Conspiracy Theories: What’s the allure?

By Katie Waits

Most of us probably have a conspiracy theory that we can’t help but at least half believe. From politics to celebrities, historical events to murders, conspiracy theories are everywhere. As far-fetched as they may initially seem, sometimes, somehow, they make sense. But why, if we know that they may never be proven, do we continue to read articles, and watch documentaries and YouTube videos about them? Why do some us believe that Tupac is still alive, that 9/11 was an inside job, that the moon landings were a hoax?

As human beings, we are naturally curious and drawn to patterns. We see coincidences and suspicious circumstances and attempt to join the dots as a way of making sense of them. In the midst of turbulent, tense times, we like to feel in control. It’s a coping mechanism; a way of watching our backs so we aren’t easily fooled. A lot of conspiracy theories are harmless and have become memes (Area 51, for example), and are just a little bit bizarre. Others are insensitive and ignorant, such as those who don’t believe the Holocaust occurred, or those that encourage anti-vaxxers, despite scientific and historical explanations that disprove these theories.

While conspiracy theories have been around for a very long time, it seems that now, more than ever before, we are willing to make the furthest reach to make the world around us seem a little more rational. Celebrity conspiracy theories are among the most intriguing. We like to believe that some of our most treasured celebrities are alive, or that they didn’t actually die in the way that they were reported to. From Elvis Presley to Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon to Princess Diana – each died in unpleasant circumstances at a young age. The one factor that each of these deaths have in common is the fact that the FBI, the CIA, or a government agency have each been blamed for them. Is it so hard to believe that these celebrities died in the ways that they did that we’ve all began to agree to run with these conspiracy theories?

For example, Princess Diana was an icon, not only loved by British people, but adored across the world. We’ve been told she died in a car crash, and yet there are coincidences and suspicious activity surrounding her death. The theory is that the Royal Family realised that she was the one person who could expose their hypocrisy, and so, they arranged to have her assassinated in what was presented to the world as a tragic accident. There have been several documentaries about this conspiracy theory. With the Royal Family being a novelty around the world, something to be admired, the fact that there could be something questionable happening behind the façade is incredibly interesting. We can’t resist the excitement and our curiosity at the idea that those in power could be seriously flawed and not all they seem.

Another conspiracy theory that has been reported in the media lately is the almost convenient death of the pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. A once well-respected financier, there have been many accusations over the last decade that he had sexually assaulted a number of young girls. This year, he was arrested after it was found that he had been trafficking young girls to use as child prostitutes. Before this information was made public, he had close links to many powerful people – Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew – who may have been aware of his terrible actions. The trial could’ve revealed what these elite people know, and could have been devastating in what it would expose. Epstein committed suicide before any of this happened, protecting the information that may have been revealed. The cause of his death is questionable. He was under suicide watch, was constantly guarded and surveyed, and yet, it seemed that at the time of his death, his guards were absent and the surveillance cameras malfunctioned. This is perhaps all a bit too suspicious to pass off as suicide. It seems more like it was planned, to protect the reputation of the powerful.

We’ve got to the point where society distrusts power and the people who hold it. It can be easily abused, or used to keep secrets, protect reputations and maintain a certain agenda. Political ideology can heavily influence whether we believe in a certain conspiracy theory or not, to establish that what we believe in personally is correct. The internet has given us wide access to sources of information, allowing us to come to our own conclusions about things we are told about in the media. Conspiracy theories explain reality when times are uncertain. By having the tendency to assume the worst, we blame others who have access to secrets, are aware of information that we are denied and create conspiracy theories. We grab at any explanations and conclusions we can whether to protect ourselves, or just for fun. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy a good conspiracy theory documentary?