Los ntawm 9/11 mus rau lub Paris tawm tsam, los ntawm Ebola los Isis, txhua txhua loj ntiaj teb no kev tshwm sim attracts ib tug coj counter-narrative ntawm lub 'truthers', ib co thiaj li tag nrho-encompassing hais tias lawv coj tib neeg lub neej. Yog peb lub hlwb wired kom ntseeg tau, raws li ib tug tshiab phau ntawv cav? Thiab zoo li xav tau yuav pab tau?
Qhov tsab xov xwm hu ua “Qhov tseeb yog rushing tawm muaj: yog vim li cas conspiracies kis sai dua puas tau” raug sau los ntawm David Shariatmadari, rau Tus Saib Xyuas nyob rau hnub Saturday 26th hlis ntuj nqeg 2015 10.00 UTC
"Kuv nco ntsoov nyeem txog kawg Fantasy VII, ib tug yeeb yam kuv twb yeej nrhiav rau pem hauv ntej rau. Kuv thawj zaug tshuaj tiv thaiv yog chim siab hais tias nws yog ob xyoos lawm - vim hais tias los ntawm ces peb yuav tau nyob rau hauv cov tub rog tswj. "Nws yog 2004, thiab Mathais Elliott yog nyob rau hauv sib sib zog nqus. Elliott, los ntawm San Antonio, Texas, tau thawj tau twv rau kev koom tes theories thaum nws yog 19, nyob rau hauv lub aftermath ntawm 9/11. "Nws ciali unfathomable tias peb yuav tau rov,"Nws hais tias hnub no. Nyob rau hauv nws quest yuav ua rau kev txiav txim zoo ntawm dab tsi tau tshwm sim nws tuaj nyob lub hais tsis zoo "truther" txav, ib tug tam sim no ntawm lub tswv yim uas nteg liam rau lub atrocities ntawm lub qhov rooj ntawm lub US tsoom fwv.
"Txoj kev tshaj kev koom tes theories raug nteg, ib yam ib txwm ua rau lwm, yog li ntawd los muaj kuv los ua convinced hais tias ib tug txiav txim pab pawg neeg hu ua lub ntiaj teb tshiab Order orchestrated txhua yam. Qhov no yuav tag nrho ua rau martial txoj cai thiab ib tug ua tiav kev tshem tawm ntawm peb freedoms,"Nws hais tias. Ib xyoo caum tom qab, Elliott, tam sim no 34, yog ib tug "recovering" conspiracy theorist, muaj muab nws rov qab rau ib tug worldview uas ib txwm posits ib co covert, haib quab yuam sawv tiv thaiv cov kev txaus siab ntawm cov neeg zoo tib yam. Cov kev hloov tuaj maj, tab sis nws xav tias txawv heev tam sim no. "Koj yuav tsis txawm tau muaj ntau lub 50 lub xeev pom zoo rau tej yam uas. Hmoov zoo pov Europeans thiab Asians mus tau rau lub Rooj Tswjhwm Saib. "
Elliott lub tshuaj tiv thaiv rau tus raug mob ntawm 9/11 yog deb ntawm txawv txawv. Lub sib cem thiaj li unprecedented, li ntawd, ntsoog loj heev, hais tias muaj ntau ntawm peb kev txom nyem kom paub txog lawv. Early qhia tau tsis meej pem los yog contradictory: raws li ib tug tshwm sim ib txhia kho cov nom version ntawm cov txheej xwm uas tsis ntseeg tau pib. Ib tug kev faib ua feem ntawm cov neeg nyob rau hauv lem plumped rau ib tug piav qhia uas yuav tsum tau fakery thiab ua kom sib haum rau ib tug loj heev scale.
