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The Psychology of Conspiracies: Why the Crap Floats to the Top

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posted on Jul, 14 2008 @ 05:55 PM
Yep, we've all seen it happen here. It is all around ATS and is undeniable. What am I talking about exactly? Well I am talking about the fact that the "diamond" ATS threads always tend to sink to the bottom while the crap inevitably floats straight to the top.

Yes, you have seen it. Don't lie to yourself. I'm sure many of you can attest to the fact that you have written a well thought out, perfectly logical post explaining away at some topic that you feel is of utmost importance, pouring research into it and filling it with logic and reason, only to have it overwhelmed by thread titled "Barack Obama is a muslim and eats Christian flesh, proof within" or something ridiculously similar.

So why does this happen? In researching an explanation, I am not trying to point fingers at anyone or get personal with the matter...merely presenting a reason for this flourishing ignorance on ATS. The very site whose motto boldly states, "Deny Ignorance."

So what is a conspiracy theory?

A conspiracy theory attributes the ultimate cause of an event or chain of events (usually political, social or historical events), or the concealment of such causes from public knowledge, to a secret, and often deceptive plot by a group of powerful or influential people or organizations. Many conspiracy theories state that major events in history have been dominated by conspirators who manipulate political happenings from behind the scenes.

So in that context, it becomes apparent that a conspiracy must involve some sort of "villain" that pits "us" against "them."

Conspiracy Theories fall into three main categories. Obstructive. Oppressive, and Deceptive.

An obstructive conspiracy theory proposes the existence of a conspiracy whose purpose is to prevent, or at least impede, some event from occurring. An example would be a supposed conspiracy involving “big oil” and the automotive industry to prevent the introduction of an automobile engine that could run on water.

Oppressive conspiracies are unique in that they purport to explain perceived social inequalities or perceived political disenfranchisement. This class of theories is based on the previously mentioned “them” engaged in an active conspiracy against “us.” There are many conspiracy theories of this class circulating in contemporary society.

A close relative of the oppressive theory is the deceptive conspiracy theory. Deceptive conspiracies are dedicated to presenting the illusion that the root cause of some social, economic, or political problem is something other than actual cause. The most notorious use of this tactic was [Nazi Germany's tactics used in WWII].

We may now turn our attention to the prevalence of contemporary belief in conspiracy theories as well as psycho-social factors that may contribute to such beliefs...

More recently, a national survey of 1,010 adults was conducted by Ohio University to determine the acceptance of various conspiracy theories related to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This survey indicated that 36% of those surveyed believed it to be “‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them.”

Goertzel identified three traits as being correlated with a belief in conspiracy theories:

    anomia, the respondent stated a belief that he/she felt alienated or disaffection relative to “the system;”

    a tendency to distrust other people; and

    a feeling of insecurity regarding continued employment.


Citing Volkan, who suggested that insecure and/or discontented people very often feel a need for a tangible enemy on which to externalize their anger, Goertzel notes that conspiracy theories may serve to provide an “enemy” to blame for problems which “otherwise seem too abstract and impersonal.” He further observes that conspiracy theories also provide ready answers for the believer’s unanswered questions and help to resolve contradictions between known ‘facts’ and an individual's belief system. The latter observation seems to be verified by the widespread acceptance within the Muslim world of the contention that the September 11 attacks were the work of Israel, in conjunction with the Bush Administration, in order to increase anti-Muslim sentiments abroad.

Surprisingly, Goertzel found that there was no correlation between race, age, and economic status and the latter two traits. Although he did not suggest that the two latter traits mentioned above may be self-perpetuating (people who have experienced employment difficulties in the past may be more distrusting of others which, in turn, may lead to future interpersonal issues that can have a negative impact on employment), intuitive reasoning suggests that this could be possible.

