On “crazy” conspiracy theories


I wrote an op ed, published today on LATimes.com, on the topic of dismissing conspiracy theories (and theorists) as “crazy.” Pithy insults like crazy, delusional, irrational, wacky have become a common refrain, at least among click-baiting headline-writers and over-zealous pundits. But, as I explain in my article, these pseudo-psychological labels are misguided.

Here’s an excerpt:

Some pundits took the start of the new year as an excuse to aggregate, and denigrate, recent conspiracy theories. Alternet published “The 5 Craziest Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories of 2015” (subtitle: “The indefatigable right-wing loony factory pumped out some doozies this year.”). Bustle collected “The Most Bizarre Conspiracy Theories of 2015” and National Memo offered “This Year in Crazy: 2015 Belonged to the Wingnuts.” The Guardian’s film critic, Peter Bradshaw, wished for fewer “smug” conspiracy theories in 2016. “Nowadays,” he lamented, “there is always a malign pseudo-sophisticate dunce who can be relied upon to appear out of the online thicket, darkly insisting on a ‘provocateur’ conspiracy behind everything.”

When major news breaks, it doesn’t take long for people to come up with conspiracy theories, and it doesn’t take much longer for other people to call the conspiracy theorists wacky, delusional and other unkind adjectives. Confirmation bias kicks in; both sides double down on the inflammatory rhetoric.

Who’s “smugger,” really — to borrow Bradshaw’s word — the theorists or the anti-theorists? The antis should not be so quick to assert their superiority.

Click here to read the article on LATimes.com.

About Rob Brotherton

Rob is a Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, and assistant editor of The Skeptic [www.skeptic.org.uk]. Follow Rob on Twitter: @rob_brotherton
This entry was posted in Biases & heuristics, Pop culture, Proportionality bias, Suspicious Minds and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to On “crazy” conspiracy theories

  1. That#
    That’s really helpful, and well put, it was worth reading the whole article, and i’ve been contributing to undoing a web of deciept built on conspiracy theories of almost every kind, but at the centre, are two children, and then innocent victims of the worst kind of accusations possible, so many people have been labelled disgustingly, by those promoting them, more recently, child abuse campaigners of the right kind, even i have been labelled as leader of their made up cult. Because of the dirty tactics and levels this has reached, there have been understandably and righteous anger, that at time, to me anyway, sometimes seems spiteful, but mostly the humour has helped to keep us sane, and i’ve had many belly laughs. But because of the back and forth, at times, which as you point out, goes on, on any subject, and i know the histories of many things, that mean i understand that real ones, indeed exist/ed. But it’s the ingredient of child abuse, worse still, Satanic, illuminati, freemason, mkultra, traumabasedmindcontrol, and aliens are leading some of them to place chystals round courts, and arrest judges….not…to howls of laughter, but the reach of the web, in this case is wide, one of the main instigators has a matrix of blogs, and all link to other circles, and just today, the two original cast members abella, did a pretty good copy of a herbalife promo vid, whilst hooking people with the made up story, plot, and ending with an ad for their multi level marketing cancer curing cannaoil, and hempseed business, as well as beauty, yoga, n all thrown in, psychics, but, they are not very good at what they do, other wise it would be maybe ok, and the abuse caused, harm to so many, really denies them the right to continue, and i am hoping by shedding light on it all, from my perspective, that it will help, some very decent bloggers, to cut them out of their lists. and if they do, and are on my incomplete blacklist, please let me know, so i can remove you, i am surprised at some, but these people have been clever and manipulative, and seriously nasty. Fortunately, i was able to shine a big light on them doing it, the other day. So a conspiracy theory, that became too real. Thankyou this has really helped, and i’ll add a link to my blog, as i’m trying to bring as much clarity to the confusion, chaos caused, as possible. It’s such an emotive issue, too, and people really care, emotional blackmail has gone on, as well as every dirty trick, sometimes it can be a laugh when trolls play, but not in this instance.

  2. Pingback: On “crazy” conspiracy theories | Sheva's Cross of Change Blog

  3. Sour Dove says:

    Given your expertise, it would be interesting to read your findings on the origin and evolution of the phrase. I’ve read that it first appeared in a mystery novel around the turn of the last century, but I’ve also read that it never entered common usage until the famous CIA memo warning US journalists and editors to avoid allegations of conspiracy in regard to JFK’s death, because in that particular case, theories about more than one perp eroded the government’s credibility:

    Click to access cia-1035-960.pdf

    Have you found an original copy of that PDF? Isn’t it interesting that the CIA, whose job involves executing secret plans, didn’t ridicule the idea that people conspire? Instead, they said that in this specific case, evidence of multiple actors would damage the Warren Commission’s credibility.

    It is true that if a conspiracy gets too big, someone will talk. That’s exactly why the US got so many warnings about 9/11:

  4. hybridrogue1 says:

    Mr Brotherton,

    I appreciate this logical and well expressed article. I just read the whole thing at your link.

    You are not as crazy as I once to you for! (grin)

    Willy Whitten – \\][//

  5. Delurking says:

    I read this and wondered if you’d be interested. It’s a blogpost in which a conspiracy theorist laments the loss of connection with his family and society in general that his conspiratorial thinking has brought about. http://uk.blastingnews.com/opinion/2016/02/i-hate-being-a-conspiracy-theorist-00766759.html

    • hybridrogue1 says:

      Matt Taylor isn’t a “conspiracy theorist”, he is a juvenile whiny punk that has never grown beyond pubescence. But his rant is pretty dang funny!

  6. Hi there to all, it’s in fact a nice for me to visit this site, it contains precious Information.

  7. CTSatLCC says:

    Reblogged this on Design for Art Direction & CTS at LCC and commented:
    Pithy insults like crazy, delusional, irrational, wacky have become a common refrain, at least among click-baiting headline-writers and over-zealous pundits. But, as I explain in my article, these pseudo-psychological labels are misguided.

  8. slemexx says:

    Intentionality Bias is interesting: the idea that conspiracy theorists revert to the childish notion of evidently random acts having intention.
    I would like to propose Avoidance Bias.
    This is when evidence and data forces an adult to confront ideas that may challenge their world view and they revert to sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting “la la la la”

  9. I agree with you here, some are just head on crazy.

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