Theories and why we believe them
By Dr Ron Hestand, Ed,D.
Conspiracy theories abound. There are probably more conspiracy
theories than there are people. This article will look at some of the more common conspiracy theories
and seek to present a psychologists explanation of why those conspiracy
theories are believed in.
Ascinskis said “everyone believes in one conspiracy theory or another, and most
people believe in several.
are some statistics about those theories. About one-third of the country
believes in “Truther” theories about the president as well as believing there
was a conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks. n equal proportion believe the
accounts of President Obama’s place of birth, his religion, and that he has a
social security number that doesn’t reflect his birth in Hawaii. These two
groups somewhat overlap.
top of that, between sixty and eighty percent of Americans believe in some
theory or other that Lee Harvey Oswald was not a lone shooter of President
Kennedy, that various groups were behind that assassination.
very number and variety of conspiracy theories suggest that people do not
subscribe to these theories to understand big events or gathering evidence to
have an explanation of those events. Ascinskis suggests that these theories
find a home with people who have a conspiracy mentality. This means that some
people are predisposed toward seeing a conspiracy and will often believe in
several conspiracy theories at once. For some individuals two or more of their
theories contradict each other and they fail to see that dichotomy, and will
not require much, if any, evidence to believe in their ideas.
Sigmund Freud put forth his theories that our beliefs and actions are driven by
unconscious forces and desires. Thus everyone has their own set of ideologies
and world view through which they see the world. These ideologies and world
view operate in the background without the person even knowing it, and
determine what they will and will not believe. These theories then offer an explanation
of how he world works and offer a tantalizing account that all of us fall
victim between at one time or another. The only difference between all of us is
to which theory, when, and based on what evidence that attract us.
these theories as absurd does not change the fact that they consume a fair amount
of that most valuable political commodity of time. We often see the people wo
believe in these theories as a small, eccentric slice of the population that is
middle aged, living in their mothers basement, white, male and are internet
enthusiasts (Joseph Ascinski and Joseph Parent in American Conspiracy theories.
Oxford University Press; 2014, p. 5). Social psychologists have conducted many
experiments in which they try to get people to change their conspiratorial
views when presented with authoritative data and information. They found that
attempts to change their minds was a waste of time. These people’s beliefs were
de Haven Smith (Conspiracy Theory in America. University of Tennessee Press,
2013) tells of the work of Richard Hofstadter who in a 1964 essay in Harpers Magazine
said popular conspiracy theories stem from the paranoid style in American
politics. However, given the vast numbers of individuals holding one or more
conspiracy theories that does not adequately describe those people.
let us look at some of the popular theories and see what function they might
serve for both the individual and society.
the early morning of September eleventh two thousand one, four jet liners were high
jacked by radical Islamic terrorists. Two of the jets crashed into each of the
Word Trade Towers, one into the side of the Pentagon, and the fourth crashed in
a field in Pennsylvania, the passengers having taken action against the
terrorists. The impact on the Trade Towers weakened the structure where they
hit and their inertia carried them deep into the square acre buildings,
dragging dry wall, and office furniture with them. The jet fuel caught fire and
due to the insulating effect of the drywall along with the wind created a blast
furnace effect hot enough to melt the aluminum of the jets and as the heat
rose, the steel was annealed (softened) and the water in the sprinkler system became
superheated steam and began to collapse. The sheer weight of the floors above
the impact site dropped. As floor after floor collapsed on to the ones below, a
“pile driver effect” was created, causing the towers to collapse as if they had
been imploded by a demolition company. This then is the official explanation of
theories, led by a group known as Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth
sprang up almost immediately. The Architects and Engineers claimed that the
jets of smoke and debris expelled at times resembled a professional demolition
of the buildings by explosives placed in strategic locations throughout the
towers. Additionally they claimed that the fires were not hot enough to create
the molten steel found in the basement of the building remains, nor to create
the molten aluminum flowing down the sides of the building. They suggest that
the only cause could be thermite, which is a combination of rust, aluminum and organic
materials. They claimed that there were gray pieces that could only have come
even was so horrific and of a proportion that the world had never before seen.
