Do you know a conspiracy theory
What characterizes conspiracy theories?
Whether the secret service, an ethnic group or even aliens: There are many groups that conspiracy ideologues accuse of the most evil machinations. If ideologies are then formulated in an exciting and easily understandable way and if they hit the nerve of the times, they sell - in the spirit of their authors - brilliantly.
At the beginning of every conspiracy ideology there is a distrust of a social group. This mistrust grows into a conspiracy belief, which assumes that the group conspired against another group in order to harm it.
It is simply divided into black and white, good and bad. The element of planning is also important - nothing happens by chance with conspiracy ideologies. Nothing is as it seems. And of course all events are linked.
Depending on the type of conspiracy narrative, a group from below is about to destroy order and take power. The most common motif used in a conspiracy tale is world domination. Regardless of whether it is Jews, extraterrestrials or Freemasons, against whom the mistrust is directed: They are assumed to rule the world and want to harm all other people.
The other type, according to expert Michael Butter, is the conspiracy from above - everything has already happened here; Unspecified powers rule over people. There is the fear of outside conspiracies and those that relate to specific events - the deaths of certain people, attacks and more.
In the world of conspiracy myths
One group that is trusted to do almost anything is the secret services, such as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the Israeli Mossad or the former Soviet secret service KGB. They work in secret, their work is opaque. Nobody knows exactly what they are doing. This is the breeding ground for all kinds of conspiracies.
Disasters that happen anywhere are reinterpreted and associated with conspiracy myths. The best example are the conspiracy narratives of September 11, 2001. The CIA or even the Mossad is accused of being behind the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Take the corona pandemic, for example: the virus was either artificially produced or distributed on purpose; the governments have conspired against their peoples in order to be able to better control them with the restrictions. Bill Gates, who is said to have brought the virus into circulation in order to chip everyone with the help of a vaccination and achieve world domination, is also up for selection as the villain.
And anyway, all high-ranking politicians have already been replaced by extraterrestrial lizardmen who control us; Angela Merkel is Hitler's daughter and the Federal Republic of Germany is a GmbH. That sounds like wild ideologies, but many people believe in them.
Conspiracy ideologies operate according to general rules
The starting point of every conspiracy ideology is a secret society to which one subordinates evil machinations and terrible projects. That forms the thesis that stands above the conspiracy narrative. Everything that supports the thesis is put together by the authors of the story. They simply ignore what contradicts the thesis.
The numbers or facts they use are easy to verify. Only the conclusions drawn from all the numbers and data are wrong. Often times, the conspiracy inventors reinterpret true events to fit the theory.
It is effective to question and attack science. Because the theory only needs the coating of authenticity. Conspiracy ideologues also achieve great effects by demonizing their opponents.
The bottom line is that a conspiracy ideology is a mixture of a few verifiable facts and many fabricated claims and stories from which new contexts of meaning are constantly being constructed.
Who is behind the conspiracy ideologies?
Many conspiracy ideologies are invented by people who really believe in them. At the beginning there is a suspicion and the important question: Who is it good for? Connections are made, suspicions are formulated. The group that is suspected is only vaguely described - "the powerful", "the politicians", "the enemy". There is still scope for imagination.
Often conspiracy myths are circulated anonymously - the internet is very helpful here. It becomes problematic when the myths are used for political purposes. This can be observed, for example, in the USA with QAnon, an anonymous person or group who uses conspiracy ideologies to spread right-wing ideas.
In Germany, conspiracy myths from powerful political groups who are said to have conspired against the people are used by right-wing parties, who use them to address issues such as immigration or the corona pandemic and guide people in their interests. You are changing the way democracy works and this is dangerous, says the social psychologist Pia Lamberty.
The business of conspiracies
Some of the conspiracy ideologies are clearly based on financial interests. The business of protection from the powerful secret societies is going well. It sells books, films, miracle cures, t-shirts, survival kits, chemtrail protection, and more. Videos on YouTube and Co. bring millions of clicks and thus advertising income.
The German doctor Sucharit Bhakdi, who at the beginning of the corona pandemic was well represented in the social networks with abstruse theses about the virus, quickly brought a slim book onto the market that promptly became a bestseller.
The American conspiracy ideologist Alex Jones, operator of the Infowars portal and an avowed Trump fan, is particularly successful commercially. In his radio show, the presenter goes wild when he talks about all kinds of conspiracy myths. When the micro is closed, Alex Jones is a shrewd businessman who, in addition to all kinds of merchandise, also offers sexual enhancers and "Brain Force Plus" tablets - against toxins that are mixed into drinking water.
Fake news, disinformation and real conspiracies
Not every half-truth is also a conspiracy tale. The means of disinformation are often encountered: "Corona is no worse than the flu" is an example. Only if it were assumed that an opaque power in the background is using the virus for its own purposes, in order to harm others, would the ingredients for the conspiracy cocktail be together.
The mere denial of facts, which gained notoriety through Donald Trump's exclamation of "fake news", does not yet qualify as a conspiracy ideology. Many deny the existence of climate change, for example.
And then there are the real conspiracies: the Roman senators who conspired against Caesar and murdered him; the July 20th conspirators who wanted to kill Hitler. This is where a group of people come together who want to harm one or more others.
Internet conspiracy catalyst
Even if conspiracy ideologies are very present today, according to experts, they have not increased. What used to take place in a more esoteric niche is now publicly visible on the Internet.
Anyone who suspects a conspiracy behind a topic or an event will find one after a few clicks. Distribution is just as easy: Quickly produced videos that anyone can easily upload to the web are very popular.
Mostly on YouTube there are videos that spread conspiracy ideologies. The site's algorithm ensures that viewers are specifically suggested additional suitable videos that they can watch, like and distribute, says author Sascha Lobo, describing the problem.
In addition, users find like-minded people on social media, have positive experiences and feel better informed than those around them. From this point on, many conspiracy believers move in a kind of "bubble" - there is recognition in the conspiracy circle on social media, but not in real life.
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