What is the most underrated myth

Conspiracy Theories - Funny Stories or Underestimated Danger?

Conspiracy Theories - Funny Stories or Underestimated Danger?

On the subject of conspiracy theories, any example immediately comes to mind: the earth is flat or hollow, the USA faked the moon landing, the city of Bielefeld does not exist (this conspiracy theory was invented as part of a joke). But it is not these rather harmless and amusing conspiracy theories that are currently in the news again and again, but lateral thinkers, corona deniers and the Q-Anon movement (whose supporters believe Trump is secretly fighting a satanist, pedophile elite that the world ruled).

Many long-time disseminators of conspiracy theories see their beliefs confirmed by the corona pandemic and believe that they had foreseen something like this years ago. One of them is David Icke, Britain's most famous conspiracy theorist. His theory unites almost all common conspiracy theories in one: The world is ruled either by lizard people or aliens (or both in one) and supported by unknown and well-known secret organizations (Illuminati, Freemasons, ...), as well as all major corporations and governments of the world. Almost all conspiracy theories can be incorporated into this, as almost all of them have one common core: the secret elite that controls the world and is to blame for everything.

But why do a small group of people believe these stories, despite the evidence to the contrary? And why are there more and more?

Conspiracy theories and their causes have long been explored because, in fact, the phenomenon is not new. There have been conspiracy theories since ancient times. Probably the best known said: The Jews were responsible for the plague. Therefore, psychology can now name several reasons for the irrational belief in these stories. Incidentally, scientists insist that conspiracy theories are not "theories" but rather myths or narratives, since scientific theories are examined and discarded if there is evidence to refute them. This is not the case with the conspiracy myths: counter-arguments are intended to be invalidated by assertions that are repeated until people believe them. Those who disagree are either blind or part of the conspiracy and are silenced in various ways.

There are two main reasons why people believe in conspiracy narratives at all: They make them feel in control and feel better and smarter than everyone else. It is scientifically proven that a felt or real loss of control increases our willingness to believe in conspiracy myths. People don't want to believe that bad things just happen by chance, they need a culprit who can somehow be combated. When looking for this scapegoat, they always ask themselves the question “cui bono?” - Whom is it good for? The answer to this question is often the real essence of a conspiracy tale. For example, the fact that pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money selling drugs makes them the cause of some or even all diseases in many conspiracy myths. A variant of this narrative is, for example, the Camtrail conspiracy, which says that the streaks of haze that airplanes sometimes drag behind them consist of toxic or pathogenic gases. Such images of the enemy, which provide a clear division into good and bad, therefore especially help people who are in a crisis to understand and organize the world.

The second reason is the self-exaltation made possible by the conspiracy narratives: their followers believe that only they know the truth, that everyone else is blind. They see themselves as enlightened and think that they are in the resistance against an overpowering enemy - and everything is allowed in the resistance. This is exactly what makes some of these groups so dangerous: They believe they are fighting for freedom and a better future against an overpowering opponent. This can lead to violent clashes in anti-corona demos or even to terrorist attacks like the one in Hanau.

When asked why the number of people who believe the conspiracy tales is increasing, there is an obvious and a less obvious answer. The obvious arises from the above reasons for conspiracy theories: when we feel like we are out of control, we look for a scapegoat to be guilty of everything; Coincidence is often excluded. Our current situation basically means a collective loss of control. No one can control a virus that spreads around the world at lightning speed. Conspiracy myths offer a way out of this confusing, frightening situation. Some people might think, "What I can't see with my own eyes doesn't exist, and if the virus doesn't exist, I don't have to be afraid of it."

The less obvious answer has nothing to do with Corona, but with the progress that has been made recently on the subject of algorithms. Many platforms, be it YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Google or TikTok, have an algorithm that is designed to bind users to their platform for as long as possible by showing them what suits their interests. The algorithms are designed in such a way that the issues become more and more extreme. For example, if you watch videos on cycling, you will probably end up with motocross at some point. But whoever starts looking at something on the subject of conspiracy narratives will also see increasingly extreme content step-by-step. In this way, the internet provides an unprecedented platform for conspiracy myths to spread around the world.

Anyone who has a person in their immediate vicinity who increasingly believes in conspiracy myths and who may come into contact with dangerous groups such as the Reich citizens, the Q-Anon movement or other clearly right-wing extremist groups can contact them on the Internet, on site or by phone inform the appropriate advice center. The most important general tips that are given over and over again are the following: You have to inform yourself properly about the topic before you start the conversation. In a conversation like this, the other person's thoughts should never be dismissed as nonsense. In addition, those affected usually turn a deaf ear if one tries to change their mind with rational arguments. The topic should therefore not be addressed directly, but literature, films or videos should be recommended that deal with it. In the end, those affected always have to find a way out of conspiracy thinking themselves. It is also important not to break off contact with those affected if possible, otherwise they will further intensify their contacts in the conspiracy scene in search of connection. If you do not know exactly how you can help as a friend or family member, it is always advisable to contact the appropriate local advice centers, which are available in most federal states.

More about the author: Jessi Jessi is a dual student in the field of logistics. In her free time, she reads a lot, enjoys spending time with friends, and loves painting with acrylic paints.