Wikipedia describes a conspiracy theory as ” an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy without warrant, generally one involving an illegal or harmful act carried out by government or other powerful actors. Conspiracy theories often produce hypotheses that contradict the prevailing understanding of history or simple facts. The term is a derogatory one.”
The reason I think this definition is so important because it what isn’t the definition is the use of critical thinking skills in order to differentiate whether or not something is factual or false information. In todays society especially the political climate, we are inundated with a multitude of information ranging from merely strong opinions, scientific facts, to false information sent by governments to get us to believe something false. Sometimes the purpose is for exploitation of resources or in order to make an opinion more popular and regarded even thought it is false.
Conspiracy theory believers bug me
I don’t know why they really get under my skin but the fact that people knowingly spread false information or are ignorant of the facts and speak out of turn drives me nuts. I know we all know a person like this, somebody at work, a relative or acquaintance that continues to spread false information. Examples I can think of are the 9/11 theory, denial of the Holocaust, Anti-vaxxers, JFK assassination, Elvis lives and even those that believe the walk on the moon is a hoax ( http://list25.com/top-25-most-popular-conspiracy-theories/) These preposterous ideas may come from a good place. I mean that genuinely. I think some try to find out why some bad things happen and try to make sense out of it, or deny it all together. However, that doesn’t excuse their behavior. It has now become our job as information gathers seekers and online readers to find out the truth. Why, because we must have critical thinking to really go after find out facts to dispel them if they are not true. We were discussing in class the topic of big data and it’s implications. This was not a conspiracy but an view that has factual data to back up. When there are many falsehoods flying around, if somebody accuses a real idea, that is backed up in fact, we must be able to confront people with that information.
What would have happened if nobody questioned the use of DDT or Agent Orange. There are REAL instances where bad shit is going on but nobody wants to say it’s bad for fear they are going to be “conspiracy theorists”. Critical evaluation of information is imperative for us to fact check and find out what is real and what is fake.
All is not lost
Thank goodness there are websites, tools and methodology to help us decipher fact from fiction. Unfortunately people have become lazy in the use of our own brains and depended only on the World Wide Web to spell it out. After all if it’s on the internet it has to be true right! Sometimes it easy to look stuff on Snopes, a website that outlines some crappy information we are getting out there. Unfortunately these websites are often under attack because the outlying opinions become very boisterous and accuse them of lying, so then we are back to the he said she said thing again. The New York Times wrote an article on this very topic.
It really all boils down to you as smart individuals. I have hope for us all, we have each other to rely on. We also have good and real journalists that are moral and may tell the truth from time to time. So next time when somebody tells you that the Holocaust is fake tell them to go jump in a lake. But next time when asked if there has been drone strikes that killed civilians, or chemical weapons attacks on civilians there are multiple sources that can help you out.