Princess Diana and Bin Laden are both alive and well…! Really?

Did Princess Diana fake her own death?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.

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Graham Jones
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+
Graham Jones

@grahamjones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
Dear @10DowningStreet if, as said in tonight's press conference, the draft agreement will end freedom of movement c… https://t.co/QxxZk2S74t - 3 hours ago
Graham Jones

6 thoughts on “Princess Diana and Bin Laden are both alive and well…! Really?

  1. Jeremy raises an important point about the origins of the phenomenon – a loss of authority by civic figures whose inaccuracies have contributed to a reduction in their legitimacy.

    On a local note traditional media processes may be to blame as strategies are devised to subvert them. This is a recent partisan example, but nevertheless illuminating
    http://waswasere.blogspot.com/2012/01/anatomy-of-inexactitude.html

    I’d be interested to hear what you think members of the public can do to identify and neutralise the negative aspects of these and similar harmful practices in the wider realm.

  2. Thanks for your comments. Yes, Jeremy, you are right – politicians and other leaders do lie to us. I’ve witnessed such lies first hand with some politicians. But I don’t think it is entirely the media’s fault. Some years ago much reverence was paid to political leaders – we didn’t believe they would lie to us. Then – mainly in the 1970s – when media organisations started to expose the fabrications of our leaders we lost all respect for them. Being a politician in the early part of the 20th Century was a respected job; not now. But since the 1980s, media organisations faced with poor profits, increased competition and so on, have reduced resources to investigate. The result is, our leaders can increasingly “get away with it” as in the case of the example from Oranjepan above. The simple thing is to assume that every politician lies until they can prove otherwise. The problem is, however, the more they lie to use the more the conspiracy theories will abound. Ultimately, the political elite could fall victim to increased acceptance of conspiracy theories, only because these can be produced due to the decreased trust arising from a lack of truthfulness at the top. Hoist by own petard, methinks.

  3. Thanks, Graham., I’m sure you’ve got some good stories. I almost hoped you were going to say you met Nixon!

    I once heard it said ‘politics is a conspiracy of conspiracies’, just like the common refrain that ‘all politicians are liars’ it all sounded like a recipe for social breakdown and sporadic waves of civic disorder.

    Do you think this is inevitably true, or are elections an effective self-regulating system, and something which companies could make better use of in their corporate structure to provide accountability? Seems relevant given recent debate regarding collective share-ownership and government handwringing over RBS bonuses.

    • Sorry, never met Nixon – but I did literally upstage Margaret Thatcher once…! Another story….!
      As for elections, social psychology research shows that all groups are self-regulating. At one of my workshops I play a game called “The Submarine Game” which is about decisions which need to be made by the group of people who are all trapped in a crashed submarine. They have the means of escape but how should they go about it? What happens is a “leader” emerges, who seemingly gets co-operation from the group. But the game also reveals that the true “leadership” of the group comes not from the leader themselves. RBS is not led by the CEO but by the combined approval of staff and customers, once that disappears no “leader” can lead them. In other words, groups are self-governing,

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