Conspiracies and Courage, Public Domain

David Collum, a Cornell chemistry professor who writes prolifically (and is interviewed in many places) on our collective crazy world wrote this recently, and it has been making the rounds:

I am a “conspiracy theorist”. I believe men and women of wealth and power conspire. If you don’t think so, then you are what is called “an idiot”. If you believe stuff but fear the label, you are what is called “a coward”.

This is something many people think is true; as Professor Collum brings up, 75% of Americans think the JFK assassination involved a cover-up of some type. The range of conspiracies is large, however, and filtering them is a tricky business.  The September 11 attacks (allowed to happen, or forced to happen, or a variety of in-between scenarios), various assassinations, how various 20th and 21st century wars started,  the origin of AIDS, UFO coverups, the “flat earth” theory, were the moon landings faked… you can go pretty deep down the rabbit hole.  To be clear,  every conspiracy theory is NOT true; after all, anyone can drum up a theory in the basement, and attempt to promulgate it far and wide.   Yet some conspiracy theories remain with us, and when a large portion of the population quietly questions the official narrative, you have to wonder.  Bringing this stuff up is difficult, and requires courage, especially when some conspiracy theories are false.  The September 11 attacks, the JFK assassination, and the moon landing “conspiracies” may have different levels of merit, and putting forth one may lump you in with believing the others.  Even topics with lots of data is difficult –  bring up the topic of an afterlife or UFOs at any gathering, and someone is likely to raise an eyebrow.

  • What conspiracy theories have the most traction?
  • If 75% of the population thinks the JFK assassination was a conspiracy, why isn’t there more questioning, outrage, or pushback?
  • Are the answers or truths to some conspiracy theories so outrageous that not believing them is the best route?  Could the population handle the truth?  Is this the rationale, then, for keep the conspiracies hidden?
  • What makes people take the leap, to either chase conspiracies, or to make the leap in bringing them up in “polite conversation?”


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