Conspiracy theories have been around since, well, the beginning of the human race. They are a constant with people, so they must fulfill a deep-seated need. If you need proof of the imperfection of humanity, there it is.
One of the funniest I've heard recently is that George Bush was behind 9-11. That one makes me chuckle. Here's a guy who's failed at every job given to him (on a silver platter yet), who spent his college career as a drunken fratboy, but deep inside is an Evil Genius who planned and executed 9-11? So he and his oil buddies could get to all that Black Gold in the Mideast ? Naw, I don't think so.
The latest one I've encountered was that the US was behind the tsunami. A nuclear blast, I believe. This is great stuff, I tell you! I read a lot of science fiction, and by golly, sometimes reality completely trumps it!
I especially like the one about how the planes on 9-11 were remote-controlled by satellites. Hey, the pilots wouldn't radio in? Oh--the radios were turned off by the satellites! Okay, what about all the cell phones on the planes? All of them were turned off? Except, of course, except for the fact everyone with a cell phone immediately started calling when the hijackers took over the planes.
I've met exactly three truly paranoid people in my life. The first one was some religious zealot who thought that he, and he only, understood what the Bible meant. He told us he had discovered the truth behind the Catholic's Church plans to Take Over the World, and that the Pope had sent Holy Hitmen to assassinate him. He was totally serious about this; he really believed it.
The last time I saw him, he was down by the lake behind my sister's house twirling some numchucks around, I assume to protect himself against those godly gunsels sent to rub him out. He ended up hitting himself in the forehead and drawing blood. To staunch the flow, he put some leaves on the wound. Maybe he thought he was a Master Herbalist, too. By this time, my sister and I were laughing so hard, I had to leave in case he came in. To this day, I still have this image of him with a leaf stuck on his forehead.
The second fellow was one who was convinced the government had trucks following him, in which were hidden machines that beamed rays at his brain, making him do things he didn't want to do. This one was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Personally, I think the first guy was one, too.
Myself, I believe in Occam's Razor: "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." It's a way of saying the simplest explanation is usually the best. If I hear footsteps outside my door, I can explain them by saying a portal to an alternate universe has opened up and one of H.P. Lovecraft's Elder Gods has come through and is going to crash bash down my door and drag me away as a human sacrifice.
Or, maybe it's a friend of mine coming to visit.
Maybe a bunch of Muslims fanatics were really the ones behind 9-11. Maybe it really was blowback, retaliation for the US 's interference for the last 50 years in the Mideast . Maybe it partly for revenge, and because of envy. And maybe it was to draw us into a war over there, to bleed us dry of blood and treasure, so we would finally leave.
They've even admitted they did it, and it certainly is a lot easier to believe than four airplanes being remote-controlled by satellites like those little cars kids play with on the street.
Why do people believe in conspiracies? For one thing--and it's probably the main thing--people don't want to admit responsibility for their problems. So, they blame them on other people. That’s one of the first things kids do, and for some people, it certainly lasts even into adulthood.
The people who said Bush did it aren't pro-Bush. Indeed, they want him out of office because they think he is responsible for so many problems. They blame all their problems on him. Most of the people who claim Israel was behind 9-11 are Muslim. They certainly aren't pro-Israel, and indeed have spend the last several decades trying to get rid of the place, believing that once it’s gone, all the problems in the Mideast will evaporate. Har har.
Then we have the people who say, I discovered the conspiracy, so that makes me smart! It's vanity. What we've got is, as the old saying goes, vanity, vanity, all is vanity. And people blaming their problems on others.
I suppose those who believe in conspiracies have this tendency to look at everything as either black or white. We're the Good Guys, you're the Bad Guys out to get us, and now we're on to you, so we've turned the tables! We win; you lose. Maybe this "winning" exists only in their heads, but it's better than nothing.
It does seem that for paranoia and the belief in conspiracies to work properly, people have to believe there is an unbridgeable gulf between "good" and "evil." The evil's out to get me! I'm not paranoid! It really is a conspiracy!
Perhaps this is the purpose of the Tinfoil Hat: I've outsmarted you! I've foiled your nefarious plans and exposed you to the world for what you are!
Back in college I worked in a nursing home for a year. At that time, most of the mental institutions had been closed down and the inmates dumped on the street or transferred to nursing homes. So I actually got to meet a guy who wore a Tinfoil Hat. He was fine as long as he wore his hat, although he was never fine enough to live outside the home. He's the third true paranoid I've met, and he was by far the worst; he was incapable of living in the real world.
Here's some advice when dealing with nuts: Never ask them if they're crazy. They'll invariably deny it. Of course I'm not! Other people may be crazy, but not them! Not as long as they feel nice and secure wearing their Tinfoil Hats!
It is from dealing with true nuts that I realized the traits in mental illness are traits we all have, only they're taken to extremes for them. Everyone is a little bit paranoid at times. If people pass you on the street, then start laughing, aren't you going to wonder if they're laughing at you, even if it has nothing to do with you and is instead about a joke one just told? Unfortunately, some people are paranoid all the time. Imagine if you can never shake the feeling or the thoughts.
You think if you tell Jesse Jackson the problem isn't white racism, what do you think he's going to say? You already know the answer: It's all white racism. Or tell some radical feminist maybe the problem isn't men. Ask those kinds of people, and the answer you will get is that it is always someone else who is the problem. Racism, classism, sexism, ageism, whateverism, it's someone else who is the problem! All of these people are in some degree paranoid, all live in a fantasy world, and all are wearers of Tinfoil Hats. All think: those people are out to get me! I've discovered who they are, and what the problem is! Now if I can just get rid of them! Then the problems will be gone!
I don't expect humanity to give up its belief in conspiracies, ever. It's just too easy to blame your problems on others, and too comforting and satisfying to believe you've won by claiming you've discovered and exposed the Bad Buys. The day people stop pointing fingers at others is the day the belief in conspiracies will end. That day, unfortunately, will never come.
Until then, I plan on making a lot of money by investing in Reynold's Aluminum Wrap. It's one of those businesses that will never go under.