By Bruna C. Pereira:
Throughout the years, more and more conspiracies have emerged. Some have their foundations from actual problems occurring in our world, others are based out of a ridiculed fear, some are meant to give the reader comfort of being “guilt-free”, while many have their essence from past or current propaganda.
In the past few years, before former US-President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the conspiracy community (of today) didn’t have as much recognition as it has today. While it was still increasing, its paranoia was still somewhat distant from News Media reports and Political assets. Once Donald Trump, while president, began acknowledging the Qanon community by neither denying nor confirming their claims, it allowed the possibility that Propaganda and Conspiracies had their space of being a possible reality.
Thanks to the claims of a possible rigged election, this only worsened the situation, allowing all sectors whether in favor or opposing Trump, to conspire. In fact, most of the media called the 2016 inauguration “the Conspiracy theory election”. With Covid-19 appearing just about a few months before the election of 2020, spreading not only sickness but fear led to the extreme spike of the conspiracy community.
While I do support that each person on this planet should question everything, including their own perspectives of the world, there is a difference between probability and proof. Many might be wondering “If we have enough evidence to either prove or disprove a conspiracy, why do people have a hard time accepting it as the truth?”
Why do people believe in Conspiracy Theories?
A way of explaining this is by recalling our childhood, remembering what opinions/beliefs we were taught and exposed to regarding our political system. What our grandparents, parents, and teacher’s opinions were and how that alone shaped a fragment of our view on the government, the poor, the rich, the religious…etc. How it influenced our behavior and thinking pattern until this current day.
If one has had parents who didn’t see their government as being able of corruption, they most likely will think the same way or in a similar way today. This too goes for today’s conspiracy theorists.
While one might look at conspiracy theories like “the billionaires are part of a pedophilic-cabal-satan worshippers club” as non-sense, it always starts with doubt, fear, a sense of interest, certainty, victimhood, guilt-free, or a conspiracy that actually had a half-truth into it. From that, one can feel scared, amazed, or even a sense of realization/awakening at first. They end up finding themselves reading and watching only conspiracy theorist claims. Which just like when we were younger with our parents and teachers, becomes our source of information, our reality that we end up holding onto so tight, due to fear of being wrong. Fear of losing a part of one’s identity.
It is with this mindset that people like Hitler, the old Roman Church, Daesh/ISIL, the Taliban (just to name a few) manage to convince people that what they are doing is morally justified and right. While those who oppose the idea, are rather enemies, infidels, “sheep” who still need to “awaken”.
It is this fear of realizing we are wrong, that we were fooled by someone else’s agenda that terrifies someone. Not only conspirators but all of us. Believing that the world is entitled to a one-group of villains, a one-corrupted agenda, even though we all have our own agendas makes it easier for us to have someone to blame. Giving us a sense of security.
Questioning this security, that we all worked so hard to build in our heads, scares us. So much, that we avoid any evidence or question that might be thrown at us by replying towards it without any rational answer, such as: “You are fake news”, “It was rigged”.
Can a Conspiracy be true?
The short answer to that is, yes it can. However, throughout the years the original term of a conspiracy started losing its importance and significance. More people, both rich and poor, publicly and privately, started using it as a psychological weapon to fulfill their own personal agendas. It became a good selling Propaganda method.
An example of a Conspiracy that we know of being true but we don’t even recognize it as conspiracy anymore, is how groups such as the NSA and the MI6 get permission from the government to spy on suspected criminals. It remains a conspiracy because it is hard to prove it due to a lack of evidence. (Even though we know that Intelligence groups are allowed to spy on suspected terrorists/criminals)
Types of conspiracies:
Civil Conspiracy: When two or more people conspire to commit an act that is not criminal, yet still harms the individual socially or economically, that is still punishable under the law
Example: Two or more people who make an agreement to work together, with the intention of accomplishing an unlawful goal to harm another resulting in a form of damage. (Could be seen as a way of defamation)
If the participants had no intention/knowledge of the plan, this can not be interpreted as a Civil Conspiracy. (All must agree to commit the act)
Criminal Conspiracy: An agreement between two or more people, to commit an unlawful act. The agreement is the crime itself, but at least one of the Co-conspirators has to overact.
Example: Agreement to defraud the US or any federal agency.
Political Conspiracy: An agreement, between two or more people, to gain political power or a political objective.
Hub and Spoke Conspiracy: A group that operates together without knowing one another, yet agreed to work for the given cause. Therefore taking part in the conspiracy.
Example: Drug Cartels, Black markets…etc)
Conspiracy Disambiguation: A plot, secret agreement between several people in order to depose an established group, person, overthrowing a government.
Conspiracy Theory: A theory that rejects the original explanation for an event/occurrence and instead credits a covert group or organization with carrying out a secret plot. The idea of a current group whose goal is to harm the public.
Distinguishing a Conspiracy from Questioning
How do we identify a conspiracy theory in a world where even some News reporters, who have some responsibility of sharing accurate information to the public, have turned their backs on working efficiently. By conforming to irrationality, while incriminating individuals out of desperation, to get out of this sense of misery and fear that all this chaos has brought to us.
A start would be if we start off by accepting that what has happened, has happened, and can not, “Not happen” anymore. That throwing accusations here and there, without any proper evidence, relying on assumptions causing confusion, and division while everyone is just trying to grasp on what is true or not, will only complicate things.
