Classic conspiracy theories about the death of Elvis, the moon landing and even the JFK assassination seem almost quaint compared to some of the plot scenarios circulated in the American public these days, complements of social media.
An invitation to comment on the trend didn’t generate much response on The Herald Journal’s Facebook page last week, but the remarks by Cache Valley community members did represent several points of view, from buy-in to skepticism to outright ridicule of some conspiracy theories and their adherents.
“I dunno man. As soon as I registered as a Democrat earlier this year, Hilary Clinton and George Clooney sent me a kit to suck the blood from children and a $50,000 gift card to Wayfair. These QAnon folks have got it figured out,” wrote Andy Morgan in a post followed by a laughing-crying face emoji.
Morgan was mocking the conspiracy theory circulated in some circles such as QAnon that certain Democrats are involved in child trafficking and even the killing and eating of children.
“The only thing we can do is fight with the facts,” wrote Javier Romero, referring to such unproven accusations. He offered a quote sometimes attributed to Mark Twain that “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they are being fooled.”
Justink Ohler took the other side and pulled out a quotation of his own from author William Blum. “No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine,” Ohler quoted Blum as saying in “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.”
Several commenters referred directly to so-far-unproven conspiracy theories put forward by President Donald Trump and his supporters related to the Nov. 3 election.
“My problem is republicans [sic] complete disregard for facts or anything else they don’t like. They will believe ANYTHING that fits their personal beliefs they are sooooo easily manipulated! Trump is living proof,” wrote Steve Ware.
“This election is a conspiracy theory,” countered Dusty Peck.
Tyler Coleman said he thinks partisans on both sides of the political divide are guilty of weaving plot scenarios without facts to back them up.
“The problem, well one of them, is people who lump everyone into a group and then make broad statements about everyone in the group. Attacking anyone who does not conform to their beliefs. Making assumptions and calling them facts. It happens in all sides,” Coleman wrote. “America is suppose to be a place where we can have different views and still respect each other as members of a free country.”
Instead of a comment, Annie Atkin Rasmussen offered a link to an article about a recent study by Oxford University researcher David Robert Grimes that suggests large-scale conspiracies would be much harder to carry out and conceal than conspiracy theorists and believers generally think. The reason, Grimes postulates through a statistical analysis, is that large groups of people involved in a plot would tend to give themselves away because not everyone can keep a secret.
Using an equation he developed on people’s ability to keep secrets, Grimes calculated that someone would have spilled the beans on a hoax moon landing in less than four years, a vaccination conspiracy in three years and a suppressed cancer cure in a little over three years.
“If you’re thinking of creating a massive conspiracy, you may be better scaling back your plans,” the article suggests.