How to Talk About a Conspiracy Theory
This article explores the social aspect and intent behind researching and discussing conspiracies. I hope to offer some useful tools for engaging in a rational discussion about these sensitive topics.
Most conspiracy theories suffer from two extreme viewpoints—and both can be equally annoying. On one end you have the “conspiracy nut” who believes every conspiracy under the sun and is usually more than willing to share everything they know. In the worst instance, this person can go on and on without interruption about when the apocalypse is coming and who's involved in leading us there. These people are more inclined to teach instead of discuss—not too fun.
The other extreme is the ultimate denier. The ultimate denier doesn't have the time to independently investigate any particular conspiracy theory, so he just dismisses them all. To the denier, all conspiracy theories are blanketed false until the mainstream media airs a special on it. These people choose emotionality and generalization over thorough research and applied logic.
The truth is that some conspiracy theories turn out to be true, while others turn out to be false. Hitler and his followers conspired to kill non-Aryans, but many Germans denied there was any such conspiracy until it was happening. Dictators in Africa, China, and the Middle East conspire to censor information from their citizens. Throughout the world people have conspired to take over banking systems, governments, and entire countries via coups and clandestine operations. A good conspiracy theorist watches the world critically, takes the best efforts to determine truth value, and shares the truth in a palatable and constructive way. Unfortunately I think most conspiracy theorists err on the side of nut!
Interest in conspiracy theories
True or not, these theories can be very interesting. The Internet has made readily accessible an abundance of information collected throughout the years. You can read up on everything from aliens and human cloning to government plans to stage false wars with patsies and cover ups. It's like a fiction book that fits with the reality we are experiencing... very exciting! And of course you are the hero that found out all of this and can now save the world! Conspiracy theories connect with our naive and imaginative inner child who is trying to understand this diverse world. They also connect with our own ego drives toward greed, corruption, and secrecy but projected into the external world. Finally they connect with our inner desire to help people and correct perceived imbalances in the world.
Rules for talking about conspiracy theories
Here are some rules for engagement...
Rule #1 – Pick your audience
People without an interest in conspiracy theories usually resist discussing them at all. You should keep this in mind before opening Pandora's box. It is a very emotionally taxing subject. To consider the idea that people are taking advantage of you is embarrassing and frustrating. It's so much easier to keep on believing what the majority believes. Don't waste your time talking with someone who just wants to argue with you.
Rule #2 – It's okay to be wrong
If you're actually interested in truth and not just promoting your own beliefs, you must be open to critical assessment of your facts. If you've found someone who's also interested, chances are they've done a bit of their own research—listen to them! Even if they haven't looked at the theory you're interested in, they can at least give you an outsider’s perspective. You shouldn't be offended when someone pokes holes in your theory. It just means you need to do more research.
Rule #3 – Remain positive
Some conspiracy theorists are the type who are only interested in doomsday theories and the End of Times. They don't see any hope and therefore feel helpless. You must remember that you are also a creator of our shared reality so you can choose a positive outcome in spite of a bleak appearance. No one wants to hear a pessimistic scenario because it's not the whole truth. The truth is that we have the choice to create the reality we want!