Quassim Cassam at the Institute of Art and Ideas:
Conspiracy theorists get a seriously bad press. Gullible, irresponsible, paranoid, stupid. These are some of the politer labels applied to them, usually by establishment figures who aren’t averse to promoting their own conspiracy theories when it suits them. President George W. Bush denounced outrageous conspiracy theories about 9/11 while his own administration was busy promoting the outrageous conspiracy theory that Iraq was behind 9/11.
If the abuse isn’t bad enough, conspiracy theorists now have the dubious honour of being studied by psychologists. The psychology of conspiracy theories is a thing, and the news for conspiracy theorists isn’t good. A recent study describes their theories as ‘corrosive to societal and individual well-being’. Conspiracy theorists, the study reveals, are more likely to be male, unmarried, less educated, have lower household incomes and see themselves as having low social standing. They have lower levels of physical and psychological well-being and are more likely to meet the criteria for having a psychiatric disorder.
In case you’re starting to feel a sorry for conspiracy theorists (or for yourself if you are one), perhaps it’s worth remembering that they aren’t exactly shrinking violets. They are vociferous defenders of their theories and scornful of their opponents. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of the wrath of conspiracy theorists will know that it can be a bruising experience.