Part One: Media and Conspiracy Psychology
Conspiracy theories are as old as the human psyche. But fears of an all-embracing political plan to take over the world appear to go back only as far as the French Revolution. In that same country, in the nineteenth century, the Dreyfus affair divided public opinion. Conspiracy theories continued to grow in importance up until the mid-twentieth century, when two arch-conspiracy theorists, Hitler and Stalin, warred against one another (despite a non-aggression pact), causing the worst blood-letting in human history. The world war sobered the Americans, who in subsequent decades dismissed conspiracy theories, and the mainly fringe groups or individuals who promoted such ideas, in their valid quest for some meaning or motive behind the seemingly meaningless, wanton destruction of war and commercial exploitation.
Sometimes those holding such ideas were denigrated for political, commercial, cultural or racial reasons, or for reasons of academic jealousy. Some raise issues current in our culture: these include those who question the assassination of Kennedy, or the death of Princess Diana, “Ufologists,” and perhaps those, such as David Icke, who claims a reptilian race runs the earth and/or alien installations exist under the earth’s surface. Such themes enjoy a certain popularity, but owe little to common sense or carry little real influence. The politically disaffected,the political far right, and other alienated minorities have all been labelled ‘conspiracists’. Their theories imply a political agenda, but lack any significant credibility, or even influential publicity. To run for office with similar ideas in the manifesto would be to experience electoral disaster.