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Edition #8
Conflict and Context
Sarah Hussain
Edited by Miriam Zeghlache

Plots against humanity – the conspiracist mentality


Belief vs fact

Belief (noun): an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.

          Someone one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion.

Fact (noun): a thing that is known or proved to be true.

  • Oxford English Dictionary (1989)

“I believe in a higher power” vs “there is a higher power”. Nuanced syntaxes; individualistic variances. What we think is real vs what is real. Belief vs fact. Both guide us into intellectual and existential inquiries that help us circumnavigate the world we live in. But often, the lines between the two nouns are blurred – facts are debunked by strong beliefs and vice versa. For example, individuals inclined towards certain belief systems may subjectively reject factual findings that challenge their beliefs. Research has found that this may be due to emotional resonance with their beliefs; it is hard to become detached from them when they govern aspects of our wellbeing, because once we discover a contradiction, our psychological welfare is threatened (Bruno-Nino, 2023). 

I believe in a higher power. I can use teleological arguments to attempt to provide evidence for my belief. I can say that the design of the universe is clever and structured – those natural laws such as polarity, vibration, and relativity result from an intelligent Creator. But such arguments won’t objectively prove why I believe in one higher power or whether it is truly omnipotent. So, I acknowledge that the logic I use to prove this divine existence may not reach an objectively true conclusion. But this is my truth – my belief. Without measurable evidence and with empirical flaws. 

To conspire and the conspirator 

Conspire (verb): make secret plans jointly to commit an unlawful or harmful act.

Conspiracy (noun): a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful, the action of plotting or conspiring. 

  • Oxford English Dictionary (1989)

Henri Paul – Princess Diana and Mohamed al-Fayed’s driver – deliberately crashed the car on the 31st of August 1997, by order of the MI6 – a UK secret intelligence service. The US government stores and examines crashed alien spacecraft in Area 51, a secretive military base. The New World Order – a totalitarian government emerging from the shadows to achieve world domination by puppeteering mass global events.

An honourable mention - the reptilians conspiracy, which posits the existence of shape-shifters that assume human form to control the world. YouTube has an abundance of camera footage that allegedly proves these existences. Oh, to be a mythical creature…

Conspiracy theories can drive positive institutional changes. However, they are more dangerous empirically - conspiracies threaten and impede societal functioning. Socio-political disengagement, mistrust, and polarisation in attitudes, as well as rejection of healthcare regimes, are only some negative outcomes amongst many others (Jolley, Mari & Douglas, 2020). In context, the satanic panic of the 1980s led to a frenzy of wrongful arrests, e.g. The Kellers and Melvin Quinney. Many others are still being exonerated, but the impact of family separation, defamation, and time lost may never be compensated for some.

Vague evidence. Misinterpretations. Twisted truths. Psychological entrapment and subliminal messages. Theories are born from the missing gaps and the tenacious denials. It can be the absolute truth. It can be a false truth - an illusory subjective and/or collective worldview lacking hard evidence and, thus, prone to falsification. There is no way to know. Multiple perspectives are climbing into our consciousness like a kaleidoscope – begging to be heard.

Humans scheme; we conspire, and we hide. Hide our truths, hide our deepest darkest desires. We also fight for justice; for good. But the lines are so blurred, and anyone can be anyone; humans are malleable. Alleged certainty is a fallacy - we cannot be certain of anything save for death and taxes. And such is the paradox of mankind: we rise and fall; sell our souls to live and die to take it back; we are cursed, but we are blessed. Evil but good. It is something we cannot escape – it is human nature. 

Psychology of conspirators

Conspiracist mentality: “that members of a confession, party, or ethnicity […] are united by an indissoluble secret bond. The object of such an alliance is to foment upheaval in society, pervert societal values, aggravate crises, promote defeat, and so on.”

  • Moscovici (1987)

Studies show that belief in one conspiracy increases the likelihood that one will subscribe to others (Abalakina-Paap et al., 1999). The conspiracist is typically right-wing, has low analytical thinking skills, and is paranoid (Jedinger, Masch & Burger, 2023). Cognitive biases such as illusory pattern perception are manipulated, forcing meaning out of trivial processes, and conspiracists begin connecting dots that may not exist (Douglas et al., 2016). But don’t get me wrong, humans gravitate towards gossip – we interpret similarities in beliefs as a reflection of a truth – a confirmation bias. Social groups, particularly those lacking socio-political control, are more likely to harbour conspiracist mentalities because it justifies their oppression (Bruder et al., 2013). Because it is hard not to believe that every little thing happens for a reason. 

Nevertheless, believers and non-believers are handed the opportunity to manipulate power differentials. Extreme opponent group demonization is justified, and powerful social groups promote their worldview. We can debate the objectivism of power here, but it is a battle between those with and without it at every angle. 

Researchers claim that the conspiracist mentality is driven by three different factions of thought: epistemic, existential, and social. 


This relates to knowledge. Knowledge is intentionally withheld because of how wicked it is. The conspiracist mentality aims to remove dubiety created by this and, thus, will distort cognitive biases. They’ll inflate probability, produce grandiose scenarios, and may even insert their metaphysical beliefs into theories (Wagner-Egger, 2022). And those who try to debunk these theories and try to tell them they are wrong? They are in on the conspiracy itself.


This relates to meaning. People compensate for their feelings of powerlessness by rejecting authoritarianism (the conspirators) (Goertzel, 1994). They refuse to accept a life where nothing is authentic, where all is scripted and controlled. They refuse to give up their will – their life. They refuse to sell their souls. So they drift towards conspiracy theories, they find alternative explanations for their deprivation and their anxiety only fuels their strong beliefs in such concepts (Grzesiak-Feldman, 2013).