Qhov no yuav tsum tsis txhob xav tsis thoob rau peb: nws yog ib tug qauv uas yog pheej rov qab ua tom qab txhua txhua lub ntiaj teb no poob siab, thiab nyob rau hauv lub aftermath ntawm lub Paris tawm tsam, nws tau reared nws lub taub hau rov. Tsis pub dhau ib hnub twg ntawm cov neeg ua phem sib cem nyob rau Fabkis capital, blogs tau luam tawm sib cav hais tias lawv yog cov ua hauj lwm ntawm tsoom fwv - ib tug thiaj li hu ua "cuav chij" lag luam. Cov neeg pab leg ntaubntawv so rau lub tswv yim uas Isis yog txhob txwm creation ntawm thaj tsoom fwv. ntau tsis ntev los, cov kws lij choj rau lub tsev neeg ntawm Syed Farook, ib tug ntawm cov San Bernardino shooters, fueled conspiratorial speculation thaum nws hais tias: "Muaj ib tug ntau ntawm txug ntawm lub sij hawm no mus sab laj txog los sis tsim teeb meem uas yuav ua rau rab phom tswj los yog prejudice los yog kev sib ntxub ntawm cov Muslim lub zej lub zos."
Round-the-clock coverage of global events means there is a constant supply of crisis and chaos for us to interpret. Stories of strings being pulled by hidden hands are a staple of our entertainment, los ntawm Spectre’s Blofeld to the baroque conspiracy of London Spy, one of the most acclaimed British dramas of the year, which unravelled in a spectacular example of the paranoid style. It’s not that belief in conspiracy theories is becoming more widespread, hais tias kab mob Swami, professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin university: while the research hasn’t been done yet, nws qhia kuv, there’s lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest that belief in conspiracies has remained fairly stable for the last half-century or so. What has changed, Txawm li cas los, is the speed with which new theories are formed. “It’s a symptom of a much more integrated world,"Nws hais tias. Lub internet speeds txhua yam li, uas koom tes-minded mus txuas thiab formulate lawv cov tswv yim. rau hauv sib piv, it took months for theories about Pearl Harbor to develop.
Karen Douglas, another social psychologist, echoes this point. “People’s communication patterns have changed quite a lot over the last few years. It’s just so much easier for people to get access to conspiracy information even if they have a little seed of doubt about an official story. It’s very easy to go online and find other people who feel the same way as you.”
Is everyone prone to this kind of thinking, or is it the preserve of an extreme fringe? Douglas reckons it’s more common than most of us realise. "Recent research has shown that about half of Americans believe at least one conspiracy theory,"Nws hais tias. “You’re looking at average people; people you might come across on the street.”
That’s also the view of Rob Brotherton, whose new book, Suspicious Minds, explores the traits that predispose us to belief in conspiracies. He cautions against sitting in judgment, since all of us have suspicious minds – and for good reason. Identifying patterns and being sensitive to possible threats is what has helped us survive in a world where nature often is out to get you. “Conspiracy theory books tend to come at it from the point of view of debunking them. I wanted to take a different approach, to sidestep the whole issue of whether the theories are true or false and come at it from the perspective of psychology,"Nws hais tias. “The intentionality bias, the proportionality bias, confirmation bias. We have these quirks built into our minds that can lead us to believe weird things without realising that’s why we believe them.”
“Whenever anything ambiguous happens, we have this bias towards assuming that it was intended – that somebody planned it, that there was some kind of purpose or agency behind it, rather than thinking it was just an accident, or chaos, or an unintended consequence of something.” This intentionality bias, Brotherton says, can be detected from early childhood. “If you ask a young kid why somebody sneezed, the kid thinks that they did it on purpose, that the person must really enjoy sneezing. It’s only after about the age of four or five that we begin to learn that not everything that everybody does is intended. We’re able to override that automatic judgment. But research shows that it still stays with us even into adulthood.”
Piv txwv li, studies have shown that when people drink alcohol, they are more likely to interpret ambiguous actions as having been deliberate. “So if you’re at the pub and somebody jostles you and spills your drink, if it’s your first drink, you might write it off as an innocent mistake. But if you’re a few drinks in, then you’re more likely to think they did it on purpose, that it was an aggressive act.”
Like most personality traits, proneness to intentionality bias varies across the population. “Some people are more susceptible to it than others.” And, Brotherton explains, there is a small but reliable correlation between that susceptibility and belief in conspiracy theories.
