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Why People Believe In Conspiracy Theories

70 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Did NASA really land on the moon?

Did the government cover-up involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks?

Is Elvis still alive and kicking? What about Michael Jackson?

Was John F. Kennedy assassinated at the hands of multiple shooters?

Do the Freemasons control the United States?

A small but fervent group of people believe there is more than was included in historical records about the aforementioned events. Conspiracies, they call them. And every generation has its own.

Some of them turn out to be true, after all: Pearl Harbor was a Japanese conspiracy and Nixon’s Watergate break-in was a coverup.

But with so few that turn out to be true, why do people believe in conspiracies? Here are four reasons:

1. Patternicity, or a tendency to find meaningful patterns in random places;

2. Agenticity, or the bent to believe the world is controlled by secret unknown agents with intentions;

3. Confirmation bias, or the seeking and finding of confirmatory evidence for what we already believe;

4. Hindsight bias, or tailoring after-the-fact explanations to what we already know happened.

A conspiracy theory takes flight when all of these are concocted into a heady mix of conviction. It’s called "conspiratorial cognition."

But research has been thin on precisely why some have a conspiratorial dispensation.

Back in 2007, Patrick Leman wrote in New Scientist that belief in conspiracy theories is on the rise thanks to the distribution power of the Internet.

Take the JFK conspiracy, for example: In 1968, two of every 10 Americans believed it to be true. In 1990, nine of 10 Americans believed it to be true.

Leman writes:

"Conspiracy theories can have a valuable role in society. We need people to think 'outside the box', even if there is usually more sense to be found inside the box.

Take the Iran-Contra affair, a massive political scandal of the late 1980s. When claims first surfaced that the US government had sold arms to its enemy Iran to raise funds for pro-American rebel forces in Nicaragua and to help secure the release of US hostages taken by Iran, it certainly sounded like yet another convoluted conspiracy theory. Several question marks remain over the affair, but President Ronald Reagan admitted that his administration had indeed sold arms to Iran."

On the other hand, distrust contributed to an inflation of the East-West fears during the Cold War, as well as continued belief by some that HIV (which causes AIDS) was created in a lab and distributed by the U.S. government to limit the growth of the African-American population.

Some points to ponder:

People who believe in one theory are more likely to believe in others.

There is a strong association between income and belief levels: the better-off are less likely to believe in conspiracy theories. (Perhaps this can be chalked up to education or at least the fact that they don't feel as victimized by society and angry about their situation in life.)

Instability makes most of us uncomfortable; people prefer to imagine living in a predictable, safe world. Some conspiracy theories offer accounts that feel “safe” or “predictable.”

Conspiracy theories often mutate over time in light of new or contradicting evidence.

To the paranoid, it seems everything that doesn't work the way they like it becomes a conspiracy. We must beware of extreme interpretations of events and over-speculation.

Conspiracies usually require a big newsworthy event on which to peg it.

But Michael Shermer drives the point home when he writes:

“The more elaborate a conspiracy theory is, and the more people that would need to be involved, the less likely it is true.

from the web blog mystagogy sorry dont knowe how to do a link

Edited by olympic1

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The short answer is that life and human existence as we know it is a grand illusion that we construct ourselves to make the time between our birth and inevitable demise a bit more exciting. Conspiracy theories suggest that there are people out there who wish to lead even more eventful lives (if only in their minds) by adding to an already tenuous psychological fabrication further trappings of mystique.

Conspiracy theorists are a joy to converse with. I never poke fun because people are entitled to believe what they want to believe. :)

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To olympic 1, please provide a source link to your quoted material.

UM rules: "2c. Plagiarism and copyright: If you quote text from an external web site then please always provide a source link. Members are asked to copy only as much as is necessary when quoting material from external sources, do not copy and paste entire articles or web pages."

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The short answer is that life and human existence as we know it is a grand illusion that we construct ourselves to make the time between our birth and inevitable demise a bit more exciting. Conspiracy theories suggest that there are people out there who wish to lead even more eventful lives (if only in their minds) by adding to an already tenuous psychological fabrication further trappings of mystique.

