that if RJG cannot see how contrived “his”editorial is, he would also not likely to pick up on my implied absurdity. He has been pre-conditioned to NOT hear any debate at all on the validity of any of his many provability wrong positions. By implication, he is to heed only his indoctrinateors.

    “His” position is that all who disagree are pathetic people driven by pathetic needs. Thanks a lot!

    Now… really, just WHO is pathetic?

    RLG

  4. AuntLeesie says:

    Wow… =-(

    As an almost 50 year old Christian, I’ve seen some significant societal changes in my lifetime that seem to have moved away from the morals, ethics and priorities generally held in the 1960s (my childhood). No one says “Yes, M’am” or “Yes, sir” anymore, and fewer people are polite, considerate and kind, just as examples. That said, most everything comes down to trust. Faith. What do we each, individually believe?

    FWIW, I trust God. I believe that as a parent wants what’s best for his or her child and would protect that child from harm or destruction in any way possible, so much more is God’s love for His children. Even when a mother or father isn’t especially thrilled with their child at the moment–sometimes frustrated or angry by their choices or actions–a parent still loves that child. God, being a perfect parent? We can’t even imagine that level of unconditional love. It’s what Christ’s life illustrated.

    If we, as Christians, believe fully in the Lord and trust God, we have nothing to fear. In John 16:33 Jesus says we should be of good cheer, because “I have overcome the world.” Seemingly, then, we should not be anxious or worried about the ultimate outcome. God’s in charge. Why, then, should we worry about consipracies of any kind? One way or another?

    That isn’t at all pathetic. It’s a great promise of hope and love to bring personal, inner peace.

  5. @RLG —

    ::I do not believe for a moment that RJG originated the thoughts in this editorial. It is too well designed, far beyond the wit of its supposed author::

    The ideas in this blog are most definitely those of the author – why would you believe that such thought would be beyond him? On what basis do you claim that the author has been ‘preconditioned’ to not hear any debate?

    I think that the author probably would welcome open and honest discussion, though I find anything remotely resembling debate missing from your posts. The piece is neither insulting, absurd nor contrived, though your response certainly is.

  6. AuntLeesie says:

    This blog post and the first few comments have troubled me today, because it’s written by two people I love very much… my son and father-in-law. The author, my son, wondered if his grandfather was suggesting he’d plagarized by writing “I do not believe for a moment that RJG originated the thoughts in this editorial. It is too well designed, far beyond the wit of its supposed author.”

    To anyone else reading, RJG did write this himself, as he does all of his blog posts, and in this blog was simpy expressing frustration. It was his opinion. An editorial. Very honestly, words have power. Some words are more powerful than others. Please allow me to post a few famous quotes to ponder in hopes that words (especially among loved ones) will be chosen with greater care:

    In a war of ideas, it is people who get killed. — Slanislaus Lec, Polish poet, b. 1909

    Opinion is holding something to be provisionally true which you do not know to be false. — Saint Bernard (1090-1153)

    Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food. — William Hazlitt, English essayist (1778-1830)

    What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents. — Robert Kennedy (1925-1968)

    A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains. — Dutch proverb

    If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. — Romans 13:18

  7. lmd says:

    The piece is well written and appears to me to be the opinion of the author. He even chronicled it as an editorial. There( indeed) is power to the written word as a poster mentioned.

    To me there is some truth to conspiracy therories, but like most stories, the truth is far from the story that grows from it.

    We are here only to love what God has created. His grandest creation -in His mind- is the human race. The sematics just don’t matter. We need to learn to love each other, just as Jesus said. ( When you think of it, Jesus was the first Catholic. What a revelation!) We can discuss topics, but it is not advisable to take a stand to the ‘death’. Many families and friends have separated because of such silly things. I guess the statement “Pride before destruction” can be noted here.

    So grand dad, give your boy a hug and tell him you’re proud of him for excercising his right to his opinion. After all, it may be you he takes after! God’s peace.

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