“One in four Americans suspect Barack Obama to be the anti-Christ”. – Public Policy Poll
<note: for the mathematically challenged that equates to 25%>
There are moments where I not only scratch my head with regard to the present possibilities for the human race … but there are also moments that I encounter full despair about the future of the human race.
25% think the American president is the anti-christ?
Please. Someone tell me this is a joke.
Unfortunately it is not a joke … and it is because of this recent Public Policy Polling survey conducted in America with regard to conspiracy theories that has me very worried about the future.
Because in the here and now? There are a shitload of people who are either unequivocally nuts or absolutely clueless.
Maybe not nuts.
But they are … for some reason … deluded into believing some really wacky things.
Beyond the 25% who suspect that President Barack Obama might be the antichrist … more than a third believe that global warming is a hoax … and more than 50% suspect that a secretive global elite is trying to set up a New World Order.
Have we become so paranoid?
The survey asked a sample of American voters about a number of conspiracy theories, albeit the phrasing the questions in eye-catching language that will have the country’s educators banging their heads on their desks makes for interesting reading itself, and the results are disturbing.
The study revealed:
- 13% of respondents thought Obama was “the antichrist”, while another 13% were “not sure” – and so were at least appeared to be open to the possibility that he might be.
Thankfully … some 73% of people were able to say outright that they did not think Obama was “the antichrist”.
- 37% of Americans thought that global warming was a hoax, while 12% were not sure and a slim majority – 51% – agreed with the overwhelming majority view of the scientific establishment and thought that it was not.
- The survey also revealed that 28% of people believed in a sinister global New World Order conspiracy, aimed at ruling the whole world through authoritarian government.
Another 25% were “not sure” and only a minority of American voters – 46% – thought such a conspiracy theory was not true.
At least some of the insane theories suggested by the poll were dismissed by large majorities. For example:
- only 7% of Americans in the survey believed the moon landing was faked
- only <a stunningly large amount to me> 14% believed in Bigfoot
- only 4% accepted that “shape-shifting alien reptilian people control our world by taking on human form”
- only 6% believe Osama Bin Laden is still alive
- 21% of voters say a UFO crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947 and the US government covered it up.
- 20% of voters believe there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism <thankfully 51% do not>
- 29% of voters believe aliens exist
- 14% of voters say the CIA was instrumental in creating the crack cocaine epidemic in America’s inner cities in the 1980’s
- 9% of voters think the government adds fluoride to our water supply for sinister reasons (not just dental health)
- 4% of voters say they believe “lizard people” control our societies by gaining political power
- 51% of voters say a larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination, just 25% say Oswald acted alone
- 15% of voters say the government or the media adds mind-controlling technology to TV broadcast signals (the so-called Tinfoil Hat crowd)
- 5% believe exhaust seen in the sky behind airplanes is actually chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons
- 15% of voters think the medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry “invent” new diseases to make money
In some good news, Paul McCartney will be relieved that a mere 5% of respondents believed that he died in a car crash in 1966 and was replaced by a double so the Beatles could continue their careers
And thankfully just 11% embraced the concept that the US government knowingly allowed the terror attacks of 9/11 to take place.
Here is the link to the full results: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_National_ConspiracyTheories_040213.pdf
Ok. I won’t dwell on the real purpose behind the survey <it was carried out in order to explore how voters’ political beliefs impact on their willingness to embrace conspiracy theories> despite the fact it did indeed find that the partisan divide that is blamed for many problems in Washington DC also extends to the world of paranoia, aliens and Big Foot.
I will not dwell on the politics because my real concern has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans but rather the fact such paranoia, fear and irrational thinking is so prevalent among people.
I have written many times on how difficult it is these days to discern truth from non-truth as well as partial truth.
But at its core … conspiracies have a sense of irrationality.
According to conspiracy monger Alex Jones, “The military-industrial complex killed John F. Kennedy” and “I can prove that there’s a private banking cartel setting up a world government because they admit they are” and “No matter how you look at 9/11 there was no Islamic terrorist connection—the hijackers were clearly U.S. government assets who were set up as patsies like Lee Harvey Oswald.”
This is crazy talk.
But people are listening.
And even more scarily … if they are not fully believing … they are accepting this garbage.
I dug up some research to try and explain what I would consider ‘indications of an ignorant paranoid population.”
University of Kent psychologists Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas and Robbie M. Sutton in a paper entitled “Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories,” published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
The authors begin by defining a conspiracy theory as “a proposed plot by powerful people or organizations working together in secret to accomplish some (usually sinister) goal” that is “notoriously resistant to falsification … with new layers of conspiracy being added to rationalize each new piece of disconfirming evidence.”
Once you believe that “one massive, sinister conspiracy could be successfully executed in near-perfect secrecy, [it] suggests that many such plots are possible.”
With this cabalistic paradigm in place, conspiracies can become “the default explanation for any given event—a unitary, closed-off worldview in which beliefs come together in a mutually supportive network known as a monological belief system.”
This monological belief system explains the significant correlations between different conspiracy theories in the study.
