What is conspiracy theory?
Let us now talk on a more serious note about Conspiracy Theory, A lot of people across the world today believe in the stories that I just you,
- One of them is that Bill Gates has invented the Coronavirus.
- There’s another story that 5G towers cause cancer and others.
- That vaccines are dangerous for us.
Some stories in the media also spread the rumor that Bill Gates wants to install microchips inside us and that he has plans of world domination Misinformation like these are called “conspiracy theories”,
Nowadays, conspiracy theories are extremely popular in social media and are widely popular. On world social media day, which happens to be today, I’d like to publish a special article on this topic-
Why do Conspiracy Theories spread and why do people share them? And can their spread by stopped? How can we factually counter them?
History of conspiracy theories
Conspiracy theories are not a modern phenomenon. They have been around for centuries. The earliest record of a conspiracy theory in history is from the year 64AD. In the era of the Roman Empire, the emperor around that time was Emperor Nero. A fire broke out in Rome in 64AD. The fire was so severe that two-thirds of Rome was burnt to ashes. Incidentally, Emperor Nero was out of Rome when a fire broke out.
This is the oldest conspiracy theory. When he returns to Rome, he learns that everything has been burnt to ashes. He started the process of reconstruction and got him built a royal palace for himself, and then rumors started to spread among the people. That the fire was actually started by Nero destroying all the buildings to shut everything down and build a palace according to his will. It is one of the oldest records of conspiracy theories.
It is interesting that it was not one-sided. The people formulated a conspiracy theory against Nero and they retaliated by making another conspiracy theory against the Christians. He alleged that the Christian community was responsible for the fire, and then Christians were executed and tortured against them.
Similarly, several conspiracies against the Jews were formulated in Germany in the 1940s. They were blamed for the things they were not even responsible for And we all know what was the end result of that.
So, you can see the extent to which these Conspiracy theories can have negative consequences.
- First of all, this is spreading misinformation and feeding people lies.
- But most of the times, it is harmless
- But what I am trying to tell you is that if these conspiracy theories target a specific community. If they target a specific person,
Then its negative consequences can be felt to a very large extent. Therefore, it is very important for us to find out why these conspiracy theories originate. How do they spread? And can we stop them and logically counter them?
Why do people believe in them? / What are the reasons behind this?
The reasons can be divided into two main categories:-
- One is psychological reasons and another is social reasons.
- Talking about psychological reasons first.
Several research papers have shown. That conspiracy theories are not a clear explanation for understanding complex worlds and organizing information about extraordinary, earth-shattering events, especially for humans. We do not know the exact reasons behind them. So we try to fill the missing information with our curiosity. Humans have a tendency to do this.
For example the Bermuda triangle Conspiracy Theory,
Everyone knows. How many flights and ships have disappeared from there. But we do not know the explanation behind it. Many people have come up with a conspiracy theory. That aliens take away flights and ships. Similarly, in the recent case, Malaysian Airlines disappeared. Nobody knows where it is and nothing is found.
Therefore, many people have come up with a conspiracy theory. That the aliens took off the flight or such incidents that are very unique. There were very few chances of this happening, but they did such incidents. These events led to the most conspiracies such as 9/11, Moon Landing, Coronavirus.
All these are examples of extremely unique events. Which are extraordinary. And in general they do not and they surprise us a lot. There is another reason. Which is called “confusion pattern perception”. I’ll explain it to you with an example: Look at the numbers in the image. Can you see a pattern in this number on the image?
I’ll tell you an interesting thing:
50% of you will see a pattern. Nobody will see 50% of you. This is the reality. That it is a randomly generated number. There is no pattern in it. I will give you another example. Look at this picture captured in Iceland. Can you see the face of an elephant here?
Humans always have a tendency to see a pattern. To connect the dots, we see different events interlinked with each other. So, basically, we try and find a pattern. Even if there is none! that does not matter. That things are completely random. We still try and find an explanation or pattern there. Some people have more tendency to do this than others. But if you take it to an extreme level and apply it to every aspect in your life.
Then it might change your thinking, This type of thinking is called “teleological thinking”.
What is teleological thinking?
Teleological Thinking: Let me explain with the help of another example. If you ask a 3-year-old child. why does it rain? He can answer That it rains. Because plants and trees feel thirsty and it rains so that their thirst quenches or you can ask them why there are leaves on the tree? He may answer that trees grow leaves to give shade to animals. What is the basic feature in this type of thinking? Children think that there is a purpose/intention behind everything. It rains due to an objective.
Conspiracy Theory About Coronavirus
Similarly, conspiracy theorists try and accord purpose and intentions to extraordinary events, when there might not be any, Why is the coronavirus spreading these days?
Someone must have engineered it for sure. It must’ve been made as a bio-weapon. Someone is behind this and that is the reason. That it is so widespread in the world today. These people are not satisfied with random explanations. That the coronavirus is spreading. Because it is randomly generated and no one is behind it.
Random events occur continuously around the world. Let’s talk about the category of social events. Then the “demand for verification” comes first. People who are more isolated and if they are not illiterate. So feel left out by society. Such people, in an attempt to feel valid and special and to show that they have been well informed. And stand out more in their social circle.
Spread Conspiracy Theory
They want to show that they are more informed than the rest of political and social events. This conclusion was put forward by research.
I am talking about sharing and not the origin. Because more often than not, conspiracy theories arise due to political intent. As we saw in the case of Emperor Nero. He devised a conspiracy theory to protect himself.
He devised a conspiracy theory to revive and improve his political image. Therefore, this may be the reason behind spreading them. And this is the reason. That they have indeed spread. I have to mention another research. That tells us. What kind of people are more vulnerable. Do you believe in conspiracy theories?
