Thinking I do with words - Conspiracy theories are dangerously comforting

I realized a long time ago that most conspiracy theories are a form of coping mechanism. They’re a way to give the person who holds them a bit of control in a world that can seem very random and cruel. A shadowy, malevolent force might be out to get you, but you can prepare for that. Random chance potentially being out to get you is a bit less controllable, you don’t know what the threat is.

Sometimes it can just be a way to deny events actually happened. I realized this after Sandy Hook, where a ton of conspiracy theorists decided to declare it was all fake and no children actually died. This was demonstrably false, but I understood the appeal.

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Nobody wants to believe that someone would kill 20 children, it’s something too horrible to imagine. Declaring that it never actually happened means that you don’t have to cope with the idea of children dying. It’s also a theme I’ve seen when it comes to tragedies surrounding major tragedies, people try to minimize the number of deaths, as though it starts because they don’t want to believe the deaths exist first, and work backwards from there.

And that brings us to conspiracies surrounding COVID-19.

They’re all nonsense, especially ones that are centered around 5G internet, but that’s not the point here. Instead, why do they exist? Well, it’s a coping mechanism. If the virus is caused by a nefarious actor, whether an evil lab or some sort of conspiracy involving faster internet, that means there’s a reason behind it. If the number of infections and deaths are being over-reported, that’s a way to tell yourself you’re not at risk. It’s all a way to cope, because the reality is distressing.

There’s nothing reassuring about a virus found primarily in bats mutating to infect humans. That sounds more like random chance and completely out of human control. If it’s developed in a lab, we can do something about it - shut down the lab, most likely. If it’s caused by wireless internet - which is a total left-field suggestion but people blaming it don’t really understand what it is anyway - then you can stop it, by turning off the towers. There’s something you can control there. But you can’t really control a natural mutation of a virus, and worse still, that’s just what a virus does. That’s a big part of why flu vaccines are annual, new strains are constantly popping up, because viruses mutate frequently.

The problem with these coping mechanisms is that they’re putting people at risk. People trying to tear down or burn cell phone towers are putting people at risk because they’re taking away their ability to contact others over the cell phone network. The people insisting it’s all a conspiracy are hurting people by not taking the right precautions, or by distracting from what needs to happen.

I understand the need to cope with a terrible reality, but conspiracy theories just make a bad situation worse.

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