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What do you think makes people vulnerable to conspiracy theories and how can they break free?

(99 Posts)
Kendodd Thu 11-Feb-21 21:15:18

I don't think they can be dismissed as just stupid, they're not, some are very intelligent and well educated. What makes the susceptible to this nonsense though? Do you know anyone who believed the bullshit and then saw it for what it was? Realised the earth is not flat etc. How did that happen?

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Kendodd Fri 12-Feb-21 13:15:19

Anyone got a view?

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Kanaloa Fri 12-Feb-21 13:32:54

I think it probably depends on what the conspiracy is. I know one person who believes lots of them - people being secretly aliens, government trying to insert secret chips in people etc - he smokes a lot of marijuana which I think has affected how he views things and he spends a lot of time on websites talking to others who share his views so he isn’t getting other views really.

Kanaloa Fri 12-Feb-21 13:33:56

But I’m not sure what makes you susceptible to believing them, I guess having people of similar beliefs in your social circle probably helps.

Kendodd Fri 12-Feb-21 13:35:49

I have a friend who completely believes all 9f them as well, including that the earth is flat. She doesn't take drugs and is university educated.

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hamstersarse Fri 12-Feb-21 13:37:12

People like answers and certainty, and conspiracy theories often offer 'simple' solutions to what are usually quite complex and messy scenarios with no clear explanations.

Both my teenagers went through a phase of loving conspiracy theories - they have grown out of it now. It was very much a developmental phase for them where they were trying to make sense of the world and i rather enjoyed it tbh. It was fun debating whether Bill Gates wanted to put microchips in our arms.

LunaHeather Fri 12-Feb-21 13:37:40

What do you think of as a CT?

Kljnmw3459 Fri 12-Feb-21 13:39:45

If you believe in something then you wouldn't consider it a conspiracy theory would you? So really in their minds they're believing in a fact or truth. And everyone else is believing a lie?

Being exposed to different sides of the story usually helps but some will just find a theory they're comfortable with and stick with that whatever comes. Facts don't really matter in many cases.

torquewench Fri 12-Feb-21 13:41:30

A criminal lawyer I used to work for, 25+ years ago (so a long time before social media became a thing) used to say "conspiracy theories are for the feeble minded". Im inclined to agree. Not that people who believe them are feeble minded per se, but that they dont bother to find out the facts for themselves and are happy to believe and repeat any old rubbish.

dividedwefall Fri 12-Feb-21 13:51:00

I have always enjoyed reading conspiracy theories. They always start when something doesn't add up, when there are inconsistencies or technical impossibilities relating to a given story. Where governments over or under-react to situations. Big gaps in stories are just waiting to be filled, and often people prone to conspiracy theories feel that those inconsistencies or holes exist for malign reasons.

When things don't make sense, human brains have different ways of making peace with it. Some brains ignore it as questioning it is difficult, uncomfortable and unsafe. Others (a minority) set out to find out the 'truth' and delve fully into it, often putting 2 +2 together and getting five. The ones that DO get 4 tend to disappear grin

Examples of these events with glaring inconsistencies are David Kelly, the Iraq War, 9/11, the Syrian war, Seth Rich and more recently, Covid and Event 201.

DontAskIDontKnow Fri 12-Feb-21 13:55:29

One major factor is if someone is good at seeing patterns in things.

There is a bit of a lack of critical thinking or being unable to deal with uncertainty. People then build their social lives and identity around this stuff, so it becomes really hard for them to then get out of it.

The podcast ‘you are not so smart’ is brilliant for information on how this happens. He did one a while back that interviewed the person that made the flat earth documentary.

bearandowl Fri 12-Feb-21 13:57:35

It depends what you mean by a conspiracy theory. Some would say that the current so called "pandemic" is a conspiracy theory - the average age of those dying from covid is higher than the average life expectancy.

dividedwefall Fri 12-Feb-21 14:04:07


It depends what you mean by a conspiracy theory. Some would say that the current so called "pandemic" is a conspiracy theory - the average age of those dying from covid is higher than the average life expectancy.

This is exactly what I mean. When things really don't add up (and many, many sensible people think the response to COVID has been unusual to say the least) they search for meaning. Conspiracy theories arise out of people seeking explanations for things that don't make sense.

SquishySquirmy Fri 12-Feb-21 14:11:38

I think a big part of the attraction is in wanting to be smarter, or more clued up than other people.
To be the person "in the know".
That perhaps is why some intelligent people get sucked in? Being sceptical is a GOOD thing, imo, so questioning what we are told is fine. The problem starts when the scepticism is only applied in one direction - eg, the government lies, but that far fetched theory on the internet must never be questioned.
I don't know what the solution is.

But I do think it is worth examining our own positions and beliefs, and asking the following question: "What would change my mind? What evidence is required to make me doubt this belief?"

If the answer is "no evidence will be enough" (because I am so sure of the truth that any amount of evidence will be explained away as planted or falsified) then it is not a rational, sceptical position: It is blind faith.

dividedwefall Fri 12-Feb-21 14:12:52

Take innocent old philanthropist Bill Gates as an example.

His foundation is involved in Event 201, ID2020 and GAVI, and he is now the leading world spokesperson on not just COVID but the future pandemic he has predicted on live TV too.