Research tells us. That person who is going through a crisis. Or watching disasters happen. They are more likely to spread conspiracy theories.
For example, conspiracy theories about the Illuminati spread during the time of Yellow Fever and you already know. That a lot of conspiracy theories spread after the 9/11 attacks. There were a lot of conspiracy theories about the moon’s descent.
It has also been told. That those who feel powerless. Or suffer from anxiety or some kind of existential crisis. They believe more in conspiracy theories. Because they want to make someone a scapegoat. They want to hold someone responsible for their problems.
So, how can we recognize that something is a conspiracy theory?
How can we tell that its possible something might have actually happened in one case but be able to say that it is a conspiracy theory in another case?
There are some characteristics of all conspiracy theories:-
Every conspiracy theory has one evil mastermind. Is a great villain. Which drives the whole conspiracy theory. Which is a very wicket and prepares all plans. Because he is the mastermind behind everything. For example, it is the villain in the Bill Gates coronavirus conspiracy. This is George Ilos in some intrigues. Is this Illuminati in some conspiracies, it is the government. Who is the mastermind of evil in the 9/11 or moon landing plot?
This is another feature. That every conspiracy theory has an attempt to relate unrelated things and it has been shown. How things happen because of other things happening. They say that “correlation is not a work-cause”. For conspiracy theorists, correlation seems to always be causal). This unrelated event was definitely caused by another incident.
Most conspiracies involve a very large group. Who keep it hidden. For example: If you take the example of a moon landing. So some people say. That, the moon landing never happened and it is a perpetual lie. But if you tell. That NASA has a lot of astronauts and they can ask any one of them. They have all gone to space and they can tell them the truth. Then they will say that the people of NASA are also involved in this. All. The astronauts are on the plot. Which is very unrealistic to think about. That thousands of astronauts are silent in a conspiracy.
Can it really happen that no one says anything to anyone and all are part of the conspiracy? No matter how secretive an organization is I’d say CIA is one of the most secretive organizations, there are whistleblowers even there
So if it were something like that, then there would be whistleblowers who would raise their voice and tell everyone So, therefore this doesn’t make sense
Most conspiracy theories have contradictions, A conspiracy theory would say that something happened. But if you dig the facts and do research. That fact often contradicts their beliefs. So conspiracy theories are self-contradictory. For example, George Soros is popular in many countries of the world. Turkish President Erdogan says. That George Soros is plotting a Jewish conspiracy against his Islamic country- Turkey.
In the UK it is said that George Soros is formulating a liberal and communist conspiracy against western countries. That he wants to open up their borders and invite Africans and Arabs to their country that is, George Soros is supporting the Islamists In America, it is said that he is a formulating a Jewish conspiracy against Christians.
In India, it is said that George Soros is a formulating a conspiracy against Hindus after aligning with Islamists and Christians, All these conspiracies are self-contradictory,
How can it be that a Jewish man?
Aligns with Christians in one place and goes against them in another place and aligns with Islamists in one place and goes against them in another place, You will find such contradictions in every conspiracy theory.
This is the most important: It is next to impossible to disprove any conspiracy theory, No matter what fact you put up against it those facts will become a part of the conspiracy for the conspiracy theorists
Consider I have to publish this article.
Some people say that since I am saving the images of Bill Gates, George Soros and the US government. Because I am rejecting conspiracy theories against him. So I too should be a part of this conspiracy theory. So I want to have one. This is part of the conspiracy theory and they would have paid me to say it. No matter what you say or whatever media source you are. Everything will become part of that plot before you talk about them.
That everyone is in on it and that’s how it is happening……..
So now the question is:
How can we counter conspiracy theories?
How can we curb their spread?
The first and the easiest method which is valid for any kind of misinformation Pause before you share anything, Before you share anything- think. Think about whether what you are just about to share is correct or not.
Google it once
Most of the time, the most common conspiracy theories and the misinformation have already been fact-checked. Google it once and you will get the results of the fact-checking websites, You will get the results of the conspiracy theory websites, and you can see the truth for yourself.
For example, take the moon landing conspiracy theory
It is often questioned as to why the flag was waving on the moon or why the shadows were crooked. The reasons for all of these are already available. The Flag was waving due to the movement caused in it when Neil Armstrong was placing the flag. We all know that there is no atmosphere on the moon. The flag was waving because of his motions.
Similarly, the reason behind crooked shadows is that wide-angle cameras were used. You will get the facts easily. All you have to do is pause once. But what will you do when there is no fact check available?
I would say, think critically
Whenever you see something on the internet, first of all, check whether they have the characteristics of conspiracy theories that we talked about in the previous section. If you see them, then look for contradictions within the conspiracy theory and after that, think scientifically.
Consider any statement or theory that you have heard like a hypothesis, Just like you did in Chemistry in Class 8 or 9 or while doing any thesis In science, you consider a hypothesis, and then you look for arguments in favor and against it
Compare both and see which arguments make more sense and are more logical And finally, remember that co-relation is not equal to causation, For example, a very famous conspiracy theory that has been widespread for a long time.
Is that the EVMs have been hacked – Conspiracy Theory
That Narendra Modi has hacked the EVMs to win the elections. I do concede that it is possible to hack EVMs, in my opinion. There also have been isolated cases of incorrect results in a couple of machines, So these are the arguments in favor, The argument against it is that why are there only a couple of proofs in lakhs of machines? There have been no other proofs barring these stray cases.
So, I would put this in the category of conspiracy theory because, I do concede that EVMs can be hacked, But there is a huge difference between- they have been hacked and they can be hacked.
Co-relation is not equal to causation Therefore, I would conclude that most probably, this has not happened because most of the proof is against it, So, this is how you should analyze everything.