Conspiracy Theories, and Why Americans Believe Them

Alex Jones, founder of conspiracy theory media website Infowars.com

In the era of the Trump administration’s “war” on the media, endless accusations from all sides of spreading “fake news”, and increasingly absurd narratives, the question begs to be asked: why do Americans believe ridiculous things? Some will blame Republicans, some will blame Democrats, some will blame the media, and inevitably some will blame conspiracy theories, fake news, the Russians, Wikileaks and Alex Jones. What can be lost in the hysteria is that a larger and larger number of people in this country trust the “official narrative” less and less, and there are tangible reasons as to why. One of those reasons is that conspiracies have played an important role in American history.

In 2005 the US government declassified information confirming something many Americans had suspected since the sixties: the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which was the catalyst to begin the Vietnam war, was intentionally misrepresented and was wittingly used to justify a foreign invasion. In 2001 anthrax, eventually found to be made in a US government lab, was sent to several journalists and congressmen and blamed on Iraq to justify the invasion. In the 1980s the CIA brought cocaine into the US in order to fund military juntas in South America and fight communism. In 1962 the Joint Chiefs of Staff authorized Operation Northwoods, a plan to commit terrorist attacks including bombings, assassinations and hijacking airliners to be blamed on Cuba and justify invasion. These are confirmed, undeniably criminal conspiracies that may represent just the tip of an iceberg of lies, corruption and endless war.

Much like a relationship with a family member or a romantic partner, the more lies the establishment is caught in, the more paranoid the public becomes. This is a perfectly rational reaction to betrayal. It is why every day the mainstream media is losing it’s credibility to more and more of it’s audience, and those people are finding new places to get their news. Furthering the phenomenon is the media’s doubling-down on their narratives, blatantly skewing reality to an increasingly obvious degree as we’ve seen with stories such as the alleged Russian election “hack”. The days of admitting when you’re wrong and moving on seem to be behind us.

If traditional media outlets want to stay relevant, they need to revert back to their original principles and stick to them. Journalists need to build trust with the American public by approaching subjects with a level-headed, rational, non partisan perspective and do honest reporting. If journalists want to be perceived as credible they must earn it. Otherwise, they are essentially “let them eat cake” -ing their way into their own, well deserved, decimation.