Dean Burnett questions how supposedly rational people get caught in the tangled webs of conspiracy theories, writing in the Guardian:
You know when you put the bins out and you realise there’s a bag in the corner that you’d forgotten about and you pick it up but it’s so old it splits and you are suddenly surrounded by swarms of furious flies and you run indoors screaming and spend three hours in the shower, shuddering? I imagine it’s a bit like that.
I’m involved in several conspiracies (apparently). When Channel 5 aired a shockingly non-critical show about moon landing conspiracies, I responded by “confessing” it was true, and inventing other “true” conspiracies, to emphasise how ludicrous the notion was. I made up conspiracies so far-fetched that I thought nobody could possibly believe them, revealing my naiveté about what people are able/willing to take at face value. But of course, it was pointed out often that I wrote this because I am a pawn of those behind the moon landing conspiracy.
Also, when I wrote a piece about Julie Burchill’s attack on Transsexuals, I was told I did this because I was part of at least two conspiracies, one run by trans* people, and one dedicated to attacking trans* people. Hopefully it was separate people who were accusing me of these mutually exclusive things, but then you never know with this sort of stuff.
What is it that compels people to cry conspiracy in response to even relatively minor events? (eg me writing a forgettable blog). It would be pointless to critique all that is known here; it would change nothing, and I probably won’t live long enough to finish. But there are numerous possible reasons why people get caught up in conspiracies, and how they end up being as complex and enduring as they are.
It’s important to not just dismiss conspiracy theorists as “cranks”, “nutters” or any other term that allows you to laughingly dismiss them. Admittedly, an extreme conspiracy theorist may have some disorder driving their actions, such as anxiety disorder, paranoia, psychosis or others. Maybe the condition isn’t severe enough to warrant medical intervention, or maybe involvement with conspiracy theories is how some sufferers keep their symptoms in check, meaning it’s a form of self-medicating. Or of course it could be that psychiatry itself is a conspiracy…
[continues in the Guardian]