The reason people believe conspiracy theories is that they provide an all encompassing "explanation" for catastrophes and terrible events that has to be pinned on "them" as opposed to "us". Traditional conspiracy theories were often to do with anti-Semitic ideas.
In recent times, conspiracy theories have tended to emphasise that the real enemies within are "our" own governments. That's not completely new ( as with Hitler's idea Germany was "stabbed in the back" by Jews, socialists etc ) and so lost the First World War.
The difference today is that politicians are not blamed for losing wars so much as for starting them ( not a bad thing, of course ) and that a war such as Iraq is "all about oil" , when it was actually not just about that but also other factors.
The more absurd conspiracy theories can easily be laughed off, even if some weirdly want to believe them , even though they must know they are insane.
For example, the idea that the Moon is actually a Death Star jamming out cosmic signals that would emancipate consciousness, as David Icke states forthrightly, and that the world is dominated by descendants of Annunuki lizard people who intermingled with human to create the dominant classes.
The dangerous conspiracy theories are those that have a superficial basis in reality, such as the idea Zionists were directly responsible for the Iraq War and that can be backed up by the language used by "alternative" journalists such as John Pilger ( " the Bush Gang", "The Bush Cabal" etc etc ).
Apart from tending to stir up atavistic hatreds, conspiracy theories play into the hands of those politicians and commentators and "experts" who want to deny that oil had any thing to do with the Iraq War. Which then reinforces the idea that "they" are all involved in a "cover up".
The same is true of Afghanistan. The TAPI Pipeline is a central geopolitical war objective of NATO. But because Michael Moore mentioned it , and others in relation to Halliburton, profiteers and cliques, the role of the pipeline and the importance of energy politics is downgraded.
This is important because the Afghanistan War is really about the New Great Game for the resources of Central Asia. By making out that "our" own governments rigged the Twin Towers to get 9/11 or even allowed it to happen to have the pretext to invade overshadows the real role of resources.
And this is the central point. By making out that all evil comes from "Them" , the members of the public can absolve themselves from responsibility for what our governments do. Iraq becomes only that which "they" do: no mention of how "our" energy intensive high octane lifestyles make these wars possible.
Ultimately, conspiracy theories dovetail with simplistic left wing explanations that wars and terrorism is all "caused" by "our governments". Which means only is "we" could "stop" them" the world would miraculously become a better place. It's an assertion of "our innocence" and "their guilt".
Update. 20th April
Naturally, those inclined towards conspiracy theories have on the Guardian "Blether is Free" blogsite accused me of deliberately failing to notice that conpiracies do happen and that people who believe the lies that were fed to the media before the invasion of Iraq were all part of it. Which means, of course, it was not a conpiracy but, at most, part of a system of mass manipulation or indoctrination.
A typical objection was this one,
I'd say it's more apt that anybody who instantly dismisses any suggestion of conspiracy sounds rather fundamentalist. It indicates a willingness to blindly follow what they're told without applying any critical thought. It's certainly more apt than painting everybody who doesn't trust their government with the same brush, as you're doing here.
Plenty of conspiracy theories have turned out to be true. Of course there are people who will blindly believe a theory without any thought, but the same can be said of people who believe what the news and the government tell them, even in the face of the truth that's come out regarding the build-up to the war in Iraq, to state just one example.
I think most people are fairly level headed, and that doesn't just mean being wary of conspiracy theories. It also means being wary of what the government and the media are telling them. Having an open mind is healthy.
I'd say it's more apt that anybody who instantly dismisses any suggestion of conspiracy sounds rather fundamentalist.I'd say you look up the word "fundamentalist" then. Are you seriously suggesting that a somebody who rejects "any suggestion" of a conspiracy is a fundamentalist ? He is not. He is waiting for and evaluating the evidence.
This does not mean conspiracies do not happen. I was ( and if you had read my post properly before reacting ) you'd know I was rejecting all encompassing conspiracy theories. And say that they benefit governments that lie or mislead us into wars
Of course there are people who will blindly believe a theory without any thought, but the same can be said of people who believe what the news and the government tell them, even in the face of the truth that's come out regarding the build-up to the war in Iraq,Blair was dishonest but there was no conspiracy. He, and a few others around him, concocted a pissue of half truth based on unreliable evidence because Blair "believed" that invading Iraq was the "right thing to do".
It can be said that Blair conspired to twist the evidence. But he did so in plain view of the British public who, if it is to be remembered were not, as you suggest, somehow mostly brainwashed into believing Blair's fictional "case" for war.
The reason so many people might have been prepared to trust Blair initially, was that, as with those who follow conspiracy theories, they wanted, as much as Blair, to willingly believe in his pseudo-reality. Blair's entire period in office depended on a pseudo-reality.
I think most people are fairly level headed, and that doesn't just mean being wary of conspiracy theories. It also means being wary of what the government and the media are telling them. Having an open mind is healthy.No, being "wary of conspiracy theories" is precisely to remain open minded as much as being sceptical of the claims being made by government in an instant media age. It means not being credulous and facing reality. The "power of facing" as Orwell called it.