Thinking Like a Conspiracy Theorist

Sunday, December 4, 2022

What Is It

The moon landing was faked, John F. Kennedy, Jr. is still alive, and Finland doesn’t exist! Conspiracy theories of all sorts have been gaining traction, thanks partly to the ease with which they spread online. But what makes someone more inclined to believe in vast conspiracies? Are marginalized groups who have been lied to by authorities more likely to be distrustful of official narratives? Or do common cognitive biases make all humans susceptible to this kind of thinking? And what can we do to combat the spread of conspiracy theorizing? Ray and guest-host Blakey Vermeule hatch a plot with Christopher French from the University of London, co-author of Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience.

Comments (3)


Daniel's picture

Daniel

Wednesday, November 9, 2022 -- 1:39 PM

What about the moon landing

What about the moon landing then? Why is it so hard to believe that some find it hard to believe? What's the nature of the evidence for it and how can one be expected to verify this evidence for one's self? Does one accept it on the basis of authority alone, or does the wish that it's true contribute to one's sense of the story's indubitability?

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Daniel's picture

Daniel

Monday, November 21, 2022 -- 4:53 PM

No one seems to worry about

No one seems to worry about whether or not the Mars landings were genuine, because there were no people on board. So why has the image of people walking around on the surface of Earth's only satellite aroused more skepticism than just blasting a tin can up there? Is it because people are characterized by complex biological processes which have not evolved to survive in hyper-orbital environments? And how would one demonstrate the truth of the claim to one who has some doubt about it? Would a postcard be sufficient? My purpose with these questions is to suggest that there is something quite dangerous about the way the topic is framed above, as though anything already established within educated opinion must become a matter of individual belief, the questioning of which generates ridicule instead of consideration. Take the geocentric model of solar rotation. Those who offered an alternate heliocentric model met with similar ridicule in the pre-Galilean period. More important however is the way in which any critique of commonly accepted authority can be dismissed as conspiracy theory. Without subsequent documentation, for example, Operation Northwoods during the Kennedy Administration and the FBI's Cointelpro program under Nixon would still be disregarded in this way. There's also the issue of roosting chickens. Should a government be exposed as lying to its managed population in a manner which appears systemic, difficult indeed would it be to then try to tell the truth in contradiction of a falsehood and have it be generally believed. Is it really so much more unlikely, for example, that a separate species of hominid inhabits the hollow earth, entering and exiting at the poles in periodically cited unidentified aerial craft, than is the claim in March of 2003 that the Iraqi government possesses vast stores of weapons designed for mass-destruction? More individuals probably believe the former today than anyone believed the latter back then. Considering the interplay between governance and the governed, it appears that conspiracies can be worn on both feet.

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Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, November 24, 2022 -- 7:45 AM

Ii suppose I have thought

Ii suppose I have thought like a CT since maybe 1968. Early on, It was not any conscious thinking, vis-a-vis, 'everybody's out to get us'..Then again, early on, I did not spend a lot of thought on who 'everybody' might have been. Matters are more complex now because of those interests, preferences and motives I have written of elsewhere: THEY are more scattered and diverse in more ways than this country boy believed possible. Add to that the confusion in philosophy over what sort of place it occupies in the world; whether there is anything it stands for; whether there IS anything worth standing for. Brian Leiter posted something today on his blog. It is a chart, showing the standings of various countries in areas of axiological and deontological interest. He introduced this on his blog masthead as: American Exceptionalism? My comment was among a dozen or so others. So, it appears there are lots of 'us' out to get lots of 'others': a nation of conspirators, all with interests, preferences and motives.

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