Why we need conspiracy theorists. Why was John F Kennedy shot? Does Area 51 house aliens? Is climate change real? Topics such as these have fascinated millions. I won’t be going in to whether the theories around these questions are true or not, but I will be going into the necessity of such theories. But what is a conspiracy theory?
According to the Oxford dictionary a conspiracy theory is the belief that a secret but powerful organisation is responsible for an event. Theorist also go into the supposed necessity of the event. Theorist and those believing the theories tend to be ostracised and made fun of. But if we look at prominent figures of the past, how many of them were not ostracised in their time. Think on, for example, Christopher Columbus and those who believed the earth was round in a time when the general consensus was that it is flat. Theorist and others like them look at the “What if”, and the “How come” for these are the questions that lead to change. Usually in the case of conspiracy theories these questions are more directed to topics that can be considered political in nature as they delve deeper into the power dynamics of the world as we perceive it.
We are all familiar with the saying “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This is where my basis of the societal need of conspiracy theorist originates from. The true power of a conspiracy theory lies not in whether it is true.
The power lies in the planting of ideas that things/situations might not be as they seem. Which increases critical thinking. The power lies in having those in positions of power having to ensure that there is a solid basis to the “truth” which they proclaim. Which increases evidence based research and reporting.
The power lies in having one, take a moment and think beyond that which is general consensus. And thinking beyond what is general consensus leads to change.
The power of a conspiracy theory is that it can (possibly) prevent absolute power. As true absolute power is achieved when there is no opposition and when there are no questions being asked.
We are actually all conspiracy theorists on certain levels. Think back to your youth. How often did you and your siblings/friends theorise on what the adults were hiding. Think on the theories/gossip that occur at work, relating to situations/decisions made at work.
In both cases a lack of information causes doubt and it can even be argued that a lack of information might have been needed. In both cases it could be that one simply did not yet have the capacity to understand what was going on.
It is easy to highlight the negative impact doubt has on relationships, work environment and society. But if doubt did not exist there would be no one asking the questions that perhaps needed to be posed in order create a greater understanding of the big picture.
Without doubt many of the reporting world’s greatest investigative stories would not have been written. Without doubt many innovations would have not occurred.
Whether it be truth or a figment of someone’s imagination, one thing is for sure conspiracy theories make great movies.