Conspiracy theorists are a joy to converse with. I never poke fun because people are entitled to believe what they want to believe. :)

What is amazing to me is why more people don't believe in 'conspiracy theories'. You say that like it's something insane or unusual. Actually, it just means an alternate theory. What makes an alternate theory something strange is (usually the govt) uses their vast power over the media and the TV programming to control the people's minds. Your explanation reads like something out of the Propaganda and Cover-up Instruction Manual. KennyB

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I have been reading an interesting book, called "The Long Descent." it is about the inevitable end of the industrial age, slowly over the course of the next 300 years or so.

The first quarter of the book does not deal with this, however. It deals with peoples' perceptions and the way we put world events into narratives to explain them to ourselves. There is a brief digression on conspiracy theories, and one point which is made I think deserves a wider hearing.

The idea is that if you think that there is some kind of conspiracy controlling things, it implies that the world does as it is told. It ceases to be an independent system with complex processes operating at all scales that does not care about individual human will, and becomes an object to be controlled (and at least potentially controlled by you).

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I have been reading an interesting book, called "The Long Descent." it is about the inevitable end of the industrial age, slowly over the course of the next 300 years or so.

The first quarter of the book does not deal with this, however. It deals with peoples' perceptions and the way we put world events into narratives to explain them to ourselves. There is a brief digression on conspiracy theories, and one point which is made I think deserves a wider hearing.

The idea is that if you think that there is some kind of conspiracy controlling things, it implies that the world does as it is told. It ceases to be an independent system with complex processes operating at all scales that does not care about individual human will, and becomes an object to be controlled (and at least potentially controlled by you).

Torgo, I have read many of your posts and one thing is very plain to me. Somehow, you always find enough reasons to profess belief in whatever "official" explanation there happens to be for everything that happens. Apparently, you expect people to belive any kind of unreasonable or impossible BS that is currently in vogue. That same thing goes for every elite member of this forum. Since I know that all of you are very well educated, there can only be one reason you choose to do this. IMO, KennyB

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Posted (edited)

Torgo, I have read many of your posts and one thing is very plain to me. Somehow, you always find enough reasons to profess belief in whatever "official" explanation there happens to be for everything that happens. Apparently, you expect people to belive any kind of unreasonable or impossible BS that is currently in vogue. That same thing goes for every elite member of this forum. Since I know that all of you are very well educated, there can only be one reason you choose to do this. IMO, KennyB

What reason would that be? Haha, I'm an "elite" member? Nice! * feels honored *

Oh, "official" reasons for some things happening are quite often BS. This is most obvious in the area of economics. Unemployment numbers and CPI are so statistically gamed that they have nothing to do with the real state of the economy anymore, and the recent bizarre crap the federal reserve and the government has been doing is only propping up an inevitable major devaluation of the US dollar within the next few decades and making the inevitable economic corrections worse. I do not trust the solvency of the US government over a single digit decade timescale, distrust fiat currency and other such IOU assets, and I have 25% of my money in the form of gold and silver. I use this example because it is the closest idea I hold to certain things often held as 'conspiracy theories'.

But the economic games played by the government are emergent and predictable BS, rather than being the result of some kind of central conspiracy. It helps keep whoever is currently in power in power and boosts their approval. Short term costs for long term gains are not politically palatable, so people go for short term gains with long term costs.

Politicians are full of ****, and lie quite a bit. But they lie for predictable short term short sighted reasons. People feel that large, significant, far reaching events have to have large, significant, far reaching causes. This is by far not always true. The sum total of millions upon millions of people working in their own short term self interest, or one stochastic event that gets amplified through interdependencies, can do all kinds of bizarre things. Most conspiracy theorists sorely underestimate this fact.

Edited by Torgo

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Well, one common quirk I've found is that they all seem to have a vast distrust of authority.

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Apparently, you expect people to belive any kind of unreasonable or impossible BS that is currently in vogue.

BS Currently in vogue??? Funny, I haven't seen Torgo refer to or utilize anything put out by people like Sitchin even though there are others that have.

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I just love the way conspiracy theories are covered up using nonsense.The goverments must be paying dam good saleres and pensions.I hope all that money spent is worth in the end.

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There is a massive conspiracy and cover-up that no one ever talks about every four years. It's called the presidential election. This is where the competing secret societies and foreign governments anonymously donate massive quantities of money in order to buy the results. If it ever came out who donated what and what they got in return for it the whole system would start to unravel. The idea that a lot of money is coming from the small donaters has been proven false time and time again. It's all coming secretly from these big groups who then feel free to dictate to the elected officials how its going to be. The idea that the individual has representation is a myth.

