People’s appeal towards conspiracy theories starts with the tin foil hat. No, seriously, it does. Hear me out, the hat goes on your head, and your head encompasses your brain, and the brain is what is responsible for a person’s ability to figure things out.
At some point in our life, every one of us has considered the possibility of a conspiracy theory being “true”, whether it was as a kid or a tin foil hat-wearing adult. Although conspiracy theories can be fun and have made for some great TV series and movies, the problem with today’s conspiracy theories is that they seem to have people falling down a bottomless rabbit hole and losing touch with reality. Things that were once a given because of the fact that science could prove them now have people countering the science in favor of the conspiracy theory, and it does not matter that their logic, or lack thereof, can be easily debunked.
Much of the appeal that conspiracy theories possess results from the human brain being a processing machine that was designed to analyze information and to seek out patterns, and to try to connect the dots, even when there are none. Simply put, it was better for our ancestors to connect whatever dots they thought they might be seeing if it meant that they would live to see another day and not end up dinosaur dinner. However, a lot has changed since those days; our brains our overwhelmed with today’s fast-paced lifestyle and the monetization of conspiracy theories, connecting dots where there are none, has created problems for society, as people attempt to make sense of the world and this thing called life.
Most of us can acknowledge the complexities of life and how everyone is susceptible to being thrown out of loop when their lives hit turbulence. Subsequently, for most of us, we are able to cope our way through it, recognizing it as a transitional period, rationally, and we persist on with life. Yet, for some, their coping strategies may rely heavily on beliefs and superstitions, that often start small, but gradually build into something ‘greater’ as a result of coincidental outcomes that seem to align with their beliefs and superstitions. When that happens, combined with other health struggles that those people might be dealing with, it can have a compounding effect that leaves those people out of touch with reality. Although this may only impact a small number of people, when we consider that the earth has over 7 billion people on it, that small number can turns into a significant total.
When crises do hit, their impact may take vulnerable people out of touch from reality, which is when the shills swoop in and attempt to monetize conspiracy theories and irrational belief systems. Often times these nefarious actors will peddle in conspiracy theories and irrational belief systems that they themselves do not believe in or have any connection to, but from which they believe that they can profit from.
The problem with conspiracy theories and irrational belief systems is not the people who buy into them, but rather the shills that attempt to monetize another person’s vulnerability or even weaponize it. While some conspiracy theories may be wackier than others, others downright bat crazy, it is important to not let that overshadow the support and empathy that these vulnerable people are deserving of. For there is no bad thinking that can not be fixed with better thinking.