That particular vein has been mined before of course, but Oliver & Woods 1 delved much deeper in their recent AJPS article “Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of American Politics”. And what they unearthed was why people tend to believe in conspiracies and how prevalent they are in American society.
Oliver & Woods 2 basic premise is that conspiracy theories are another form of magical thinking and that the best predictor of whether you are a believer of such is whether you also believe in other magical beliefs systems…Dan Aykroyd’s PSI Factor, for example, or everything, really, out of the Bible. Or the Koran. Or…
Oliver & Woods 3 also contend that conspiracy theories do well when normal political authority is lacking; when we don’t trust our politicians or institutions we tend to disbelieve
everything coming from their mouths their explanations for events and look for alternative explanations.
An example of this might arise Sunday evening at the Oscars: when Bradley Cooper doesn’t come within shooting distance of the award, and American Sniper is shut out of all other categories 4, there will be a distinctly vocal section of the American populace who will truly believe that the non-American Barack Obama led a conspiracy to deprive Cooper and his film of their well-deserved statuettes. 5
National politics is also rife with such conspiracy theories.
Take the thoroughly debunked conspiracy theory that no actual plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. As you can see from the below video that theory has no basis in fact –
Or the 2000 Election (as determined by Roberts and The Supremes): it was clear that the Florida recount was going to go Al Gore’s way so someone had to do something! (Even if that someone, as defined by federal statute, was supposed to be Congress; even if -once Roberts and The Supremes interceded- SCOTUS so tortured the Constitution’s equal-protection guarantee that the poor thing finally kept shrieking “Bush!, it’s Bush!, oh sweet fucking jesus, it’s Bush already, I don’t care any more, just stop hurting me!…sob…). No conspiracy there.
Another target of conspiracy theorists is the NRA, the main thesis being that Congress is a closely held subsidiary of the NRA. The conspiracy buffs have no actual proof of this, of course, though they are quick to point out that all because of one failed shoe-bomb attempt everyone must remove their shoes before boarding a plane, while on the other hand though literally hundreds of children have been gruesomely slaughtered at the hands of maniacs wielding assault weapons in just the last 5 years, no laws proscribing the weapons have been passed.
You can see how crazy that sounds, right? Right?
Closer to home there are conspiracy buffs who feel the fix is in RE Michael Brooks: how the hell, they’ll poorly reason, can some quasi-public dick-waving, assistant slapping/choking, no-show city councilman disappear around $15K (with no apparent accounting or oversight) and there NOT be any criminal or civil charges filed?
And how can some lightweight political hack seemingly baldly lie about her residency in order to run for a city council seat without any legal recompense? WTF – conspiracy!
Certainly you’ve heard about the Imperial Mayoralship and His Shiny Streetcar conspiracy, yes? Sly and the Council Stoned apparently rigged an election to foist off outdated transportation technology on the entire city by limiting the number of citizens who could vote on said proposal to just 697! That one’s so outrageous that you just can’t believe it…wait. Wait a minute; WNBTv’s Research Department just chimed in: it seems that’s exactly what Sly and the Council Stoned did. Never mind…
Other examples abound; we’re sure you can think of half a dozen off the top of your head.
But remember – most of it is just magical thinking; if you find yourself trapped in this sort of mental Mobius loop, just run off to mass and let Bishop Finn lay hands on you.
You’ll feel better.
- This combo conjures up for me the image of John Oliver cracking up Tiger Woods during his backswing at the Pebble Beach Pro/Am. With Bill Murray egging him on… ↩
- “So, Tiger: I hear you’re making a cameo appearance in the movie White Chicks 2…” ↩
- “Seriously, Tiger, how’s that endorsement deal with Adultfriendfinder.com working for you?” ↩
- O.K., O.K. – maybe the film picks up something in one of the sound categories. ↩
- Of course those folks are insane. But, still… ↩