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Paranoia Strikes Deep: Why people believe in conspiracies

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posted on Sep, 4 2009 @ 01:27 PM
According to Michael Sherman......

Why do people believe in highly improbable conspiracies? In previous columns I have provided partial answers, citing patternicity (the tendency to find meaningful patterns in random noise) and agenticity (the bent to believe the world is controlled by invisible intentional agents). Conspiracy theories connect the dots of random events into meaningful patterns and then infuse those patterns with intentional agency. Add to those propensities the confirmation bias (which seeks and finds confirmatory evidence for what we already believe) and the hindsight bias (which tailors after- the-fact explanations to what we already know happened), and we have the foundation for conspiratorial cognition.

Examples of these processes can be found in journalist Arthur Goldwag’s marvelous new book, Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies (Vintage, 2009), which covers everything from the Freemasons, the Illuminati and the Bilderberg Group to black helicopters and the New World Order. “When something momentous happens, everything leading up to and away from the event seems momentous, too. Even the most trivial detail seems to glow with significance,” Goldwag explains, noting the JFK assassination as a prime example. “Knowing what we know now … film footage of Dealey Plaza from November 22, 1963, seems pregnant with enigmas and ironies — from the oddly expectant expressions on the faces of the onlookers on the grassy knoll in the instants before the shots were fired (What were they thinking?) to the play of shadows in the background (Could that flash up there on the overpass have been a gun barrel gleaming in the sun?). Each odd excrescence, every random lump in the visual texture seems suspicious.” Add to these factors how compellingly a good narrative story can tie it all together — think of Oliver Stone’s JFK or Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, both equally fictional.

What should we believe? Transcendentalists tend to believe that everything is interconnected and that all events happen for a reason. Empiricists tend to think that randomness and coincidence interact with the causal net of our world and that belief should depend on evidence for each individual claim. The problem for skepticism is that transcendentalism is intuitive; empiricism is not. Or as folk rock group Buffalo Springfield once intoned: Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep…

Sherman thinks conspiracy theories are bunk due to bureaucrats diarrea of the mouth....

But as former Nixon aide G. Gordon Liddy once told me (and he should know!), the problem with government conspiracies is that bureaucrats are incompetent and people can’t keep their mouths shut. Complex conspiracies are difficult to pull off, and so many people want their quarter hour of fame that even the Men in Black couldn’t squelch the squealers from spilling the beans. So there’s a good chance that the more elaborate a conspiracy theory is, and the more people that would need to be involved, the less likely it is true.

What is this guy afraid of? He seems to be an uber skeptic that gets a kick out of picking on conspiracy theorists.


[edit on 4-9-2009 by DevolutionEvolvd]

posted on Sep, 4 2009 @ 02:31 PM
People who don't believe in conspiracy theories tend to think that everything is just fine. They can't think that people are evil and that more than one person would ever coerce with each other to commit what is known as a conspiracy theory. I don't understand this anti-conspiracy theory mindset myself. It's a good question why these people are so mindlessly against these theories.

posted on Sep, 4 2009 @ 02:43 PM
Thats why consiracies are called consiracy theories. They are just theories and may or may not be true.
I think many consiracy theorists are some of the most intelligent people I have encountered. They tend to think for themselves. I think this is why many in mainstream want to debunk conspiracy theorists and call them crazy. When you label someone as "crazy"; you automtically take away their crediblity.
It is thought in main stream society if someone is "crazy' or insane they can't possibly be of sound mind or make good descions.
I would have to disagree; true sociopaths often have a very high intellectual ablity. They are often of sound mind but do not care.

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