In this article, I would like to discuss conspiracy theories, but before we start - what exactly are the conspiracy theories? Referring to the definition, a conspiracy theory can be described as the attempts to explain “important events that involve secret plots by powerful and malevolent groups” (Douglas, Sutton & Cichocka, 2017). The list of the important events as well as the conspiracy theories is endless, and therefore, I bet you have heard about some of them, including:
Apollo moon landing in 1969 was staged by NASA to win the Space Race (competition between USSR and US on who becomes the first in spaceflight).
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA.
The cure for cancer exists but remains unavailable for masses to decrease the Earth population.
9/11 was staged by the US government to gain citizen support for invading Iraq
And one of the most recent ones, QAnon, believes that President Trump is “waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, media and business” (BBC, 2020) that resulted in the storming of the US Capitol on the 6-th of January 2021. Crazy, right?
The information on the conspiracy theories is widely present on the internet in the form of YouTube video’s, blog articles and posts on social media channels. Belief in conspiracy theories is prevalent among the less-educated people and widely spread among well-educated people. According to the researchers, support of a particular conspiracy theory reflects how we subconsciously understand the world and its events. We, humans, do not like uncertainty. We like to understand things, and therefore if something is not clear, we seek to find an explanation that would fit best our worldview. Here, the conspiracy theories serve as an emotional reassurance that there is, in fact, an explanation to everything. Most of the time, conspiracy theories lacking any evidence, but they are still very difficult to disprove as they are firmly embedded in the minds of people who believe in them. Even if there were evidence, most likely, it wouldn’t be enough to change someone’s mind.
Nowadays, conspiracy theories pose a real danger when dealing with specific situations, especially those that require mobilisation and collective actions. Covid-19 is a shining example of it. I think you have seen the articles on the news describing the protests against the corona measures, right? Well, this is an example of conspiratorial thinking. Some of the beliefs circulating around the Covid-19 are:
The virus was deliberately released from the Chinese laboratory or was brought to the country by the American army
5G towers are spreading the virus, or they are the initial cause of the coronavirus
or that Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, wants to implant microchips under people’s skin during the vaccination process so that they could be continuously monitored
Because the nature of the virus and the risks still remain unclear, conspiracy theories only continue gaining popularity. When some people just believe in specific ideas, others decide to act upon them to eradicate what they believe to be the reasons for a covid-19 pandemic. An example of such action is setting 5G masts on fire - which happened a lot in the Netherlands and the UK. Another more common example is the protests that are taking place around the world. Such a form of expression is hazardous, as many of the protestors refuse to wear masks, and in such a way, the virus continues to spread among the masses posing risks to public health. That is why conspiracy theories can be so dangerous, as many supporters of them are ready to act upon their personal beliefs, which often goes with the risks for other people and society. If you are interested to learn more about specific conspiracy theories – do check it in more details. It is an exciting topic that is definitely worth your attention.