Chemtrails, vaccines and fluoride: Our top conspiracies
EVERYONE loves a good conspiracy theory. They’re the backbone to many Hollywood blockbusters and top-rated TV show plots, and on the Northern Rivers, there’s certainly no shortage of believers.
But which are our most prolific conspiracies? We’ve put together a preliminary list of the ones we think are most common.
While we realise using the label “conspiracy theories” may be a wee-bit controversial for some, we’ve used the term on a practical basis because it’s easier than saying “ideas, facts or beliefs of a conspiratorial nature that may or may not be true and are difficult to prove”.
When you look at the definition of conspiracy theory, validity doesn’t come into it. Merrian-webster defines it as “a theory that explains an event or set or circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators”.
OUR TOP CONSPIRACY THEORIES
Science explains contrails, the trails of white cloud that appear behind some aircraft, as clouds formed when water vapour condenses and freezes around small particles that exist in aircraft exhaust. Chemtrails, on the other hand, is the conspiratorial name given to contrails, which, according to theorists, are chemical trails deliberately sprayed by sinister forces to control the general public. They refuse to believe the explanation given by science that some contrails remain in the sky longer than others due to different atmospheric conditions and altitudes.
It stands to reason in a town that has the lowest rate of childhood vaccination on the country, some of the justifications would be of a conspiratorial nature. There doesn’t seem to be one overarching conspiracy theory for why vaccinations are bad, but one of the more widely believed and entertaining ones is that vaccines are all an elaborate ploy by big pharma companies to make billions off peddling fake vaccines and all you really need to stave off polio and whooping cough is an organic, gluten-free diet.
Fluoride has long been a contentious, emotive and hotly debated issue on the Northern Rivers. A surprisingly common fluoride conspiracy theory is that dentists, doctors and scientists are on the payroll of some evil corporation of government entity bent on forcing their “mind-control” drug on the general populace. Many believers of this conspiracy theory adamantly refuse to accept that fluoride, in the minute doses used in public water supplies, is actually incredibly efficient at preventing tooth decay, which can lead to serious health problems later on in life.
WHAT THE EXPERT HAD TO SAY
Academic conspiracy psychologist Rob Brotherton has done extensive research on the range of reasons conspiracy theories can flourish.
In an interview with ABC program All in the Mind, Mr Brotherton talks about the findings of his research, which were published in his book Suspicious Minds: Why we believe in conspiracy theories.
He said some of the characteristics that help identify conspiracy theories were “unusually evil” conspirators who are “hyper competent” and often have “grand plans of world domination” that go far beyond the everyday self-interest that we know people have.
He said they are often ongoing conspiracies that are “unfalsifiable” meaning there is no kind of evidence that could prove the theory could be wrong.
Mr Brotherton said research into the psychology of conspiracy theories had grown significantly in the last decade, with some focused on specific personality traits.
“We find, for example, that people who tend to buy into conspiracy theories tend to be a little bit more suspicious and paranoid than other people,” he said.
“If you distrust the people around you – your friends, your neighbours, authorities like the police – then of course you are going to probably buy into these theories that are consistent with that little bit more.”
A need for control also seems to impact on people’s likelihood to believe in conspiracy theories, Mr Brotherton said.
“What we find pretty reliably is that the people who we make feel like they don’t have control, they are more likely to buy into conspiracist explanations for that,” he said.
“When that feeling of control is stripped away… then we look for other sources of control, what is called compensatory control.
“And conspiracy theories are one manifestation of this need for compensatory control.”
The author said conspiracy theorists also tend to find patterns and connect dots between facts that don’t always exist.
“Finding patterns is an ability that we rely on every moment of the day really,” he said.
“But sometimes our brain is so good at finding patterns that it finds patterns that aren’t even really there.”
Mr Brotherton also talked about “proportionality bias” which is where our brains assumes that when something big happens, something big must have caused it.