Conspiracy theories seem to have been with us for a long time, and have been prevalent in the past hundred years or so. Just about every major event has developed some kind of alternative theory – often involving a ‘cover-up’ by a government or some other group or organisation that appears to have an interest in withholding the ‘truth’, or who is perceived as withholding some important information from the public eye.
Theories can range from the bizarre and trivial, such as Michael and LaToya Jackson are the same person, to the more serious theories surrounding major disasters, such as the theories surrounding the 9/11 incident.
In the modern technological age, a conspiracy theory can spread like wildfire, especially when the theorists use the internet. Within minutes or hours of an event, one or more conspiracy theories may have reached thousands of people.
Some theories can result because of someone’s imagination going into overdrive, while others develop through snippets of information being combined by a person or group into a whole theory which is believable and plausible.
Perhaps the more bizarre theories (such as the Jackson one mentioned previously) gain popularity because they are treated as ‘a bit of fun’ and no one really believes them except for the gullible. People may believe the more serious theories because there is a high degree of likelihood that a conspiracy could exist. This likelihood may have its roots in the peoples past experience of those involved. For example, governments may have a history of being involved in ‘shady’ operations or manipulation. There may be elements of provable fact within the theory that gives credence and substance.
So should we believe conspiracy theories?
Belief in a conspiracy theory or an official version of the event is an individual thing. If a person is able to see evidence that is reliable and credible then it would seem reasonable to consider alternative explanations for an event.
For example, in the ‘Jackson’ example previously there is no evidence. The theory developed because Michael and LaToya look alike – hardly grounds to believe they are the same person – especially when they have been seen in public together. So it may seem reasonable to dismiss this theory as a silly prank, or someone’s over active imagination (unless you know differently of course).
For more serious theories (such as the 9/11 incident) there may be credible information (or verifiable evidence) that contradicts the official explanation, and which may be more plausible than the official explanation. In the case of 9/11 the official explanation was contradictory and lacking in detail, whereas some alternatives were plausible and provable. When presented with the alternatives the official explanation was often vague and dismissive of any alternative view or evidence.
It would be reasonable to assume that incomplete, inadequate, and inaccurate official versions would give rise to suspicion of the motives of the officials involved. Then it would not be unreasonable for people to give more credibility to alternatives that seem more believable or can be proved.
So if people can take a step back and look at an incident with open eyes and really analyse evidence instead of dumbly accepting what they are fed, this must be a good thing. Considering alternatives that are credible and reasonable opens minds to other possibilities.
As with any official or unofficial version of something, it is important that we don’t let ourselves get caught up in the bullshit, and ensure we stick to the evidence and the facts. Then, perhaps, we may see that some ‘conspiracy theories’ are the truth.