April 30, 2013

Why We Are More Likely to Believe Conspiracy Theories After Tragedy. ~ Kimberly Lo

It seemed that no sooner had the Boston Marathon bombings occurred that the conspiracy theorists started to come out of the woodwork.

Hours after the incident, the internet was abuzz with rumors that this had been a government-planned conspiracy. Indeed, Alex Jones, who in the past has accused the government of staging the Sandy Hook tragedy, asked Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick, if was a “false flag” to which Patrick answered, “No. Next question.” On an anecdotal note, I have noticed while scrolling through my Facebook feed, that a fair number of people I know are claiming that this is a conspiracy

It used to be that the conspiracy theorists were by and large dismissed as crackpots. However, thanks to the internet and social media, many of them, if not quite being taken seriously, are at least getting more support than they have in the past. (The fact that Alex Jones was even able to ask his question and get an answer shows this.) Why is this, though? Why are people so quick to believe these things even when, time after time, their theories are debunked?

While I do not espouse that one takes everything any government says as the Gospel, I also feel that logic and proof should take precedence. However, those that believe or want to believe that the government is the Boston bombings, Sandy Hook and 9/11 will not be dissuaded. (If you are looking for evidence of this, then simply Google any of the above and “conspiracy.”)

The question as to why people believe these things is hard to pin down, and there is no single explanation. However, I believe it may have something to do with the uncertain times that we live in. As hard as it may be for some people to swallow, conspiracy theories provide a certain level of comfort to some.

When tragedies like 9/11, Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon bombings occur, the reasons behind it are often complex and baffling. One thing that comes up time and again from friends and acquaintances of suspects is how they never thought they were capable of such a thing. “He seemed like such a normal guy” is a phrase that is often repeated.

There is also the inevitable question as to whether such an event could have been prevented: if only I had paid more attention, if only I had listened more to what he was saying, etc. For some, it may be more comforting to think that the faceless government is the one that planned it than someone they knew or could have known. At the very least, it makes it easier to focus on an enemy that most people do not like. Also, if it is the government, then it takes away the “what if?” questions. Anyone who has watched enough spy movies know that would-be informers are always done away with or locked away so no one can ever hear them.

Despite the fact that my usual motto is, “Believe what you will,” conspiracy theorists irritate me.

It’s about time that many of these theorists are either ignored altogether by legitimate news sources or at least asked to provide concrete evidence to back up their claims if they are going to appear on serious news sites. Many people appear to confuse freedom of speech with the right to being heard by a wide audience. Alex Jones and others are free to post their theories online or in a newsletter, but that does not mean that the mainstream media has a duty to report it.

While no one would ever wish for tragedies like these to occur, one of the few silver linings is that people often come together to support each other. The Boston bombing is no exception.

However, conspiracy theories cause even deeper divisions in this already-divided nation of ours and increase fear and paranoia. They can also be harmful. Antisemitic  conspiracy theories like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which originated in the late 19th century and claimed that the world was being run by a group of Jewish bankers was used as propaganda by Hitler even though it had been proven to be  a hoax years before.

The time and energy spent ranting about the  government is behind the murder of its citizens in order to take away personal liberties, guns, or whatever they claim could be better well-spent on learning about the true motivates behind the attacks and better still, how to prevent them. Ironically, they often give the perpetrators of such attacks exactly what they want when they set about planning these things. While the irony may be lost on them, it should not be lost on us.






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Ed: Brianna Bemel


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