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There is a massive conspiracy and cover-up that no one ever talks about every four years. It's called the presidential election. This is where the competing secret societies and foreign governments anonymously donate massive quantities of money in order to buy the results. If it ever came out who donated what and what they got in return for it the whole system would start to unravel. The idea that a lot of money is coming from the small donaters has been proven false time and time again. It's all coming secretly from these big groups who then feel free to dictate to the elected officials how its going to be. The idea that the individual has representation is a myth.

First, wrong section.

Second, care to show your source?

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Posted (edited)

First, wrong section.

Second, care to show your source?

Yeah I got a source the blog that I was banned from CBS news from. I am amazed that anybody out there still thinks that the elections are a not a scam. Gah, checked it out and it is gone buried under an avalance of 388 blog responses. Anyways the part about the elections were first of all Republicans claiming that foreigners were behind most of the small donations that Obama was recieving. Did some checking on that and found out that the Dem response was that most of the donations they recieved were large donations. Excuse me but wasn't Obama given a mandate to lead because of all these small donations. Then I went to the large donor list which at the time could be found on the web. It was the usual law firms, defense firms, educational institutions, credit card companies etc. Then I looked at what they either got or tried to get. The large law firm I looked at actually dictated to congress at the time in front of congress either you can do things our way and get the money or not and the opponent will get the money. I think if you look at who donated vs who got paid its pretty easy to spot the scam here. I am sure there are better people than me to enlighten folks about it.

Edited by brantcoyle

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Posted (edited)

Yeah I got a source the blog that I was banned from CBS news from. I am amazed that anybody out there still thinks that the elections are a not a scam.

*snip*

But seriously, if you want anyone to lend any credibility to you, post some sort of evidence that backs up your claim. They may debunk it or point out how it is flawed, but they will at least play at being civil and taking you seriously.

Edited by Saru
Removed flame

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But seriously, if you want anyone to lend any credibility to you, post some sort of evidence that backs up your claim. They may debunk it or point out how it is flawed, but they will at least play at being civil and taking you seriously.

I do care. I have done the research but am too lazy to do it again for you as it looks like my blog responses are gone. Vote all you want to but for me other than the local elections I don't really care anymore.

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There was an article on Cracked (it's a humor site, but this article was serious) about the 9/11 conspiracy theory, but it also explained the mentality of the conspiracy theorist.

http://www.cracked.com/article_15740_was-911-inside-job_p2.html

I do believe that 911 could have been prevented but they failed to do so because they are pushing the patriot act which started its major push 6 months before 911. My understanding is that they are nearly complete in building data warehouses all over the country that are so huge that they take like 80% of the power grid in some areas. This is not science fiction this is cold hard fact. My favorite is the nail polish bomber Zazi's dad getting 8 years in prison because he told his kid to get a lawyer. Apparently the govt can now enlist unwillingly your dad to spy on you under threat of 8 years or so in prison. It's way to late for us citizens to change anything anymore.

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This is not science fiction this is cold hard fact.

If this is "cold hard fact", surely you'll have no trouble providing evidence for all those claims.

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Posted (edited)

I do care. I have done the research but am too lazy to do it again for you as it looks like my blog responses are gone. Vote all you want to but for me other than the local elections I don't really care anymore.

You choose not to provide any evidence, so I choose not to believe you. If you are too lazy to provide any evidence that would tell me (or anyone) that this extraordinary claim is worth looking in to, then I am going to be too lazy to do any research. My time is better spent calling you a * snip *

Edited by Saru
Removed personal attack

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You choose not to provide any evidence, so I choose not to believe you. If you are too lazy to provide any evidence that would tell me (or anyone) that this extraordinary claim is worth looking in to, then I am going to be too lazy to do any research.

debunk me then. I would think this stuff could all be found out by searching the internet for yourself for about 5 minutes. Since you have not provided me with any arguments where you think I am wrong this is not even a debate. This would be a debate you would lose since you have not even spent the 5 minutes it would take to have an opinion on the suject.

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people want a reason for the status quo. it is more comforting to believe that there is underlying order, no matter how intangible, than to believe existence is just a cosmic hiccup.[/size][/size][/size][/size]

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Posted (edited)

If this is "cold hard fact", surely you'll have no trouble providing evidence for all those claims.

Wow, none of you guys read the news. Ok lets see if I can grab that one for you. I will go look and come back and edit this.

