#2. They Bring Out the Worst in People
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Here's where it starts to get weird.
We've gone to great lengths to point out that people tend to gravitate toward these theories despite a lack of evidence ... so you might say they want to believe, like the UFO poster says in Fox Mulder's office.
Fox Broadcasting Company
Scully's office poster is John Belushi in the COLLEGE sweater.
But at the same time, conspiracy theories make us miserable. Studies have found that people who believe in conspiracy theories tend to be much more cynical about life, feel more powerless, and have almost no self-esteem. This all amounts to a much more pissed-off population, and conspiracy theorists aren't shy about unleashing their anger on those who don't share their views. Those Sandy Hook conspiracy nut-jobs don't just keep to their message boards -- they've been defacing victim memorials and harassing the parents of the dead children (you know, for not coming clean about how they're actually just actors hired by the Illuminati).
Or ask Charlie Veitch, a former prominent 9/11 conspiracy theorist who later changed his mind. After going on YouTube to admit that he no longer thought 9/11 was an inside job, he had to go into hiding as thousands of conspiracy theorists from around the world set upon him with death threats. Someone contacted his mother to tell her that Veitch was a pedophile, and Alex Jones went on record to call him a sociopath.
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Well if that isn't the pot calling the kettle dangerously delusional.
Call us crazy, but it's almost like conspiracy theories turn you into an asshole.
Science seems to agree, by the way. A 2011 experiment sat down British college students, and after giving them primers on popular conspiracy theories like 9/11 and the JFK assassination, asked them if they would help pull those off if they had the chance. The ones that believed the conspiracy theories were also the ones more likely to say yes. And that group was also the most likely to dick people over for their own ends. After all, why play by society's rules if the whole thing is a sham?
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"Me stealing your wallet was an inside job!"
And now we start to see what might be the real, cancerous effect of all of this ...
#1. They Make It Impossible to Fix the Real Problems
A while back they did another study in which a group of participants were shown the movie JFK, Oliver Stone's completely fictional film that pushed the idea that Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy within the U.S. government. The film is not a documentary and doesn't claim to include real footage or real witnesses -- it is evidence of a JFK assassination conspiracy in exactly the same way that the third Transformers movie was evidence that the Apollo moon landing discovered Decepticons on the dark side of the moon.
And also Pink Floyd.
Yet, surveys of the participant's emotions after they'd finished watching the movie showed that most left with feelings of anger and hopelessness, as well as a general unwillingness to accept the official story. They reported afterward that they felt more disillusioned with politics and less enthusiastic about voting (after all, what does it matter when you're voting for the Zionist NWO Illuminati Freemasons either way?) In another study, people who heard conspiracy theories about global warming were less interested in lowering their carbon footprint. In both cases, the theory gave them the excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway: give up.
So conspiracy theories end up being a bait-and-switch move where the fictional version of the problem soaks up whatever energy could be spent actually improving things.
"The drug companies make too much money from pills, that's why there's no cure for AIDS."
"Wouldn't they actually make way more money because you can give a vaccine to people who don't have AIDS?"
Meanwhile, everyone else spins their wheels trying to debunk the theories, as if more information actually makes a difference. To try to stem the rising tide of kids coming down with measles because their parents are scared of the autism boogeyman, science has been forced to pump money into researching this issue again and again and again, coming out with study after study that shows no link. That's money that could have been used to research cancer cures of for developing better vaccines or even a serum to inject directly into Jenny McCarthy's brain to kill the stupid directly. But instead it's funding studies to debunk that same old autism/vaccine trope that's already been debunked. And it's all pointless, because to conspiracy theorists all of that new "evidence" is just further proof that The Man is working against them. "If there's nothing to it, why are scientists studying it so much?"
Meanwhile, as reports on climate change and the increasingly terrifying effects keep piling up, we're still trying (and failing) to convince people that it's a real thing that humans caused. Hell, even the president had to actually take time out of running the country to show his birth certificate. All because of this weird flaw in the human mind that makes us gravitate toward the most improbable version of events, and then congratulate ourselves for having the "courage" to stand up against those damned "experts" telling us we're wrong.
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Up in their ivory towers with their accredited degrees and evidence-based, verifiable conclusions.
If you can figure out how to fix that, well, congratulations on having saved the world.
Related Reading: Curious about where all these horrific conspiracies got their start? Read this article and you'll learn where the Obama's birth certificate B.S. first kicked off. Some conspiracies are terrifyingly real, like the fascist business owner coup that tried to oust FDR. But most conspiracy theories, even the venerable JFK assassination, are shockingly easy to debunk.