Princess Diana shares something with Osama Bin Laden apparently – like him, she is alive…! Trust me, it must be true because several people believe it and say so online. Yes, they are conspiracy theorists, admittedly. But there are plenty of people chatting away on the Internet who suggest, for instance, that Princess Diana faked her own death or that Bin Laden was already dead when the special forces stormed the building where he had been living. The problem with these people is that their beliefs are contradictory. Did you notice that the people who believe that Bin Laden is alive also claim he was dead at the time of the raid…? Er…how is that possible? And the people who believe that Princess Diana faked her own death also appear to think that she was assassinated by the authorities. Again, she cannot be both dead and alive at the same time.
Conspiracy theories are rife on the Internet. Only recently there was a theory circulating on the web that the Italian cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, had been torpedoed by the Iranians. When it was pointed out that there was no explosion, but a gaping hole with a rock embedded in the side of the hull, the conspiracy theorists explained it away by the “fact” that the Iranians had perfected the technique of disguising torpedoes as rocks. The contradiction in the physics of not being able to behave in a torpedo-like way if you were shaped as a rock, somehow did not seem to matter.
And how many times have you heard that Neil Armstrong never walked on the moon because the whole Apollo programme was made-up by the US Government in league with Hollywood…? The fact that this hoax needs the 50-year-long co-operation of hundreds of thousands of scientists and film crew members seems to escape the conspiracy theorists because it can be “explained away” by the notion that “hardly anyone knew”, not even the astronauts themselves apparently…! So, the theory is you don’t send them to the moon but make them and everyone else think they have been, thanks to the support of a handful of exceptional experts who have all stayed silent since. Once again, the contradictory nature of the moon landing conspiracy escapes the consciousness of the people who support such theories.
New research from the University of Kent, UK, shows that if someone believes an “official story” is untrue, then they become willing to accept contradictory notions – such as Princess Diana faking her own death and also being killed by MI5 or MI6. The contradictory nature of the various theories is seemingly invisible to people because of their fundamental desire to accept that the official story is untrue. That belief seems to “trump” the contradictions.
In the online world – where such contradictory theories can circulate rapidly and easily – it means that we need to be particularly wary. If someone is unwilling to accept any official story for whatever reason, then it appears changing their mind with logical argument is unlikely as they will counter such debate with illogical and contradictory claims, without seeing the nonsense of their viewpoint.
For online businesses this can be a problem too. The people who believe that a company is simply out to profiteer, to fleece the individual, are willing to accept that whilst also believing that the firm is deliberately making losses. A company cannot make a profit and a loss at the same time, but the conspiracy theorists would think that possible.
It all rather suggests that if you suffer from conspiracy theorists attacking your views or your company’s position if you are in business, then the best thing you can do is completely ignore them. If you enter the debate you will just fuel the fire of illogicality and contradiction.
- Contradictions Don’t Deter Conspiracy Theorists (livescience.com)
- Believing the impossible and conspiracy theories (eurekalert.org)
- Ghost of Princess Diana in Scottish Church (weeklyworldnews.com)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+