It turns out the conspiracy theorists are right sometimes and maybe more often than thought.
For example, in the recent Navy Yard shooting attack by Aaron Alexis that killed 12 and injured eight, theories have been abundant, especially after Alexis reportedly heard voices.
Alexis apparently believed he was being harassed through microwave mind control, an assertion that in the mind of most would render him crazy.
But Wired.com pointed to a 2008 story on a declassified Pentagon report disclosing research on using microwave voice projection technology as weaponry.
The researchers at the Pentagon were reportedly looking for nonlethal weapons.
They concluded: “Application of the microwave hearing technology could facilitate a private message transmission. It may be useful to provide a disruptive condition to a person not aware of the technology. Not only might it be disruptive to the sense of hearing, it could be psychologically devastating if one suddenly heard ‘voices within one’s head.’”
Was it likely that Alexis was a target? No. Impossible? Also, apparently, no.
Skeptics have developed conspiracy theories regarding the Sandy Hook attack, space shuttle Columbia, 9/11 and many other major news events.
There even have been studies on the theorists and their theories.
Empirical data, without a doubt, affirms that the theorists are right, sometimes.
The Daily Caller reported two years ago that Watergate theorists were correct to suspect Richard Nixon. And yes, John Edwards was running around with Rielle Hunter. And it was the CIA working on an undersea project in the 1970s near Hawaii, not Howard Hughes, who only provided cover.
According to studies, those who subscribe to conspiracy theories are less “married” to their theories than those who accept conventional wisdom.
One study showed that people who believe strongly in something are greatly offended when proven wrong, causing emotional stress that and in some cases can threaten self-image.
Pacific Standard magazine reported on such a study. It said that “because political beliefs are connected to deeply held values, information about politics can be very threatening to your self-image.”
“Imagine coming across information that contradicts everything you’ve ever believed about the efficacy of Medicare,” the magazine report said. “If you’re wrong about such an important policy, what else might you be wrong about? And if you’re wrong about a bunch of things, you’re obviously not as smart or as good or as worthwhile a person as you previously believed. These are painful thoughts, and so we evaluate information in ways that will help us to avoid them.”
Scientific American reported that those who are insecure about their own intellect are less likely to be able to accept information that doesn’t fit neatly into their worldview. The report made the case that people might actually prefer to hear intellectually light arguments for the simple reason that they can intellectualize and articulate them better than the one giving the weak argument, and this makes them feel smarter.
Psychological experts call this cognitive dissonance. Leon Festinger first proposed the concept in 1957. He said that there is a powerful motive to be consistent in one’s thoughts. This motive, he said, can be so compelling as to be disregarding of pertinent, even thought-altering information.
Festinger theorized people experience great anxiety when new information clashes with what they believe. Calling the tension cognitive dissonance, he elaborated on a deep, almost base instinct or motivation to eliminate the dissonance and make new information fit into one’s cognitive schema.
Might this mean that the conspiracy theorists, held in such disdain by polite society, have an intellectual self-confidence and mental stability to deal with the possibility of being wrong?
Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor and scientist at Florida State University, says quite possibly so.
In his book “Conspiracy Theory in America,” he says that history proves that the campaign to label those who hypothesize about large scale national events “conspiracy theorists” is a conspiracy itself.
He investigated how America’s founders warned in the Declaration of Independence of the possibility that the political elite will use their power to defame those who criticize their motives.
They said that simply by calling someone a conspiracy theorist, it doesn’t matter whether you have “actually claimed … a conspiracy exists, or whether you have simply raised an issue” that someone would rather not discuss at all. By labeling people with ideas different from convention, they “strategically exclude” dissent and new ideas from public consumption.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Dathan Paterno finds irony in such conspiracy research.
“Ultimately, these data raise more questions and only serve to breed cynicism – the primary ingredient of conspiracy theory. In the end, it seems that the conspiracy of conspiracy theories is really a conspiracy against the conspiracy by those who would conspire against conspirators.”
Are conspiracy theorists really the sane ones?