What Makes People Believe Conspiracy Theories?
We all know at least one person who can’t turn down a good conspiracy theory. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love reading about them. It’s kinda fascinating really. But what causes people to believe conspiracy theories? Well there’s a few aspects that go into it, let’s take a look…
Think about everyone you know who believes conspiracy theories. And I don’t mean everyone who’s kind of skeptical or on the fence. There’s a big jump between “maybe the government isn’t telling us everything” and “because they’re pedophile lizard people who work for Israel.” Ya know, the types of people who use the word “sheeple.” Do they seem to have anything in common? If they seem like the kind of people who might be susceptible to joining a cult you’re right.
One study from Princeton University looked at what exactly makes someone more likely to believe crazy off-the-wall theories. And one thing most participants had in common was that they were social outcasts or loners. As they start to search for meaning in their every-day lives, this gradually leads to endorsing off-the-wall beliefs. In some aspects, it’s just a desperate attempt to be included in something– literally anything! This is why most people can’t even stay consistent in their conspiracy beliefs. The belief itself isn’t what’s important.
So why? Conspiracy theories are generally political in nature, right? Well, things haven’t always been that way. I remember growing up listening to conspiracy theorists like Art Bell and other shows like Coast to Coast on AM radio. Sure, they’d talk about the government sometimes. But that wasn’t at the forefront of debate. And their shows never had a concrete political agenda. Now government conspiracies have entered the mainstream. I mean, Alex Jones just used his exposure to help elect a president for f*cks sake.
The more working class people feel excluded from the political process, the more likely they are to endorse off-the-wall political beliefs and conspiracy theories. Think about it: don’t we all kind of feel like we have zero-control over how our government is run and how our tax money is spent?
Now which is easier… Building a grassroots movement, struggling to change the political process, educating people, and on-the-ground activism? Which is all a lot of work and can be very discouraging. Or blaming a higher-power (government or globalists) and saying change is completely out of your control so why bother doing anything? Bingo.
It really makes perfect sense to latch-onto crazy conspiracies: it’s a really easy cop-out. Shifting the blame is super simple. Another idea suggests that conspiracy theories essentially come from encouraging individualism. Why do most countries have universal health care and maternity leave but America doesn’t? Americans don’t want it. Sure, lots do. But many don’t want it and are adamantly against anyone collecting it. Americans are generally conditioned to believe in self-efficacy. And if you can’t accomplish something or earn something on your own, then that means there’s something wrong with you.
Now think about everyone you know who has latched onto the most off-the-wall conspiracy theories. Have they lost a job? Has the system generally failed them or forgot about them? Are they desperate to be a victim in some way, anyway? When we live in a culture that preaches individualism but doesn’t provide individuals with the tools they need to succeed, some people will start to blame themselves for their failures. (Which is also bad.) But many will jump to the other extreme and turn the government almost into a religious omnipresent force.
Now don’t get me wrong, the mainstream news is full of propaganda and we shouldn’t take anything they tell us at face value. But most of these conspiracies give the government way too much credit. The people in charge are way too short-sighted to carry out half the crap they’re accused of doing. Unfortunately, reading about systemic economic problems isn’t as sexy as Pizzagate, false flags, and “George Bush did 911” memes. Then again, what do I know? I’m just a sheeple.