Padraig Reidy comes up with an unusual parallel between a gay tolerance campaign in Ireland and the appeal of conspiracy theories, in a commentary for the Guardian:
In 1990s Ireland, a poster campaign was launched to encourage more enlightened attitudes to homosexuality. Alongside various pictures of happy, smiling, safe-looking women ran the caption: “Lesbians are Everywhere”. It’s clear what they were getting at, but you couldn’t escape the notion that it sounded vaguely like a threat. Or possibly a warning: “Watch out! They’re behind you, plotting in their dark way.”
People could very easily have become obsessed with spotting lesbians, indeed harboured the suspicion that every woman they met was gay. After all, if lesbians are everywhere, then it seems pretty likely this woman before me is a lesbian, doesn’t it? Roughly the same logic applies to conspiracism. Once you have bought the idea that conspiracies run the world, it seems reasonable to assume that everything is a conspiracy.
A glance at some of the big conspiracist websites shows there is a whole range of issues which are, absolutely, definitely conspiracies. Al-Qaida attacks on the United States, indeed al-Qaida itself, are definitely not what they seem. The banking crisis has been engineered to keep us subjugated. Water is fluoridated (or worse) to keep us docile and impotent. Harmful vaccines are distributed with malice, as part of “The Hidden Agenda for a Global Scientific Dictatorship”.
Like so much information, this stuff has found new currency on the web. And it’s undeniable that the web has made it easier for like-minded people to find each other. But it’s certainly not a new phenomenon. Writing on conspiracist thinking in Tribune in 1944, George Orwell (a man often quoted by conspiracy theorists) noted: “In one form or another this kind of thing seems to attack nearly everybody, apparently answering to some obscure psychological need of our time.”…
[continues in the Guardian]