The conspiracy theory is a social construct that never seems to go away. However, one study has discovered a very human reason why we cling to these nonsense plots.
The conspiracy theory often seems to be an anomaly in the human brain. Everyone experiences the social condition of discovering someone close to you who believes. Further to that point, your worth of that someone plummets when you endure their empathetic picking apart of the accepted narrative through the prism of confirmation bias. Everyone knows someone who possesses a frankly moronic view of this caliber and, in fact, I share a lease with a 9/11 truther, and it fucking sucks.
While jet fuel may not melt steel beams, it certainly turns friendships into hot goo.
However, it seems that the humble/bombastic conspiracy theory is not just a weapon to wield, as one recent psychological measure looked to chart what it actually does to our brains. According to the findings, the conspiracy theory can be easily boiled down to a casual antidote to the general disappointment of life, and in turn the anguish we feel in both society and the people we elect to govern it.
An abstract from the study believes that the popularity of theories is enabled by various social triggers, including the desire to belong to a group and to maintain a positive image of the self and within that circle. Scholars have suggested that conspiracy theories also valorize the self, allowing blame for all the negatives to be shifted to another party.
A good contemporary example might be the 9/11 inside job conspiracy. We elected George W. Bush who started a series of awful wars America is still fighting, therefore, the responsibility is not the electorate that voted him in, but rather, the shadowy forces that organized to do the catalyst that kicked it all off.
Moreover, and this is a difficult thing to admit, but I happen to be a JFK truther. I happen to believe that Oswald couldn’t have done the shooting. A theory abetted by Oliver Stone’s version of events. What happened after they lost JFK’s brain (Google it) gives weight to the second shooter theory and the idea that a massive conspiracy pulled the trigger, with the shooters being everyone from Fidel Castro to Woody Harrelson’s dad to other. That being said, I only truly believe it, because of the stakes that LBJ cooked as President, sending the U.S. into Vietnam, eventually leading all the way to the jowly, lying, bombing, certainly not a crook, Richard Nixon, and the rise of conservatism, and the death of the social reform movement. JFK, RFK, MLK. RIP.
Simply put, the more we feel like we’re losing, the more we seek the shelter that conspiracy theories grant.
However, the pale shelter constructed of bullplop might not exclusively be a negative. Yes, it might be a black eye to the face of objective truth, or harm the logic others possess, or swing elections (Hello, Pizzagate), but those like-minded people who agree gravitate to others just like them, rebuilding a community of shattered alienated parts.
There are two studies that elevate this theory. Sapountzis & Condor, 2013, believe that the conspiracy set look to subvert dominant hierarchies (either social or political) by formulating their own understanding of realities. Whereas Adams, O’Brien, & Nelson, 2006, believes that the same set foster solidarity and collective action. In these communities, these plots represent the normative or even official positions (e.g., the 9/11 Truth movement), which on a skewed level could be a new bible, a new moral compass to follow, and, importantly, a sense of belonging and shared reality.
Which makes sense. Taking the Pizzagate example, now obviously Hilary Clinton wasn’t running a pedophile ring in the basement of a New York Pizzeria, but for those who spent numerous evenings gleefully conversing with each other, hacking together falsehoods to stitch a narrative of truth, I’m fairly certain that those people proudly look back on it as something to remember. The world trembled at their fury and, finally, maybe, noticed those they once ignored. It could even be their Woodstock, a moment to elevate and to castigate those who weren’t there for it.
It would be, for those people, good times.
Which is not to say that I agree with them, but I can understand that shared sense of community within a community that doesn’t care for you. Twisting the Costanza example, it’s not a lie if you believe it, especially if your friends do too.