A Conspiracy of One

by Joachim I. Krueger, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

TheTruthIsNotThere_05_400pxConspiracy theories thrive at the fringes of polite discourse. They have the smell of paranoia if they get out of hand. Some conspiracy theories are true and being on one’s guard is a good idea. Caesar dismissed warnings about Cassius and Brutus plotting and paid with his life. Other conspiracy theories are so far-flung that the question of whether they are true is not even meaningful. These theories are not testable. They are deaf to the sound of evidence—at least on the disconfirmatory side. In a German-language paper, I explored what I call The Grand Conspiracy Theory (Krueger, 2010). The GCT suggests that a small group of individuals controls every aspect of the world that matters: the economy, the media, war and peace, what have you. The governments and their representatives that we see are not really in charge; they are front pieces of darker and stronger forces that remain out of view, and they may not even know it. With a bit of googling you can find examples of this sort of thinking. Amazon is not above selling books on the matter. Try Illuminati as a key word.

According to the GCT, there are no accidents in world affairs. Everything that happens is part of a grand design to put and keep the masses in material and spiritual bondage, and to further increase the power of the cabal (This idea is problematic because if their power were already as great as claimed, there would be no room for further increases—but I digress). Believers in the GCT claim that they are on to the cabal—that is a necessary part of the theory itself. They further claim that the conspiracy might fail, and that indeed such a collapse may be imminent, if only enough people awakened to the stark facts. This basic arrangement can go on and on over many generations, with the presumed identity of the conspirators changing with the times (Templars, Jews, Freemasons, aliens, and reptiles being favorites).

Looking at conspiracy theories, and the grand one in particular, I noticed certain similarities with judeo-christian ideation. There is the idea of the all—or at least very—powerful force that is hidden, that has a plan, and that moves the world toward a cataclysmic end. The major differences are that the god of monotheism has no one with whom to conspire and that the human-based GCT has fewer good things to say about the power that be.

Given the similarities in the psychological pattern, I felt that mundane conspiracy theories might be derivatives of religious belief. This is not a new idea. Sir Karl Popper suggested that “The conspiracy theory of society…comes from abandoning God and then asking: What is in his place?” Umberto Eco noted . . .

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