Why Conspiracy Theories Spread

How are you doing, friends?
Do you want to hear the truth? You will not be able to stand it! Corona Virus… Bill Gates… The richest man of the world Le I tell you a story If the richest man of the world has enough money to buy a virus and then use this virus as a weapon (a virus) that has been manufactured in Wuhan, China and it is spread across the world through 5G towers and then after that, having bribed the all the governments across the world get a lockdown imposed After that, installation of microchips in our hand’s Money makes everything possible! The simplest way of world domination The task would become easier when the other villain, George Soros, joins hands with Bill Gates and use vaccines as a weapon and use 5G towers as a weapon and this is a conspiracy against all of us This is an anti-national conspiracy Beware all of you!

Okay, that was enough of malarkey: Let us now talk on a more serious note A lot of people across the world today believe in the stories that I just you One of them is that Bill Gates has invented the Coronavirus There’s another story that 5G towers cause cancer and that vaccines are dangerous for us Some stories in the media also spread the rumor that Bill Gates wants to install microchips inside us and that he has plans of world domination Misinformation like these are called “conspiracy theories” Nowadays, conspiracy theories are extremely popular in the social media and are widely popular On world social media day, which happens to be today, I’d like to make a special article on this topic- Why do conspiracy theories spread and why do people share them? And can their spread by stopped? How can we factually counter them? Come, let us see…

History of  Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories are not a modern phenomenon. They have been around for centuries One of the earliest records of a conspiracy theory in history is from the year 64AD In the era of Roman Empire, the emperor around that time was Emperor Nero A fire broke out in Rome in 64AD The fire was so devastating that it burned two thirds of Rome to ashes By chance, Emperor Nero was out of Rome when the fire broke out When he returned to Rome, he found out that everything had burned to ashes He began the process of rebuilding and he got a majestic castle constructed for himself And then rumors started amongst the people that the fire was actually started by Nero to clear everything off and destroy all the buildings in order to construct a palace according to his wishes This is one of the oldest records of conspiracy theories What’s interesting is that this was not one sided The people formulated a conspiracy theory against Nero and he retaliated by making another conspiracy theory against the Christians He alleged that the Christian community was responsible for the fire And then Christians were executed and atrocities against them followed Similarly, several conspiracies against the Jews were formulated in Germany in the 1940s They were blamed for the things they were not even responsible for And we all know what was the end result of that So, you can see the extent to which these conspiracy theories can have negative consequences First of all, this is spreading misinformation and feeding people lies But most of the times, it is harmless But what I am trying to tell you is that if these conspiracy theories target a specific community, or if they target a specific person, then its negative consequences can be felt to a very large extent Therefore, it is very important for us to find out why these conspiracy theories originate How do they spread? And can we stop them and logically counter them?

Why are they popular?

