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In the earlier times, conspiracy theories were a convenient way to cover up the inadequacies of the government, and putting a set of helpless people as a scapegoat, cloaking the misdeeds or mismanagement of those holding the ranks.
In 331 B.C., an epidemic was hidden in Rome, using a false story of mass poisoning by some women. Even now, in the current 2020 pandemic there are conspiracy theories doing the rounds, like a virus disease being spread by the telecommunications industry.
The organic and unpredictable nature of conspiracy theories had led many researchers to investigate the cause of the phenomenon.
Every society has its own, unique anxieties and obsessions, and the conspiracy theories that gain good mileage are the ones that tap into these primal fears.
Example: Many people fear vaccination of the children due to fears that the mass drive to vaccinate such a large population has some ulterior motive, like a mass medical experiment. The dodgy past record of the health care system, and the fact that the vaccination is free of charge, of course, adds fuel to the fire.
When a certain class or section of people are victimized, they can start to believe in conspiracy theories that seem to target their group. Identity play is easily exploited by politicians and also by religious leaders.
People split into groups create an automatic ‘us vs them’ behaviour, leading to strong social bonds inside the group, and an automatic conflict with those outside the group.
Lack of knowledge and an uncertain, dangerous future creates the mental space for a conspiracy theory to flower. Such theories quickly come out of the blue whenever some crisis or major conflict happens.
The fanaticism associated with certain conspiracy theories and the extent to which many would even put their lives on the line points towards blind belief, the same kind of beliefs perpetuated by many organized religions, right down to the content, storyline and purpose.
When there is no official information, or if the official statement is vague, a certain gap is formed, and that ambiguity and mystery, along with mistrust of ‘official information’ combines into a conspiracy theory.
The official explanations of certain unexplained events like a mysterious plane crash or a sudden celebrity death are often inadequate and full of holes, providing space for the conspiracy theories to grow.
Even when someone debunks a certain theory, they are essentially talking about it, and while they condemn it, they are still raising the profile of the idea, giving further mileage and traction to the conspiracy theory’s core belief, which many would still think could be true. The more a certain thing is discussed, the more legitimate it seems.
Even as we see newer conspiracy theories that have no base, it is good to know what is the core problem that gives rise to such conspiracy ‘theories’ (which don’t even have a theory underneath).
The problem comes from a general lack of distrust with the government, the experts and the all-too-powerful institutions.
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