Conspiracy Theories: Too Much Bullshit (Part 2) 

Consider the source. An armchair warrior on Facebook isn’t the same as someone who put in their 10,000 hours. Speaking of politics specifically, I don’t think anyone knows how it really works in a nutshell. Politics is a mix of ideology, activism, human nature, precedent, teamwork, systems, etc. The nuance of how this all fits together will give plenty to chew on for strategy and prediction. You can dive in without having to consider the influence of aliens or the Wizard of OZ. But this doesn’t stop many people getting their information from the likes of Infowars and the National Enquirer. 

The impetus for most conspiratorial thinkers is not truth, but the desire to participate in groupthink. Logic doesn’t necessarily open the can of truth worms. Conspiratorial thinkers might start off with an intellectual pursuit, but emotivism is at the core of their ideas. The want for understanding gives way to a desire to be right, and such desire requires affirmation. It’s tribal in a way. Often, an agreeable group of conspiratorial thinkers will share the same manner of dress: anarchists with army surplus dark clothes and masks, alien hunters with a cross between Star Trek costuming and renaissance fair garb, or the Hillary-is-Crooked camp with their red “make American great again” hats. 

Conspiracy theories do not need to be accurate to gain traction. They just need to be repeated, indiscriminately. We live in an era of doubling down on factually flimsy assertions. It might be that people end up so far out on a limb with bunk info that they don’t see any other way out. All they can do at a point of no intellectual return is double down in hopes to convince the unwitting. 

And sometimes the mere bravado of doubling down is psychologically persuasive. This is a tact aligned with certain lowest common denominator approaches to marketing such as cartoonish appeals to sell unhealthy foods or using sex to sell beer and cars. We see it in the use of the power of suggestion such in advertisements for fitness supplements and jewelry. We see it in those subscribing to the dastardly Joseph Goebbels tact of repeating a lie until it becomes the truth. 

Of course, believing in a conspiracy doesn't make one a truth Nazi. And I don't mean to say that conspiracy theorists necessarily intend to spread misinformation. But we can’t lose sight of what a qualified opinion is, let alone a fact. There is something amiss when we casually blur the distinction between what it means to know stuff and what it means to just say stuff. And there is something incurious about a want to lord the truth over the ignoramuses of the world. 

Ultimately, the weight and complexity of real conspiracies are diluted by tabloid-mannered jibber-jabber. For instance, the rich seem to want to get richer and the poor are getting poorer. It would be ill timed to bring flat-earth theory - or the like - into consideration of the expanding wealth-gap. Bottom line: we are being generous to grant the same level of credibility to conspiratorial thinking as we would to something of, well, actual theory.