The psychology of conspiracy theory

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)

Bill Whittle doesn't post often to his blog -- he started long before I did and is only up to entry number 140 -- but when he does he always knocks the ball out of the park. In his latest entry, he delves into the psychology of conspiracy theorists, those who believe we aren't being told the truth about the Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, or 9/11.

Of his encounter years ago with a moon landing conspiracy theorist, he writes:

Now it’s my turn to ask some questions, and here’s where it goes from the ridiculous to the sublime:

I was there at Cape Kennedy for the launch of Apollo 13. Is he saying I am lying about this whole moon mission conspiracy? I and millions of others who stood there and saw those Saturn V’s climb into the sky?

Of course not, says Joe. They actually launched. The astronauts just stayed in earth orbit the whole time.

I see. So we have the technical expertise to build a 40-story rocket that can produce millions of pounds of thrust. We can build capsules and lunar landers that function in zero-G. We have the means and the will to put these massive objects into Earth orbit, keep them up there for two weeks, but the additional 3-4% of the total launch energy needed to send this package to the moon is so obviously beyond our technical skill that the whole thing must be a hoax?

I’m sorry, that’s the thinking of someone who is mentally ill. There is something deeper at work there.

That “something” is different than someone who “believes” in UFO’s or the Loch Ness Monster. Such people may be short on critical reasoning, but the emotional force that drives them is a desire for wonder and the magical. Many have remarked that this is, indeed, almost a religious impulse. I’ve wanted to see a real-live flying saucer my entire life. Likewise, if Nessie really existed, what an incredible sight that would be…to look upon the last surviving dinosaur in the flesh! But a videotape of a standing wave shot from five miles away does not outweigh the whole air-breather / no fish evidence. It does not come close to outweighing it. And so I reluctantly throw Nessie back into the superstition bin from whence she came.

But these denialists – the Moon Hoaxers and the 9/11 “Truthers” – these are a different breed. And they are cut from precisely the same cloth. That is to say, they suffer from the same disease: an unwillingness to face reality and its consequences.

Regarding Rosie O'Donnell and her claim that 9/11 was orchestrated by the Bush administration:

I will make the point yet again because I believe it is the crux of the issue: what kind of moral universe do you have to inhabit to be able to believe that your own people – airline personnel, demolition experts, police and security forces, faked witnesses and all the rest – are capable of such a thing? How much hate for your own society do you have to carry in order to live in such a desolate and ridiculous mental hell? What psychoses must a mind be riddled with in order to negate what was perfectly obvious and instead believe a theory of such monumental fantasy? How much pure constant hatred does that take?

What, in short, is the miserable black hole of self-loathing that drives a person like Rosie O’Donnell and millions like her?

In the course of the essay, he debunks two of the key assertions of 9/11 "truthers" -- that a controlled demolition brought down the World Trade Center, and that there's something fishy about the lack of major aircraft debris. And I learned about a conspiracy theory that was previously unknown to me -- "chemtrails."

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: The psychology of conspiracy theory.

TrackBack URL for this entry:


larry said:

I was at the Apollo 13 launch. It was the one with the clappers. And if they could put the scientients into orbital space, they could take them on to the moon. Conspiracists are just blowing hot air with no proof. By the way, the traffic was the pits trying to leave after the lift off. Kind of like getting out of an OU game in Norman after a game.

Twatch said:

The tricky part is there are those that will hide behind the absurdity of a conspiracy and execute a real one; I.E. the NASCO SuperCorridor. See some real evidence at

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 13, 2007 6:21 PM.

Coin of the realm was the previous entry in this blog.

Lack of service update is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]