New York Times: Conspiracy Theorists Are Clever But Mad

Fact checked

The New York Times ran a piece on 4th January 2015 in which Cass R. Sunstein, professor at Harvard Law School, suggests that “Conspiracy Theorists” have suspicious and paranoid natures.

Interestingly he suggests that being a conspiracy theorist points to being “spectacularly well-informed” on a given subject, but then goes on to ask “Why, then, do they accept theories that are patently inconsistent with reality?

The NewYorkTimes reports:

One reason involves their suspicious and in some cases paranoid natures. Want to know whether your neighbors will accept a particular conspiracy theory? Just ask them what they think about other conspiracy theories. Those who insist that the Apollo moon landings were faked are more likely to believe that the United States caused the 9/11 attacks.

In fact, people who embrace one conspiracy theory are also inclined to embrace another conspiracy theory that cannot simultaneously be true. In one study, people who said they believed that Osama bin Laden is alive and well were more likely to believe that he was dead before U.S. forces invaded his compound. The belief in a more central idea — that authorities are engaged in deceptive cover-ups — supports any number of skeptical theories, even leading suspicious individuals to disregard contradictions between them.

But conspiracy theories are not only a product of people’s natures. Social conditions matter. Horrible events — economic collapse, an assassination, a grievous loss of some kind — can make people who are scared and angry look for someone to blame, not least to assert a kind of mastery of the circumstances. The human mind is drawn to think that whenever something bad has happened, it is because someone bad wanted it to happen.



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