Socialist Worker

Conspiracy theories don’t explain society’s problems

Sophie Squire asks what makes people believe in conspiracy theories—and looks at why they’re ultimately a dead end

Issue No. 2701

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People are worried about the rollout of the new phone technology (Pic: MHM55/Wikimedia)


In a time of uncertainty and confusion, conspiracy theories are gaining traction.

A popular theory is that the rollout of 5G mobile network is responsible for spreading Covid-19.

Several 5G masts were set on fire across Britain and Europe in the last few weeks allegedly due to fear of them weakening people’s immune systems. 

It’s not the case that working class people believe conspiracy theories because they are stupid. 

It’s often because they sense they are often fed lies from the mainstream.

The origins of Covid-19 and other questions about the virus aren’t clear to everyone.

This is partly because governments will pick and choose what information they release to the public according to what suits their agenda. 

It’s a similar picture with the mass media. 

The Ofcom media regulator said the BBC was the most used news source among adults in 2019. 

The BBC has a long history of media manipulation and focusing on news that fits its political agenda. 

Millions of people will have questions that are not being answered by the media that most of us consume.

Traction

So it’s not surprising that conspiracy theories that gain traction on WhatsApp groups and social media can seem to offer answers. 

Some people are drawn to conspiracy theories because they simply don’t believe the information that the state puts out.  

This distrust in the government or the media is well-placed. 

During the coronavirus crisis, the Tories have lied about testing, personal protective equipment and a host of issues that make their government look bad. Ordinary people don’t believe everything the state wants them to—because government and media messages don’t always reflect their experiences. 

And at the centre of almost all conspiracy theories is a deep seated distrust in those who govern society. 

But conspiracy theories lay the blame for the problems of the world in the wrong places. 

Toxic

And some conspiracy theories can reflect the toxic ideas in society pushed by those who are responsible for crises. 

These can boost the racism that is pushed from the top of society and distract from the real divide—that between rich and poor. 

And it’s useful for governments if people are deflected from their own failings and misdeeds. 

US president Donald Trump has pushed the theory that the latest strain of coronavirus escaped from a lab in China. 

“More and more we’re hearing the story,” he told a press conference last week. 

The ruling class does want to control the world—and goes about it in secretive and undemocratic ways.

Time and time again the tiny cabal at the top of society fix election results, install right wing regimes, order assassinations and organise coups.

But as socialists we don’t think it’s just individual leaders or corrupt governments that are the problem. 

We believe that the problems in society exist because of how our system is structured. 

So ultimately conspiracy theories let capitalism off the hook and often lead nowhere. 

Disempowering

And they can have a disempowering effect on people who think that conspiracies loom so large in society it makes change impossible.

They offer no solution to the world’s problems. 

And they make people believe that those that control our world cannot be challenged.

Instead socialists believe that working people have the power to change society. 

During this crisis working class people will be looking for answers to why this crisis happened, and why it is hitting them the hardest. 

But it’s socialism that holds the answers, not conspiracy theories.


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