As we near the end of 2017, our world continues to gain new amazing advances in all aspects of life. Sliced bread, twitter, and virtual reality are just a few of the countless great discoveries we have made. Mankind has split the atom. We can now clone living beings. Yet, there are still some of us who think the earth is flat.
For a while now, the rapper B.O.B. has made claims and (weak) arguments that the earth is not spherical. He says that we are all being lied to by the government. He recently started a GoFundMe in hopes to prove his theory (and expose all the deception we have been fed) by launching satellites into orbit to prove the earth is indeed flat. As expected, there were a few reactions.
There have been many before B.O.B. and there will no doubt be more after him. Just as some believe 9/11 was rigged because they claim that buildings don’t actually collapse like the World Trade Center did, others say the moon landing was a fake because of any number of arguments. The purpose of conspiracy theories is twofold: to give an alternate explanation of today’s world, and to provide comic relief.
Rational thinking people tend to scoff at those who swear by conspiracy theories. They’re seen as people who are impossible to reason with. Theorists are considered not in check with reality, in a sense that is actually truer than some might expect.
In the past, both political parties agreed on specific topics, including viewing science as a reliable source. As we move into a post-truth world, even science has become relative and has taken its place below politics. We now have “conservative scientists” and the “liberal take” on new discoveries. For instance, some people don’t believe NASA because they support a certain political view. Science has been fractured. This not only causes it to be seen as biased and unreliable, but also segregates the people who follow it.
The term echo chamber is often linked to what eventually happens to people’s social media feeds. Algorithms calculate an individual’s likes and dislikes. From this they decide what that person will most likely be interested in seeing. Except, that is all they are shown. People’s own interests are echoed back to them and voices just like their own is all they end up hearing. As time goes by, they become more and more sure of what they believe because it is all they have listened to. Ideas become more extreme and less reasonable because the reality they are being shown has become curated and polarized to fit their own opinions.
As conspiracy theorists build further onto their customized reality, they become psychologically gratified. The opinions they are surrounded by become the Truth and everyone who is a part of it is enlightened, while everyone who opposes it is seen as confused and not able to understand. Just as their reality is shifted in our eyes, so is our reality shifted in their eyes. Why then do we find their bold claims so ridiculous?
As conspiracy theories become more and more prevalent, the reasons behind them are not as surprising as they might appear. The psychological roots of these theories are understandable, but that does not mean that they should be excused or accepted.