Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Purpose of Conspiracy Theories

#BGT Prompted by recent allegations suggesting that "Britain's Got Talent" (which she refers to as "Simon Cowell's talentless contest") was fixed, Marina Hyde suggests that we concoct conspiracy theories in order to excuse our twisted fascination with things (Guardian 3 June 2011).

"So what are we to make of people's need to believe in conspiracy theories such as the one floated above? In his famous essay on conspiracy theories in America, the historian Richard Hofstadter noted that a significant part of these tales is psychological projection – people ascribe their own worst traits to the imagined enemy, thus relieving themselves of various kinds of responsibility. And so with an increasingly savvy reality TV audience, who understand that Cowell always wins, yet watch in ever greater numbers and have to find a way of elevating their involvement into something more than a mug's game. Both fans and haters need to develop outlandish conspiracy theories because they can't actually believe millions upon millions are genuinely in thrall to this stuff."

Richard Hofstadter "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" (1964)

Hofstadter's essay and other materials about conspiracy theories can be found on the website of Dr. Kenneth A. Rahn, Sr.  See especially The Academic JFK Assassination Site and Nonconspiracists United.

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