Does it seem like conspiracy theories are becoming ‘cool’ again? Just a few decades ago they were all the rage, proudly bandied about by every hip young thinker, and if you weren’t down with the cause, that’s because you were a ‘square’.
Something happened, though, as we entered the 1980’s. Suddenly, it wasn’t cool anymore to question the established authorities. The only people who would suggest that our government and corporate oligarchs might be something other than wholly altruistic and morally unflappable were characterized as crackpots and denigrated on film and television.
Even as the passing years provided more and more validation to some of these earlier theories – with declassified documents indicating that, yes, the US government does appear to have been involved in drug trafficking, and yes, government agencies do appear to have conducted medical experiments on American citizens without their consent, and yes, the NSA does seem to have been involved in an ongoing clandestine effort to secretly monitor the conversations and transactions of private citizens – even still, ‘conspiracy theorists’ have been marginalized and treated as if they are somehow ignorant of the facts to which they frequently refer.
Of course, it doesn’t help that there is likely a concerted effort to pollute these conversations with intentional misinformation (like Richard Doty claims to have done in the UFO community).
Fortunately for conspiracy enthusiasts, President Trump has renewed the old interest, and conspiracy theories are becoming ‘cool’ again. (It’s interesting to note that U.S. presidents have a long history of being conspiracy theorists – particularly when it comes to centralized banking and the military industrial complex – all the way from George Washington to Dwight D. Eisenhower.)
Now, Michael Butter, a Professor of American Literary and Cultural History at the University of Tübingen in Germany, has shed some light on the topic during an interview with International Politics and Society.
Professor Butter makes some salient points about governments having used conspiracy theorists in the past to help promote a particular narrative or reinforce an existing power structure. He also touches on the psychology appeal these theories can have to individuals in times when available information is confusing or chaotic, or in other words, “fake news”.
He offers a few interesting takes, with a special emphasis on the importance of critical thinking. We couldn’t agree more.