Essay on Conspiracy Theory as a Sign of a Deeper Problem

Submitted By taylorlstark
Words: 1621
Pages: 7

Conspiracy Theory as a Sign of a Deeper Problem Conspiracy theorists and their creators are often mislead and confused about whichever institution they are targeting or event they are speculating about. These people have little understanding of, or are confused by some powerful institution or think that these institutions are taking away some of their autonomy and repressing them. In order to cope with this uncomfortable feeling, they create conspiracy theories as a way to make sense of such large organizations or to explain the way that they believe they are being controlled. Jameson, Žižek, and Melley all present some similar form of this argument in their respective writings and each comes to more or less the same conclusions. All three writers present the idea that conspiracy theorists do not just decide to become paranoid and begin creating insane ideology to believe in, rather they are fearful of the unknown or do not have a thorough understanding of an entity that exerts some sort of control over them, no matter how little, and use conspiracies as a way to put their minds at ease and explain the behavior of what they perceive to be potentially threatening organizations. Each author presents a similar explanation for conspiracy theorists’ behavior and each constructs a compelling argument for why their reasoning is correct. Jameson’s argument for the causes of conspiracy theories in his chapter entitled Cognitive Mapping is pretty complex and difficult to follow but does offer a valid commentary on why people often turn to conspiracy theory as an explanation. The first mention that he makes regarding conspiracies is when he states that there is “a growing contradiction between lived experience and structure, or between a phenomenological description of the life of an individual and a more properly structural model of the conditions of existence of that experience.” (Jameson 278). This perfectly depicts the relationship that conspiracy theorists have with the world around them. It demonstrates that there is an identifiable difference between what the individual experiences in the world and the events that are actually taking place. Shortly following this revelation, Jameson reiterates this point saying that “those fundamental realities are somehow ultimately unrepresentable or, to use the Althusserian phrase, are something like an absent cause, one that can never emerge into the presence of perception,” but then says that “this absent cause can find figures through which to express itself in distorted and symbolic ways,” again relaying the idea that paranoiacs view reality differently and find alternative ways of representing their perceptions of the world through conspiracy theories (279). Timothy Melley is the second author who addresses the underlying causes for people finding solace in conspiracy theories. He declares that what “[he] hope[s] to show is that ‘paranoid’ interpretations are often complex and self-defeating attempts to preserve a familiar concept of individual action that is at odds with sociological work,” and that this occasionally amounts “to a fraught and paradoxical defense of liberal individualism itself,” in short, he is saying that people will invent complex theories that do not support themselves to create a familiar or comforting environment or situation despite the fact that it contradicts reality and cannot be adequately supported (Melley 23). Another cause of conspiracy theories is that people experience “agency panic,” which Melley defines as an “intense anxiety about an apparent loss of autonomy or self-control—the conviction that one’s actions are being controlled by someone else, that one has been “constructed” by powerful external agents,” (Melley 12) this is another scenario that leads to the creation of conspiracy theories, people like to have some sort of assurance, no matter if its fabricated or real, that they have a thorough understanding of the forces that are influencing…