By Jeck G. Tirambulo | Features Editor
Vol. XCI No. 4
You have probably heard of the fake moon landing, the flat earth ‘theory,’ chemtrails, or perhaps the blood-drinking, shape-shifting alien reptiles called the Annunaki. Conspiracy theories may contain an unusual amount of absurdity; however, they are still fun as late-night stories.
Conspiracy theories occur as alternative answers to an event or phenomenon, usually as a result of a conspiracy between interested parties. Once catering only to a limited number of audience, these theories have become a regular dish served to and by a specific group of people – the tinfoil hatters. Today, they have taken advantage of the internet’s capability to reach a wider fandom.
They may sound general and indifferent for normies; however, conspiracy theories can be classified into three types: event, systemic, and super conspiracy. According to Michael Barkun, a political science professor who has published several books that are addressed specifically to conspiracism, these three types have different scopes. The event conspiracy theories are limited and well-defined events such as the Kennedy assassination, 9/11, and spread of AIDS. The systemic type involves conspiracies directed towards a country, region, or world domination; usually by a certain evil organization who controls several institutions to implement such a plan. Illuminati and Freemasons are examples of systemic conspiracy theories. The last type refers to the linking of several conspiracies together in a definite order. This is where the Rothschild families are accused of being members of Freemasons, where in turn, such organization is also responsible for the death of Kennedy and Bob Marley. Yes, you heard that right… Bob Marley.
Although bizarre and generally untrue even if they are presented in a somewhat logical way, these theories offer values in some other ways: personal and social. First, they give purpose to a person’s life. The eagerness to prove or disprove them gives purpose to a person who exposes it and the audience who wants to disprove it. Second, they are the ladder to gain status. Perhaps, you have heard of Mr. David Wolfe, a self-proclaimed expert of almost anything on Facebook, who also happens to have a massive following. Several people have unquestionably followed and viewed him as a wise, brave, and important figure. Lastly, they teach social vigilance. Conspiracies that revolve around government corruption have enabled people to be vigilant and skeptical when coincidences and unexplained news items are set loose.
While such theories are deemed valuable to some, they can be negative and dangerous to people and society as a whole. Such bad habits that they bring range from increased prejudice and discrimination to influences that are considered a global concern. Some conspiracy theorists and their supporters have been known to discriminate against those who do not support their cause, oftentimes calling them ‘sheeples.’ However, the most alarming impact that they inflict to society is the promotion of alternative facts: from claiming that the moon landing was staged into saying that vaccines cause autism and denying that climate change is real. The authorities have now considered them as a lingering problem that should be stopped or at least regulated.
The science behind loving them
Despite being aware of the harm that these theories entail, our brain can’t avoid entertaining such thoughts during late-night talks. This is because our brain is influenced by factors such as patterns, safety, community, and intention. First, our brain seeks patterns as part of our evolutionary trait, to recognize environmental factors and make sense of the world. We prefer linking and holding random events together, over a series of unrelated occurrences that does not assure safety. Second, as our main concern after food and shelter is safety, our brain tends to generate answers and comfort when we cannot compute the unknown threat that may compromise it. Thus, our mind tries to imply that a set of unseen human beings are responsible for the undesirable things that threaten our safety – which is more comfortable than just accepting that ‘shit happens.’ Third, since humans are inherently social animals, we tend to gravitate towards those who hold the same beliefs as us, for acceptance and a sense of belonging. Just imagine your co-conspiracy theorist who rescued a French-speaking alien out from the Area 51 laboratory; you will get honor and recognition from the people. Lastly, some people assume that everything around them, animate or inanimate, happens for a reason. This is called the ‘intentionality bias’ which is common to kids but certainly not when they grow up.
Conspiracy theories are undeniably an interesting topic that can stimulate our brain during late-night talks, but that’s just it. The greater platform to talk about Bigfoot, Alice Dixon as a half-serpent, or Adolf Hitler as Dr. Jose Rizal’s bastard isn’t on top of the stage or in front of the keyboard, but on the rooftop of your house or in hills where you look at the starry night with your loved one as you lean into each other, while wearing tinfoil hats to avoid the government or the FBI peeking into your minds.