Conspiracy theories definition – how to factually counter them

Conspiracy theories are the ultimate refuge of the powerless. If you cannot change your own life, it must be that some greater force controls the world

Roger Cohen

Hey, how are you guys? Would you like to hear the truth? You may not be able to bear with it—coronavirus; Bill gates, the world’s richest man at one time. Let’s talk about a small story. Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world bought the coronavirus and used it as a weapon. The virus was produced in Wuhan, China and spread in the world using 5G towers. After that, he uses the money to buy the government, which imposed lockdown across various countries. This is not all! Then we are injected with electronic chips on our fingertips- an ideal way of world domination which can be done by tons of money at your disbursal. This becomes even easier when George Soros collaborates and uses vaccines, 5G towers as a weapon against humans. This is anti-national!


Too much of gibberish talks at the start but I couldn’t help myself from doing this. But let’s talk about some serious stuff now.

The stories mentioned above are believed by many people across societies and countries. Many people actually think that Bill Gates manufactured coronavirus, 5G towers are the sole cause for cancer, vaccines are dangerous for us etc. etc. An actual theory present says Bill Gates wants to install microchips in our body for world domination. These types of misinformation are called conspiracy theories. And nowadays, these types of conspiracy theories are viral in social media. Today I want to talk about conspiracy theories -why they spread, why do people share them, and how can we stop their spread by factually countering them?

Conspiracy theories definition

An attempt to explain the ultimate cause of an important societal event as part of some sinister plot conjured up by a secret alliance of powerful individuals and organizations.

History of conspiracies

Well, conspiracy theories are nothing new. It’s has been going on for approximately a thousand years now. One of the earliest records is in 64 AD during the Roman Empire when Emperor Nero was the ruler. In 64 AD, a devastating fire outbreak took place which burnt off about 2/3rd of Rome. It was only a matter of chance that when this fire took place, Emperor Nero was outside Rome. When he returned, he saw almost everything was finished, and he started rebuilding the empire. He built a vast palace, and the rumour started that Nero was the one behind the fire because he could remove all the buildings and make a massive palace for himself.

Interestingly this wasn’t the only rumour. People started this conspiracy theory against Nero, and emperor Nero started counter- rumour against Christians. He said that Christians were responsible for the fire and executed them. So, Christians had to face a lot of cruelty because of this.

Similarly, in the 1940s, there were many conspiracies which originated against the Jews. They were blamed for things which they weren’t responsible for, and we all know what happened with them eventually. So, we can see that to what extent of negative consequences conspiracy theories can have. In most of the cases, if you spread misinformation, it is harmless. But what I am trying to say is that if these conspiracy theories target a specific community or religion or a person- what can be the extent of the consequences? [Consider the story of Dr Kafeel Khan] That’s is why we need to know how conspiracy theories originate and spread, and what can we do to oppose and counter it factually.

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

 The reasons can be categorized broadly into two categories-

  1. Psychological reasons
  2. Social reasons

First, if I talk about psychological reasons, many research papers have said that conspiracy theories are a vehicle for humans to understand complex inexplicable problems of society and organize data. Especially the extraordinary, life-altering events, which are underexplained or have little information about its causes, we tend to fill in the missing information with our curiosity or understanding. Conspiracy theories are like bridges which close the gaps of human knowledge. For example- about the Bermuda triangle, all of us know how many ships and airlines have been lost. But there is no clear explanation or research as to why this happens. So, many people have developed a theory that aliens come and carry away the ships and the large aeroplanes.

Has the 'Mystery' of Bermuda Triangle Finally been solved?
Has the ‘Mystery’ of Bermuda Triangle Finally been solved?
Courtesy -Thequint

Similarly, the Malaysian airline which disappeared recently, nobody knows precisely what happened. Hence many people developed a conspiracy theory that aliens have taken away the plane. Sometimes there are certain events which are unique, astonishing and have a very low probability, but they happened; in these cases, conspiracy theories originate massively. For example- 9/11, moon landing, coronavirus. Another reason which we can say is illusionary pattern perception.

For example – See this number: 11001010100010110.

50% of people will think this has a part and 50% will say it doesn’t have a pattern. Fact is – it is a random number. Let’s see some pictures as well.

In the left picture, people will find the face of an elephant and for the image on the right, people will see “a face smiling at you.” The exciting thing is it’s in human nature to find patterns on whatever we observe; Connect dots or relate events which have happened randomly. In short, we look for patterns in randomness. Some people have a greater tendency and some lesser. But if you take it to extreme levels and apply it to every aspect of your life, then your thinking might well change. This type of thinking might be called teleological thinking.

