New study: We’re all “conspiracy theorists” now

Kevin Barrett

Are people who think 9/11 was an inside job suffering from pathological delusions?

That is what the mainstream media tell us. But a recent study published in Frontiers of Psychology suggests the contrary. It found that 29 of 30 research subjects – 97% of the sample – turned out to be “9/11 conspiracy theorists.” And it concluded that questioning the official version of 9/11, and constructing an alternative explanation, is a sign of psychological health.

New study We're all conspiracy theorists now

The article’s title “Thirty shades of truth: conspiracy theories as stories of individuation, not of pathological delusion” summarizes its key finding: People who doubt the mainstream media’s version of 9/11 are not deluded. Quite the opposite: They are notable for “individuation,” a term coined by Carl Jung which he defined as: “The better and more complete fulfillment of the collective qualities of the human being.”

Are 9/11 truthers and other independent-minded skeptics really better and more fulfilled human beings? That is the exact opposite of what mainstream propaganda has been telling us.

The term “conspiracy theorist” was launched into wide circulation in the 1960s by the CIA ‘s Document 1035-960. That memo, entitled  “Countering Criticism of the Warren Commission Report,” ordered the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird media assets to smear people asking questions about the JFK assassination by labeling them “conspiracy theorists.” Since then, “conspiracy theorist” has served as a weaponized term. Whenever defenders of an official myth cannot argue convincingly on the basis of facts and logic, they resort to the ad hominem “conspiracy theorist” insult as a weapon of last resort.

So the good news is that the explosion of “conspiracy theories” in the wake of 9/11 is not a symptom of collective insanity or mass delusion. On the contrary, it is a sign that people are growing psychologically healthier.

And if the study’s sample is any indication, more and more people are becoming psychologically healthy. Psychologist Marius H. Raab and his four co-authors discovered that 29 of the 30 participants in their “constructing 9/11 narratives” experiment refused to swallow the official version of 9/11; only one participant fully endorsed the official story (and that person admitted to having no interest whatsoever in 9/11). Perhaps the public is becoming saner, better-adjusted, and better-informed than even the most wild-eyed conspiracy optimist would have believed.

Why are alternative 9/11 conspiracy theories psychologically healthier than the Official Conspiracy Theory (OCT)? The obvious answer is that the OCT is transparently false. Believing something that is self-evidently highly improbable, and contradicted by all available evidence, is virtually a textbook definition of “pathological delusion.” The “two planes took down three skyscrapers” claim is ridiculous on its face; and the notion that “radical Muslims” who relished pork chops and debauchery, and could not even fly Cessnas, could achieve stunt-flying feats beyond the abilities of the world’s best pilots, is bizarre beyond belief.

Another obvious answer is that the Official Conspiracy Theory (OCT) is paranoid, racist, and murderous. Believers in the OCT have murdered more than one million Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan based on the paranoid delusion that “radical Muslims” carried out 9/11. If killing one person on the basis of their religion or skin color is a hate crime, what shall we call the murder of more than a million?

Unsurprisingly, Raab and his co-authors avoid these all-too-obvious, all-too-controversial points. Instead, they suggest that the process of developing an Alternative Conspiracy Theory (ACT) is a sign of individuation, meaning psychological health and fulfillment.

Why is it psychologically beneficial to construct one’s own narrative about what really happened on 9/11 by assembling facts, including those that do not fit the Official Conspiracy Theory?

The study’s authors cite French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard’s claim that people no longer swallow the grand, mythic narratives of the past. Today, people create their own individual “little stories” to help them understand what is going on, and to give meaning and purpose to their lives. Jung saw this kind of individualized creativity as a healthy sign of what he called individuation: The self-fulfillment of the individual.

According to the study’s authors, constructing one’s own 9/11 narrative in opposition to the OCT is “an attempt to emphasize a personal set of values and thus to organize and regulate one’s life experience in a meaningful way.” Each 9/11 skeptic’s explanation of what really happened on 9/11 is “a dynamic narration reflecting an individual’s values” such as concern for individual liberty and morality. Unlike former Obama information Czar Cass Sunstein, who wants the government to infiltrate, disrupt, and “disable the purveyors of conspiracy theories,” Professor Raab and coauthors seem to welcome the spread of 9/11 skepticism and the self-fulfillment it brings.

While the article’s authors avoid passing judgment on the 9/11 Official Conspiracy Theory, they do admit that so-called conspiracy theories can awaken people to the reality of actual conspiracies: “Narratives about dystopian developments make us aware of such developments in the first place.” Decrying government officials’ unethical behavior can “make us (and others) cautious about the violation of ethical standards.” In short, discussing conspiracies such as 9/11 can help raise awareness of the dystopian elements of today’s world, and discourage power elites from staging more false-flag attacks.

But wait a minute – aren’t “conspiracy theorists” a bunch of pathetic losers who invent preposterous, paranoid tales to justify their own feelings of powerlessness? The answer, according to the study’s authors, is a definitive “no.”

Some scholars, echoing the CIA’s ad hominem campaign against “conspiracy theorists,” have posited that those who believe in Alternative Conspiracy Theories should score low on the scale of self-efficacy – a psychological measurement of a person’s sense of healthy confidence in their own abilities. But it turns out that this is not the case.

Professor Raab and the four co-authors were surprised by this finding: “In accordance with the premise that supporters of conspiracy theories share some kind of cognitive or emotional disposition, we expected people with a low level of self-efficacy to be more susceptible for any kind of conspiracy theory than people who reported a high level of self-efficacy….(but)…The relation between self-efficacy and belief in conspiracy theories turned out to be non-significant…The data did not justify—or even suggest—the assumption that self-efficacy is related to endorsement in common conspiracy theories.”

In short, the study found nothing negative – and much that is positive – about “conspiracy theories” and “conspiracy theorists.”

The article also “New studies: ‘Conspiracy theorists’ sane; government dupes crazy, hostile” reported on scholarship challenging mainstream assumptions that “conspiracy theories” are a bad thing and “conspiracy theorists” are defective. As we learn more about such events as 9/11 and the competing stories they generate, it becomes increasingly clear that the so-called “conspiracy theorists” are not just right about the facts; they are also psychologically better-adjusted than the dwindling legion of brainwashed dupes and shills who oppose them.

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One Response

  1. Judith Williams says:

    This is an excellent article. In my experience people who question things are more intelligent and are more discerning than ordinary people who accept everything they are fed. I appreciate these scientists corroborating that. I am known among my conservative friends as a conspiracy theorist and I have sort of resented that. But one thing I notice about people who throw that epithet around is that they themselves are never curious about anything and are terribly uninformed. If they are asked to present any evidence to support what they believe they can find none because they have swallowed whatever the powers that be want them to believe and have no basis for anything.

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