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The Value of Conspiracy Theories


Techniques General Persuasion > Conspiracy Theories > The Value of Conspiracy Theories

Personal value | Social value | See also


Conspiracy theories are often largely untrue, even if they are based on certain seemingly true evidence. Yet they offer value in a number of different ways.

Personal value

Being a theorist can have several benefits just for the person in question.

A sense of purpose

We all need to create meaning in our lives. When we have no purpose, we are listless, bored and directionless. When we have purpose, we feel alive, energized and ready for action. When the purpose is survival, which in practice is the primary need that many jobs serve, we force ourselves to do what is required, but we care little about what we are doing. The drive to exposing conspiracies is just such as purpose.

Building support

When what we do is driven by values, as opposed to the selfish purpose of what many do, we feel we are doing good, that we are helping others and society at large. Interestingly, this is far more motivating than just doing things for ourselves. It also provides a powerful platform from which to seek the collaboration and commitment of others. If I say 'help me get rich', few would help. But if I say 'help me save the world' then others will willingly join, and we can build a movement that can make a real difference.

This is a reason why many conspiracies are assumed to be doing things that are morally wrong, from stealing to killing to taking control of the lives of an entire nation.

Making friends

When people join the theorist in their cause and they work together, they become friends. And friendship that is a warm and pleasant thing, especially when all parties are working to a common purpose.

Gaining status

When you start a conspiracy theory, or even if you join the cause early on, then you rise higher as the idea takes root. You gain founder status and others look up to you as knowledgeable and as a leader who must be unquestionably followed. You are seen as brave, wise and important.

Social value

As well as the benefits to the theorist, there are benefits for society at large.

Exposing corruption

While conspiracies are seldom as big and coordinated as the theorists believe, they are may be based on certain truths about individuals and smaller groups who are indeed doing something wrong. While the theorist is wrong in assuming a wide conspiracy, they may be right about certain corruption.

And so while there is a lot of noise in what is claimed, it may still result in the good of real corruption being exposed and those who commit fraud and abuse their positions may be brought to trial.

Keeping people honest

Another benefit of conspiracy theories is that those who might consider doing wrong and perhaps have the knowledge or power to cover it up, realize that they can never quite get away with it. The mere presence of maverick theorists in other areas makes the potential fraudster think again. While this will not dissuade every such person, it may work to prevent some of them from taking the step into corruption and criminality.

Spreading social vigilance

The very knowledge of conspiracy theories can be quite comforting for some as they know that there are people out there who care about whether the government is being honest, and who have the courage and commitment to stand up and be counted. This apparent bravery will lead to some others who also start looking more carefully at things such as apparent coincidences and unexplained news items that suddenly go quiet. 

See also

Culture, Courage and Whistleblowers

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