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A man dressed in a suit. He has an eagle's head. The style is typical of conspiracy theories, with supernatural symbols around. Conspiracy Theories

A conspiracy is a secret plot,
whilst a conspiracy theory is an improbable secret plot.

Evolutionary Background

Pattern recognition is an evolutionary shortcut that allows humans to survive. If something seems off, we can immediately take action to evade or confront the danger. For example, a snake-like pattern instinctively tells humans to be cautious. No need for slower logic or analysis, that can happen later. There is this instantaneous ability to act. Even if the instinctive prompt is wrong, it is better to be over-cautious than dead.

A fantasy image. A man photographs a beautiful mountain landscape. A snake as big as the mountains looks at him.

Conspiracy Theories as Lack of Critical Thought, Inability to face Truth

So, when the whole world seems crazy, as it does now (e.g. war, famine, disease, death), many innately realise that there is some danger to be evaded or confronted. We then must process our vigilance, identify the threat.

However, most seem unable to go beyond sensing the pattern.
This is down to the propaganda of Big Money, Big Media, Big Tech, etc. They explain that we are at the vanguard of progress, that all is great. All will soon be miraculously solved with technology (e.g. carbon capture tech). Nothing to worry about. We should keep on with (psychopathic) business as usual.

Others make more of an effort to get to the truth.
Conspiracy or a secret political plot is a valid explanation.
However, there is a distinction between conspiracies and conspiracy theories.

For example, an ongoing conspiracy is how fossil fuel companies have hidden the truth about global warming for many decades (e.g. see here, here).

Conspiracy theories are another matter altogether. Some suggest elaborate theories (e.g. lizard people) as to why it's so messed up.
All these types of explanation are usually misinformation (info believed to be true but false, harm not intended) or disinformation (info known to be fake, harm intended).

Surely we must focus on conspiracies, not conspiracy theories?

A graphic of a magnifying glass hovering over some print. The enlarged text says 'Find the Truth'.

Guidelines

For me, the key guidelines are:-
  • Look at what is open and visible. Look at the way the existing system is rigged. Follow the power trail. Follow the money (the 'money trail').
  • Conspiracies are more likely to be exposed by whistleblowers and investigative journalists (e.g. Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, George Monbiot). Not by vloggers, right wingers or cults (e.g. QAnon).
  • The main conspiracy that we must dismantle is the system that privileges the rich and powerful. This battle is intersectional and includes the destruction of systems like racism, sexism, imperialism, elitism, exceptionalism, classism, capitalism, patriarchy.
A close-up of a human eye, in which is reflected the suffering of a boy

Quotes

These are my favourite quotes on conspiracy theories:-

'The wildest thing about off-the-wall [bizarre] conspiracy theorists isn't that there's no conspiracy. There is. It just isn't about population control, or lizards, or whatever the fuck. It's just straight up the rich doing what they've always done: protect themselves, gaslight the poor and maintain their hold on wealth and power.'
(@_shelse_, 18 January 2023 adapted tweets)

"I hate all stories about conspiracies. It's not because they don't exist. Secrets exist and conspiracies exist. But I think it's so much more important at all times, everywhere, to talk about what's out in the open, when we can all see, what is an actual felt and experienced part of our shared reality, than it is to look for answers that are hidden from us. It is ultimately politically always more productive to talk about what's out in the open and there's so much in the open and there has always been."
(Masha Gessen, quoted at The.Ink, posted and accessed 27 October 2020)

'Embedded in many conspiracy theories is a grain of truth, turned into something entirely false.' (George Monbiot, 24 January 2023 tweet)

A reptilian man. He looks like an alien in a suit. Behind him, also in black-and-white, are a lit candle, a skull, some chemical flasks, a Leonardo drawing.

Examples of Real Conspiracies - not Theories

Why are the wealthy and big companies allowed to 'legally' use offshore tax havens to avoid tax? This is stolen money that should be invested in the welfare of all. Examples: Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, Pandora Papers, Suisse secrets, global corporations.

Why have Fossil Fuel companies hidden the truth about global warming? S
ee here, here.

Why does Big Politics downplay, ignore or erase imperialism, colonialism, slavery, systemic racism, systemic misogyny, police brutality?
It claims these things are in the past or inconsequential.

Why do we not talk about the USA's horrific involvement in coups that possibly stopped far more equal societies from existing? See here.
Surely the 'exceptional' leader of the world is just another terrorist?
The same applies to any imperialist country, such as Russia or China or similar.

A graphic titled 'War is a Racket'. It is a quote by Major General Smedley D. Butler from his book with the same title. It says, "War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."
War is a Racket is a speech and a 1935 book by Major General Smedley D. Butler

Why does Big Media vilify the poor, the marginalised and immigrants?
Why does this 'free' media brainwash us?
Why does it make us inhumane?
"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." (Malcolm X)

Why is power concentrated in the hands of so few?
Why is this allowed?
What about truly democratic Citizens' Assemblies? See here.
“When the French and American revolutions led to the establishment of the institutions that today we call democratic, the word ‘democracy’ was never used – the intent was for them to be oligarchic, concentrating power in the hands of the few.” (Claudia Chwalisz, quoted at The Guardian, posted and accessed 1 February 2023)

Why are Human Rights being trashed?
Human rights emerged after the horrors of WW2, to safeguard us.
So, we are returning to the evils of fascism?...

A graphic of a blank map on olde manuscript type paper. A compass showing directions is at the bottom right.
Actual, existing conspiracies make us lose our moral compass

Resources
The word 'TRUTH' in capitals and in a spiky-edged font

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Page last updated: 3 February 2023.