I still think that the psychology of conspiracy theorists has a lot to do with it, probably because of the Truthers I know with no skin in the game (Brits, Irish, Slovaks…). A particular kind of (extreme) credulity that thinks it’s worldly cynicism. A sense of superiority that one has the “real truth” while the sheeple haplessly accept the official lies. And a complete lack of either the necessary knowledge to evaluate claims or a consciousness of this ignorance.
I have one friend who insists that WTC and the Pentagon were bombs, that the planes were generated by CGI, that a few bits of wreckage were planted in front of the Pentagon but clearly not enough and in too good a condition to come from an actual airplane attack: the most Byzantine, inconsistent and improbable pile of donkey dung imaginable. Of course, last time I met him he was telling me how he read on the Internet that the Pyramids were designed as chemical reaction chambers to send microwave signals into space, and how he found this “very persuasive.” Oh, and he’s a Holocaust denier.
He also told me once that University education only limits ones mental horizons, whereas the LSD he ingested daily over a similar period of time expanded his.
That’s also true. I was concentrating on the internal contradictions of the America-fearing American, but all conspiracists live with even deeper conflicts. As you say Jeff, they have a powerful faith which they think of as cynicism.
I’ve said elsewhere, conspiracy theories seem to satisfy some of the same mental urges as religion. They are surprisingly like a mythos, in that they create exciting stories to explain the world about us. And just as religion, they provide the ultimate all-purpose explanation: Things difficult to explain can be seen instead as the manifestation of a powerful but invisible will. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the idea of unseen will may actually be innate to the the human species, a built-in default hypothesis for about anything.
The thing making them different from religion though – or at least, traditional religion – is that the actors are not gods or spirits, but human. Still, perhaps conspiracy theories should be considered new materialist religions, belief systems for generations that, while still credulous, draw the line at the supernatural. (We’ll leave aside for now conspiracies that involve the influence of alien civilisations. These are supernatural beings in every sense that angels and demons are, just dressed from a contemporary costume box.)
But though the conspirators are not explicitly supernatural beings, they still have superhuman powers. They consistently pull off the scale of operation that non-clandestine organisations and governments usually seem to screw up. They have secrets that are never left in taxis or revealed by Wikileaks. They have superhuman powers of planning, efficiency, and organisation. Modern-day superpowers.
Hmm. They just don’t make gods like they used to.
We Are Not Alone:
- 9/11 and conspiracy theories (arunwithaview.wordpress.com)
- 9/11 Truthers: Another Stupid Conspiracy Theory (wdfyfe.wordpress.com)
- 9/11 Truth: Why Osama Bin Laden’s death won’t kill the conspiracy theories. (slate.com)
- 9/11 conspiracy theorists ignore most important element: the facts (theprovince.com)
- Conspiracy Theories (sandwalk.blogspot.com)