For example, “a belief that a rogue cell of MI6 was responsible for [Princess] Diana’s death was correlated with belief in theories that HIV was created in a laboratory … that the moon landing was a hoax … and that governments are covering up the existence of aliens.”
The effect continues even when the conspiracies contradict one another: the more participants believed that Diana faked her own death … the more they believed that she was murdered.
The authors suggest there is a higher-order process at work that they call global coherence that overrules local contradictions:
“Someone who believes in a significant number of conspiracy theories would naturally begin to see authorities as fundamentally deceptive, and new conspiracy theories would seem more plausible in light of that belief.”
Moreover, “conspiracy advocates’ distrust of official narratives may be so strong that many alternative theories are simultaneously endorsed in spite of any contradictions between them.” Thus, they assert, “the more that participants believe that a person at the center of a death-related conspiracy theory, such as Princess Diana or Osama [bin] Laden, is still alive, the more they also tend to believe that the same person was killed, so long as the alleged manner of death involves deception by officialdom.
That is scary.
Alex Jones proclaimed in Conspiracy Rising: “No one is safe, do you understand that? Pure evil is running wild everywhere at the highest levels.”
This is rampant paranoia … at its worst.
To me … conspiracies are for the lazy thinkers.
I now that sounds odd because the amount of energy they take to think these things up would make you believe they are hard working thinkers.
But here is the deal with conspiracy thinking.
Conspiracies are all about isolating empty spaces … empty of information … or the gaps as it were … and then accumulating all the empty space and creating a theory <and feasts on empty minds>.
But what is a conspiracy theory in the end?
Just empty space filled with speculation and not facts.
Everyone is entitled to challenge conventional wisdom but that doesn’t mean the alternative conspiracy theories are true … they simply represent intriguing possibilities.
And these possibilities only exist because the theories’ “reality” only lives in the empty spaces.
And the biggest empty space seems to be people’s minds.
On his Infowars.com Web site, Jones headlines his page with “Because There Is a War on for Your Mind.”
Well. There is certainly a war on for our minds.
It is called the war between reason and fear & the irrational.
Conspiracy mongering feasts on the second at the expense of the first.
I imagine the lure of conspiracies is twofold:
First it makes the believer special, in their own eyes and the eyes of many. That person knows “the secret” … something no one else knows. It’s a matter of having inside information nobody else has, unless they are wise enough to be in on the scoop.
Second it permits the believer to blame someone else for their lot in life.
The possible third lure is conspiracies can never be proven … nor disproven to a conspirator … therefore they are always right <although they are not proven right>.
It makes my head hurt.
Here is something I read that explained why my head hurts on this topic:
“… remember that the best place for a nefarious conspirator to hide is inside a conspiracy theory which by its nature is infinite in complexity, there is always another layer needed to cover up the inconsistencies.
Conspiracies are non-falsifiable hypothesis. There are the refuge for those without proof.
What we have then is the extremes at both ends, those that believe in nothing but the norm, the mindless sheep awaiting orders. And at the other end those that believe nothing they are told and no longer have a coherent grasp of reality because of their missing pool of shared experiences.”
I blame a lot of things and mostly people themselves <because they are being unerringly paranoid and duped by selective truths and speculative thinking> for this trend but I will point out a major contributor … television. This report summarizes why I wanted to point out TV as a major culprit:
According to “The State of the News Media 2013”, a report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Centre, the deteriorating financial state of news organizations has hurt their output.
Americans who think media firms are putting out fewer original, thoughtful stories are probably right. Weather, traffic and sport now account for around 40% of local television newscasts. The average length of a story keeps falling. Only 20% of local TV stories exceed a minute, and half take less than 30 seconds.
On cable-news channels, live reports, which require camera crews and journalists actually to show up somewhere, have fallen by a third in daytime programs in the past five years. Interview segments, which are cheap, have risen.
Americans may also prefer talking heads because they increasingly prefer to hear opinion rather than fact.
This trend is highlighted by the popularity of Fox, a conservative news network, and of MSNBC, its left-leaning counterpart. CNN, which tends to toe the middle line, continues to struggle with its ratings unless there is a big news event.
Pew says the news industry is “undermanned and underprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands.”
This dependence on “opinion entertainers” as news is probably the most damaging … and disturbing.
I know lots of people who get 100% of their news from Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh or Jon Stewart. Unfortunately, while smart people, they are entertainers.
Their existence is based on ratings not truth. Opinions drive ratings. Apparently Truth isn’t a big seller these days.
Conspiracies and paranoia and irrational thinking.
Disbelieve, doubt and look askance.
If you want, look askance twice.
Assume you are being lobbied if not actually lied to if you want.
But in the end make up your own mind using common sense <and try and avoid too many ‘what ifs’ and made up shit>.
And remember a conspiracy theory is just empty space filled with speculation and not facts.
Make sure that description isn’t your mind.
Oh. And make sure you just aren’t paranoid.
Oh. And you may have to recognize that all this poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science and conspiracy theories will take strength of character, a constant battle for clarity <and common sense> and a boatload of courage to take on people whose only real argument is “so you just don’t get it”.