Everyone was crying for an explanation of how it could have happened. As in
most scientific inquiries of irreproducible effects, many competing explanations
begin to add to these opposing reports just as happens in the old telephone
game where a phrase is whispered to the first person and by the time it gets to
the last person it is an entirely different phrase. So it is with the 9/11
event. In addition, the Architects version does not speculate at first who
might have been responsible for the thermite explosions. As a result, we have
people speculating that it was in some way a government plot. That then became
a ploy by Bush’s people to have a reason to start a war in the Middle East, somehow
terrorists managed to plant the bombs.
is human nature to abhor a vacuum, so there is one existing in the 9/11
information. A lot is left unanswered.
the ages of mankind there have been stories and myths about giants. Even the
Bible speaks of giants. Native Americans have legends of large hairy
Native American story about the creation of man suggests the animals got together
to make men. When the man saw “big foot” he became frightened. “Big foot” ran
and hid and remained hidden from man because they doesn’t want to scare man.
Bible suggests that the fallen angels mated with the beautiful women they saw
and the result were giants. Additionally, there is the story of David and the
is dotted with accounts of seeing large hairy beasts. Footprints have been cast
of huge feet, but many of them have been proven fakes because a beast of the
size reported would have left much deeper footprints than many of the casts. In
addition, there is a variance in the kind of footprints that have been cast.
Some are ape like, some are human like. Some have arches apparent in the casts,
others have no arch and the foot is flat. We have not found the remains of any
animal or man of similar size. Prehistoric pictographs have been found
depicting huge human like characters in pictograph sites worldwide.
have a brain that fills in details when the visual data is incomplete or
foreign. Scientists who disbelieve the accounts explain them away in that way.
Others say the reported sightings are a misinterpretation of such things as
bears, large apes, or other animals.
long as these “sightings” and footprints continue there will be those who
believe the stories and those who do not.
Freemasons are really Illuminati and out to establish a one World
conspiracy theory has its origin in the Age of Enlightenment. The Freemasons
found great popularity in Europe. Adam Weisenkaupt was a member of the
Freemasons in Bavaria. He urged the Masons to adopt his ideas of what Masonry
should be. However he found Masonry not open to his ideas, so he left his lodge
and formed the Illuminati on May 1, 1776. His society’s goals were to oppose
superstition, obstructionism, religious influence over the public life and
abuses of power by the State.
was outlawed by Charles Theodore, the ruler of Bavaria at that time, with the
urging of the Catholic Church because it was allegedly worshiping the Devil.
Masonry continued underground in Bavaria, while it was still fashionable
in the rest of Europe.
foundation of Masonry is equality and a belief in God. Because Freemasons did
not have to profess to be Christian, and was open to any individual of upright
standing, and its rituals were secret, the Freemasons taking an oath never to
reveal the secrets of Freemasonry “on the penalty of death”, the Pope believed
that Freemasons were a threat to the Catholic Church because he believed that
they were devil worshipers and the overthrow of the Church. Nothing could be
further from the truth in regards to Freemasonry.
will state up front that I am a Master Mason, a 32 degree Mason in the Scottish
Rite, and a Shriner. I declare that we support Democracy, equality of all, and
we believe in God. In fact, it is widely written that much of our symbolism
comes from the Old Testament. We are not a part of the Illuminati.
Illuminati are thought to have conspire to control world affairs by
manipulating events and planting agents in government and corporations. They
too were a secret society. They were thought to have been responsible for the
French Revolution, and sought to gain political influence to establish a New
World Order with their tenants as the basis.
of the aims of the Illuminati was to rule the world. This is a total anathema
to Masons. We believe no man has the right to dictate another. We believe that
“he who denies justice to his brother or wrongs him in his estates, his
affections, or his reputation is a bad man (ibid, 513).
Masons worship the devil.
stems from a misinterpretation of Morals and Dogma by Albert Pike. It is a
voluminous tome that was in part a treatise of comparative religious studies.
