Like almost everyone I’m sure, I’ve been told about and exposed to many conspiracy theories. Some made sense, of course, while others were utterly ridiculous. But all of them shared one very striking aspect. They were all inevitably unsatisfying. At least for me, here’s why.
Being exposed to a conspiracy theory usually starts with a promising premise. There is often a story, a narrative that allows you to imagine how the motive could be real, and perhaps why the facts are concealed so well. This introductory stage is interesting, you begin to think, wonder – perhaps there is something to this theory. Perhaps everyone else is deluded, so you start your investigation. You start to look for facts, and the second stage begins. .
It seems that many of facts you are discovering match the hypothesis amazingly well. Here, you start to get annoyed that you didn’t know this earlier. How could you have been so foolish? Why didn’t anyone say anything sooner? Your anger drives to you be more investigative. You begin to look for more facts to support the hypothesis. You start to slowly lose your capacity for critical judgment about this particular topic, and you forget that you’ve learned all about ‘confirmation bias’ and it’s harmful effects on reason and clear thinking. You start to loosen your standards for what should count as ‘evidence’ and what shouldn’t. You start to interpret numbers and statistics in a way that would always support your theory.
You then reach stage three. You’re now feeling more empowered with this information, almost like a prophet who’s on a mission to spread the truth to those who don’t know. And you do just that, you start with friends, family, acquaintances – anyone willing to listen. Some will entertain your proposition, some will even feel you’ve enlightened them, but most will laugh it off. You then argue, trying to recall facts and figures. Referring to everything you can that had you convinced in the first place. You block out what they tell you because they’re obviously wrong. They haven’t read the facts. They don’t know about the articles, they can’t, they’re not supposed to. If they weren’t convinced by the end of the argument, you are slightly disappointed that you have failed to convince them, but then move on to greener pastures.
After a while, you feel you need more reinforcement, and here, you enter stage four. You seek out people who share similar thoughts, and begin to share information. You quickly realize that they already know a lot of what you know. Some know a little more, and others much more. You feel energized, and motivated to continue and learn more.
After you build relationships within that community, your beliefs are reinforced. You feel more reassured and confident. You may even feel slightly elitist in that you possess knowledge that only a few number of people do. Time then passes, and slowly your passion, interest, commitment, and dedication reach a critical stage.
You’ve now entered stage number 5, the one that divides conspiracy theorists from everyone else. There are three alternative modes of action that you can take.
One, you will proceed with passion and venom and continue to build on your knowledge about the subject and try to reach out to more people.
Two, you will take a few steps back and rethink about how smart it really is to really delve into this, and you slowly start to lose interest and get occupied with other things in life until the matter doesn’t concern you entirely.
Three, you neither back out nor delve in, you only retain the knowledge you already have that will inevitably slowly fade with time. You don’t actively try to preach what you’ve learned, but you do so passively. If asked about the subject, you will reach into the depths of your mind and retrieve whatever information you can find, but you will do so based on social context more so than a powerful motivation to recruit more people to your way of thinking.
Based on my life experience, these are the different paths you can take, and what you choose will depend of course on your personality more than anything else (the objective validity of you beliefs). What I have always disliked about conspiracy theories is that I generally felt that they were potentially a horrible source of anger and despair and really no source of happiness and fulfillment.
Some conspiracy theories might be true, I do not deny that. Some are quite sophisticated and intelligent, but the problem with conspiracy theories is that by their definition, they cannot lead you to the truth. Indeed, if you are interested in the pursuit of truth, you will find that conspiracy theories are unsatisfying simply because their nature is that they cannot be proved. I suspect that it would be ignorant to assume that everyone is interested in the truth. I believe that this is simply not true. I find that a lot of people use conspiracy theories as emotional reassurance, a way to connect to a society, or merely a pursuit of intellectual interest. Some do it wittingly, and others unwittingly.
I think learning about conspiracy theories is a fun intellectual exercise and could make for great conversation with people, but I would prefer to leave it there. My reasoning is not only will you be unable to prove its validity, but the mere belief in certain ideas could be debilitating and destructive. If you believed some kind of theory that is fundamentally opposed to the way society works for example, you’re likely going to feel resentment, hatred, and distrust towards that society, and there’s little benefit that could accrue from that.
Instead, if some of us are naturally inclined to search for truth, I feel it would be a lot more beneficial and conducive to a sustainable, healthy, and fulfilling existence if we focused our energy towards looking for truths about matters that can actually be verified and confirmed.
problem: i think its interesting at first but then becomes useless.