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27 May 2013

If You Believed They Put a Man on the Moon

The New York Times has this otherwise good article that looks largely to psychology for sociological answers about conspiracy theories. It's still worth a read. Here is my quick sociologizing of the topic. It doesn't necessarily contradict the author's reporting, just reframes and clarifies it.

We need to remember that conspiracy theories are a relatively new phenomenon, really only showing up in the 20th century. The increasing complexity of our social world--and the fragmenting of our social world into multiple, often incongruous worlds--has made us anxious. We are not naturally predisposed to dealing with the overwhelming and crushing ubiquity of late-/post-modern society. When events transpire that are beyond our control or understanding, we look for understandable explanations--even if irrational. Ironically, belief in a relatively small cadre of puppet masters pulling the strings behind closed doors is much more comforting than reality; one can imagine a way to stop the masters of the universe, but it is much more difficult to recognize--let alone counter--the social structure that dictate and constrain our lives.

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