Conspiracy Theories – Starting the conversation.
Examining the World of Conspiracy Theories
A conspiracy theory is an allegation that a small group of individuals is working together to achieve certain sinister objectives. Accused groups usually include powerful elites, secret societies (real or imagined), governments, and businesses.
Conspiracy theories are usually based on half-truths, speculation, exaggeration, deliberate misrepresentation of facts, or outright lies.
People turn to conspiracies to explain things that are difficult to understand or accept, especially during social crises, with marginalized groups more likely to accept them.
Fear and the lack of trust or confidence in systems, groups, or individuals contribute to the spreading of conspiracy theories.
Similarly, the consumption of digital media, instead of traditional media, such as television, radio, and newspapers, and information through personal contact are associated with higher levels of belief in conspiracies.
Nevertheless, traditional media outlets have emerged as formidable avenues of disinformation to achieve certain political objectives.
Similarly, selective exposure to information by traditional media and censorship by Big Tech helps spread conspiracies.
Some examples of conspiracy theories include arguments that the September 11 attacks were staged to justify war in the Middle East, that the moon landing was faked, or that 5G networks caused the spread of Coronavirus.
However, in the age of disinformation and partisan politics, any truth rejected by a large group of people could be branded as a conspiracy theory. Biased media could also amplify this message, burying the truth by dismissing it as conspiracy theories.
Similarly, people can describe something as a conspiracy when they do not understand it or do not want it to be true.
Some truths initially considered conspiracy theories but later proved otherwise include the Watergate Scandal, the Iran Contra Affair, The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, MK Ultra, and the Snowden Leaks.
Most recently, the Biden Laptop and some truths about COVID-19 vaccines were labeled as conspiracy theories, until they turned out to be true.
However, some conspiracies remain just that, like the alleged Trump-Russian collusion.
While most conspiracy theories are merely entertaining and hilarious, others can cause distrust, fear, hatred, or division. Additionally, belief in conspiracies is associated with higher stress levels and elevated anger among believers.
Conspiracies could also radicalize certain sections of society, making them resistant to laws, ideas, or an established body of facts.
Radicalized groups could also turn violent, resulting in the loss of lives and the destruction of property.
For example, the belief that 5G networks caused COVID-19 led to over 200 attacks on telecommunications engineers in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Similarly, conspiracy theories claiming that vaccines cause infertility could prevent many people from taking them, leading to outbreaks of highly preventable diseases.
Conspiracy theories have existed throughout human history. Over time, some conspiracies turn out to be true, while others remain just that.
They are usually symptoms of underlying societal problems, such as a lack of trust and confidence in governments or bodies of experts such as doctors and journalists.
However, while captivating, conspiracy theories can cause fear, mistrust, paranoia, or violence.
Additionally, belief in conspiracy theories is associated with negative outcomes such as higher stress levels in individuals and the spread of preventable diseases.
Given their destructive nature, it is imperative to evaluate the source of information to avoid becoming victims of conspiracy theories which usually have a hidden social or political agenda.
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