A broad cross-section of people I have come across lately believe in conspiracy theories. The argument mostly goes like this: The world is being ruled by a small group of people who decide and control most of the things that happen in the world today from political decision-making to technological invention.
Conspiracy theorists seem to have moved from the fringe to the mainstream. Here is the top 10 list of conspiracy theories compiled by Time magazine:
Some conspiracy theories in history have in fact been proven true, like the Nixon cover-up in the Watergate affair, the Iran-Contra affair and the Libyan involvement in the terror attack on the Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988. One of the most absurd allegations during South Africa’s apartheid era also turned out to be true many years later. Research was actually being conducted on a virus that would only kill the blacks.
But there is a need to be a bit more sceptical when it comes to some of the conspiracy theories out there. The common thread seems to be to find a way to explain in simplistic terms many of the events happening in a world of growing complexity. A lot of people have the tendency to form an opinion and then verifying what they believe with some information on the Internet. On closer scrutiny the article or website turns out to be a badly written diatribe of a single opinion without any valid sourcing or solid evidence
Take the story on the so-called “fake moon landing”. I cannot possibly imagine thousands of people working on such a complex space project over many years and all of them keeping a “fake made in a Disney film studio” a secret for decades. The world is so intricate and complex that the truth in the end always comes out. A cover-up, especially if many people are involved, simply doesn’t work. It is a human tendency to tell their family and friends “a secret.” Someone will always spill the beans.
The issue that needs to be addressed is the gullibility with which every half-truth, speculation and downright wacky theory is being claimed as truth while sound investigative journalism, scientific study or a judicial finding is being ignored or slammed as being part of this conspiracy thing. Part of the problem is that established media is not doing its job and has lost credibility by placing emphasis on superficial entertainment instead of being a watchdog on society and itself blasting some of these theories into the world without verifying the facts. A growing number of people feel alienated in a fast-changing society and are seeking simple answers.
Conspiracy theories first and foremost feed on fear. Here lies the bigger problem. Fear breeds irrationality and a victim mentality. It is just a short step away from blaming a religious or racial minority, the politicians, the media or anyone else for all that is going wrong in the world. It’s a “cop out” mentality of refusing to stand up and taking responsibility.
We have the freedom of choice on most things that matter. Health and personal happiness is a choice. It is a choice of what we eat, how we exercise, what we read, what people, family and friends we want to spend our time with and especially what information we are feeding our minds with.