Thus based on this research, one can conclude that one may follow a particular conspiracy theory to absolve them of any accountability of some aspect of their life that they may find undesirable or difficult to deal with.

if the individual is being “oppressed” by some powerful conspiracy, the individual’s efforts at self-advancement will always be futile and thus become nothing more than “a waste of time.” Sadly, it seems that conspiracy theories and their advocates are now deeply engrained in the popular psyche and without prospects for their ultimate refutation.

So it seems people would rather psychologically feel helpless to a conspiracy or try to rally against it, than to realize the effort it would take to take care of their own issues in their lives themselves.

Hahaha...and I am not a government agent sent to derail you.

Watch my point be proven and this thread sink right to the bottom.

I have lost all faith in ATS...

[edit on 7/14/2008 by Mad_Hatter]

posted on Jul, 14 2008 @ 09:06 PM
great post man...

the majority theorists and skeptics alike are both so closed minded that they work against real truth seekers.
Its almost like crappy gang graffiti and lame graffiti ruin it for the true artists that lay down some thought provoking art...

most of the time I cannot get thru to closed minded people unless I can make them laugh first.

Prejudice occurs, methinks, when people close their minds.

All conspiracy theorists are insane.
All skeptics are sheep.
All politicians lie.
All Jews run the world. et c

Skeptics will find what they are looking for. And delusional conspiracy theorists find what they are looking for and do cling to their beliefs because of purely psychological reasons stemming from their past.

I would describe myself as skeptical yet curious. I love seeking truth and doing hella research. Researching till my eyes burn and then sleeping to make sense of it all in my dreams.

you point out the truth man...all the # floats to the top...

but I haven't lost faith...I have come across several great minds on this site who produce quality posts and contribute to the collective consciousness...

thanks for your contributions man

posted on Jul, 15 2008 @ 01:13 AM
Good thread. You're definitely saying what I (and I'm sure many others) have been thinking for quite sometime. I can't tell you how many times I have resolved to stop making threads because clearly no one is interested unless there is a reptilian or a dbag politician at the bottom of it. And yet I keep posting them like I expect something diffeent to happen.

What I don't get is the disproportionate number of views to respsonses. 250 people read the OP but not one of them has an opinion? I think very few peoople who come to ATS are any better than the "sheeple" because they only believe what they wanted to believe before they got here. They come here for validation of whatever theories they espouse.

Oh, well. I have read so many great things on this site and pulled so many gems from the piles of BS, as jasonjnelson put it, that it's worth it to keep coming back. Maybe all the threads that go to the bottom are gems for someone out there.

posted on Jul, 15 2008 @ 01:47 AM
In my experience, conspiracy theories that have significant entertainment value do really well (crypto-animals, end of the world, aliens, etc.).

These are entertaining, they're fun - much more interesting than reading through fifty pages talking about collusion between government officials and contractors.

I like talking about, thinking about, and researching real conspiracies - the ones involving money, and power, business and government.

When it comes to bigfoot and the probe-happy residents of Galaxy X, I figure, it's either true or it's not true, and what friggin' difference does it make either way? None whatsoever. It's like launching an investigation into the color of the panties worn by the Queen of England - they're probably white but what the Hell does it matter if they're not. It's not like, by knowing, you can change the color of the panties. Good analogy, bad analogy? I'm not sure...

The entertainment conspiracies are soothing - they break people out of their everyday lives and offer a sort of balm against the harsh winds of reality. They're a panacea for stress and depression and insecurity the same way television is, with its over-wrought drama and colorful characters and ridiculous situations.

I dunno - I don't have the answer. I just keep trying to learn more about what interests me, and if other people want to do otherwise, that's great. If not, that's also great. We're all getting what we need and, perhaps more importantly, we're getting what we deserve.

I am not my brother's keeper - my brother is not a goddamn baby who needs regular diaper changes and soothing music. My brother needs to take care of himself, because anyone will get a little hoarse after years of shouting into the wind, I don't care how principled they are, and the human forehead can only take so many impacts against a brick wall before injury results.