Ok this took 30 seconds. This is one article about a huge data center written by the salt lake city times or whatever. I googled huge data center patriot act.

Via: The Salt Lake Tribune:

The National Security Agency was so confident that its nearly $2 billion plan for a new data center in Utah would be approved by Congress that it began designing the facility last November.

NSA budgeting documents also indicate that the design of the 1-million-square-foot center should be completed by February, with building to begin in June on a project that could mean thousands of construction jobs for a state that, like many others, has been stuck in a building lull.

President Barack Obama last week signed a spending bill that included $181 million for preparatory construction of the Camp Williams facility and tentatively agreed to two future phases of construction that could cost $800 million each.

The secretive agency released a statement Thursday acknowledging the selection of Camp Williams as a site for the new center and describing it as “a specialized facility that houses computer systems and supporting equipment.”

Budget documents provide a more detailed picture of the facility and its mission. The supercomputers in the center will be part of the NSA’s signal intelligence program, which seeks to “gain a decisive information advantage for the nation and our allies under all circumstances” according to the documents.

The agency is set up to collect intelligence on foreign threats, but it has been accused of also participating in the unwarranted monitoring of the communications of U.S. citizens.

A similar center is being constructed in San Antonio, Texas, and NSA documents indicate that the agency is also expanding its existing intelligence collection facilities in North Yorkshire, England, and Fort Meade, Md. The agency has been seeking to decentralize its operations in an effort to protect assets and find areas with the capacity to satiate the energy appetites of its enormous computer caches.

To that end, the initial phase of the project is expected to include more than $52 million in preparatory electrical work — much of that is likely to be spent connecting two large power corridors that run through Camp Williams to the construction site near the base airstrip. The next phases of the project will include $340 million in electrical work, according to the documents.

About $70 million has been budgeted for security, including vehicle inspection facilities, fencing, surveillance and separate visitor control centers for construction and technical personnel.

All NSA security measures will be in addition to security that the Utah National Guard already provides for the 28,000-acre Camp Williams facility.

“Physical and technical security of the construction site will be assured,” the budget documents promise.

While the project — and the ongoing operation of the center — will bring millions of dollars into the state, the Utah Guard doesn’t stand to make a penny.

Guard spokesman Hank McIntire said the state, which manages Camp Williams, would act as “a benevolent landlord.”

Citizens Education Project director Steve Erickson, who advocates for greater military oversight, was wary.

“If we’re going to be landlords,” he said, “we should act like a good landlord and have some rules that apply to the tenants to make sure they’re behaving.”

Regrettably, he said, that’s not likely to happen when dealing with one of the most secretive government agencies in the world.

“Finally, the Patriot Act has a home,” he sighed.

Please be specific about what you don't believe. I don't believe in anything is not acceptable to me.

Edited by brantcoyle

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Posted (edited)

debunk me then. I would think this stuff could all be found out by searching the internet for yourself for about 5 minutes. Since you have not provided me with any arguments where you think I am wrong this is not even a debate. This would be a debate you would lose since you have not even spent the 5 minutes it would take to have an opinion on the suject.

Burden of proof doesn't work like that *snip*

Nice try.

Edit- No, wait, it's not a nice try. It's an old *snip* tactic used by every goddamn conspiracy hypothesist ever born; "prove me wrong". No. I refuse to. YOU made the extraordinary claim, therefore YOU must provide even one shred of evidence. You have refused to do so, stating that you were too lazy.

I want anyone to tell me why I should believe this *snip*

Edited by Saru
Yet more namecalling, personal attacks

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I just provided evidence. Google that you you will see thousands of links to evidence regarding data centers being built to house datas such as your phone records and emails etc. The source was the local paper in salt lake city. Google any of this and you will see it all readily available. What you will have a bit of trouble finding is a list of large presidential donors to compare with what they asked for from the president but its there. (donor lists are secret). I am guessing that the reason you are so upset by these revelations is perhaps you are a paid blogger for some pac or other political group. I am sorry I find everything I said to be quite reasonable and obvious and would find it boring to list sources for everything. But I will if you really want me too. Lets consider the data house one done since I did list the an article and source and you will find thousands more if you just google it.

Let me go google some more easy ones

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I just provided evidence.

No, not for the discussion you and I are having. Your discussion with PI is separate.

Again, you stated that you were too lazy to look anything up on the matter of voting, so I chose not to believe you.

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