External factors also play a part, ntawm chav kawm. For Ryan, who asked that I omit his last name, the influence of a single charismatic individual was crucial. It was Johnny, a friend and bandmate, who showed him books and CDs about world government and “served as a guru of sorts”. At the same time as inducting him into the truther movement, “he was introducing me to music I’d never heard and really loved”. At the height of his involvement, Ryan says he believed a broad range of conspiracy theories, including “chemtrails” – the idea that the trails left by planes contain noxious chemicals intended to subdue or poison people; that Aids and Ebola were introduced by governments to control population; that the moon landings were faked; that a substance extracted from apricots called laetrile was an effective cure for cancer, but had been banned by the FDA and dismissed as quackery to protect the interests of Big Pharma. “I strained my relationships with my family badly. It’s always the ones you love the most that you want to ‘wake up’. I ended up in hugely embarrassing debates and arguments,"Nws hais tias.
But beyond the anguish it caused for those close to him, were Ryan’s unorthodox beliefs harmful? Karen Douglas is wary of rubbishing all conspiracy theorising as dangerous. “Thinking in that way, it must have some positive consequences. If everybody went around just accepting what they were told by governments, officials, pharmaceutical companies, whoever, then we would be a bunch of sheep, really”. Nyob rau lwm cov tes, the effects of certain theories on behaviour can be damaging. Douglas’s own research [pdf download] has shown that exposure to the idea that the British government was involved in the death of Princess Diana reduced people’s intention to engage in politics. Ib yam li ntawd, subjects who read a text stating that climate change was a hoax by scientists seeking funding were less likely to want to take action to reduce their carbon footprint. Thiab anti-vaccine conspiracy narratives make people less likely to vaccinate their children, a clear public health risk.
Should we try to stamp conspiracy theories out, ces? Part of Brotherton’s argument is that they’re a natural consequence of the way our brains have evolved. Tsis tsuas yog hais tias, but trying to disprove them can backfire. “Any time you start trying to debunk conspiracy theories, for the people who really believe, that’s exactly what they would expect if the conspiracy were real,"Nws hais tias.
Swami sees things differently. “Experimental work that we’ve done shows that it’s possible to reduce conspiracist ideation.” How? Swami found that people who had been encouraged to think analytically during a verbal task were less likely to accept conspiracy theories afterwards. For him, this hints at an important potential role for education. “The best way is, at a societal level, to promote analytical thinking, to teach critical thinking skills.” But that’s not all. When people have faith in their representatives, understand what they are doing and trust that they are not corrupt, they are less likely to believe in coverups. That’s why political transparency ought to be bolstered wherever possible – and corporate transparency, heev. “A lot of people have trouble accepting a big organisation’s or government’s narratives of an event, because they’re seen as untrustworthy, they’re seen as liars,” argues Swami.
Improved teaching and changes in political and business culture would undoubtedly help. But conspiracy theories can be rejected for personal reasons, heev. Ryan’s view changed with loss of his “guru”.
“I kinda dropped out of contact with Johnny after he got married and had a baby,"Nws hais tias. “He was getting further and further into it, and I just couldn’t keep up with the mental gymnastics involved.” He started to look for alternative explanations – less exciting, but more plausible ones. “I looked at the people debating on the national level, for the presidency and such. No way these guys speaking in platitudes and generalisations could really be behind a global conspiracy to enslave or kill me. They weren’t doing a particularly good job of it either, considering how happy I was living my life.
“That was the epiphany, tiag tiag. I was free. I was happy. None of the doom and gloom predicted and promised ever came.” For Ryan, by then 27, the bizarre ride was over. A world that pitted him against the forces of evil had all the appeal of a spy drama. But real life was less like a story – and in some ways more depressing. What does he think are the forces that really shape things? “Most of what is wrong in the world nowadays – well, I would put it down to incompetence and greed. A lack of compassion.”
guardian.co.uk © Tus Saib Xyuas Xov xwm & Media Limited 2010