Call me jaded - but I refuse to waste valuable time and energy appealing for people to take an interest in subject matter that's important to their survival. They either will, or they won't, either way, they're responsible.

posted on Jul, 15 2008 @ 01:52 AM

Originally posted by sc2099

What I don't get is the disproportionate number of views to respsonses. 250 people read the OP but not one of them has an opinion?

I often wonder the same thing. I think you answered your own question though when you said,

clearly no one is interested unless there is a reptilian or a dbag politician at the bottom of it.


They come here for validation of whatever theories they espouse.

Well put. Thanks for your response. I have noticed opposing threads before where one thread will give a completely logical and sane perspective of a subject and the argument will make perfect sense, while another thread directly opposing it will grow wings and reach the front page of the site. For instance, not a real thread I don't think, but just an example...

A thread may be created that states why reptiles can't exist with extensive proof and research to back it up while a thread will be created to oppose it called proof of reptilian existance with a picture of george bush and a weird photoshopped eye as proof and the latter thread will reach the front page. I find this annoying because it fosters ignorance. Then people come to the site and the first thing they see on the frong page are inane posts and therefor think its okay to breed this kind of ignorance here. And the worst part is that it's the members that make it this way.

IMO, ATS has gone downhill since its inception. Is it because over the years my views have changed as a person, or is it because the board has become more lenient on its policies, or maybe its because there is a rise of ignorant members....I honestly don't know.

posted on Jul, 15 2008 @ 02:24 AM
This is a place were you speak your mind about things you don't get into at the coffee shop. You could make the parallel that the appetite for crap here is a micro version of mainstream entertainment. You can chose which thread you want to read. Maybe your well thought out thread just was'nt interesting. I've experienced that too. When you keep speaking your truth you begin to connect with like minded people who share your truth. There is no man on the mountain here as far as I'm concerned. Just more consensus reality/truth a notch or two above mainstream.

[edit on 15-7-2008 by Swingarm]

posted on Jul, 15 2008 @ 02:31 AM
Good post, some very interesting reading.

I think there is a huge problem of people being unwilling to listen to things they feel don't jive with their beliefs (both in ATS and real life). I was a college debater, and one of the most important things I ever learned is the ability to "switch side debate". In other words, how to research and argue both sides of an issue. When people do this, not only does it help everyone further find the truth, but it helps you argue your points even better, because you know the opposing sides argument. That is why I enjoy posting on well thought out threads, regardless if I agree with them or not.

Having said that, I do think there is some problems with the information you have presented. The first is that your main complaint seems to be you hate threads like ones that say Obama eats babies, yet the study you cite is talking about a rather people believe 9-11 was a conspiracy or not. This seems problematic to me because I don't gather from your comments at the top of your post that this is what you are complaining about. If you would consider a post claiming 9-11 was a conspiracy to be crap, then I would have to ask what you would define as a worthy post?

The problem is that your reference seems to be dealing with a different issue than what your complaint seems to be. Your reference is trying to explain how belief in any conspiracy can occur, whereas your complaint seems to be why the more ridiculous ones get more attention (if I'm following you). I think that the people doing the study you show would say that the very idea of ATS is a deflection of personal responsibility, and I don't think that is correct at all. Put another way, if their contention is that the majority of conspiracy believers are so because they are deflecting self advancement, how does that address your complaint as to crazier conspiracies and posts get more attention. According to them, belief in any conspiracy seems equally crazy.

I have more problems with this study. Apparently, they start off with the assumption that the conspiracy they looked at (9-11 being an inside job) isn't true. They then try to explain how so many people can believe something so irrational. For example, they say CT serve to answer contradictions between known facts and the believers belief system. Well, what known facts are they referring to? There are many facts on all sides of the 9-11 debate, so how can one claim there is a contradiction between the facts and CTers beliefs?

If this conspiracy were to be true , then what would these findings prove? That poor, angry people are more likely question officials stories and get the truth, while wealthier people who believe in self advancement tend to be more willing to believe a conspiracy (the official story of 9-11 in this instance).

