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Follow the money: who benefits from Conspiracy Theories?
Americans, Italians and the Middle East love conspiracy theories and Conspiracy Theory is an interesting phenomenon in its own right. There are some simple tests for evaluating individual conspiracy theories but I have not seen any evaluation of the phenomenon itself. One way to look at it is who benefits and how.
A powerful test of a conspiracy theory is “who benefits” remembering that the benefit may not be money. Suspects include
Those who make a living promoting conspiracy theories
Banks and big corporations
The shadowy groups alleged to be behind the puppet governments of the world
A few people make money from promoting conspiracy theories. Most, perhaps all, do it out of conviction not for money. As large scale contributors to the phenomenon those making money seem to be minor players.
The Evil Overlord Handbook has the overlord saying “ Every few years I will pay some mentally retarded youth to stand up in a market place and say they are the true heir to the kingdom. Then when the real one turns up no one will believe him”. In one of her novels Mercedes Lackey describes the ruler of a city as permitting and welcoming the existence of groups dedicated to overthrowing him, and ruminating that if there were no such groups he would have to set one up in order to identify the malcontents in his city. The state therefore benefits from Conspiracy Theories since real conspiracies by government or their cronies can be denied more easily. Just as the best place to hide a book is a library a real conspiracy could be exposed and ignored: thus the state could leak evidence of its won conspiracies and have it ignored or disbelieved.
Big Business and Finance
Like the state the banks and big corporations can hide their real underhand actions in a bodyguard of nonsensical conspiracy theories. John Perkins in “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” describes a conspiratorial effort to bring the third world under US domination, and his book seems plausible ( though I am still evaluating it) so like the state the Finance Industry and the big Multinationals benefit from promoting such theories. In fact I am surprised the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has not been attributed to a conspiracy to keep oil prices up.
The Illuminati and their grey reptilian masters
The Shadowy groups alleged to be the rules of the world, including the grey shapeshifting reptilian aliens (who have presumably infiltrated the Illuminati via the Rosicrucians and Masons) benefit from such a smokescreen and can use this to find the people who endanger their plan. It is very easy at this point to start falling into a Conspiracy Theory mindset so I will not pursue this line as I am fairly sure there are no such groups. But if there were.......
Organised religion is another beneficiary. It seems to me the majority of Conspiracy Theorists are also dedicated religionists, for example only in the Middle East do many people think the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” to be genuine, and many of the American Religious right believe there is a satanic conspiracy to teach evolution, and last but not least there is the nonsense of the 1987 Satanic Ritual Abuse Panic, resurrecting slurs against Jews and recasting them as fantasies about Satanists. These theories serve to bond congregations and increase the power of religious leaders. Of course if there were any REAL Satanists they would be clever enough to realise the best cover would be a fanatical Christian sect.
And of course all these groups benefit because Conspiracy Theories tend to act as social safety valves. Real conspiracies like Watergate and Iran Contra are not seized on by the public and used to leverage change but quietly forgotten as too complex – although they are less complex than many conspiracy theories. And all the powers that be need to do is declare another “war” on something and the sheep step back into line.
It is amusing however that asking who benefits from Conspiracy theories has generated another such theory. I do not expect to benefit from it.