In that book Pike said “Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! It is he who bears the
Light and with its splendors intolerable blinds’ feeble, sensual, or selfish
Souls” Doubt it not!” People never seem to get to the rest of the comment. Pike
points out that it’s strange that a name that means bearer of light is called
the Prince of Darkness. As an aside, the only time Lucifer is mentioned in the
Bible is in the Old Testament’s King James translaton of Isaiah 14:12. In later
translations the word is left out.
since Lucifer was deemed the Devil, and Pike’s intent was overlooked, it was
automatically assumed that Pike, and by inclusion, the Freemasons were devil
The Assassination of President Kennedy
John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas Texas according to official reports by the
Warren Commission by the lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald from the window in the
Texas Textbook Depository.
the time he was pronounced dead people began to speculate that there were more
than one gunman. The primary location of a second gunman was speculated to be
on the grassy noel. Other theories was that the Secret Service person attached
to ride with President Kennedy accidently discharged his gun when the first
shot rang out.
conspiracy theories did not stop with who shot the president, but spread to the
motive, since Lee Harvey Oswald did not tell the police why he did it before he
was shot by Jack Ruby. Ruby’s alleged affiliation with the Mob gave rise to
speculation that Oswald was hired to kill the President because of Bobby
Kennedy’s, the Attorney General, strong stance against the Mob.
President Lyndon Johnson was also believed to have arranged the assassinate the
President because Kennedy would not escalate the US involvement in Viet Nam,
and Johnson wanted us to go to war with the Viet Kong. Others theorized to have
been behind Kennedy’s death was Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba because of the
Bay of Pigs ill-fated invasion.
areas of contention besides who shot Kennedy were his autopsy and the reason
that Robert Kennedy ordered the Secret Service to give him the President’s
contend that the autopsy report was doctored to cover up the truth about a
second shooter from a different direction than Oswald’s position in the Book
Depository. They claim that rather than the bullet coming from the back, the
shot came from the front and blew a large exit wound in the back of the
President’s head. However, officials discount this because the Governor of
Texas was also wounded.
reinactions in TV and movie reproductions of the shooting have been done. By
and large, the majority of them confirm Oswald as the lone gunman.
fly-in-the ointment is that Ruby murdered Oswald be for a motive could be
discovered, leaving all kinds of room for speculations as to a conspiracy or
just Oswald’s dementia was behind the assassination.
In 1947 the Roswell AFB issued a press release stating they found a disk of
mysterious metal. They quickly backtracked saying it was a weather balloon. The
story is still on the top of Alien stories. Over the years base personnel gave
accounts of several crash sites, as well as a video of a purported alien
autopsy in 1995. However the maker admitted he’d faked “parts” of the film,
which of course cast aspersion on all of it. Recently the Air Force again
changed their story now stating that it was a research project called Project
Mogal and that the “bodies” were dummies.
story leaves much to be desired as to governmental revelations. One cannot help
but wonder what the real story is.
have been dozens of TV shows about Roswell. All manner of speculation, and
interviews with base personnel including the son of the Major who made the
original press release. He recounted seeing a bar with some kind of
hieroglyphics on it and a sheet of some kind of metal that could not be
crumbled, torn, or burned.
have no true closure on this story. There are no final answers that explain the
supposed crash. This gives the conspiracy theorists plenty of room to do their
51: Conspiracy theorists believe that Area 51, also known as Groom Lake, is the
location where aliens have been taken and their spaceships are being reverse
engineered. Supposedly two former Area 51 employees recount working
side-by-side with aliens.
Bob Lazar case is most interesting. He supposedly worked at Groom Lake and was
engaged in reverse engineering of alien spacecraft. The government denied that
he ever worked there, despite his producing paystubs from the government. He
claimed to have several degrees, but those records could not be found. He was
thoroughly discredited by the government and he was accused of being deranged
or an out-and-out liar. It depends on which side you are on, what the truth is.
