Why we embrace conspiracy theories

Thursday, August 15, 2019
 | 
Ben Shapiro - Guest Columnist
https://twitter.com/BenShapiro
Shapiro

Much of our tendency to believe conspiracy theories these days has to do with generalized distrust of the media – but more of it has to do with the human inability to accept widespread incompetence.


This week, convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was found unresponsive in his jail cell from an apparent hanging, the day after a court unsealed a cache of documents from a lawsuit against his alleged procurer, Ghislaine Maxwell. Those documents included affidavits from Virginia Roberts Giuffre, the plaintiff, that allege Epstein trafficked her to major figures including former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Prince Andrew of Britain and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

Epstein had allegedly attempted suicide in late July, when he apparently tried to hang himself in his cell. He was removed from that cell and placed on suicide watch. Only 11 days before his successful suicide, he was removed from suicide watch.

The failures were systemic. According to The Associated Press, guards on Epstein's unit were "working extreme overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages." Epstein's jailers were supposed to check on him every 30 minutes but didn't do so, according to The New York Times. Epstein was also supposed to be housed with another inmate so he wasn't alone; that never happened.

Given the public scrutiny on Epstein – he was the most famous federal inmate in custody – it's no wonder that so many Americans are deeply suspicious of his suicide. Epstein had publicly associated with both President Donald Trump and ex-President Bill Clinton; Clinton had flown on Epstein's plane multiple times. Within hours, dueling hashtags #ClintonBodyCount and #TrumpBodyCount trended on Twitter. President Trump, seemingly bothered by the hashtag targeting him, even retweeted Terrence K. Williams:

"Died of SUICIDE on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH? Yeah right! How does that happen ... #JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he's dead ... I see #TrumpBodyCount trending but we know who did this! ... RT if you're not Surprised."

Conversely, MSNBC's Joy Reid suggested that Attorney General William Barr, "Trump's consigliere ... whose prime directive is to protect Donald Trump no matter what," might be covering up Epstein's murder.

None of this is good for the country, obviously. But the question is why Americans seem so apt to believe conspiracy theories these days. Some of that certainly has to do with social media, where small pockets of fringe opinion can merge together to create larger pockets of fringe opinion.

Much of it has to do with generalized distrust of the media – distrust that is largely justified by media unwilling to question conspiracism from one side of the aisle. The same weekend Trump idiotically retweeted the Clinton-Epstein conspiracy theory, no less than three Democratic presidential candidates suggested that Michael Brown – the 18-year-old shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2015 while charging that officer – was actually murdered. Not a single reporter apparently bothered to ask why these candidates were ignoring the report of Barack Obama's Department of Justice, which found no evidence of murder.

More of it has to do with the human inability to accept widespread incompetence. Conspiracies are notoriously difficult to pull off. There are simply too many moving parts. Those who believe in conspiracy theories tend to attribute far more control to human beings than they generally have. Better to believe in conspiracies than to accept the difficult truth that those who are supposed to be able to handle their business often fail at it.

In political terms, though, conspiracism turns up the heat radically. That's because every failure becomes evidence of malevolence on the part of your opponent; every oddity becomes yet another data point in favor of the all-powerful evil of those with whom you disagree.

Better, then, to abide by Hanlon's razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." We live in a deeply stupid time. And here's the good news: Stupidity can be handled. Evil is another story.

COPYRIGHT 2019 CREATORS.COM


Ben Shapiro, 35, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of "The Ben Shapiro Show" and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com. He is author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller "The Right Side Of History."

This column is printed with permission. Opinions expressed in 'Perspectives' columns published by OneNewsNow.com are the sole responsibility of the article's author(s), or of the person(s) or organization(s) quoted therein, and do not necessarily represent those of the staff or management of, or advertisers who support the American Family News Network, OneNewsNow.com, our parent organization or its other affiliates.

We moderate all reader comments, usually within 24 hours of posting (longer on weekends). Please limit your comment to 300 words or less and ensure it addresses the article - NOT another reader's comments. Comments that contain a link (URL), an inordinate number of words in ALL CAPS, rude remarks directed at other readers, or profanity/vulgarity will not be approved. More details

FEATURED PODCAST

SIGN UP FOR OUR DAILY NEWSBRIEF

SUBSCRIBE

VOTE IN OUR POLL

Why is the Democratic establishment so worried that Bernie Sanders may become their nominee?

CAST YOUR VOTE

GET PUSH NOTIFICATIONS

SUBSCRIBE

LATEST AP HEADLINES

Worried Democrats rush to slow front-runner Sanders
Dow drops over 1,000 as outbreak threatens global economy
Generational split among SC black voters could hurt Biden
Victims turn to media to expose sex abuse by college doctors
Public memorial service remembers the private Kobe Bryant
US appeals court upholds Trump rules involving abortions
Justices to hear Philly dispute over same-sex foster parents

LATEST FROM THE WEB

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calls out AOC's hypocrisy on school choice
Trump administration asks Congress for $2.5B to combat coronavirus
Liberal Ninth Circuit upholds Trump admin's rules on abortion funding
Greyhound to stop allowing Border Patrol immigration checks on buses
Public school launches secret program to turn kids 'trans' without telling parents

CARTOON OF THE DAY

Cartoon of the Day