The Boston Marathon bombing was a 'false flag' attack, which was arranged and carried out by the government. The explosion at the West Fertilizer plant was caused by a missile. What in the world is with all the conspiracy theories which now seem to follow every major news event?
1200 WOAI's Michael Board reports we can blame our search for easy answers in a complicated world.
"You've got people who are so distrustful that you have got people who believe that every single thing that happens is another reason to mistrust the government," says Dr. Art Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.
While people have long bet that 'mysterious shadowy forces' were behind major events for millennia, as far as the claim that the Emperor Nero intentionally started the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD to clear land to build a new palace, experts say we are now living in the Golden Age of Conspiracy Theories, one that was probably started by the JFK assassination in 1963. At the time, many people refused to believe that one lone misfit could have brought down a vigorous and powerful U.S. President.
Markman says the drive to come up with conspiracy theories and believing them is part of a desire all of us have to be perceived as a person with special contacts, inside information, and insight which others aren't cunning enough to possess.
"The conspiracy realm is a community which allows people to latch onto the idea that they possess a piece of information that nobody else has," he says.
Conspiracy theories are also a sidebar to the political polarization now going on in the U.S., where it isn't enough just to disagree with your political opponents, they have to be labeled as evil individuals, who are probably engaged in shadowy activities.
The so called '9-11 Truthers,' who claimed that the World Trade Center attacks were in reality carried out by the U.S. government, by elite groups like the Trilateral Commission, or by one of any number of international groups, began this new age of conspiracy theories, fueled by the Internet, and by the high profile of a new breed of articulate conspiracists.
Markman says in many cases, people who already feel that the government is out of control adapt their view of major events like the Boston Marathon bombing in a way that will reinforce that world view.
"One of the ways that I can keep my world view in place, and accommodate this new event, is to come up with ways why this is yet another reason why I should mistrust the government," he said.
While once the realm of conservatives, the George W. Bush Administration fueled the growth of left wing conspiracists, who came up with fanciful stories about Bush's alleged manipulation of facts involving the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and other incidents, in addition to 9-11. That movement attracted new adherents, most notably left leaning academics like former Obama White House official Van Jones, who was an avowed '9-11 Truther' to the ranks of conspiracy theorists.
According to the Roper Center, belief in conspiracy theories is related to a political world view which sees the government as 'failing to provide its citizens with the help they need to cope with the problems of modern life.'
And far from being fringe, conspiracy theories are now relatively mainstream, and cover conservatives, liberals, and moderates alike.
In 1998, 75% of those polled thought there was a 'larger plot' to assassinate Kennedy, while at least half of all Americans claim that the government is withholding information about UFOs.