When we forget our own conspiracy theories

This weekend, I came across Maggie Koerth's article in FiveThirtyEight on conspiracy theories. The article offers a close examination of when and why individuals turn to conspiracy theories--frequently in times, it would seem, when they feel a lack of power and agency in their lives and/or when their preferred political party is out of office. This information was not especially surprising to me. Intuitively, it makes sense that if you felt your life was outside of your control and your decisions had little to no impact, you may then extrapolate that idea to think that no one truly has control or agency over their life because there is someone or something larger pulling the strings.

What I did find to be very fascinating in Maggie Koerth's article was an observation surrounding politically-motivated conspiracy theories. Individuals may find a conspiracy theory more appealing when the opposition to their political party of choice is in power. However, once things have reversed and their preferred political party is in power again, they quickly drop the conspiracy and move on. It would appear, then, that the core purpose of conspiracies is to offer individuals a way to provide dissent, to question those in power, and ultimately feel as though they are gaining back some semblance of control in their lives.

Conspiracies have the power to be truly detrimental and harmful to society, and I hope that we continue to fight against them, while still allowing individuals space to question authority. But perhaps there is something that can be learned from conspiracies--who is feeling alienated from society and why.