Why People believe in Conspiracy Theories

Deep down, whether we agree with them or not, we all love a good conspiracy theory. We love the intrigue that a good conspiracy sparks. The opportunity to argue our side in the debate and sneer at those that believe or not, depending which side you take, that the elite of society are embroiled in a constant effort to control us and obscure from us the reality of our existence.

Personally, as a fan of the X-files and other such shows of my youth, I have been exposed to a fair few conspiracy theories in my time. Though I have never put much stock in these, I can see the allure for many.

The human mind is, by and large, predisposed to seek out patterns and reason in the world around it. This is evident in our pursuit of the sciences, from understanding the microscopic particles that make up the world through to studies of the universe at the opposite end of the spectrum. Sadly, while the principles on which our immediate environments are based in sound, understandable logic, the events that transpire within them can be anything but.

Take for example, if you care, the death of Princess Diana. I choose this case in particular because it is one of my first encounters with such a tragedy and because it was truly unpredictable. Her death was so unexpected, so pointless and so devoid of meaning that there was no possible way in which the brain can make logical sense of what had happened. Within a few days of her death, speculation was rife that the crash was anything other than an accident. Within weeks these conspiracy theories had escalated to such a degree that certain newspapers had begun to suggest  that Diana was, in fact, alive and well, the crash merely a cover up to allow her to pass into hiding with her new lover. No evidence has ever been proffered to augment this view, yet to this date my own mother still maintains that the people’s princess and the millionaire playboy are not only alive and well, but living a comfortably anonymous life on a remote tropical island. In the absence of a logical reason behind the events, people have chosen to see a happier alternative and have latched on to any wild theory that, on face value at least, appears credible.

Likewise, the theory that the atrocities of 9/11 were not the act of radical militant extremists, but rather the first steps by the American government in a campaign to secure precious natural resources in foreign territories. To believe that one’s own government could be implicit in the murder of its citizens may be an unpalatable idea for most, yet when the alternative is that the attacks were carried out by a group whose values of life and belief systems are so alien to our own as to be incomprehensible, some people will find comfort in the former if only for the fact that the tragedy had a logical, if morally bankrupt, motivation.

Of course, if these theories remained the preserve of the individuals who dreamt them up, they would hardly warrant special interest from the world at large. It is human nature to talk about recent events, and where events transpire on the global stage, people will engage in conversation on the subject with a larger number of other people. As conspiracy theories begin to enter into this stream of dialogue and be passed around, not only do they begin to gain momentum, but also the interpretations of those discussing it. Like a giant game of Chinese whispers these theories are shaped by the general society into a format that is both sufficiently vague and sensational to capture the attention of more like minded individuals, who in turn can add their own personal interpretation to the tale.