I was talking with an avid conspiracy theorist the other day, and we were getting into all the misinformation floating around about the pandemic.
The question they asked me that honestly stumped me a bit was “why”? Why are all these people, as I claimed, so determined to spread lies around?
Now, whatever answer I would have given to that question would have been immediately turned around to explain why they thought the truth as supported by data, science, etc, was real lie (as they always do; it’s conspiracy theorist script 101 stuff). If I say power, they say ah but isn’t that also the case for your team? If I say money, same thing.
What I wish I’d said, but didn’t, was that it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that they do. Looking for a motivation when evil people do evil thing is natural. Why do conspiracy theorists come up with outlandish explanations for stuff? I’m sure there’s some great psychology out there that seeks to answer that question.
But functionally, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to know the ins and outs of their mental state to know their motivations when I can see their actions. This constant search for but what’s the reason behind it all?, especially when it comes to events beyond your immediate control, is natural and human.
Stuff happens. The world is too complicated to understand. Randomness exists. If you have to have a “why”, especially when the “why” is opaque or unknowable, you can find yourself making up reasons or buying into neat and tidy explanations that depart (often quite sharply) from reality.
Usually you’re shielded from the results of believing this crap because we live in a society that has stupidity safety nets, and usually this comes at the cost of everyone else doing the right thing, leaving you, the crank, as a freeloader.
In a pandemic, though, it’s a different story. Antivaxx folks have to be conspiracy theorists not to accept plain facts. And they let their insane beliefs put themselves and their families in harm’s way, prolonging the pandemic to boot.
At this point, it’s a number’s game. If you look at the death rates and ICU rates and think I don’t trust those numbers, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m just playing the odds here. I want to make the odds of me, my friends, my family, and my community surviving this thing without dying, without getting severely sick, without experiencing ongoing symptoms, as high as possible.
You have all the information at your disposal to make the right call. To mitigate, as far as you’re able, the effects of the pandemic in your life and others lives.
If you can’t see that, again, I don’t know what to say to you. It’s right there in front of your face, plain as day.