The Conspiracy Theory Mind

Alex JonesThis last week I haven’t written as much as usual, because I’ve been helping my father who had surgery last week. As a result of that, I ended up in the emergency room on Wednesday. At that time, I met a very chatty man in the waiting room. He was interesting and intelligent. He seemed like the kind of guy who questioned the official line on things. Soon, however, I found out that he was that and more. He started talking about the 9/11 attack and how it was all a “false flag.”

As I’ve noted before, I have a certain fondness for people who believe conspiracy theories. They are at least open minded. But while talking to this guy, I saw that believing in conspiracy theories can also cause people to close their minds. It’s sad. Because these people clearly have good and agile minds. They should be spending their time on something more edifying than looking for holes in the “official” story.

This man who I met was not just interested in 9/11 and Building 7. We spoke for a half hour and I did my best to move the conversation away from conspiracy theories. Still, he managed to mention:

  • He didn’t believe believe Obama was born in the US.
  • Vaccines cause autism.
  • Chem Trails are poisoning us with Al2O3.
  • Elites are trying to create a one world government.
  • Oklahoma City bombing was a false flag.
  • Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy.
  • US government knew about Pearl Harbor and let it happen.
  • Inflation is much higher than the government is letting on.

In his defense, he didn’t mention Roswell, crop circles, or theories about Elvis being alive and well. But it was only a half hour after all.

Here’s the thing: he didn’t seem crazy. In fact, with all the classic conspiracy theories he spouted, it all seemed amazingly normal to me. He was just this guy with a diabetic wife who had traveled 400 miles to come to the VA. If he hadn’t mentioned the conspiracy theories, I never would have known. And if he had only mentioned one, I wouldn’t be writing about this now. But it really struck me that at some point in his life, he traded in belief of the “official line” for belief in the “conspiracy line.” And what’s the point of that?

At one point, I probed him about 9/11. I know a bit about it. I read the report oh so many years ago. And I’ve known enough conspiracy theorists to know about Building 7 and its importance. So I asked a question that had long bothered me, “What is the official reason for the collapse of Building 7?” He really didn’t know. He speculated that it was something to do with debris from the tower collapses. It turns out that it is exactly that, although it greatly understates just how big the destruction was throughout the complex. An article in Structure Magazine argues that a single critical column (pdf) in the building was badly damaged and it caused the whole building to collapse. But what do engineers at Structure Magazine know? They are clearly part of the conspiracy!

But I was struck by the fact that this guy was not all over my question. It came as a surprise, as though the only information he had ever heard about it came from other conspiracy theorists. And that goes right along with belief in all the other theories. At this point, I assume he listens to Alex Jones. Which means he doesn’t much think anymore. Except each night when he watches Jeopardy!

I learned that about him too.

Afterword

This is a whole lot of fun:

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “The Conspiracy Theory Mind

  1. It stems from people feeling powerless, I think. We know our opinions don’t count. We know that the country is run by people in power who enact the policies they want, not the policies we want, and try to spin those policies in a way that sells them to us. (Liberals and conservatives differ on who’s the main mover of power, but they both believe that power rules, not the public.)

    So it becomes easy to attribute to power a kind of omnipotent capacity for intrigue and deception that power really doesn’t possess. People in power rat each other out all the time for real crimes. Why hasn’t that happened for the imaginary ones?)

    Years ago, I read that belief in the "fake" moon landing was highest among Black Americans. The logic was as follows. The government, uninterested in helping poor people, faked the moon landing so they could give money to NASA contractees and not the poor. No, no, no! The government, uninterested in helping poor people, really spent gazillions on a real moon landing so they could give money to NASA contractees and not the poor!

    Conspiracy theories take responsibility for organizing our fellow citizens off our shoulders. It’s all rigged, anyway — but eventually enough Truth will get Out There and people will come around to my point of view. That’s a lot more reassuring than thinking about how damn hard it is to get people who already agree with you to mobilize for social/political action. Which is really, really damn hard. I can’t do it.

  2. @JMF – I was talking to my father about it afterward. It’s interesting because the powerful make no bones about what they are doing. If you just listen to them, everything else makes sense. There really [i]is[/i] a conspiracy to keep the poor down, it just isn’t complicated and it isn’t smart. In fact, I’ve long argued that it is dumb. The huge increases in income inequality will eventually lead to the powerful being harmed. This doesn’t even need to get to the point of revolution. The economic system needs a certain level of equality to function well. When there is large inequality, there is little innovation. If the rich want to have the same things in 100 years as they have today, then keep pushing income inequality. But if they want life to continue to improve, support policies that help build the middle class. Support unions!

    This all goes back to Moriarty: there are no master criminals, just as there are no super heroes. It’s just our world, which really is as banal as it seems.

    Except that Jesus really did marry Mary Magdalene…

  3. Jesus married MM? It all makes sense, now. Jesus’s mom didn’t approve of the marriage; "what, she thinks she’s good enough for my boy, that meshuggah woman?" In rebellion (at age 33, but better late than never) Jesus/MM took to traveling the countryside, performing magic tricks for outdoor festivals and weddings. His father, a respectable carpenter, was shamed. "Show business! He’s dead to me now."

    And that’s how the story began . . .

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