conspiracy thinking

The person who believes every corporate action to be part of a coordinated evil plan, and the person who conversely believes most corporations are good or harmless, both share a commonality. Their simplified worldviews are ill-equipped to predict the daily machinations of the modern world and are highly vulnerable to manipulation. A truth evident to people in any number of academic disciplines is that the modern world is FILLED with “conspiracies” both small and large, many of which we might call “cunning business practices.”

The idea that conspiracies are rare is just plain pedestrian thinking. People are generally not without healthy skepticism towards various matters of being fooled in daily life or matters of politics, but that healthy skepticism can be squashed by invoking the word “conspiracy thinking” to describe their lack of faith in the regulating powers that be. It is unhealthy to imagine that all regulatory groups are effective and that media agencies tell the truth regardless of the business interests of their advertising partners (as evidenced in that clip). It is similarly unhealthy to imagine that all regulatory groups are powerless against big businesses, or that an evil cabal controls them all.

The human brain and emotions just aren’t in the habit of questioning the numerous statements that are tossed in front of our faces on a daily basis. Unless you’ve studied examples of real-world political and/or corporate maneuvering, then you aren’t likely to have predictive models in your imagination for what a conspiracy actually looks like.

It takes time and training to grasp the psychology of people involved in various conspiratorial behaviors when that behavior goes against the public interest. Sure, people can have personality flaws (heck, I know of someone who once said his greatest fear was that a cure for cancer would be found and thereby render his career and most of his training obsolete). But even more commonly people believe they are actually doing something good or at least sensible… and they can easily believe this due to the reinforcing effect of their coworkers’ shared belief.

Richard Milton, an analyst who commonly critiques whether organizations or social groups are making truly intelligent decisions, wrote a superb book called “Alternative Science: Challenging the Myths of the Scientific Establishment.” In the course of that book, he details a number of conspiracies among scientific groups where multiple individuals (or whole organizations) sought to slander well-done experiments and stop various ideas at any cost. Their actions were sometimes so discordant with their stated values that one thinks they must surely have known that they were on the wrong ethical side of an issue. But in many of the cases discussed therein, the people involved have an unshakable belief that the worldview they know – and which is echoed by all their peers – simply MUST be true, and thus they believe that any evidence which demands a different ideological outlook simply MUST be false or fraudulent.

It seems clear that worldviews are often deeply linked to emotional experiences and views of self, and thus to change them is often to change something inside of our self. This is yet another important aspect of why groups will perpetrate conspiracies to destroy a cultural movement or to preserve their own… because on a certain level they don’t want to be forced to confront something new on both in the outer world and their inner world.

I hope you have enjoyed this uncommon discussion of the human awareness of conspiracies, and the level of human awareness within conspiracies. Whether someone is, frankly speaking, a paranoid conspiracy theorist or a gullible authoritarian, both believe equally in a world where systems functionally more-or-less precisely as intended, whether for good or evil. But life is filled with imperfect systems, people who make mistakes or don’t know what they want, and people who know exactly what they want and how to play the system in order to get it.

[ For an exciting look into the full range of motives and machinations involved in a modern conspiracy, check out Altered Genes, Twisted Truth,” by Steven M Druker, a skilled attorney who thoroughly investigated biotech groups like Monsanto and interviewed many scientists. Among the many motives of finances and fame which various parties exhibit in that book, it seems likely that many of the molecular biologists of Monsanto were also driven by their dreams of building an exciting new human future. Although it is hard to tell whether they minimized the importance of the myriad of unexpected scientific complications out of a desire to hold onto the dream they had in their head or out of a mighty pressure to not disappoint their wealthy funders… or because they would have to try and save face after spreading so many false impressions of the science involved. Like I said, real conspiracies are filled with nuance. ]

Copyright © 2016 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.