Social media allows people to create and exchange information. But it is also the most fertile ground for conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy (plot, intrigue) refers to surreptitious or covert schemes to accomplish some end, most often an illegal or evil one. A conspiracy describes a treacherous or illicit plan formulated in secret by a group of persons.
Conspiracy theory is a belief that explains an event or situation as the result of a secret plan by usually powerful people or groups.
The OSI Team has gathered 11 observations that help the public identify conspiracy theories and understand the differences between them and journalistic investigations.
- The threats represented by conspiracy theories are one of the main reasons behind the existence of secret services.
- The conspiracy theory is used to justify political persecution (Stalin blames the bourgeois conspiracy, Hitler blames the Jewish conspiracy).
- The conspiracy theory is used to justify governments’ lack of economic performance.
- There is a difference between a lie and a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theory adherents have stated that the Iraqi weapon of mass destruction thesis was a scheme staged by the American government to justify its military intervention. In fact, this has been a contradicted lie even by American experts from the very moment of its launch.
- Conspiracy theories cannot rationally be combated as the arguments they are built upon may refer to real event, are abusively interpreted. To abusively interpret something implies to refuse the most simple and rational explanation, preferring a convoluted structure designed to support a particular thesis. For example, for 11 September, the rational explanation is that Al Quaida has planned and carried out the attacks. This explanation is supported by both the American government and by Al Quaida. Conspiracy theorists over-interpret, arguing that the US government orchestrated the collapse of the towers to justify actions against Afghanistan and Iraq.
- The strongest evidence to support the conspiracy theories is represented precisely by the lack of evidence (The lack of evidence reinforces conspiracy theories all together). Material evidence does not exist as it is hidden by conspirators, but the very fact that it cannot be shown proves that someone is conspiring to keep them hidden.
- If a conspiracy theory goes global, as the one which lead to the global economic crises, it then can be connected to anything. For instance, the conspiracy theory which connects the particle accelerator from Geneva (The Large Hadron Collider) with the global economic crises. According to this theory, the failure of the particle accelerator experiment resulted in the creation of a black hole which will soon lead to the end of the world. To turn people’s attention away, the greatest minds have created the global economic crises.
- There is smoke without fire. One of the prerequisites of conspiracy theories consists of the worldwide known saying “„thereis no smoke without fire”. The saying can justify for any unsupported statement, specificcaly slanders. For example, Barack Obama responded to the claims that he was not born in the United Staes by showing his Hawaian birth certificat. However, based on the there is no smoke without fire” saying, Conspiracy theory adherents have then stated:
- The birth certificate is a fake
- It may be that Obama was born in the United Stated, but he surely has double citizenship
- Maybe he doesn’t have double citizenship but he is certainly a Muslim;
- Maybe he is not a Muslim anymore, but he must have been at some point.
- The authority argument is a pseudo-argument. A strong argument of conspiracy theory supporters is the authority argument: “We know better” (we lived in America, we had an Arab neighbor).
- A premise of global conspiracy adherents is the total control conspirators have over society. But such a control excludes the opponents of a conspiracy theory to publically display their “finding” (unless they are themselves a part of that conspiracy). Moreover, the motivation becomes unclear: they have all the power? Why do they need anything extra?
- Conspiracy theories generally emerge in times of crises when scapegoats need to be found.
Some examples of conspiracy theories:
- Hitler, Elvis, Bruce Lee etc. are not dead – they are living on an island.
- September 11 was planned and carried out by the Americans.
- Mankind has never landed on the Moon – the landing was staged by the American government.
- The Jesuits have sunk the Titanic
- AIDS is a disease created by Jewish doctors
- Princess Diana was murdered by MI5
- Armenian Genocide was a fraud
- A white racist patriarchy controls the world in order to oppress the African race
- Bill Clinton was quietly assassinating his associates
- Medical community could cure cancer
- Charlie Hebdo killings were the work of US