Now all of this could be coincidence and totally benign, or it could all be linked and nefarious. Most Mumsnetters will just think he is a nice old billionaire trying to save the world one vaccine at a time. Others are asking why is he involved in all of these things that precede but are directly connected to an unexpected pandemic that needs the whole world to be vaccinated, locked in their homes and, as we now see, be issued with a vaccine passport to be able to travel (pending confirmation).

Those who trust in authority will take it all at face value. Those more cynical and mistrusting will think something terrible is happening behind the scenes. There is plenty of evidence to support both view points, but those on each side will deny the other is sane, rational and correct.

SquishySquirmy Fri 12-Feb-21 14:27:36

Pandemics aren't unexpected though.
They have been occurring throughout human history and will continue to occur in the future. There have been plenty of near misses... new viruses which could have been global pandemics but weren't (due to prompt action, or to the disease being less infectious than first thought, or due to shear luck).

My work send me on first aid courses.
I hope I won't ever need to use CPR.

But if Dave in accounts keels over with a heart attack next Wednesday, does that prove that my employers are somehow behind it??
...after all, they predicted it would happen! They sent me on a course in case it did happen! They did not specify exact when it would happen, or who it would happen to, but they discussed it and sent employees on first aid courses which included training for that exact scenario!

dividedwefall Fri 12-Feb-21 14:34:30

Yes but we aren't discussing whether or not COVID is a conspiracy theory. We are exploring why some people might think it is, and others might think it is not. As I was pointing out, too many coincidences and odd events happening together cause lots of people to join the dots, even if there are no dots to be joined. Or they might be connected! Who knows. The point being that some people think one way, others think another.

SquishySquirmy Fri 12-Feb-21 14:39:40

There is one thing that puzzles me and I would dearly like to know the answer:

Why so many conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, and so few about Elon Musk?

Musk is waaaayyy more suspicious. He acts like a caracature of a villianious, insane evil genius billionaire.
But people trust him, and distrust Bill Gates.

Is it because the people who subscribe to some of the wilder theories sort of relate to Musk as a fun weirdo, whereas Gates is more of a remote, dull, authority figure?

Is it because Musk is assumed to be too coked up to competently organise a convuluted global cover up?

dividedwefall Fri 12-Feb-21 14:43:55

Squishy, read my post on Bill Gates and what he is involved in - Event 201, GAVI, ID2020. These are all conspiracy theory bread and butter organisations.

Elon Musk is a renegade as far as US billionaires go. He is not involved in anything other than super high tech advancement. They are completely different, and if anything, Elon himself could be considered a Conspiracy Theorist.

hamstersarse Fri 12-Feb-21 14:44:34

Gates is a deeply unpleasant man - he was pretty ruthless when he started out in Microsoft and now has turned into some massive altruist which is discombobulating, whereas Musk is just pretty amiable and consistently bonkers. Or at least that is how their public personas appear.

I think it is just as simple as that

SquishySquirmy Fri 12-Feb-21 14:48:48

But if people think event 201 is evidence that covid was planned, then I can just as rationally believe that the first aid training my employer organised is evidence that someone high up planned my colleague's heart attack, or that fire drills are evidence of arson.

Risks and hazards should be identified and planned for. You can't predict 100% how and where a pandemic might occur, but it is entirely expected that tabletop exercises will be carried out, and that these will have some similarities and some differences to what might later occur.
To take a tabletop exercise as evidence of convoluted conspiracy is adding 2 + 2 and making 5.

TheChip Fri 12-Feb-21 14:51:40

I enjoy conspiracy theories, but not because I believe them. Its the mystery, the unknown and puzzle pieces that intrigue me.
If they were more fact based, I'd have no interest at all.

The flat earth one has never been a one I could even entertain though, because there is no way I could possibly ever find myself at a point of being able to come close to try and prove whether it is flat or not. It just feels like a constant ongoing guess game with no end. Where as others at least lead you to more questions. I like questioning things.

It does get quite frustrating if I mention a conspiracy theory to the wrong person and they assume I believe it and think of me as a nut job. Where as I really just enjoy entertaining the ideas of them.
The missing 411 is a great example of the style I personally like. Fascinating stuff!

dividedwefall Fri 12-Feb-21 14:54:55

Me too @TheChip. I enjoy reading about them and looking at the evidence. I don't think I can honestly say I 'believe' any conspiracy theory. Then again, I don't believe much Boris Johnson tells me either! I am open to all evidence and opinions.

Like you, the flat earth thing is a real head scratcher. My brain can't consider even thinking the earth is flat! Galileo and Copernicus were conspiracy theorists for proving it was round, so why are we back here hundreds of years later? Mad.

boredwiththeoldname Fri 12-Feb-21 14:56:50


It depends what you mean by a conspiracy theory. Some would say that the current so called "pandemic" is a conspiracy theory - the average age of those dying from covid is higher than the average life expectancy.

No it isn't.

Letsallscreamatthesistene Fri 12-Feb-21 14:59:05

My only basis for this is my FIL. Hes hugely into them. Hes also really angry at life in general and I think looking for a way to explain why things havent turned out his way. Hes recently conceded that smoking probably was the reason for his heart attack, and that the research behind it wasnt a conspiracy paid for by governments to keep the tobacco industry on the back foot. Everything else is someone elses fault though and a conspiracy that negatively effected him.

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