This post went through a number of stages. Originally I was going to talk about these videos: Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games. These are a series of videos where the creator talks about tropes in video games (just in case you were wondering). Then I saw this video: Guy Against Previous Video. To give some background, there was some reaction to the Tropes Vs. Women kick-starter from gamers on the internet – a number of people internet mobbed the kickstarter video with insulting comments. I first became aware of the videos through this a year or so back because there was some news coverage of the videos and the rude behavior towards them. The second video I linked basically argues that the creator of the Tropes videos set the videos up in such a way to intentionally draw internet trolls so that she could use them for publicity (I won’t go into details, but I thought that his argument was at least possible, though I won’t venture how plausible). So the second idea I had was to talk about whether doing such would actually be unethical. When I talked about the scenario with another person though, their main reaction was that it was far too much of a conspiracy theory for them – so what I’ve decided to talk about is conspiracy theories!.
What is a conspiracy theory? When I started my research, my initial assumption was that the definition was a belief that was wildly unlikely or unsound. Wikipedia corrected me that there was a distinction between the actual definition of a conspiracy theory and the way that it is used derogatorily. A conspiracy theory is, literally, a theory about a conspiracy. The term in its derogatory sense refers to paranoid conspiracy theories (i.e. theories that are deemed ridiculous to believe in).
When I went into this research, I had the notion that belief in conspiracy theories was correlated with intelligence. After a bit of research, I can conclusively say that I would need to do considerably more research to say what belief in conspiracy theories is correlated with (other then that the best indicator about whether someone will believe in a particular conspiracy theory is whether they believe in other conspiracy theories).
I would say that the idea of a conspiracy theory (in the derogatory sense) is strongly tied to the idea of common sense. That is to say, to label a belief as negatively a conspiracy theory is to label it as a thing that a sensible person would not believe in. This does seem to potentially pose a problem however, since a lot of things which are considered true run counter to common sense (the sun being the center of the solar system, the origins of the universe potentially having come from nothing, a single substance universe, etc). Are conspiracy theories then actually something to frown upon?
Though the boundary is obviously thin, I think the characteristic of a true conspiracy theory/theorist is a predisposition to outlandish beliefs based on thin evidence. That is, believing in unlikely things in general is not quite enough to classify someone as a conspiracy theorist because there truly are unlikely things which are true. However, if someone habitually makes these obscure explanations then the behavior begins to boarder on paranoia. Things aren’t always what they seem, but if you automatically assume that things aren’t as they seem then you are no longer pursuing the truth but instead just paranoid.
Let me know what you think.