Can You Say Irony? Glenn Beck Offers Insight Into Conspiracy Theories

It's nothing short of surreal to watch Glenn Beck wax philosophical on the origins and dangers of conspiracy theories. The man who believes in one-world governments, the progressive campaign for socialist utopias, and the Fannie Mae land-for-dollars switcharoo spent a large portion of his Fox News show yesterday afternoon explaining "how a conspiracy theory grows" and what can be done to stop them.

In Beck's eyes, the default setting for the average Americans is to veer towards conspiracy theories, and it's the obligation of the media to "demand answers" to prevent that from happening. According to Beck, conspiracy theories arise when "we don't have honesty, we don't have facts." He elaborated: "How do we stop conspiracy theories? We do not bury our heads in the sand, and the media demands answers. It's called the Internet. People will come up with these if you in the media don't do your job. I mean, it can all go away if you're honest, you give us answers and facts and it makes common sense."

It's amusing that someone so practiced in conspiracy theorism could demonstrate such ignorance of how conspiracy theories work. It's true that conspiracy theories thrive in an absence of information, but by their very nature they defy facts and "common sense." Pick any popular conspiracy theory -- 9/11 was an inside job, President Obama was born outside the U.S., JFK was assassinated by the CIA/mafia/Cubans, the moon landing was staged, whatever. You could fill several warehouses several times over with the reams and reams of documentation and evidence demonstrating each one of these ridiculous theories to be completely false, but that still doesn't satisfy the true believers, who continue to insist that the real facts are being covered up and "common sense" proves them right.

People tend to believe conspiracy theories not because there isn't enough information to convince them otherwise, but because they want to believe them. That belief can arise from a sense of powerlessness or a desire to ascribe a sort of order to the daunting randomness of everyday life or an inherent distrust of the available facts. It doesn't help that there are popular cable news personalities out there who devote their programs to strengthening those delusions while hiding behind the "I'm just asking questions" fig leaf.

No one questions the media's obligation to debunk conspiratorial and inaccurate accusations, but they are certainly not the sole determining factor in whether a conspiracy theory lives or dies. What's more, their failure to live up to that obligation certainly does not excuse rank conspiracy-mongering of the sort that Beck engages in on a daily basis. I'm all for holding the media accountable, but a better way to end conspiracy theorism would be to stop listening to Glenn Beck.


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