Another problem I have with the study is the three traits that are pointed out. The first I will mention is point two, a tendency to distrust other people. This makes no sense. Wouldn't this be a characteristic of a conspiracy skeptics too? Also, this seems a bit obvious. Did they really expect CTers to be trusting of people? I don't see how questioning things and demanding evidence is a negative trait.

The next is alienation or disaffection with the system. In other words, people that don't fit in with society or don't like the direction its going. Again, this seems like an obvious statement. Why would someone who loves the government or society have conspiracies about it. They don't need to think of such things. But someone who doesn't like it or doesn't fit in would probably look for reasons why, and ask questions.

For example, I am discontent with the system because I hate the fact that a very few people control most of the worlds wealth, while millions of people starve. In trying to rationalize how this is, I came to the conclusions that these few people are greedy and feel they rig the world economy to make more money. Thats a conspiracy. I don't understand why this is either a negative thing (I guess that is what they are trying to say) or why this is some startling revelation. They could have saved their money, and I could have told them people who are happy with society would be less likely to believe in conspiracies.

Pretty much the same applies to the lass point, people with more stressful financial situations are more likely to be CTers. Makes sense, because in general the better off person would probably not see as much of a problem with society, and vice versa.

I think this study is in danger of jumping to the conclusion that poor, angry distrusting people are more likely to be stupid and not be able to accept facts than trusting, happy, wealthy people. Whats more is the fact that it seeks to heap shame on these people by saying, stop being lazy, if you just believed what you are told and got a good job, you wouldn't be a poor loser. I think this is a very dangerous conclusion, and I feel it is counter intuitive to the official motto of ATS, denying ignorance.

I think that it probably is true that some people want to blame others instead of fixing problems themselves, but is that really a problem unique to CTers? The same could be said of many racists, religious people, politicians and many other groups of people. Deflecting blame and responsibility seems to be a characteristic that transcends race and class. So it seems rather disingenuous to assert that CTers uniquely deflect responsibility.

I guess in conclusion I tink this study is terribly biased and not done very scientifically. I also fail to see the connection from a study that lumps together all conspiracies to your complaint of the most radical ones getting more attention. I feel for your anger at some topics, but I just don't feel this study explains the problem.

posted on Jul, 15 2008 @ 02:55 AM
reply to post by Mad_Hatter

Yep, we've all seen it happen here. It is all around ATS and is undeniable. What am I talking about exactly? Well I am talking about the fact that the "diamond" ATS threads always tend to sink to the bottom while the crap inevitably floats straight to the top.

BTW Is this "Diamond" ATS thread ?

posted on Jul, 17 2008 @ 01:58 AM

Originally posted by Mad_Hatter

Watch my point be proven and this thread sink right to the bottom.

I have lost all faith in ATS...

Not trying to get personal, but it seems that you are somewhat guilty of the same thing you have criticized. You talk in the OP how you hate putting a lot of thought into a post only to have it be ignored, yet you didn't respond to the post I typed (which took me a long time) that respectfully disagreed with you. By not responding to differing points of views, you have assured that this thread would sink to the bottom, sort of making it a self fulfilling prophecy.

I think it goes to show that a lot of people making or agreeing with these threads complaining about ATS are guilty of many of the same things they criticize (I too criticize things on ATS that I catch myself doing). I guess if there is a consensus that there are problems with ATS, everyone should look at themselves to fix them before they criticize others.

posted on Jul, 17 2008 @ 02:09 AM
you have an excellent point grambler. I often find myself checking myself. When an opinion about how something really is, or how someone or some folks really are pops into my brain, I realize that I too have qualities and weaknesses that could, in a sense, point out my own shortcomings.

I try to make it a point to reply to most threads that I would believe would expand my map of the universe, so to speak.

I also find that some subjects, I don't feel like commenting on. Like the thread about the secret. and threads that seem to give off a faint ''been there/explored that/bled it dry'' type response in my brain. Cant explain it, I just experience it. Im probably missing out on a lot though...

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