Conspiracy Theories are Nothing Wrong: A Brief Critique

Conspiracy theories, conventionally speaking, are theories that propose a small group of powerful individuals and/or groups manipulating the world events through their influence in society, in order to achieve a (usually evil) goal (J. Wood, M., M. Douglas, K., M. Sutton, R., 2011). Under this definitions, academics usually proposes that “conventional wisdom on conspiracy theories is that they ought not to be believed. Calling something “a conspiracy theory” is to suggest it is intellectually suspect; to call someone “a conspiracy theorist” is to suggest that he is irrational, paranoid or perverse.” (R. Pigden, C., 2007) Also, to them conspiracy theories are “a monological belief system,” which “appears to be driven… by broader beliefs supporting conspiracy theories in general.”(J. Wood et. al., 2011) Sometimes, therefore, conspiracy theories are even being renamed into “conspiracism” or “conspiracy beliefs” (J. Wood et. al., 2011). This paper tries to provide arguments against this perspective, by proposing, from the perspective of the conspiracy theorists, that conspiracy theories are not mere beliefs that can be simply disregarded by the intelligentsia, as they can be investigated, proved, and come into realization as much as the conventional theories.

First of all, conspiracy theories are conclusions of serious investigation as same as conventional theories. As Charles Pigden had argued in his philosophical article “Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom” (2007), believing certain conspiracy theories cannot be counted to be irrational since people can only believe what evidences have showed them, and if that leads to conspiracy theories, they are obliged to believe those theories; also if all conspiracy theories are unreliable, as long as conspiracy theories means “theories that posits conspiracies” (Pigden, C., 2007), then the world history becomes unreliable as well, because from what we learnt from history, wars and coups were mostly fruits of conspiracies, and as long as historians were investigating and theorizing these conspiracies, they would suddenly becomes conspiracy theorists that many academics condemned as irrational, rendering the history they had written and concluded irrational also; the threat to common happiness and social liberty would also be unable to get rid of if we assume conspiracy theories are perverse, as all the politicians that accepted bribery along with all the businesses that committed scams would have their deeds invisible to us as these will be all conspiracies, and we cannot theorize and investigate their crimes since then we would all become paranoid conspiracy theorists. Therefore, avoiding conspiracy theories as unbelievable altogether is an absurd action.

One of the implications the term “conspiracy beliefs” provided is that conspiracy theories cannot be proved, which is actually not the case. In the article “The NSA Spying and Lying Does Relate to 9/11” written by Kevin Ryan (2013), Kevin proved that the US government allowed the 9/11 incident to happen so to “control the world’s most strategic resources and also the American people”, that the government knew of a phone number used by alleged 9/11 plane hijackers before the incident but not trying to stop them through the connection, the NSA had been observing the hijackers for two years before the incident, and a US Army high official covered up and destroyed documents concerning vital informations of the hijackers a year before 9/11(Ryan, K., 2013). All these informations came from mainstream newspaper agencies e.g. Bloomberg and The Washington Post, governmental institutions like the U.S. Senate, and from important individuals such as former CIA officer Robert David Steele and awarded journalist Shane Harris, therefore this supposedly conspiracy theorist did have his credible proof for his theory.

Conspiracy theories had in many times been proved to be real events, thus it would be unknowledgeable to say conspiracy theories are unprofessional in observing world events. Even if conspiracy theories are mostly supported by solid facts as proofs, it can only be educated guess at best on how events really happened if few of these theories are find out to be the real case. In the article “Rethinking Conspiracy” written by Shawn Hamilton (2014), Shawn had listed a series of historical events that had been once seen as mere conspiracy theories that could be easily ignored, including the Operation Northwoods, which was a 1962 military operation exposed by unclassified governmental documents to had American civilians attacked, by the communist Cubans pretendingly but by the American military actually, to justify declaration of war on Cuba, so-called “false flag terrorist attack” (Hamilton, 2014)—closely resembling the aforementioned 9/11 conspiracy theory, which is also proposing that the U.S. government at least allowing their civilians to suffer casualties for the sake of justifying the War on Terror (Hamilton, 2014). Similarly, if past conspiracy theories had been proved to be true, the current ones could be regard professionally as possible truth.

Some in the academics, however, argued that conspiracy theorists tend to believe in contradictory theories because they believe in everyone in power always conspires, thus the legitimacy of conspiracy theories are disproved. Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas and Robbie M. Sutton did a series of psychological tests, and presented the results in the article “Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories” (2011). In the tests, they gave their participants questionnaires that listed statements made in certain conspiracy theories, with some might be contradictory and some might not, they have to rate, in a scale of numbers, how much they believe in these statements (1 for strongly disagree, 7 for strongly agree), and as the statistics showed the rate of contradicting theories are high (a lot of people believing in bin Laden had been killed as much as him hiding for instance), it proved that those believing in conspiracy theories tend to believing in mutually contradicting theories, hence the authors theorized the belief of “conspiracism” establishes by simple distrust of authority rather than rational investigation of events (J. Wood et. al. 2011). Conspiracy theorists are majorly irrational believers, and conspiracy theories in most times are mere products of undebated suspicion of authority.

But, examining the research J. Wood et. al. conducted, its conclusion concerning the nature of conspiracy theorists was a mere generalization, instead as a rational skepticism. The questionnaires issued to the participants were just “tick-the-boxes” setting that did not allow them to elaborate their reasons on their choices. Furthermore, one cannot know if they choose to believe in various alternatives, as allegedly conspiracy theories, of explanation of a certain unclear event instead of only believing the official version without much thought. This means one ought not to only check the high rate of participants believing in contradictory theories and assume they cannot think rationally. Many conspiracy theorists, as proved previously, have used proofs and reasons to establish their theories, thus greatly contrasting the conclusions of the tests, summarizing that the research generalized conspiracy theorists as blind believers, which in reality are mostly rational investigators.

Conspiracy theories are conclusions of investigations on popular events, they may propose differently than conventional theories from academics and the official explanations, but that does not mean they are unbelievable assumptions, as conspiracy theorists also need to rationally; some of the historical facts had once been assumed as conspiracy theories. To better know about world events and our history, one might learn much from conspiracy theories.