So the question is- Why do people believe in them? What are the reasons behind this? The reasons can be divided into two main categories One is psychological reasons and another is social reasons Talking about psychological reasons first, several research papers have shown that conspiracy theories are a means of understanding the complex world and organizing information for the humans especially the extraordinary, earth shattering events that do not have a clear explanation We do not know the exact causes behind them So, we try to fill in the missing information with our curiosity Humans have a tendency to do this For example, everyone knows how many flights and ships have gone missing from there But we do not know the explanation behind this So, several people have come up with a conspiracy theory that aliens carry the flights and ships away Similarly, in the case of the recently disappeared Malaysian Airlines Nobody knows where it is and nothing was found either So, several people have come up with a conspiracy theory that aliens carried the flight away Or events that are extremely unique- that had very few chances of happening, but they did happen Events like these give rise to the most number of conspiracy theories 9/11, moon landing, coronavirus All of these are examples of extremely unique events that are extraordinary and do not happen normally and they surprise us greatly There is another reason which is called “illusionary pattern perception” I will explain it to you with an example: Look at the number on the screen Can you see a pattern in this number on the screen? Write down in the comments below If you’ve written down the comment, I’ll tell you an interesting thing: 50% of you will see a pattern, 50% of you will see none The reality is that it is a randomly generated number There exists no pattern in this I will give you another example- Look at this photo which has been captured in Iceland Can you spot an elephant’s face here? Look at this photo of a drawer- Can you spot a face here: two eyes and a mouth? Humans tend to look for a pattern always- to connect the dots We try and relate different events with one another So, basically, we try and look for a pattern even when there is none! No matter how completely random the things are, we still try and look for an explanation or pattern there Some people have a higher tendency to do this when compared to others But if you take this to an extreme level and apply this to every aspect in your life, then it might change your thinking This type of thinking is called “teleological thinking” Let me explain with the help of another example If you ask a 3-year-old child- Why does it rain? He might answer that it rains because the plants and the trees get thirsty and it rains so that their thirst is quenched Or you can ask him why are there leaves on a tree? He might answer that the trees grow leaves to give shade to the animals What is the basic characteristic in such a way of thinking? The children think that there is a purpose/intention behind everything It rains because of a purpose Similarly, conspiracy theorists try and accord purpose and intentions to extraordinary events when there might not be any Why is the coronavirus spreading these days? Someone must have engineered it for sure. It must’ve been made as a bio-weapon. Someone is behind this and this is why it is so widespread in the world today These people are not satisfied with random explanations that the coronavirus is spreading because it originated randomly and that no one is behind this Random events happen constantly all across the world.

Why are they popular?

Talking about the social category of events, then “seeking validation ” comes first Those people that are more isolated and feel more left out by the society if they have not achieved much or if they are uneducated, such people, in an attempt to feel validated and special and to show that they are well informed as well, and to stand out more in their social circles spread conspiracy theories Basically, they want to show that they are more informed than the rest on political and social events This conclusion was put forward by research The links to all the researches that I am talking about have been provided in the description below You can read the abstracts of these researches yourself and see what conclusions have been arrived at as to why people share conspiracy theories I am talking about sharing and not an origin. Because more often than not, conspiracy theories originate due to political intention as we saw in the case of Emperor Nero He formulated a conspiracy theory to save himself He formulated a conspiracy theory to salvage and improve his political image So, this could be the reason behind spreading them And the reason why they spread have been provided I’d like to mention another research that tells us what type of people are more vulnerable to believing in conspiracy theories? Research tells us that the people who are going through a crisis or are seeing disasters happening then there are higher possibilities of the spread of conspiracy theories, For example, the conspiracy theory about the Illuminati spread during the time of Yellow fever And you already know that a lot of conspiracy theories spread after the 9/11 attacks A lot of conspiracy theories were formulated about the moon landing It has also been told that the people who feel powerless or are suffering from anxiety or some sort of existential crisis, They believe more in conspiracy theories because they want to make someone a scapegoat they want to hold someone/something responsible for their problems So, how can we recognize that something is a conspiracy theory?

How to Identify them?

