It’s not paranoia if people really are out to get you

Conspiracy theories: Ridiculousness or human nature?

Kaitlyn Jorgensen
Staff Writer

How many of you believe in a conspiracy theory or know someone who does?

The moon landing was a hoax. Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams. The exhaust from airplanes are really chemtrails designed for mind control just like fluoride found in city water. Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer.

The big question here is what leads us as human beings to think this way? Why do people choose to believe in conspiracy theories even when we have factual evidence in our face to prove what really happened?

In an article by the Washington Post, John Sides, an Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, conducted eight national surveys beginning in 2006 asking questions concerning about 20 different conspiracy theories. He found that in any given year, about half the public endorses at least one conspiracy theory. So, what does this mean for us? Well, Jesse Ventura, you do not “stand alone” on this one. In fact, conspiracy theories are extremely common.

In another study by political scientists Joseph Uscinski and Joseph Parent in their book “American Conspiracy Theories” published in 2014, “conspiracy theories do not discriminate across gender, age, race, income, political affiliation, educational level, and occupational status.” This proves that paranoid thinking is very common, and not just affiliated with middle-aged men living in their parents’ basement.

Why is this belief in conspiracy theories so common? Well, we all share common experiences: natural disasters, tragedies, national crises and change.

For example, when we think of former President Obama, what are the first words that come to mind? Would you say that they are something along the lines of brainwashing-hypnotist, antichrist, or lizard overlord? If you said yes, then you would probably agree to the fact that President Obama can control the weather. Therefore, he personally caused Hurricane Sandy in an attempt to destroy the Republican competition for the 2012 presidential elections. Thanks Obama!

But in reality, what contributes to this controversy over our former president? It’s due to change. Obama was the first African-American president; for many people, this was groundbreaking and we Americans do not like change.

The tragic deaths of celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Prince and the world’s beloved Princess Diana. Large scale attacks such as 9-11, the Lincoln and JFK assassinations. These are just a few of the tragedies that all Americans know. It is hard for us to accept what really happened, especially when we are left with so many unanswered questions. This may lead us to speculate what the truth actually is.

The cause of conspiracy theories? In an article written by Michael Shermer in Scientific American, University of Miami political scientists Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent noted that in laboratory experiments “researchers have found that inducing anxiety or loss of control triggers respondents to see nonexistent patterns and evoke conspiratorial explanations.” In the real world, “there is evidence that disasters and other high-stress situations prompt people to concoct, embrace, and repeat conspiracy theories.” When we are in the midst of a major crisis or terrorist attack, we feel a loss of control. This causes our amygdala, the part of our brain that controls our emotions fear, anger and worry, to kick into overdrive, leading us to connect unseen dots that aren’t necessarily related.

What is the number one thing average Americans feel they have no control over? That would be the government. Not a single person knows for sure what goes on in the minds of senators. The legislature could very well have been infiltrated by groups bent on world domination. For instance, a group of reptilian elites could possibly be the reason why the republicans are refusing to enact stronger gun control. Our senators may actually be alien shapeshifters with their sole purpose to infiltrate the world’s government and lead to the downfall of human race as we know it.

We as human beings need to question authority. To quote Timothy Leary: “Think for yourself and question authority.” If the government’s motives aren’t being questioned to a healthy degree, who is to say that their actions are entirely ethical and not just part of an elaborate plan enacted by the Illuminati?”

Not all conspiracy theories are entirely false, even when they contradict a commonly accepted explanation for the same phenomena. In other words, where science and logic have a reason for events that occur, conspiracy theorists will always have another. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, once said, “Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

We’ve covered why the belief in conspiracy theories is so common, what causes us to concoct these ridiculous theories, and finally why it is essentially healthy to question authority. But let’s be real, no one really knows, right? How much access to information does the government allow us to have? Maybe the chemtrails behind airplanes really are sedatives used to brainwash us so we don’t rise up and overthrow our Reptilian Overlords.

Gabe Hewitt

Gabe is a junior mass media student at MSU. He's usually up for anything. You can find him on Twitter (@gabehewitt) or you can email him at gabriel.hewitt@mnsu.edu.

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