Saturday, 9 April 2011


Why do conspiracy theories have mass appeal regardless of cultural differences, and is this unique of our epoch or has it always been the case since ancient times? A conspiracy theory about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, for example, has as much appeal in Catholic Argentina as it does in orthodox Russia, or Hindu/Buddhist India. A conspiratorial work of fiction about a secret society would have as much appeal among Japanese readers as among Spaniards. The same holds true for a conspiratorial non-fiction work about the International Monetary Fund or the CIA.

Naomi Klein's book is an example of populist hollowness that appeals to the masses. Those who have studied the role of the IMF using archival materials from any ideological perspective realize that this extraordinarily thin account is designed to appeal to the reader's emotions and sense of cynicism about powerful institutions. It has as much relevance to reality as Martians building the pyramids. However, it sells and at the same time indoctrinates without providing any redeeming value to the reader interested in understanding the IMF's mechanisms today and historically. Nevertheless, this book that is more fiction than non-fiction appeals to people not just in the US but around the world as much as Harry Potter, and has about as much value only in terms of entertainment.

Are people attracted to conspiracy theories because of the dominant irrational in the mind that craves to be fed; is it because we live in the age of cynicism when institutions from religious and education to political and business thrive by deceiving or at the very least manipulating the public; is it because there is a sense of loss of personal control of the environment and the individual yields to conspiracy to explain the deeper complexities of simple reality; is it that humans have a fundamental mistrust of each other and of themselves and would rather believe the worst; does belief in conspiracy theories makes us feel more intelligent and affords us the illusion that we have control of the situation; or it is because we love heroes and villains and conspiracies feed on such protagonists? No matter how we deconstruct the mass appeal of conspiracy theories, they do fill an emotional gap and entertain the mind like no empirical evidence can.

Many people are favorably inclined to conspiracy because they are conditioned to be cynical by life itself that beats them on the head on a daily basis. Conspiracy theories are not the exclusive domain of any political ideology or political organization or regime. Besides infamous dictators like Hitler and Stalin that have manipulated public opinion by advancing conspiracy theories, leaders of democracies like George W. Bush have done the same to advance policies linked with domestic security and foreign affairs.

How can people not be conspiratorial in their thinking when their politicians, priests, and social leaders either lie or hide the truth and are guilty of hypocrisy. Priests ask their flock to be virtuous, while they are hardly up to the task; politicians demand honesty in citizens, while their acts are hardly exemplary; community leaders using their positions for private gain at the expense of the community. The amazing thing is not that there are so many cynical people, but why isn't everyone in this world that we live in?

The more corrupt and perfidious secular and religious leaders, the greater mass appeal conspiracy theories will have. Everyone must have seen an adult parent instructing the child not to smoke while the parent is holding a cigarette in hand; or not to do drugs while popping sleeping and tranquilizer pills. However, conspiracy theory belief goes beyond such hypocrisy to the core of a sense of fatalism about life itself and the belief that free will has severe limitations. People are so overwhelmed by institutions that determine their lives that they feel powerless. This sense of powerlessness helps to weaken the masses and strengthens the elites. Therefore, conspiracy theories about the elites inadvertently help elite interests as they make the masses feel paralyzed in their fatalism.

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