This is fodder for the conspiracy theory about Area 51.
government has continually pushed out the perimeter of Area 51, closing access
to the mountain tops that were used to observe the base. However, with
satellite imaging, we can observe Area 51 from them.
government after years of denying its existence now says it’s a proving ground
for new experimental aircraft. The U2 and the Stealth Bomber and Fighter were
also developed there.
conflicting statements of the government set the stage for conspiracy theorists
to have a heyday!
have no definitive answers on Groom Lake, but that in itself leaves much room
Some of the alien conspiracy theorists
believe that there are shape shifting reptiles that have taken over positions
of leadership in the world. This idea is the brainchild of David Locke.
kinds of videos on the internet supposedly showing the reptilians slipping and
letting their true nature be seen.
conspiracy theorist believes that believers in these reptilians is Collene
Thomas. She wants to warn us of a shadow government of these reptilians that is
releasing dirty bombs.
is believed that these creatures have been around for millennia manipulating
our history for their agenda.
the basis for this theory lies in the Native American belief in shape-shifters
or skin walkers.
any rate, no plausible basis for this theory exists. There is no proof, nor
data to support it.
Aliens: This bombshell theory was proposed by Eric Von Danken in his book
“Chariot of the Gods.” He believes that earth has been visited by alien
visitors. They used advanced technology to build massive structures with stones
that we can hardly, if at all, move with todays tools and technology.
hypotheses posits that extraterrestrials have visit earth and indeed created
mankind, combining their DNA with that of an advanced hominid. They claim that
documentary gaps in history and archeological support their hypothesis.
Zachariah Sitichn proffered his translation of the clay slates found in and
around the Middle East. By his translation, the gods of Mesopotamia were
astronauts from what he termed the 12th planet called Nibiru. The
planet orbits on a 3600 year elongated orbit, According to Sitchen, these
aliens came to earth to earth to mind gold to take back to Nibiru to bolster
its thinning atmosphere. That was about 400,000 years ago.
aliens grew tired of mining the gold themselves and revolted. Thus, their
scientists created homo sapiens by combing their DNA with that of one of the
higher level hominids. The resulting creature was at first sterile and were
slave to the aliens that he identifies as Ananaki. Then, as more slaves were
needed, they were reengineered to be able to reproduce. Shortly after that,
they were given intelligence, this was the Adapa, and the aliens declared
recounts that 50 of the aliens first landed in the Sea of Reeds and donned wet
suits and waded ashore and built huts. Later more aliens joined them, and they
built the structures for which we have no idea how they were done.
says the flood of the Bible was an attempt by the alien leader to wipe out
mankind because they were too noisy and demanding. However one sympathetic
alien told Noah how to build the Ark to survive the flood. But instead of
hauling animals aboard, their DNA was
stored in the ships computer. That took place around 12,000 years ago. When the
aliens saw that humans survived, they nuked Mesopotamia and left.
Dogon: Robert K G Temple wrote “The Sirius Mystery” in 1976 about the Dogon people.
These people of Northern Mali tell about extraterrestrial visits about 5000
years ago. According to him, these Dogon supposedly possess advanced
astronomical knowledge as well as belief systems such as Egypt and Sumer.
Sagan: Carl Sagan and I. S. Shklaviski in their 1966 book suggested that
scientists and historians should seriously consider the possibility that
extraterrestrial contact may have happened during our past history.
wide petroglyphic drawings, the Nazca lines, and megalithic sites are phenomena
left without explanation because the official explanation’s fail to answer or
offer unacceptable answers.
becomes clear in so many conspiracy theories the official answers leave “wiggle
room.” They do not seem to answer the burning questions some have about those
incidents. It is human nature to want answers to the unknown. It appears from
psychological studies that there is what is known as a normal distribution
(where there is a majority of people clumping around the middle, and reducing
but equal numbers spread out on both sides of that middle clump.) of tolerance
for ambiguity. All of us have our own level of tolerance that differs across
topics. Thus, where we may accept the official version of the 9/11 incident and
Kennedy’s assassination, we might need much more information on ancient aliens,
and consider the possibility of such an event.
whose ambiguity tolerance is low may need far more evidence. This also explains
why many people believe in more than one conspiracy theory. There are also many
who may not full accept the official versions, but do not buy into conspiracy
Ron Hestand has his doctorate in Counseling Psychology and specialized in
Forensic/Prison Psychology. He has numerous professional papers and
presentations, has hosted radio and television programs, and written columns in
newspapers. He is now a 100% disable Navy veteran who was a corpsman and spent
time with the Marines, living in the Buffalo, NY area.