The truth about conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theorists have been around probably since Christ played full forward for the Jerusalem Saints. But it might be fair to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken the art to a whole new level. From theories that vaccines contain a “chip” that can be used to track us to the whole pandemic was a hoax used as an excuse to enforce lockdowns and control the population. To what end I’m not sure. And why would the Government need to chip us for tracking purposes when we all carry smart phones that keep tabs on where we go, sometimes even when location tracking is turned off.

But still the rumours and conspiracy theories spread and flourish. Almost ironically the lockdowns that were imposed in many parts of the world and intended to help protect the population from the virus, according to research also produced conditions under which some people were more prone to believing in conspiracy theories1.

And why do people believe in conspiracy theories? There are a few insights in the above referred to paper by Karen M Douglas. Personally I think there’s a bit of Dunning Kruger effect at play here too. You know, the phenomenon where the lower someones general level of intelligence the more they tend to overestimate their own intelligence. 

But by way of observation it seems there are things that most conspiracy theories have in common. Of course there’s the counterintuitive fact that in the minds of proponents of the conspiracy theories any commentary or information put forward by authoritative sources such as doctors or scientists to counter the conspiracy theory is itself proof of the conspiracy theory because those authoritative sources are themselves part of the conspiracy. Sounds like a lose-lose situation there doesn’t it. But to me the big one is that to pull off most of these conspiracies there would need to be hundreds if not thousands of people in on the secret.

Think about most of the big ones. The lunar landings were faked because they couldn’t have Russia beat them there. 9/11 was not Ai-Qaeda but was actually the US Government creating an excuse to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. And a bit closer to home, the Port Arthur massacre was perpetrated by the Australian Government as justification for new firearms laws that would effectively disarm the people and Martin Bryant was just a pasty. The common denominator in these and other conspiracy theories is that to carry out the conspiracy would require hundreds if not thousands of people to be in on it and not only would it require these hundreds or thousands of people to be in on the secret but you would also need to be able to trust all of these people to take that secret to the grave.

APPLE CAN’T KEEP THE DESIGN OF ITS NEXT IPHONE A SECRET!

So what do you think the chances are that they could actually pull any of these conspiracies off and not have someone now or at some point in the future come forward and blow the whistle? Seriously?

Ok if the Apple example isn’t good enough for you let me provide you with solid proof of the impossibility of keeping such a thing as one of these alleged conspiracies a secret from the general public. Currently the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) are conducting an inquiry into the possibility that war crimes may have been committed in Afghanistan by Australian special forces soldiers. We are talking about the famed Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) here. The elite. The tip of the spear. The most effective and also most secretive unit in the ADF. In fact their secrecy is part of the reason they are so effective. Members of the SASR know how to keep a secret. Sometimes their lives and the lives of their team mates rely on it. Do you know how these allegations of war crimes came to light in the first place? Because members of the regiment came forward.

Just think about that for a second. The inquiry came about because members of the most secretive unit in the ADF came forward and said “this isn’t right”. Now I ask you again. What would be the chances of keeping one of these conspiracies a secret?

So with all of that in mind I think most of these conspiracy theories just collapse under the weight of logic. The time, effort, resources and people that would have been required to fake the lunar landings for example. And after more than 50 years no one has broken the cone of silence? I think the real conspiracy is that there are people out there creating conspiracy theories.

I would like to be clear also that the ADF war crimes inquiry has at the time of writing not made any findings and I do not mean to imply any facts with regard to the allegations from my comments above. I simply make the point that it was members of the SASR who came forward and broke the traditional silence that would normally enclose the unit.

1. Karen M Douglas. “Covid-19 conspiracy theories” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2021. Vol 24(2). pp 270-275.


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