The Conspiracy Mentality
02 - Conspiracy Psychology
I want to start this by explaining how I currently view people - alternative-thinkers and everyone else alike.
I like to believe with the exception of the legitimate evil people: serial killers, rapists, child molesters and such, that everyone does relatively the same thing.
Regardless of what the opinions are, everyone in their own way does and believes what they think is right.
Sometimes logic gets twisted of course: (Hyper extreme example) Hitler wanting to exterminate the Jews to better Germany.
Sometimes it's as mundane as throwing blood over restaurant-goers to protest factory farming.
There's always the interfering element of justification for the lengths people will go to in order to accomplish what they think is right.
With this in mind, whatever conspiracy you believe, I don't judge you. You aren't dumb, or stupid, or less than everyone else. Everyone has the ability to change their mind. After all, you weren't born an alternative-thinker, were you? I certainly don't judge myself for how I used to behave. You are a human with feelings like anyone else, doing what you think is right. That's it.
When I say community, I mean community. The element of emotion and vested interest in keeping the community of alternative-thinkers and conspiracy theories growing is a very real thing. I felt a part of something. My life didn't really have a whole lot of meaning before that. Now, I had a purpose to believe in, a cause to support, and a community of like-minded people supporting me.
We were all critical-thinkers. We rejected what authority told us, and took the information from whistle-blowers, unconventional news sources and personalities like Alex Jones. To me, he was the shining light of truth in a very muddy and dark world. In an environment where he amassed so many followers that killing him would make him a martyr, he was the anchor we needed.
Conversely, I had a community of scientifically interested friends who would mock me, my beliefs and anyone who didn't agree with their authority of information. It was them against us. The alternative-thinkers, and the un-woke, the sheep, the blinded, the brainwashed.
Confrontation wasn't just encouraged, it was enjoyable. We would take our enlightened truth to the blinded and spread the word of the deception, the cover-ups, and the control. If you opposed us, you weren't in a conversation, you were in a battle disguised as one, where one person wins and one person loses.
We were the open-minded, able to open up to a reality we were kept from knowing, but by the efforts of brave individuals like Alex Jones, we got to see, witness, and become aware of all the ugly truths of the world.
If the description above sounds incredibly one-sided, with a very strong sense of justice and self-importance, then you're not wrong. Again, I get the conviction people have. Conspiracy theories aren't on an issue by issue basis, they are a way of thinking, a mentality, a community, and truth. It is not only truth, but more importantly, it is your truth.
If you recall from the last page, the question that started my re-evaluation was: "What if I'm wrong?"
But how could I be wrong? My intentions are good. And this brings me to the first problem with conspiracy theories and their mentality. They stem from a conflation of different things. "Am I wrong", doesn't mean you're not a good person. "Am I wrong", doesn't mean you're stupid. It doesn't mean any of that. You can very much be doing what you think is right, but be mistaken. That conflation is what I think is the first major hurdle to clear.
The second major hurdle is the mental gymnastics alternative-thinkers will apply when receiving and giving information. I will be devoting a major few pages to outlining all of them, but in short, there is a reversal of the burden of proof, and most likely, a lack of understanding of what it even is. There are many logical fallacies committed, strawmen arguments, cherry-picking, and a very strong commitment to the black or white fallacy. More than anything, they exist in opposing states simultaneously, one internal, and one external. But more on that later.
If you don't know what these things are, it's OK. I didn't, and everyone has to learn things they don't know at some point. You aren't at fault for not knowing things you weren't aware of.
Thirdly, the biggest and hardest thing of all is realising that the standard for proof on the side of the alternative-thinker, is incredibly low. It could simply be a video of someone saying "I have a doctor friend and he doesn't vaccinate", and that would be good enough. All of the peer-reviewed scientific studies and quotes from the authors wouldn't be enough to debunk the anti-vaxx movement. The unfortunate reality is this stems from a backwards way of forming opinions.
Normally, you would start with reviewing the evidence, check the validity of it, put them in their proper context and then use all of the information to form your opinion. If extra information is presented afterwards, or information is found to be incorrect, then you re-evaluate your opinion to suit the evidence. What alternative-thinkers do, is start with the outcome and work backwards. The information has to fit the puzzle otherwise it's wrong, invalid, or corrupted. New information is only accepted if it supports the conclusion. Everything else is put through such impossible scrutiny, that it has almost no chance of having an impact.
Here's a quick question to honestly ask yourself: If when sharing a YouTube video of someone talking about a conspiracy theory, and you use it to prove your point, would someone be able to present you with a video of someone else claiming the exact opposite, and would you give both videos the same weight and worth? Would their video cancel out yours of would your first instinct to be to find a way to delegitimise the person in their video, or disregard it altogether?
And finally, and this sounds condescending, but trust me, it's very important. When sharing articles to support your points, or sharing scientific studies, you should actually read them. So many times I would just google "study proving vaccines cause autism", find the link, not even read it, then use it in my arsenal of unread studies and youtube videos. I will go over everything here in later pages in detail, and with evidence to support it.
What I feel this boils down to at it's most primal level is a desire to have the answers right away. Something is or it isn't and I know the truth. I will prove I'm right by finding information that backs me up. Everything is connected and everything happens for a reason because it's easier and more comforting than considering the idea that the world is incredibly complicated and there is so much we don't know. It's more comforting and easier to just say "vaccines cause autism" or "that's what they want you to think" than it is to learn the complexity and methodology behind science, to do a lot of technical reading, fact-check sources, cross reference information and learn to understand complicated situations with no definitive answer full of difficult to grasp nuance and caveats.
Upon further reading I have come across a research paper which further describes the conspiracy mentality. This is a study from the European Journal of Social Psychology titled Too special to be duped: Need for uniqueness motivates conspiracy beliefs which looks at the need for uniqueness and individuality in relation to the adoption of conspiracy theories. This ties into the aspect of finding purpose.
"Following up on previous findings that people high in need for uniqueness resist majority and yield to minority influence, Study 3 experimentally shows that a fictitious conspiracy theory received more support by people high in conspiracy mentality when this theory was said to be supported by only a minority (vs. majority) of survey respondents. Together, these findings support the notion that conspiracy beliefs can be adopted as a means to attain a sense of uniqueness."
It's only anecdotal but this is about how I felt, but I can absolutely verify this. The mindset of the conspiracy mentality (which I only just saw being used elsewhere) is that of an embrace of the individual against the majority. It's about identity and belonging to the underappreciated and the underdogs. That's how I see it anyway because that's how I used to think.
There's an aspect of brotherhood to it, too. A sense that we're the minority and we've got each other's backs. I would hazard a guess that this is a shared trait amongst people who feel let down, powerless, or left behind in society.
This is the end of this page. The next one is crucial to understanding why conspiracies are so attractive.