How can we tell that its possible something might have happened in one case but be able to say that it is a conspiracy theory in another case? There are some characteristics of all conspiracy theories First: every conspiracy theory has one evil mastermind There is one great villain that runs the entire conspiracy theory who is extremely wicket and formulates all the plans as he is the mastermind behind every thing For example, Bill Gates is this villain in the corona virus conspiracy It is George Soros in some conspiracies It is the Illuminati in some conspiracies It is the government who is the evil mastermind in 9/11 or moon landing conspiracy Another characteristic is that there is an attempt to relate unrelated things in every conspiracy theory And it showed how things happen because of other things happening They say “Co relation is not causation” For the conspiracy theorists, co-relation is always causation (they think that) this unrelated event surely happened because of some other event Third: Most conspiracies involve a very large group of people who keep it concealed For example: If you take the example of moon landing, some people say that Moon landing never happened and that it is a perpetual lie But if you point out that there are so many astronauts of NASA and that they can ask anyone of them- they have all been to space and that they can tell them the truth Then they would say that the NASA people are involved in it as well All of the astronauts are in on the conspiracy which is extremely unrealistic to think about That thousands of astronauts are all keeping quiet in a conspiracy Can it realistically happen that no one says anything to anyone and all are part of the conspiracy? No matter how secretive an organization is I’d say CIA is one of the most secretive organizations there are whistleblowers even there So if it were something like that, then there would be whistleblowers who would raise their voice and tell everyone So, therefore this doesn’t make sense Fourth: Most conspiracy theories have contradictions A conspiracy theory would say that something happened. But if you try and dig up facts and research that the facts contradict their beliefs Several times, conspiracy theories are self contradictory For example, the George Soros is popular in many countries across the world Turkish President Erdogan says that that George Soros is a formulating a Jewish conspiracy against their Islamic country- Turkey In UK it is said that George Soros is formulating a liberal and communist conspiracy against western countries That he wants to open up their borders and invite Africans and Arabs to their country that is, George Soros is supporting the Islamists In America, it is said that he is a formulating a Jewish conspiracy against Christians In India, it is said that George Soros is a formulating a conspiracy against Hindus after aligning with Islamists and Christians All these conspiracies are self contradictory How can it be that a Jewish man aligns with Christians in one place and goes against them in another place and aligns with islamists in one place and goes against them in another place You will find such contradictions in every conspiracy theory Fifth and most important: It is next to impossible to disprove any conspiracy theory No matter what fact you put up against it those facts will become a part of the conspiracy for the conspiracy theorists Consider this article that I am making right now Some people would say that since I am saving the images of Bill Gates, George Soros and the US government as I am disproving the conspiracy theories against them So I must be a part of this conspiracy theory as well So I must be a part of this conspiracy theory as well and they must have paid me to say this No matter what you say or which media source you quote no matter what fact you place before them everything would become a part of that conspiracy that everyone is in on it and that’s how it is happening.

How to counter Conspiracies?

So now the question is: How can we counter conspiracy theories? How can we curb their spread? The first and the easiest method which is valid for any kind of misinformation Pause before you share anything- think. Think about whether what you are just about to share is correct or not Google it once Most of the times, the most common conspiracy theories and the misinformation have already been fact-checked Google it once and you will get the results of the fact-checking websites You will get the results of the conspiracy theory websites and you can see the truth for yourself, For example, take the moon landing conspiracy theory It is often questioned as to why the flag was waving on the moon or why the shadows were crooked The reasons for all of these are already available The Flag was waving due to the movement caused in it when Neil Armstrong was placing the flag We all know that there is no atmosphere on the moon. The flag was waving because of his motions Similarly, the reason behind crooked shadows is that wide-angle cameras were used You will get the facts easily. All you have to do is pause once But what will you do when there is no fact check available? I would say, think critically Whenever you see something on the internet, first of all, check whether they have the characteristics of conspiracy theories that we talked about in the previous section If you see them, then look for contradictions within the conspiracy theory and after that, think scientifically Consider any statement or theory that you have heard like a hypothesis Just like you did in Chemistry in Class 8 or 9 or while doing any thesis In science, you consider a hypothesis and then you look for arguments in favour and against it Compare both and see which arguments make more sense and are more logical And finally, remember that co relation is not equal to causation For example, a very famous conspiracy theory that has been widespread for a long time is that the EVMs have been hacked and that Narendra Modi has hacked the EVMs to win the elections I do concede that it is possible to hack EVMs, in my opinion There also have been isolated cases of incorrect results in a couple of machines So these are the arguments in favour The argument against it is that why are there only a couple of proofs in lakhs of machines? There have been no other proofs barring these stray cases So, I would put this in the category of conspiracy theory because I do concede that EVMs can be hacked But there is a huge difference between- they have been hacked and they can be hacked Co-relation is not equal to causation, Therefore, I would conclude that most probably, this has not happened because most of the proof is against it So, this is how you should analyze everything.

Thank you

Sending
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