Well now we have Sandy Hook Truthers, who believe some or all of the shooting was staged, many people involved were actors, and it’s all part of some elaborate scheme to create mild gun safety laws. Some people have decided to go and harass one of the people who helped the kids out, a 69-year old man.
When I look at the Conspiracy Theorists, the hardcore sealed-in-their-heads types, and certainly in this case we’ve got an already noteable group, something comes to mind: they resemble a cult.
There’s the System that explains everything. There’s the feeling special as you ‘get it.’ There’s convenient enemies to hate (like a 69-year old pet sitter). You even get to feel persecuted as everyone is calling you out, often for being kind of a jerk.
Also, if you’re ethically challenged, you can play Cult Leader and make a mint off this stuff. Just trapse through a book store and look at some of the “political” books.
A conspiracy theory is a cult that’s often decentralized, with a few Cult Leader types taking advantage of a larger miasma of fevered thought.
It’s also like a cult in that it attracts the disconnected – and disconnects people. It’s easy for people looking for meaning to find it in conspiracy theories. It’s also easy for those enmeshed in the world of paranoia and fear to become disconnected from others (those political arguments you had over the holidays? Take those, and turn them to 11). Conspiracy theories build on and build distance.
This is why building and keeping the foundation of civilization and culture is important – and requires a place for people. The connections, the reliable systems, the meaning, the support structures are important to both our survival as a civilization, but also as they keep people from getting disconnected, and thus being prey to cults and cultic thought. Much as a cult disconnects people from their connections, cultic though like conspiracy theories (sort of do-it-yourself cuts) can be used to unmoor oneself.
Next time you observe conspiracy theories gone gonzo, think of it as a decentralized cult. It’ll make things clearer.
Also, remember the value of civilization, culture, and social connection. It’s easier to appreciate when you see what happens when that falls apart.
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.fantopro.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at https://www.stevensavage.com/.