Distancing ourselves even more of what actually happened.
It is important that we distinguish when someone is asking a question and when someone is certain that “what they claim” is what has happened.
A conspiracy theory is based on claims based on thrown-together dots/facts, who might (or not) and seem to have a relation to each other but are presented as being the real truth. (Claiming someone/a group of being responsible for the conflict/occurrence, by assumption alone.) With the denial of addressing any outside claims opposing the connection.
(Meaning that the conspirators are unknowingly or knowingly taking part in an act of defaming someone/a group with lack of evidence or no evidence at all)
Evidence: Something that shows some specific, important thing(s) is(are) true or not true. Something that cannot be struck, that remains not explanatory. Something we OBJECT to when the other side tries to get the court/public to consider it.
Types of Evidence:
Real evidence: a weapon, drugs, CCTV proving the act
Demonstrative: a model of what likely happened at a given time and place
Documentary: blog post, emails, video, photo or other document
Testimonial: testimonies of witnesses
Questioning an incident is when an individual, sees a possible relationship between two (or more) people, two (or more) occurrences but does not present it as the absolute truth, as fact. Instead, he/she/they present it as a question. People who question claims, actions from individuals who might say certain things but act differently. Who question unsolved/unanswered questions or happenings without claiming, assumption, theories that lack evidence of being the truth. This does not make them conspiracy theorists.
Questioning has been the right of every human being, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
Only when using that opinion or personal experience with a group/person in order to blame them for something that might or might not have happened, (without any clear evidence that pledges them guilty, can then be considered as a Conspiracy. (Since what they are asserting to be true, will harm the person being mentioned)
How individuals can use Conspiracies as a form of Propaganda
Conspiracies of defaming or plotting someone, have existed among history for centuries, many of which became propaganda to convince the public that whatever is being done, has a justifiable reason. A reason that often portrayed those, (or the country), doing the propaganda as victims.
When we look at groups like Qanon, we can witness how much damage they can cause when those in authority do not take them seriously. For instance, America’s own people took part in overthrowing their own government. All of this because America failed to address an issue. Whether Mr. Trump played along or simply ignored it, as it gave him a reputation, we do not know. However, the ignorance that former president Donald Trump gave towards both those who stood with the conspiracies and those who opposed them, did somewhat show how much he really stood for his people. Perhaps choosing to ignore both sides in order to win both sides for the 2020 election? We can’t know for sure, what we do know is that Americans await an apology and explanation from their Government, which they deserve.
It is important that all of us can see the difference between what’s real or not, it is important that we care, just like the paragraph above where I claimed that the government should indeed give Americans an explanation by showing some care, so should their people. A nation doesn’t fall with a specific group trying to target it, it falls with its own people. When the people lose hope in their law system and government, but also when its own government doesn’t take their own people seriously.
It is important that we address conspiracy theorists as people, and not as morons. The increase in the popularity of conspiracy theories didn’t come out of the blue, they came from fear. Fear built up from mistakes made throughout the years that could have been avoided and stopped. Secrecy kept from the public without the government taking the time to explain why it is important to keep certain things a secret. Keeping it secret, not from their people but from possible terrorists.
So we wonder, does our government (wherever you may be located) have corrupted people? Yes. Why? Because every person has their own agenda. Because greediness for power and money exists in all sides of society, poor, rich, famous, and infamous. Because, yes, evil people who wish to cause harm exists, both on TV and on the streets. Because as pretty as the world is, it is also a very scary place. A place shaped by ignorance towards big and small problems. Ignorance of both the public and their government.
How “Fake News” can also be used as a form of Censorship
Censorship isn’t only about taking something off of the internet or shutting someone up, it is also about who has the public and who hasn’t. This new “trend” of calling everything that we disagree on, “Fake News”, is in a way making us closed-minded. This reminds me of how the Roman Church used to censor people who denied, questioned the Catholic faith in the past, by calling them, witches and blasphemers. Using the term Blasphemer and Witch as a justifiable reason to kill them. Which worked as a form of propaganda unto their people at the time, to accept and conform to that law. Or how countries who live under dictators are forced to never openly question their government, their actions or laws. If they do, they’ll face the death penalty or imprisonment.
Not only is “Fake news” a way for conspirators/general public to deny to question things again, but it is also a way to call an actual truth fake. Which can be used by our own mind towards ourselves, used by others, or even governments.
From the way things have been going, if we do not fix this issue, if we simply ignore it like we have been ignoring world problems until today, some countries might face a future government that will look more like a dictatorship than a democracy.
- Bruce Smith, propaganda | Definition, History, Techniques, Examples, & Facts | Britannica
- Civil Conspiracy – FindLaw (2016)
- Conspiracy (disambiguation) – Academic Kids
- Why people latch on to conspiracy theories, according to science (nationalgeographic.com) (2021)
- When does Something become “Evidence” | Your Legal Leg Up (2019)
- What are the Rules of Evidence? – FindLaw (2016)
- ‘More Dangerous And More Widespread’: Conspiracy Theories Spread Faster Than Ever (npr.com) (2021)
- Rikke Peters, Julian Richards, Propaganda and conspiracy theories in extreme right ideologies (www.ucviden.dk)(2019)