5 signs of a lame conspiracy theory

We often find ourselves buried beneath conspiracy theories that are usually illogical and almost always hilarious.

Faraz Talat May 22, 2012
We often find ourselves being buried alive beneath an avalanche of conspiracy theories that are often racist, usually illogical and almost always hilarious. That does not change the fact that conspiracies do sometimes take place.

So how do we sift out the handful of sensible theories from a mountain of preposterous hogwash you ask?


BSD (where D stands for detection) is an art quite easy to master.

Here are a few things that you should be on the lookout for, as they may help identify a false conspiracy theory. I’ve deliberately refrained from directly naming any conspiracy theories, so as not to elicit a knee-jerk defence-mode that may keep the reader from giving the article any serious consideration.

1) Too many conspirators spoil the conspiracy

Reality is a lot like The Game of Thrones (minus the dragons, warlocks, zombies etc). We have a multitude of forces, each with a different culture and philosophy, each concerned primarily with its own agenda.

It’s a tremendous feat to get a large number of parties to collaborate on something, because even among brothers and allies, there are usually a whole slew of differences to overcome.

Any theory suggesting transnational collaboration of half the world’s countries against your kinfolk is unlikely to be accurate. Even if such cooperation has been achieved, it cannot be endured for too long. The more people there are involved in a conspiracy, the greater the chance of one of them ratting out on his fellow agents and spilling the beans to the public.

In other words, the longer the chain, the higher the probability of a weak link being among them.

2) Motivated reasoning

A homeopath has a vested interest in the propagation of damaging rumours about the practitioners of modern medicine, for instance, a misconception about polio vaccines causing infertility. This is because of the rumour’s propensity to divert the ailing population from the hospitals to the homeopath’s clinic.

If a conspiracy theory falls perfectly in line with the theorist’s own ideology and nationalistic world-view, or if he’s likely to gain personal benefit from getting people to believe it, his word should be treated with scepticism.

3) Paranoid ramblings

A paranoid person will be suspicious of most, if not all, corporations and governments. This is indicative of an inability to comprehend nuances between sinister and benign events.

They will, most likely, propose grand and complex conspiracies, especially those involving plans of political or economic world domination by a certain group. Even if such an objective exists, it demands superhuman power and commitment, and countless elements in precisely the right places, to attain fruition. Needless to say, there is little need to panic.

4) Connecting the wrong dots

The day before Rupert Murdoch famously got hit in the face with a pie, I was at a bakery purchasing a pie of the same kind. A bad conspiracy theorist will assert that there lies a connection between the two events, and may blame me for planning or conducting the attack. But note the complete lack of evidence here. The only thing that links the two isolated events is the bare accusation of the theorist.

Plausibility alone doesn’t always cut it. A proposed link needs to be substantiated by proof.

5) If you reach Hogwarts, you’ve gone too far.

Conspiracy theories involving supernatural elements don’t usually deserve a nanosecond of your time.

Remember, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

A pile of blurry photographs, a bunch of symbols assigned portentous meanings, and images that vaguely resemble scary faces, do not constitute evidence. These are the least plausible of all conspiracy theories, but by far the most entertaining.

Look closely at that fuzzy picture. That’s not an alien hiding in the bushes, that’s Maya Khan waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting couple.

Read more by Faraz here, or follow him on Twitter @FarazTalat  
Faraz Talat

The writer is a doctor based in Rawalpindi and writes about current affairs and societal issues.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Asim | 12 years ago | Reply Oh man, you totally exposed the Zionists. Now how are we going to rule the world? .... Ooopss!
User | 12 years ago | Reply The questionable court proceedings, the intelligence linking the bombing to Iran and other relevant factors are detailed here: http://theoriesofconspiracy.com/2011/06/the-libyan-guy-didnt-do-it-the-story-of-lockerbie.htm
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