There are those of us who tend to believe what we hear, those of us who are reasonable skeptics, and those of us who refuse to believe anything at face value. The skeptic will question what they heard, carefully vetting the validity and plausibility before accepting it as fact. But the lattermost of the three, the conspiracy theorist, they’ve got a completely different process in their mind.
The conspiracy theorist looks for something, anything to make the truth more nefarious so it fits their narrative of global cabals, corruption, secrecy, and coverups. Conspiracy theories arise where answers to questions are dissatisfactory. For example, the 9/11 conspiracy theories claim that the towers were a controlled demolition, that no buildings go down the way the towers did without careful demolition charges. But that doesn’t hold up to logical scrutiny, as the process to set the building up for that would involve many people over a long period of time, and more importantly, nobody starts demolition in the middle. The truth is that planes hit the buildings hard and fast, and they crumbled. But I digress, I’m not going to debunk 9/11 conspiracies.
Often the simplest answer is the real one, but that doesn’t satisfy a conspiracy theorist who craves controversy and nefarious global plots. Conspiracy theories aren’t new, but they’ve gotten a bigger audience since their early days with the moon landing and the JFK assassination. Now, they’ve got their whole online echo chamber where they could trade theories, and ultimately adopt them as the truth.
The conspiracy theorist finds meaning in the mundane, attributing greater forces where there are none. The littlest, most meaningless detail for the conspiracy theorist amounts to evidence of a vast plot. Remarkably, even inconsistencies in their theory serve as fuel. The errors inherent in their own massive delusions only serve as proof of something greater. The conspiracy theorist’s mind is an ouroboros, a snake eating its tail. Evidence to the contrary is reshaped as proof, a remarkable delusion and disorder.
Sometimes the truth is boring or disappointing, but that’s fine. You don’t need more than that, the answer doesn’t have to be scandalous or “juicy.” The Q-Anon theories have zero concrete evidence of anything, and yet, the movement was powerful enough to inspire many to storm the capitol on January 6, 2021. Donald Trump trafficked in conspiracy theories heavily throughout his presidency, not just when he lost the election. The theories are laughable, but when believed by enough people, and validated by people in positions of power like Trump, the theories gain traction.
There was little to no concrete evidence of voter fraud, the election was beyond secure. Court cases were thrown out, “evidence” rejected, and theories dismissed. But that doesn’t stop anyone from believing them. That’s the danger. The truth is out there, and it may be boring and perhaps disappointing for some, but we must believe it. A fractured vision of what’s really happening will break us as a civil society. If there is a group of people who will not believe anything they hear, that group is a wild card. They will not act rationally, as we’ve seen. It’s extreme delusion on a massive scale, and it’s very dangerous.