A new study compared “conspiracist” (pro-conspiracy theory) and “conventionalist” (anti-conspiracy) comments at news websites. The study entitled “What about Building 7? A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories,” was published on July 8th, 2013 by psychologists Michael J. Wood and Karen M. Douglas of the University of Kent (UK).
The authors were surprised to discover that it is now more conventional to leave so-called conspiracist comments than conventionalist ones: “Of the 2174 comments collected, 1459 were coded as conspiracist and 715 as conventionalist.”
In other words, among people who comment on news articles, those who disbelieve government accounts of such events as 9/11 and the JFK assassination outnumber believers by more than two to one. That means it is the pro-conspiracy commenters who are expressing what is now the conventional wisdom, while the anti-conspiracy commenters are becoming a small, beleaguered minority.
In short, the new study by Wood and Douglas suggests that the negative stereotype of the conspiracy theorist – a hostile fanatic wedded to the truth of his own fringe theory – accurately describes the people who defend the official account of 9/11, not those who dispute it.
The Tide is Changing
Perhaps because their supposedly mainstream views no longer represent the majority, the anti-conspiracy commenters often displayed anger and hostility:
“The research… showed that people who favoured the official account of 9/11 were generally more hostile when trying to persuade their rivals.”
Additionally, it turned out that the anti-conspiracy people were not only hostile, but fanatically attached to their own conspiracy theories as well. According to them, their own theory of 9/11 – a conspiracy theory holding that 19 Arabs, none of whom could fly planes with any proficiency, pulled off the crime of the century under the direction of a guy on dialysis in a cave in Afghanistan – was indisputably true.
The so-called conspiracists, on the other hand, did not pretend to have a theory that completely explained the events of 9/11:
“For people who think 9/11 was a government conspiracy, the focus is not on promoting a specific rival theory, but in trying to debunk the official account.”
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