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Conspiracy Theories in America: Why Citizens Turn to Alternative News

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Conspiracy Theories in America: Why Citizens Turn to Alternative News
Conspiracy theories are nothing new. It was as early as 1905 that the first conspiracy theory was published in a Russian book called “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.”

The book revealed a plot for a secret Jewish world domination. It has since been discredited but that doesn’t stop people from maintaining the theory, which would put Jews at the head of the longest con in history. After all, it’s only been 110 years.

The factor that contributes to the longevity of most conspiracies is their unprovable nature. These theories have an almost indefinite lifespan because more often than not, the perceived truth has no evidence with which to negate what is commonly held as fact. At the same time, the so-called facts typically maintain an air of deniability.

In the scientific world, a conspiracy theory has been identified as “a group acting in secret to alter institutions, usurp power, hide truth, or gain utility at the expense of the common good” (1).

For the majority of theories, the group is a high powered corporation or government body that is the same group providing evidence for the reported truth while wholeheartedly denying the perceived truth holds any water. Of course, this only exacerbates the notion.

Is There Truth in Conspiracies?

Not all theories are left in the ether. Some conspiracy theories have been proven true. A vast number of Americans believed their private web and cellular information was being used unjustly, but it wasn’t until Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA that the public had any solid proof (2). Even the Watergate Scandal was once considered to be just a conspiracy theory.

While it is commonly thought that conspiracy theories are reserved for poorly educated radicals, recent research has proven otherwise. In fact, the numbers are pretty staggering – 55 percent of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory. The research, published in the American Journal of Political Science and conducted by scientists J. Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood, discovered that the believers vary in age, economic status, gender, race, and education level (3). They did note, however, that the type of conspiracy theories held did vary based on these factors.

The most influential factor was the theory’s political undertones. Research indicated that individuals more likely to believe in a particular theory if it was more in line with their own political beliefs. That is to say that Republicans were more likely to believe that Barack Obama forged his citizenship documents (45%), while liberals were more likely to believe that the Bush administration falsified information about Weapons of Mass Destruction (79%) (4)(5).

zion protocols book

Number that Believes Conspiracies

Regardless of political pull, the number of people who believe in theories is daunting. But this is not without due cause. In addition to whistle blowers like Edward Snowden, government documents have become declassified, exposing the public to information that was previously withheld.

The government has had its hand in several major conspiracies turned fact, including everything from unauthorized medical testing to military collusion, and corporations are no different (6).

Over the years there have been hundreds of conspiracy theories – everything from whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone on the grassy knoll or if Monsanto is using biotech for population control (7)(8).

Conspiracy theories are no longer reserved for those that wear tinfoil hats and as more of these theories are proven true, more people are finding value in a theory or two. But before you believe everything you read on the Internet, make sure you do your research.

Whether you believe in conspiracy theories or not, they have taught the world a valuable lesson: consider your source. Just because you “read it somewhere” or your “Aunt Mildred told you a story once” doesn’t mean the theory holds any water – but it also doesn’t mean it’s false either. Information gathered should be published from scientific research and credible news sources that share their own information sources (and feel free to read through any of our sources listed below).

The web is filled with opinions shrouded as facts. While some of those opinions may turn out to be based on evidence, it’s best to see it for yourself first.

References & Image Credits:
(1) Scientific American
(2) Biography
(3) Wiley Online Library
(4) CBS News
(5) Public Policy Polling
(6) Business Insider
(7) CNN
(8) Fool
(9) Photos of Popular Conspiracy Theories

Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com

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Top Secret Editors

Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
Lori is TSW's editor. Freelance writer and editor for over 17 years, she loves to read and loves fringe science and conspiracy theory.

Top Secret Writers

Gabrielle is a journalist who finds strange stories the media misses, and enlightens readers about news they never knew existed.
Sally is TSW’s health/environmental expert. As a blogger/organic gardener, she’s investigates critical environmental issues.
Mark Dorr grew up the son of a treasure hunter. His experiences led to working internationally in some surprising situations!
Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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