Whether you think you are rational or irrational, you’re right. Do you believe in the time-worn adage “The customer is always right” or “A fool and his money are soon separated.” How about “Birds of a feather flock together”? If so, do you also believe “Opposites attract”? Even if you believe none of these, you will have multiple core beliefs – or axioms – that you consider self-evidently true. How often do you question the validity of these axioms? “Birds of a feather flock together” and “Opposites attract” are contradictory, or are they loosely indicative of a more nuanced truth that needs clarification? Conspiracy theorists are maddening because they appear to be rational in their justifications; their statements have an internal logic if you accept that the primary axiom, or the foundational truth which they believe is unshakeable. This is why it can be so difficult to convince them with what appears to be logical. The truly worrying aspect is that – despite perceiving ourselves as rational beings – we all suffer from this type of malady to some degree, even if you do believe in the validity of the moon-landing, the oblate-spheroid earth shape, or vaccines.
How much is the ball?Consider the bat and ball problem:
A bat and a ball together cost £1.10. The bat costs £1 more than the ball. How much is the ball?You have probably warily muttered ’10p’ to yourself. You know this is likely wrong, but your intuitive initial answer convinces you that it must be 10p. Now when I tell you it is wrong, what are your first assumptions? If you are thinking “It’s a trick question or “It must be a riddle”. You are following the exact path of a conspiracy theorist.
Gödel help usWell, you are following them to a point: a conspiracy theorist will steadfastly refuse to revise the belief that their first intuitive answer must be true. Instead anything contradicting their intuitive belief must be side-stepped, as it would be more outlandish for that axiom to be wrong than any circuitous reasoning that justifies it. An individual’s ego-driven need for certain axioms to be true is universal. Atheist or theist, chemtrail-ist or contrail-ist, you are likely to be highly emotionally tied to the underlying beliefs which inform your viewpoint. It is almost impossible to convince someone that their axioms are flawed, because beneath the primary axiom is this meta-axiom of self-belief that is never addressed by logically deconstructing an argument about Obama’s birth certificate, Sandy Hook as a false-flag, or lizard people.
“I am the rational keeper and protector of sacred, esoteric knowledge”This meta-axiom must be preserved at all costs, as it is the basis of all self-worth for the conspiracy theorist. A recent study demonstrated that conspiracy theorists would believe in a fabricated conspiracy if they heard that a small percentage of the general population believed it (<20%), but would be indifferent if it was generally believed by the population (>80%). This may be the reason that we will never extinguish the tendency with de-platforming: there will always be a fresh conspiracy to take its place, and the thirst for conspiracy is not quenched by the validation of an existing one.