Ever since I’ve been interested in learning about conspiracy theories, I’ve realized that there’s a clear image of conspiracy theorists in a lot people’s minds – crazy, paranoid lunatics that believe unimaginably false claims like the earth is flat or that celebrities are lizard people. Let me just be the first to say, I get it. It is extremely difficult to imagine that something you’ve believed your whole life to be true, may just be a bunch of bullshit fed to you through a tube. So, people cover their ears. People live in the dark because it’s comfier there; more calm. It’s completely understandable. I remember a very specific time in my conspiracy theory journey where I was watching a video on cloning, and I don’t know what triggered it, but I just broke down. I began crying through short bursts of hyperventilated breaths. Conspiracy theorists don’t want to be right, because it’s just not fun to get to the point where you think that everything may not be as you thought it was. But I couldn’t turn away from it, because no matter how much I wanted to shut it away in a box and return to the comfort of the darkness where I had resided my whole life, I knew that I couldn’t. Thinking critically about the systems and reality around me was a part of me now, and I wasn’t about to give that up.
Something that came up in the news lately sparked this topic for me. It came out that approximately 50 adults are being accused of being involved in a bribery scheme surrounding college admissions. These parents were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to extremely well-known and highly accredited universities like Stanford, University of California, and Yale to accept their children into the university without going through the admissions process. To me, this was simply a conspiracy theory that came to light. I’ve heard so many people say that “conspiracy theorists are so paranoid”, or “conspiracy theorists are so quick to think that things aren’t as they should be”, but aren’t we coming to realize that things actually aren’t as they should be? Colleges aren’t supposed to accept bribes from parents because 1) bribery is illegal, and 2) admissions to universities are supposed to be based on a student’s academic and/or athletic capability. Nevertheless, it happened.
I would argue that you could take it one step further and think, if some of the top tier colleges in the US have admitted to accepting bribes, what makes you think that this same corruption couldn’t happen in another context? What makes you think that everything that politicians tell us is the truth when Michael Cohen recently admitted to lying to congress? What makes you think that large corporations don’t have ulterior motives when 23andMe, an ancestry research site, admitted to selling user’s DNA to pharmaceutical companies?
Contrary to popular belief, conspiracy theorists do not think that every government official or corporation is corrupt. There are good, honest, wholesome people out there who are trying to do the best they can with what they have. I do believe that. However, the skepticism is always rooted from evidence, and from past behaviour. Conspiracy theorists suspect that certain questionable, unethical actions are being taken by those in power because that is what history has been telling us. Scandals are never going to go away, and what people forget is that a lot of these scandals are deemed “conspiracies” until someone slips up and everything is out in the open. Odds are, if the college admission bribery scandal wasn’t brought to light, this would still be occurring under our noses. Odds are, if I were to bring this up to people before it came out to be true, it wouldn’t be believed. Doesn’t it make you think about all of the other illegal, unethical actions that are being carried out under our noses right now? For a lot of people, their answer would be no, because that’s just a conspiracy theory and therefore crazy and untrue.
Conspiracy theorists are so widely misunderstood. We’re not trying to see the worst in everything. We’re not trying to be crazy and skeptical of everything around us. We’re not wanting the world to be as fucked up as the theories say they are. We’re simply trying to think critically about what we’ve been presented to be “truth”, because as history has shown, some of it is just a big damn lie.