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Are conspiracy theorists really the sane ones?
Posted By Gina Loudon On 10/05/2013 @ 5:48 pm In Front Page,Politics,U.S. | No Comments
It really was the CIA, John Edwards and Richard Nixon who were involved!
It turns out the conspiracy theorists are right sometimes and maybe more often than thought.
For example, in the recent Navy Yard shooting attack by Aaron Alexis that killed 12 and injured eight, theories have been abundant, especially after Alexis reportedly heard voices.
Alexis apparently believed he was being harassed through microwave mind control, an assertion that in the mind of most would render him crazy.
But Wired.com pointed to a 2008 story on a declassified Pentagon report disclosing research on using microwave voice projection technology as weaponry.
The researchers at the Pentagon were reportedly looking for nonlethal weapons.
They concluded: “Application of the microwave hearing technology could facilitate a private message transmission. It may be useful to provide a disruptive condition to a person not aware of the technology. Not only might it be disruptive to the sense of hearing, it could be psychologically devastating if one suddenly heard ‘voices within one’s head.’”
Was it likely that Alexis was a target? No. Impossible? Also, apparently, no.
Skeptics have developed conspiracy theories regarding the Sandy Hook attack, space shuttle Columbia, 9/11 and many other major news events.
There even have been studies on the theorists and their theories.
Empirical data, without a doubt, affirms that the theorists are right, sometimes.
The Daily Caller reported two years ago that Watergate theorists were correct to suspect Richard Nixon. And yes, John Edwards was running around with Rielle Hunter. And it was the CIA working on an undersea project in the 1970s near Hawaii, not Howard Hughes, who only provided cover.
According to studies, those who subscribe to conspiracy theories are less “married” to their theories than those who accept conventional wisdom.
One study showed that people who believe strongly in something are greatly offended when proven wrong, causing emotional stress that and in some cases can threaten self-image.
Pacific Standard magazine reported on such a study. It said that “because political beliefs are connected to deeply held values, information about politics can be very threatening to your self-image.”
“Imagine coming across information that contradicts everything you’ve ever believed about the efficacy of Medicare,” the magazine report said. “If you’re wrong about such an important policy, what else might you be wrong about? And if you’re wrong about a bunch of things, you’re obviously not as smart or as good or as worthwhile a person as you previously believed. These are painful thoughts, and so we evaluate information in ways that will help us to avoid them.”
Scientific American reported that those who are insecure about their own intellect are less likely to be able to accept information that doesn’t fit neatly into their worldview. The report made the case that people might actually prefer to hear intellectually light arguments for the simple reason that they can intellectualize and articulate them better than the one giving the weak argument, and this makes them feel smarter.
Psychological experts call this cognitive dissonance. Leon Festinger first proposed the concept in 1957. He said that there is a powerful motive to be consistent in one’s thoughts. This motive, he said, can be so compelling as to be disregarding of pertinent, even thought-altering information.
Festinger theorized people experience great anxiety when new information clashes with what they believe. Calling the tension cognitive dissonance, he elaborated on a deep, almost base instinct or motivation to eliminate the dissonance and make new information fit into one’s cognitive schema.
Might this mean that the conspiracy theorists, held in such disdain by polite society, have an intellectual self-confidence and mental stability to deal with the possibility of being wrong?
Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor and scientist at Florida State University, says quite possibly so.
In his book “Conspiracy Theory in America,” he says that history proves that the campaign to label those who hypothesize about large scale national events “conspiracy theorists” is a conspiracy itself.
He investigated how America’s founders warned in the Declaration of Independence of the possibility that the political elite will use their power to defame those who criticize their motives.
DeHaven-Smith said that the term “conspiracy theorist” was invented and made popular intentionally by the CIA in an effort to discredit those who asked questions surrounding the assassination of JFK.
Since the CIA is banned from domestic activities, if true, it is illegal, contends Kevin Barrett of Press TV.
He said “people who use the terms ‘conspiracy theory’ and ‘conspiracy theorist’ as an insult are doing so as the result of a well-documented, undisputed, historically real conspiracy by the CIA to cover up the JFK assassination.”
“That campaign, by the way, was completely illegal,” he continued, “and the CIA officers involved were criminals; the CIA is barred from all domestic activities, yet routinely breaks the law to conduct domestic operations ranging from propaganda to assassinations.”
Research seems to be trending in support of some of these claims. An abstract of a recent study published by researchers at the University of Kent in the U.K. looked at trends in social media.
The study collected comments and organized them into “conspiracist” and “conventionalist” categories. They assert that “conspiracy theorists” might be more well-grounded, even more sane, than those who accept conventional wisdom on contested events.
Conventional commenters in social media seemed more reactive and became more hostile and fanatically attached to their conventional beliefs.
Additionally, they were less tolerant of dissenting ideas, illustrating an inability to discuss ideas and remain civil. Further, their research indicated that those who believe in the possibility of a conspiracy are quick to admit that they are not completely sure and don’t have all the answers regarding what is, after all, a theory.
Barrett concluded the U.K. findings like this: “In short, the new study by Wood and Douglas suggests that the negative stereotype of the conspiracy theorist – a hostile fanatic wedded to the truth of his own fringe theory – accurately describes the people who defend the official account of 9/11, not those who dispute it.”
Additionally, the study found that so-called conspiracists discuss historical context (such as viewing the JFK assassination as a precedent for 9/11) more than anti-conspiracists. It also found that the so-called conspiracists do not like to be called “conspiracists” or “conspiracy theorists.”
Two recent studies published in American Behavioral Scientist seem to support evidence that the brains of “conspiricists” work differently than the brains of conventional thinkers.
Psychologist Laurie Manwell of the University of Guelph said that conventional thinkers are unable to process information that conflicts with their pre-existing belief and then integrate it into their hypotheses of possible outcomes.
University of Buffalo professor Steven Hoffman agrees.
He says conventional thinkers and those who reject possibilities labeled as conspiracy are simply prey to “confirmation bias,” similar to Festinger’s cognitive dissonance. They actively seek out only information that confirms their prior conventional beliefs.
The label of “conspiracy theorist,” according to Hoffman, aids in an irrational mechanism of labeling to avoid having to integrate contrary information that might cause mental or emotional tension for the weaker mind. That would explain the anger and hostility at those who present other theories that don’t integrate well.
Psychology professors aren’t alone in their theory about theories.
Communication professors at Boise State University presented a peer-reviewed piece called “Dangerous Machinery: ‘Conspiracy Theorist’ as a Transpersonal Strategy of Exclusion.”
They said that simply by calling someone a conspiracy theorist, it doesn’t matter whether you have “actually claimed … a conspiracy exists, or whether you have simply raised an issue” that someone would rather not discuss at all. By labeling people with ideas different from convention, they “strategically exclude” dissent and new ideas from public consumption.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Dathan Paterno finds irony in such conspiracy research.
“Ultimately, these data raise more questions and only serve to breed cynicism – the primary ingredient of conspiracy theory. In the end, it seems that the conspiracy of conspiracy theories is really a conspiracy against the conspirators … or perhaps a conspiracy by those who would conspire against conspirators.”
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