Some of these conspiracies have some kind of marginally factual basis (unaccountability of decision making by Government) but then extend this to some ‘hidden’ and covert mechanism such as the “Deep State.”
Other conspiracy theories are simply bad science such as anti vaxx or 5G.
The last category are the truly disturbing ones, the David Icke style humdingers that pull together vast webs of supposed connections between shadowy and even extra terrestrial forces that rule over the deluded “sheeple”.
The reason I am interested in this is because these theories appeal to a certain type of person perhaps, but they also appeal to anyone who is concerned about the state of the world but have no context to look at these claims and critically examine their veracity.
My view is that conspiracy theories have become one of the greatest enemies of the radical political and economic change we need. It’s no secret that I am a socialist, so I have a thought through series of ideas about how this can be achieved.
The problem with conspiracy theories is they thrive in an environment of chaos and confusion – this is nothing new. They provide a simplistic and appealingly sinister answer for people looking for answers. And they almost always lead towards a right wing world view which promotes hostility to science, the role of the State, racism and nationalistic fervour, and so forth.
Social media has become a petri dish for these mind viruses, and the current ascendancy of political manipulators like Trump has given them a further boost. Something is true because I think it is true. The irony is that conspiracists will tell you that the system must be questioned but the questioning is not allowed for their own off tangent quackeries.
The problem we face is that the collapse of alternative sources of analysis of the world has left the field open to charlatans and crackpots. Trade unions, socialist political parties and high quality media used to once at least provide a mass channel of new and progressive ideas to challenge the capitalist status quo. Now they are pretty much demolished, at least in countries like NZ.
Every view of a conspiracy video, every post on Facebook, every moment spent engaging with these irrational fictions takes people’s precious time and energy away from taking positive and rational action to fix our failing systems and dying planet.
That is why my tolerance has now reached sub zero and if I do come across any of this stuff I will challenge it. It would be good for others to do the same.