As children, I believe that many of us in our earlier days subscribe to beliefs which are not based in fact but are instead based upon our hopes, what we may have wanted or needed to be true. I can, of course, speak from personal experience as I once believed such things as that aliens had visited the planet several times but their visits had been covered up or that there was a secret Illuminati type group that controlled the world. At first, believers of such ideas seem harmless, just as simply crazy people in their own world, especially in the context of how American culture has portrayed those who continue believing in such things into adulthood (in the crazy hat stereotype, for example). However, with the rise of fake news as a propaganda tactic (many of which function in similar ways to such conspiracy theories), the necessity of this type of maturation has never been more important.
Of course, to begin such an exploration as this, I must begin by describing the way in which I define a “conspiracy theory,” so that I may define what I believe must be overcome. In my view, a conspiracy theory is, put simply, an inversion of the scientific method. In this sense, instead of beginning with a hypothesis, after gathering information, and synthesizing the data to form a theory, a conspiracy theory begins with the theory and refuses to adjust it, when clear facts exist to the contrary and the theorist is completely unable to disprove any of these facts. In addition to this, the theory will have to describe a group of people who, in a way, secretly control world affairs. As such, simply proposing an alternative to what has long been described as a fact or, especially, describing a system of racial oppression, if the specific theories are both fact based, would not be conspiracy theories.
In terms of the theories themselves, conspiracy theories are usually based on historically prevalent prejudices. Jews, for example, are still subject to the over one-thousand year-old accusations of secret Jewish groups control all the money in the world or the governments of the world, or most recently the media. This type of conspiracy theory also connects to conspiracy theories against African Americans and immigrants as the Neo-Nazis at the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally chanted “you will not replace us.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:
This slogan was coined from a statement by Nathan Damigo, founder of the white-nationalist campus group Identity Evropa, who retorted to an anti-Donald Trump “He will not divide us” campaign by actor Shia LeBeouf on social media: “Shia LeBeouf, you will not replace us with your globalism.” The chant is closely related to the white-nationalist “White Genocide” meme, reflective of their fears that white people and white culture are under attack from multiculturalism and nonwhite races. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the slogan began appearing on white-nationalist flyers and banners in May, and has spread widely since then. (At times during the first Charlottesville march, the chant morphed into “Jews Will Not Replace Us!”)Neiwert, David. “When white nationalists chant their weird slogans, what do they mean?” Southern Poverty Law Center, 10 Oct. 2017, www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/10/10/when-white-nationalists-chant-their-weird-slogans-what-do-they-mean. Accessed 1 July 2020.
Indeed, conspiracy theories such as these are the type that must be outgrown as soon as possible.
However, they are not the only type of conspiracy theory as there are some which are far less historically motivated and that tend to focus more on the individual’s experiences (though, these conspiracy theories can, and usually do, connect to historical prejudices). These are usually created in reaction to traumatic events, which cause the individual to turn their anger away from fate or the individuals involved and see their experience as part of a system (again, this is only a conspiracy theory if the individual proceeds with the hypothesis but refuses to change said hypothesis if there is no evidence or evidence pointing in another direction).
This type of conspiracy theory is exemplified quite well in the case of styrowing.com (explained in detail by this video by SomeOrdinaryGamers). In this case, the creator of the website, Ed McWhirter, lost his wife when she suffered a brain death, while in a hospital’s care. McWhirter disagrees with this story, however, and instead believes that his wife was killed intentionally. McWhirter, for his part, has tried to bring together evidence for his claim but, so far, he has only been able to bring together other conspiracy theories (such as a John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory and a 9/11 Truther video at the beginning of his website).
Now that the danger of these conspiracy theories is known (from my perspective, at least), I will move onto the way in which this can be overcome and is overcome by most.
As previously described, when one is very young their mind works in a more simple: human action equals result model, due to their lack of experience. In such a system, if something negative happens to the individual with no clear perpetrator, the individual holds to the belief that it must be a direct result of the intentional action of another. In the young individuals mind, there becomes a sense that the negative act, which may become a symbol for the greater traumas in their life, is a problem that must be resolved. In this sense, this early negative experience becomes the individual’s search for justice or, at the very least, for closure.
However, this search drags on and on as those around the individual provide nothing but inconclusive evidence, if any at all. Not one to abandon their own search for justice, the individual becomes convinced that there is indeed evidence and, if none can be found, then it must be because it is being withheld. As such, the individual becomes suspicious of all those whom they previously trusted. But, as the individual continues to find no evidence, at some point they have cast all those they knew as “in on it” and, as such, they relate themselves as the victim of the world.
This is where the maturation comes into play. In most cases, the individual eventually drops the charges, finding the isolation, of which they have subjected themself to be too painful to continue to bare. As such, they admit their mistake, either more maturely to another or less maturely to themself, and return to life as normal.
Of course, this can also lead to a less productive outcome as the individual, instead, simply decides to exempt those with whom they have kinship. This leads to a continuation of the conspiracy theory in a less destructive form as the individual is able to socialize but is held back by their unfounded paranoia. This is the type of conspiracy theory, which I have found most people to exhibit, as it allows them to continue their necessary amount of socialization without giving up on the theory.
However, I would stress that it is most important for all people to overcome their own conspiracy theories as it is a key step in their own development as a human being. Indeed, giving up on conspiracy theories allows one to begin to understand both the individualism of others and to come to terms with the sometimes painful nature of human existence.
In a more clarified sense, the individual, by giving up conspiracy theories, will begin to understand the complexity of others and how they truly make actions, most of the time, in ignorance of the desires of the individual. As such, the individual will understand that those around them are as fully individual (capable of their own desires and fears) as they are.
In connection to this, the individual will learn to re-establish a stronger trust in the goodness of others by overcoming such conspiracies. This is due to the fact that they will begin to see others as just as desiring of what is good for themself and for others, just as much as they do.
Of course, this is only my thoughts on the way in which humans develop and I could of course be wrong, as I have been before and will most likely be in the future. However, I do believe that I have at least opened the door to the showing of how concepts such as conspiracy theories play a role in the way in which humans develop.
Indeed, I do admit there are those that do wish harm upon others but I do believe that, by giving up conspiracy theories, the individual will be able to more clearly see the world and, most importantly, understand the evils that could make a human turn on their own. By doing so, I hope that the individual will learn that others are just as much of an individual as themself.
(If you disagree, feel free to leave a reply as I would love to open this hypothesis to debate and possibly come to a more conclusive answer through doing so.)