For example- If you ask a small child that why does it rain. He might answer that plants and tree are thirsty so to remove their thirst, clouds pour down raindrops. Or if you ask him why do, trees have left? He might answer so that animals get shade. So, what is the character behind this thinking? Basically, children thinking that everything has an end goal or purpose or intention.

Similarly conspiracy theorists try to give a purpose extraordinary events. Like why is coronavirus spreading today?- There must be a different hand in it and is being used as a bioweapon. These people aren’ satisfied with the explanation that it is a random event and one of the unique occurrences which continuously take place.

Now if we talk about social reasons, it is mostly seeking validation. People who live alone or feel left out from the society or haven’t achieved much or are uneducated: wanting to make them feel special, validated and stand out in their social circle, spread conspiracy theories. Basically, they try to portray that they are well informed about political and social events than other people. These conclusions have been already said in various research papers. Here I am talking about spreading conspiracy theories but not originating conspiracy theories. Because in most cases, conspiracy theories are originated or started due to political reasons. Like in the case of emperor Nero where he started a rumour to improve his political image. So, this might be the reason behind starting and spreading conspiracy theories.

Some other reasons I would like to mention as well, which depicts the type of people who are vulnerable to believe conspiracy theories. A research study says that those people who are going through crisis or disaster events, that’s when most of the conspiracy theories spread. For example, the conspiracy theory of “Illuminati” circulated during the time of yellow fever. During 9/11 and moon landing as well many conspiracy theories had originated and spread. People who feel powerless or going through an existential crisis, spread conspiracy theories or rumours the most because they want to make someone scapegoat making them responsible for their own problems.

How do we identify them?

So how can we understand if anything is actually a conspiracy theory or a reality? So mostly all conspiracy theories have some characteristics.

  1. Mostly all conspiracy theories have an evil mastermind who is responsible for the whole.  Like in this conspiracy theory of coronavirus it is Bill Gates, in some cases, it’s George Soros or Illuminati in some cases.
  2. In every conspiracy theories, unrelated events are tried to relate. Correlation is not causation, but for conspiracy theorists it is.
  3. Most of the conspiracy theories involve a large group of people involved. For example, in the case of the moon landing, conspiracy theorists think it didn’t happen and is a lie. If you ask so many astronauts who went into space and returned, they will share their experience. But conspiracy theorists will say every one of these astronauts is also involved in this theory. How can it be that thousands and thousands of astronauts and space explorers are keeping a lie? Even the CIA being the most secretive institution in the world also has some whistleblowers.
  4. Most conspiracy theories contradict themselves. For example- The George Soros conspiracy theory is so popular that it is being spread in many countries.  The Turkish Prime minister says that George Soros is manifesting a secret Jewish conspiracy against Islamic Turkey. In the UK, it is thought that George Soros is originating a conspiracy theory open borders and call Africans and Arabs in our country, basically supporting Islamists. In the US it is perceived that he is conspiring against Christians and in India against Hindus. How can it be possible that a Jewish man goes against different communities in different situations?
  5. It is impossible to disprove any conspiracy theory. Every fact-checker becomes a part of the conspiracy, and this is very dangerous.

How to counter these conspiracy theories?

Firstly and most importantly, which is applicable for any conspiracy theory is to “PAUSE”. Before sharing anything with anyone on social media, do your own fact-checking and understand with your wit. Most of the conspiracy theories are already fact-checked on the internet. Find reliable sources before having a strong opinion about anything. In the moon landing photo, many aks that why was the US flag flying in the air, and why were the shadows too long? The real facts are that flag was in motion because of  Neil Armstrong was trying to hold it upright, and the shadows are long because they were shot by a wide-angle camera.

But what will happen if there’s no fact-checking available? I would suggest to try and think critically. Whenever we read something on the internet, try and find if there are characteristics of conspiracy theories. If you find it then also find some contradictions in it. After that, try to scientifically think and think of every statement as a hypothesis- as we have done it in our schools during chemistry lab experiments. When we consider a hypothesis, we should jot down the arguments in favour and against and try to understand what is logical and sensible. Finally, remember Correlation is not equal to causation.

I hope this article has been a value-addition to you and pushes your grey matter as well. Do take care before you share even verbally or on social media. Do leave a comment of any interesting conspiracy theories which you have come across.


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