This relates to relationships. Those who are underprivileged, ostracised, oppressed because of who they are…for these people, conspiracy theories are charming sirens because their sense of self is threatened and feel victimised (Cichocka, Marchlewska, & Golec de Zavala, 2016). The conspirators are just the tyrants who steal justice from pockets like cheap pickpockets. They attempt to rectify the wrongs in their life, to justify the terrible unfairness of the world by supporting conspiracy theories and other fallacies (Graeupner & Coman, 2017). And they’ll only permit in-group recruitment to these theories to defend against contradictions. This is why belief in conspiracy theories is correlated with collective narcissism.

Media and Socio-political conflict

Media is pervasive, selective, and a cunning orator. Media reflects the truth, is holistic, and is a humanitarian orator. It is never either, or once one perspective is employed, it becomes easy for the audience to discern the lies from the truth. Mass media communicates current affairs, gives us ‘insider’ knowledge, the speeches made by leaders, and the backbones of our history lessons (Cortes, 1995). Some information learned from mass media is like the practice of mithridatism – consuming small doses of poison for complete immunity. Mass media can insert small doses of the truth in a picture of lies to gain trust, as it has done before (Tsetsura and Kruckeberg, 2017). Take recent news, for example; BBC reported that the pro-Palestinian protests held in London were actually pro-Hamas protests…they later issued an apology after public scrutiny. But even this does not apply to all outlets. Some people value truth and fairness, but the system prevents them. This is probably why people rely more on social media nowadays.

We have civil wars, and then we have international wars. Bloody wars, cold wars, and then wars of conspiracies and hateful ideologies. Some theories claim certain historical events to have been acts of ethnic cleansing. The Jewish Holocaust, Romani Holocaust, Bangladesh Genocide, and Uyghur Genocide...the list can go on. Then we have the Great Replacement theory - where White populations believe they are being replaced by ethnic populations. What harm can come out of that, you say? Well, think of the 2019 Christchurch Mosque shooting and the 2022 Buffalo Shooting. Sure, not all act upon extreme beliefs, but isn’t implicit condonation comparably detrimental?

Our complexes

Alfred Adler, an individual psychologist, said that humans strive for superiority. Once they feel an inferiority, they must rectify this (Adler, 2017). How we choose to do it may be different but, in the end, our actions are motivated by a need to compensate for this imbalance. I agree. 

Scientific research shows that conspiracy theories devastate our epistemic, existential, and social purpose – to corrupt our morals and skew the world into a division of inferiority and superiority. The world we live in is not black and white. The dichotomies are not so clear cut, and only naivety or senseless hope can make one believe otherwise. There is good and bad, but there is grey. And there is a darker grey and a lighter grey; there is a spectrum. Thus, there will always be an imbalance. 

In this imbalance, some scratch hard surfaces to escape their misery, and those burn their money to entertain themselves. Some hold onto beliefs, and those have found no solace in them. In the end, we are all just the protagonists of our stories. Our identities are warped by the convoluted systems of the world – made by humans and criticized by humans. And in the end, whether we believe in a theory, we’ll steer our own narratives. I’ll be the villain in yours, and you, the villain in mine. But aren’t we all the same, after all?


Abalakina‐Paap, M., Stephan, W.G., Craig, T. and Gregory, W.L., 1999. Beliefs in conspiracies. Political Psychology, 20(3), pp.637-647.

Adler, A., 2017. The drive for superiority. Experimentation and Innovation in Psychotherapy, p.27.

Amin, M. (2023). BBC apologises for ‘misleading’ Hamas report after immense backlash. [online] Metro. Available at:

Bruder, M., Haffke, P., Neave, N., Nouripanah, N. and Imhoff, R., 2013. Measuring individual differences in generic beliefs in conspiracy theories across cultures: Conspiracy Mentality Questionnaire. Frontiers in psychology, 4, p.225.

Bruno-Niño, T., 2023. The Power of Belief: Cognitive Resonance, Objectivism, and Well-being. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 26(1), pp.37-52.

Cichocka, A., Marchlewska, M. and De Zavala, A.G., 2016. Does self-love or self-hate predict conspiracy beliefs? Narcissism, self-esteem, and the endorsement of conspiracy theories. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 7(2), pp.157-166.

Cortes, C.E., 1995. Knowledge Construction and Popular Culture: The Media as Multicultural Educator..  

Dictionary, O.E., 1989. Oxford english dictionary. Simpson, Ja & Weiner, Esc, 3.

Douglas, K.M., Sutton, R.M., Callan, M.J., Dawtry, R.J. and Harvey, A.J., 2016. Someone is pulling the strings: Hypersensitive agency detection and belief in conspiracy theories. Thinking & Reasoning, 22(1), pp.57-77.

Goertzel, T., 1994. Belief in conspiracy theories. Political psychology, pp.731-742.

Graeupner, D. and Coman, A., 2017. The dark side of meaning-making: How social exclusion leads to superstitious thinking. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 69, pp.218-222.

Grzesiak-Feldman, M., 2013. The effect of high-anxiety situations on conspiracy thinking. Current Psychology, 32, pp.100-118. 

Jolley, D., Mari, S. and Douglas, K.M., 2020. Consequences of conspiracy theories (pp. 231-241). Routledge.

Moscovici, S., 1987. The conspiracy mentality. In Changing conceptions of conspiracy (pp. 151-169). New York, NY: Springer New York.

Tsetsura, K. and Kruckeberg, D., 2017. Transparency, public relations and the mass media: Combating the hidden influences in news coverage worldwide. Taylor & Francis)

Wagner-Egger, P., 2022. The noises of conspiracy: Psychology of beliefs in conspiracy theories.

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