I have seen multiple articles on the psychology of conspiracy believers but none on the psychology of conspiracy deniers… until now. The following article on the psychology of conspiracy deniers is outstanding: grounded, clear-headed, and psychologically astute. Please read it and then read the rest of my commentary below.
In addition to conspiracy deniers and believers, I see a third group: people who are neither conspiracy true believers nor conspiracy deniers. The following commentary includes my reflections on the above article, in the broader context of seeing a continuum between true believers and total deniers.
The one thing in Foyle’s article that I take issue with is his assertion of the cliché that power corrupts. Power does NOT corrupt. Psychospiritual immaturity corrupts. Psychospiritually immature people cannot help but exert power in corrupt ways… or in the opposite, abdicate power in ways that collude with the corrupt.
I personally find it incredibly challenging to discern between nefarious schemes that need to be unmasked and whack job conspiracy delusions that need to be ignored. Knowing that both exist is something of an insurance policy against my being taken in by fake (or partially fake) conspiracies.
For me there is a big difference between being unwilling to rule out nefariousness in some situations, and believing in virtually all conspiracy theories lock, stock, and barrel. I often conclude that a conspiracy theory is opaquely commingling reality and conjecture, and that even if many or most of the “data” are true, the interpretations of that data are not necessarily on the money.
I have also noticed that some things start off in mostly well-intended ways, only to end up being hijacked into nefariousness. I view the 1950s version of the American Dream as a classic and powerful example of this.
In addition, I have known some people in power positions whose integrity I trust. I would go further and assert that people who ‘other’ EVERYONE in power are being controlled by their own unresolved authority issues. I see “authority shadow” as a huge problem in society and have given keynotes and training on this topic.
All of that said, I continue to see a huge amount of good in the world. As someone who very much leans in the direction of optimism and giving the benefit of the doubt, I find it especially important to not allow this optimism of mine to turn into naïveté. I choose to accentuate the positive AND illuminate the negative (as my friend David Corbin puts It).
I often feel lonely in my perspectives about all this: I rarely come across people who hold with grace the awareness that ALL of the following variations exist:
- Authority shadow stimulating indiscriminate belief or indiscriminate disbelief in conspiracy theories
- Conspiracy variations:
- Bona fide conspiracies
- Conspiracies that exist but have been inaccurately expanded upon or over-generalized
- Fake conspiracies
- Individual variations:
- Nefarious individuals
- Well-intended-but-hijacked individuals
- Open skeptic who are not entirely sure what to believe
- Integrious un-hijacked individuals
I am curious about your perspectives on all this.