Conspiracy Theorists Aren't Created In a Vacuum, Our Institutions Are to Blame for Their Rise

Gillian Wong

If something exists, there’s probably a conspiracy theory attached to it, and while they’ve always been around, the age of the internet broke some sort of dam and hit the populace with so force that people make a lot of money and notoriety out of spreading them around.

The rise of “Q” is one such example. The idea of “Q” isn’t so much a person as many believe, but an entire community of people telling each other stories, some of them more believable than others, with some of them so out of this world and bizarre that you wonder how anyone could believe them.

Conspiracy theories range from being harmless and interesting explanations for events that happen such as theories on who “Adam” is in Blink 182’s “Adam’s Song,” (I’m pretty sure it’s Kurt Cobain) all the way to enraging explanations that cause people to try to take action against others such as “PizzaGate.”

The popularity of conspiracies has found new heights with communities not just existing on message boards, but entire rabbit holes you can down on TikTok and YouTube. One conspiracy theory became so famous that it became a meme, and before you knew it “Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself” meme was appearing on airport terminal screens.

When the Coronavirus hit, the conspiracy theory community went into overdrive and found more eyes and ears than ever before. The actions taken during the pandemic with global lockdowns, odd decision making, and leaders who didn’t seem to want to obey the measures they put on the people were fertile ground for people to tell you exactly what the virus was and why politicians needed you to be scared of it.

It’s only gotten worse now that links have been found tying our own NIH, which Dr. Anthony Fauci heads, to the Wuhan Lab where the virus is thought to possibly have originated from, via funding for virus development.

(READ: The Five Questions Everyone Needs to Be Asking Dr. Fauci About Gain-of-Function Research)

I won’t go into these conspiracy theories as there are too many to count, but talking about the conspiracies, in particular, wasn’t my aim. Rather, I want to point out that many people who take interest in or participate in spreading conspiracy theories aren’t the crazy loons they’re painted as. Sure, many are tinfoil hat-wearing paranoia addicts, but many are just regular people.

The reason these regular people are sucked in isn’t that they’re idiots, it’s just that many of them, being human, have a strong desire for answers about what’s going on around them and to them, and in the absence of information, they fill in the blanks how they can. Some people do it via palm readers and psychics, some do it through investigative journalism, and some do it through conspiracy theories.

Writing in Psychology Today, NeuroLeadership Institute CEO David Rock explains that uncertainty in humans generates the feeling of a present threat in our brains, limiting our functionality in the process:

A sense of uncertainty about the future generates a strong threat or ‘alert’ response in your limbic system. Your brain detects something is wrong, and your ability to focus on other issues diminishes. Your brain doesn’t like uncertainty – it’s like a type of pain, something to be avoided. Certainty on the other hand feels rewarding, and we tend to steer toward it, even when it might be better for us to remain uncertain.

With this “type of pain” happening in our brains, we instinctively move to lessen or eliminate it, and we search for certainty where we can find it. In the age of the internet, conspiracy theories are some of the lowest hanging fruit, and thus you get a swath of people gravitating toward these explanations that link one occurrence to another, making a plausible explanation out of very little evidence.

Broken down, it’s just the search for information for answers on why something is happening to them.

The issue is that the institutions that should provide this information aren’t providing it. Going back to COVID-19 as a subject, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky wanted to know why we needed to wear two masks even after we’ve been vaccinated. It was a question Fauci didn’t really answer. Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio posed a question to Fauci as to when we can get our freedoms back and what numbers we needed to see in order for this pandemic to be considered over. Fauci didn’t give an answer to that either.

Now Fauci seems to be avoiding questions about the NIH funding of a Chinese viral research lab in Wuhan. You might as well ask people to create conspiracy theories at this rate.

If the people in charge, the elitists, and media figures are going to look down on conspiracy theorists and ridicule their explanations, then they would do well to understand that these theories are just popping up out of nowhere. They’re a completely human response to a problem they themselves are creating.

And the less transparent they become, and the more draconian and power-hungry their moves get, the more these theories are going to pop up. At some point, these theories won’t be enough to suffice and the questions will pile up too high. Before long, this will result in action and if not on the legal level, then on a dangerous one.