Perhaps it’s the age group of the millennials being discussed that determines just how skeptical they are and how distrusting of conspiracy theories they’ve become.
A Slate article looks at the way millennials make jokes and memes about conspiracy theories. One of the biggest and most joked about conspiracy theories is the one surrounding 9/11. The poking fun at truthers is deemed to be a healthy way for millennials to deal with a history they can’t relate to since the majority of them interviewed for the article weren’t even born when the tragedy happened (1).
The memes these teenagers create poke fun about the different aspects of the 9/11 conspiracy theories. These are cynical and are meant to be comical, such as the ones that say or imply that “Bush did it”. Others make fun of the conspiracy theory about jet fuel not being capable of generating enough heat to melt steel and bring down the Twin Towers.
What prompts millennials to pick on truthers? According to Slate, it’s the real issues of corruption being uncovered and other current affairs that garner that generation’s attention. Real life is more attention-grabbing than unproved conspiracies about an event that they didn’t live through.
However, the article only discusses teenage millennials and not the older group. Millennials are defined as having been born in the “early 1980s to around 2000” (2). Real Truth discusses millennials born between 1980s and 1990s as a generation that doesn’t “blindly conform to traditional standards…” They want to know why (3).
Perhaps this explains why millennials might not fall for conspiracy theories. That, and the fact that they’ve had access to more information than previous generations. Millennials grew up being plugged-in 24/7 with access to any kind of information imaginable only a click away.
A Look at Millennial Skepticism
In his book, “Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation,” Anthony Gierzynski writes about a hypothesis his group presented to Harry Potter fans and non-fans.
The question posed to these two groups was about the several conspiracy theories. These include ones surrounding the moon landing being fake, global warming a myth, JFK assassination conspiracy and that the government staged the 9/11 attacks. Did the millennials believe these theories, some of the theories, or none of them?
The results of the poll showed that 44% of the Harry Potter fans believed one or two of the conspiracy theories, while 52% of the non-fans believed one or two theories.
The book continues with a “complex model of the development of Millennials’ political views”. With less than half of the Harry Potter fan group believing in conspiracy theories, the results see to point to the majority of millennials being skeptical of conspiracy theories (4).
Is It about a Lack of Trust?
International Business Times (IBT) sheds a different light on the millennials’ skepticism in its article about truthers. The polls showed that millennials are “less trusting of the government than their parents”. IBT quotes a Harvard poll that revealed a whopping 83% of millennials have “no faith in Congress” (5).
Can this kind of discontentment and disillusion spawn an entire generation of skeptics? (6) At the end of the IBT article, the truthers’ community is said to be growing, “thanks to the disaffected millennial generation.” This statement implies the direct opposite of what the Slate article claimed.
Which is the truth? Are millennials disconnected with the whole conspiracy scene or do they accept conspiracy theories as the truth? It can’t be both – or can it?
Perhaps, it’s a mistake to lump all millennials into a group that either believes or disbelieves conspiracies. It might be wiser to consider there is a near twenty-year span of the groups of individuals being discussed. That can become a wide gap when comparing a 16 year old’s life view to that of a 30 year old.
References & Image Credits:
(2) Wikipedia: Millenials
(3) Real Truth
(4) Millenials and Conspiracy Theories
(5) IB Times
(6) TSW: Three Quarters of Americans Believe the Government Is Corrupt
(7) Images of Millenials