Is the truth REALLY out there? From Obama’s birth certificate, flat earthers, and the FDA withholding the cure for cancer, we’re starting to wonder… does anyone REALLY believe these? WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Modern Conspiracy Theories.
How psychics tricked scientists on three separate occasions. Uri Geller, Steve Shaw & Michael Edwards, and Ronny Marcus managed to dupe scientists at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), The McDonnell Laboratory at Washington University, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory respectively. Here’s how, as well as how skeptics James Randi (magician), Dr. Ray Hyman (psychologist), & Martin Gardner (science communicator) responded to the psychic trickery.
An interesting conspiracy theory that has grown in popularity over the last decade is the belief that the long-lasting white clouds left in the sky by aircraft are actually chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed on the population for nefarious reasons. The people who believe in this conspiracy theory call these lines in the sky ‘chemtrails’ and feel so strongly against them that back in May of this year, they organised protests around the world. In an attempt to better understand this conspiracy and the people who believe in it, I attended one of the protests in London.
As I was working my way through the crowd I saw a young gentleman holding a cardboard sign saying “stop geoengineering” made out of print-outs of contrails pictures. Within seconds of talking to him, I was reminded of my nerdy teenage self and, for some time, was seriously considering not publishing the interview but out of all the people I met there that day what he had to say was the most interesting. In the very short time I talked to him there was a whole load of crazy that I am going to address later, but for now, I am going to concentrate on the parts centered around depopulation and Space Preservation Act that some says proves chemtrails existence.
Are you the kind of person who likes to hear to a good conspiracy theory?
Some people simply do not like the discomfort that a conspiracy theory creates. But for others, conspiracy theories are intriguing. They like to explore all of the possibilities that a conspiracy theory presents, in the same way that they like to explore puzzles or mystery novels. Sometimes a conspiracy theory is ridiculous and learning about it is a form of entertainment. Or you may find that the theory is credible and it makes you think. It’s interesting to consider the theory, weigh the evidence and come up with a conclusion.
In the 21st century, one event reigns supreme in the catalog of conspiracy theories: the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States. This event is seared into the nation’s consciousness and significantly affected the entire planet. It seems inevitable that people would cry “conspiracy” about any event with this much impact. However, the conspiracy theories around 9/11 have been strong and consistent.
The whole controversy surrounding 9/11 boils down to one simple question:
Did 19 terrorists cause all of the destruction witnessed on 9/11/2001, or did a group of people in the U.S. government conspire to create that destruction for political gain?
The U.S. government has offered the terrorist explanation, and that is the story that many people believe. A large number of people, however, refuse to believe this “official story.” They believe conspiracy theorists when they say that the U.S. government actually masterminded and executed the attack.
We could spend a great deal of time arguing one side or the other. Instead, we’ll focus on the process. Isn’t it fascinating that there can be two credible explanations for such a complex event, and that both explanations can be so diametrically opposed to one another?
How does a conspiracy theory like this get started? What is required to fuel it into a full-fledged public debate? Can the theory ever be proven? What does the possibility of the theory say about our society? In this article we will explore these questions and many others as we look at the events of September 11.
Conspiracy Theory Basics
The dictionary defines a conspiracy theory in this way: A theory seeking to explain a disputed case or matter as a plot by a secret group or alliance rather than an individual or isolated act. A conspiracy theorist, therefore, is a person who formulates such a theory.
There is a certain negative undertone to the term “conspiracy theory” in today’s society. Detractors will point out that many conspiracy theories contain certain features that undermine their credibility. In this article, however, we will use the term “conspiracy theory” in its neutral sense. We are using it to mean an alternative explanation for an event, as it is defined in the dictionary.
In modern times there have been a number of “conspiracy theories.” One example is the assassination of John F. Kennedy. After the assassination, the government offered its explanation of the events. A large number of people (at one point, more than half of the adult population in the United States) simply do not believe the government’s explanation. This particular conspiracy theory rose to such a high level in the public consciousness that an entire Hollywood movie was made about it: “JFK”, directed by Oliver Stone and released in 1991.
The Kennedy assassination really started the modern “conspiracy theory” movement. This is an event where the “official” government explanation of the crime was openly ridiculed by a large number of “normal citizens.” Many people believe that the Kennedy assassination was carried out as part of a larger government-centered conspiracy, rather than as a random event arranged by a single gunman.
In the same way, a very large number of people do not believe that “terrorists” carried out the events seen on 9/11. Instead, they believe that the government caused those events.
Next, we’ll look at how conspiracy theories get started.
- The psychology of conspiracy theories (illuminutti.com)
- The psychology of conspiracy theories (PDF) (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracy theories as quasi-religious mentality – (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracy theories: Why we believe the unbelievable (illuminutti.com)
- The 10 most bizarre, absurd, and dumb conspiracy theories of 2013 (illuminutti.com)
- The psychology of conspiracy theories (conservativeread.com)
To believe that the US government planned or deliberately allowed the 9/11 attacks, you’d have to posit that President Bush intentionally sacrificed 3,000 Americans. To believe that explosives, not planes, brought down the buildings, you’d have to imagine an operation large enough to plant the devices without anyone getting caught.
To insist that the truth remains hidden, you’d have to assume that everyone who has reviewed the attacks and the events leading up to them – the CIA, the Justice Department, the Federal Aviation Administration, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, scientific organisations, peer-reviewed journals, news organisations, the airlines, and local law enforcement agencies in three states – was incompetent, deceived or part of the cover-up.
And yet, as Slate’s Jeremy Stahl points out, millions of Americans hold these beliefs. In a Zogby poll taken six years ago, only 64 per cent of US adults agreed that the attacks “caught US intelligence and military forces off guard”. More than 30 per cent chose a different conclusion: that “certain elements in the US government knew the attacks were coming but consciously let them proceed for various political, military, and economic motives”, or that these government elements “actively planned or assisted some aspects of the attacks”.
How can this be? How can so many people, in the name of scepticism, promote so many absurdities?
The answer is that people who suspect conspiracies aren’t really sceptics. Like the rest of us, they’re selective doubters. They favour a world view, which they uncritically defend. But their worldview isn’t about God, values, freedom, or equality. It’s about the omnipotence of elites.
Conspiracy chatter was once dismissed as mental illness. But the prevalence of such belief, documented in surveys, has forced scholars to take it more seriously. Conspiracy theory psychology is becoming an empirical field with a broader mission: to understand why so many people embrace this way of interpreting history. As you’d expect, distrust turns out to be an important factor. But it’s not the kind of distrust that cultivates critical thinking.
In 1999, a research team headed by Marina Abalakina-Paap, a psychologist at New Mexico State University, published a study of US college students. The students were asked . . .
- Inside the minds of the JFK conspiracy theorists (newscientist.com)
- Conspiracy theory psychology: People who claim to know the truth about JFK, UFOs, and 9/11. (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracy Theorists Aren’t Really Skeptics (slate.com)
- The Fascinating Psychology of People Who Know the Real Truth About JFK, UFOs, and 9/11 (disinfo.com)