The Internet allows people who might otherwise never meet to connect with each other. Through online communities, we communicate with people who share our interests, our politics and our passions. Overall, this is a very positive thing. No matter what your interests, someone out there shares it.
Of course, this also applies to people with beliefs that are far outside the mainstream. Whether someone sincerely believes world governments are controlled by reptile people, or think the U.S. government puts mind-controlling chemicals in fast food, they can find someone online who shares their views.
Validation Through Community
The ease with which we can connect with like-minded but comfortably anonymous people online has led to an explosion in conspiracy theories.
Prior to the Internet, life as a conspiracy theorist was a lonely and fairly unrewarding existence. Now, a few quick mouse clicks will take you to a magical world of forums, message boards and blogs where tornadoes are caused by the government, FEMA camps are used for genocidal population control, and shadowy organizations control every aspect of the global economy.
Even if it’s not as extreme of an example, we all know that finding people who share the same theories validates your own beliefs. And when someone validates your beliefs, you tend to express them more often, and with greater sincerity.
Layers on Layers
I can’t quite grasp why some people prefer to believe insanely convoluted conspiracy theories rather than accept the facts as they are. For goodness sake, the Obama Administration couldn’t keep the 2013 IRS scandal a secret. How could the same government possibly keep alien involvement on Earth a secret through multiple administrations? In the real world, when there’s a cover-up, someone inevitably leaks information.
Ah, say the conspiracy theorists, but this just proves how smart “They” are. “They” leak minor scandals so we don’t notice the Bigger Picture. And only a small group of individuals connected by the Internet knows the truth, and dares sound the alarm.
Maybe the feeling of being at the forefront of a dangerous shadow war is part of the appeal. It must be exciting to believe in a world where the most innocent of acts could reveal a massive conspiracy.
See that guy in the taxi cab? He takes DNA samples from his fares. While services like Spantran can evaluate someone’s credentials with absolute certainty, there will still always be those who think that even the President faked his own birth certificate.
I’d have more sympathy for the conspiracy crowd if I thought they suffered mental delusions. Some certainly do, and need help. The rest, however, seem to be normal human beings willing to believe the most outlandish claims. My worry is that as they congregate online, they’re slowly becoming a cohesive group with enough political and public clout to affect society.
Of course, I just realized that sounds suspiciously like a conspiracy theory!