A lot of sciency and philosophical words that I'm sure most conspiracy buffs wouldn't understand, nor is there a reason why they should bother to try. I'd say in this forum you're preaching to already converted ears, at least from my (limited) impressions.
Your treatment of religion is a very superficial and degrading one - people have discussed the human condition in any number of guises, be they religion, philosophy or psychology. Take something by or about Augustinus
, who was a theologian, a philosopher and a saint to boot
, and you'll find he's almost as existential as existentialism, I bet. By the way, the Dark Ages
(c. 300-700 CE) are called dark because we don't know very much about them, not because it was particulary dark in their heads.
There are attempts to brand conspiracy theorists as mad, or ostracise them in other ways using the trappings of scientific authority (or the clipping of newspaper articles
). In my view, this misses the point, or rather works to their advantage, because conspiracy believers have already absented themselves from the prevalent consensus and founded their own, yes you could say: churches.
Vincent Bugliosi makes a compelling distinction in his book about the JFK mythology
- on the one hand, you have the real theorists that do the research, write the books and give lectures, on the other their following that is fed information from the theorists. And among the theorists those that spread conscious lies, although they know better, and real believers. Some real research about this should be interesting, otherwise we just have to take Mr. Bugliosi's word for it. He mentions many theorists by name, so he will have spoken to quite a few of them over the years.
People have told lies for money since times immemorial, no need to bother with explaining that. I guess when you make a living with conspiracy theories within the acceptable limits of evidence, you're a historian.
Slightly beyond that, you're David Irving
. Beyond that, you're a half-educated history buff, an amateur. And with a couple of delusions and much creativity, you're a bestseller author like Dan Brown
. I don't know, but being !Dan Brown!
has its advantages. Creative people tend to lead more interesting lives. (Correct me if I've been proven wrong.)
Unless much of the world has suddenly gone mad (fluoride poisoning? stupidity rays? TV?)
, people haven't really changed a great deal. Is it the environment that has changed? All kinds of irrational beliefs are reported to be on the rise. The sources and quality of information have changed - one Google search would be enough to convince my Grandpa that the Internet is beyond redemption or sanity. I'm not sure what he would think of George W. Bush and Tony Blair - my old Opa
was a believer in the Third Reich - but he wouldn't call them trustworthy individuals. I'm not sure if everybody has really realized what 9/11 was: the end of an age. The reaction to it, or rather: the run-up to the 2003 invasion, made polite old spy-writer John le Carré write The United States of America has gone mad
and most of the world agree with him, even if it took a few years. We're still collectively reeling from the shock and haven't overcome the dichotomy of old and new values yet: Is it now okay to torture, imprison and kill on suspicions to save lives? What about peace and love, the notion that we shouldn't burn witches because most of them used to be fakes, that torture tends to produce lies and violence begets violence, and how do we reconcile ourselves to the fact that we're still being deceived and manipulated, or have become more aware of it? I guess it's fair to say we've mostly evaded these questions so far. What does it say about what our moral values will be in the future, and how can people like Bugliosi claim that it hasn't always been this way? I mean, were there ever such things as honest governments and a desire among our leaders to build a better world with as little malfeasance as possible? Probably not, if you believe Noam Chomsky. The good old safe, comfy world is dead. And with it, although media tycoons and presidents get more powerful, much idealism and good will, the respect for persons of authority and the belief that real world events are the results of rational decisions, careful weighing of evidence and personal responsibility. This isn't a childish, foolish thing. People don't trust the news anymore, at least that's what the news say. And politicians as a class are despised und presumed to be corrupt. Somehow, it has become cool to be corrupt, because the big shots tend to get away with it.
If people prefer to hunt for alternate realities, it's a quest for better truths and explanations than the official/real ones, because that's untrustworthy information, somehow dangerous, or would destroy that person's view of himself or the world. They, the believers simply don't trust you. You can defeat their arguments, but probably never that underlying motivation. (Try convincing a politician that voting machines are fundamentally unsafe, if you're a security expert with a possibly dark past... but not Kevin Mitnick
) Any reasonable person will sit on the fence from time to time, but any ad-hoc decision will probably be based on whether you trust the world around you, and how far. I think the BBC did a test on this a while ago, they posed a question like "The British government is monitoring all your telephone calls, true of false?" More than half the subjects responded yes, if memory serves. The "correct" answer was supposed to be no. Of course, the Brits aren't, only the Americans have that kind of technology.
It also depends on what you mean by "monitoring" - listening in? Storing the where, when and who? That's what most governments do or are about to do.
I guess that sums up the mindset of the average nerdy conspiracy-consumer, and even fence-sitters like some journalists. Hardcore belief and paranoia is something that needs years to grow, I suppose. Maybe from bad experience, a tendency towards the secretive, fear, or family ties like Lee Harvey Oswald's. His mother was a conspiracy buff - we might owe his enduring secret agent legend partly to her. I believe I've read somewhere that conspiracies tend to be more widely believed among computer nerds, the underprivileged (what a word!) and ethnic minorities, but maybe that's from research still to be done, and only my common sense intuition so far.