Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Beware of Conspiracy Theories

What do we mean when we use the term “conspiracy theory?” The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a belief that some covert but influential agency is responsible for an unexplained event.”  The Collins Dictionary defines it as “the belief that the government or some covert organization is responsible for an event that is unusual or unexplained, especially when any such involvement is denied.”  A classic example of a conspiracy theory is one that a majority of Americans continue to believe after 50 years:  President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was due to a conspiracy rather than a lone gunman.

Conspiracy theories have been around forever.  New theories are concocted daily.  Do you remember Sarah Palin’s “Obamacare death panels.”  That kind of overheated politically partisan rhetoric has typically been met with an intense backlash of “truth” from the American “free press” and the “thinking public,” but not always.    Some conspiracy theories have been swallowed “hook, line and sinker” on occasion.  From 1950 to 1954, many Americans, including  our politicians, subscribed to Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare conspiracy theory. If you are unfamiliar with this despicable period in our nation’s political life I would suggest that you check it out.

Conspiracy theories are not limited to any one political party—both Republicans and Democrats have created such theories for their own purposes.  President-elect Trump is suggesting that the CIA, NSA, FBI and other intelligence agencies are in cahoots with Democrats when they suggest that Russia is responsible for the hacking during the recent political campaign.  Could it be a Democratic ploy—are the Democrats simply being poor losers?  Ah, we have two possible conspiracy theories coming to birth depending on what side you are on.

Many conspiracy theories have been trumpeted in the past year and a half.  We expect some overly zealous politician to create one during a campaign if he or she can’t find one readily available!  However, in the past, such paranoid-based theories have been quickly squelched, but not this time!  We have allowed them to stand as though they are truth, reality, and fact.  Herein lies the possible demise of our democracy.

Here are some current conspiracy theories:
“Mexicans and refugees are murderers, rapists and terrorists…”
“There’s something going on…”  
“Everything is rigged….”

Beware of misinformation, disinformation, dehumanizing and CONSPIRACY THEORIES—they create violence, paranoia, distrust, alienation and polarization.  All of these things can and will destroy the American dream.

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