Why do people believe conspiracy theories?

While working on my next novel, I spent some time researching conspiracy theories.  Why do otherwise reasonable people believe in them, and especially the ones that are so easily debunked?

What I found was that conspiracy theories provide a comforting way to explain evil in the world.  Like people who find comfort in their religion, conspiracy theorists find comfort in knowing that evil can be explained, that it’s done by someone else, and therefore they cannot be held responsible.  It’s a simple answer to a complex world.

Belief in grand conspiracies is not limited to political view.  I have some liberal friends who are convinced that George W. Bush masterminded the 9/11 attacks, aliens are hidden in Area 51, and that the moon landing never happened.  They are just as convinced in their view, despite all evidence to the contrary, as the right-wingers who are certain that Obama was born in Kenya, that the government is going to take everyone’s guns away, and that something illegal happened in Benghazi.  (I still haven’t figured out what exactly they claim is the conspiracy with that last one, but they’re convinced it’s one nonetheless).

At a press conference yesterday, one of the loonies grabbed the mike and warned us all that 9/11 was a government plot.  Gee, thanks, Crazy Man!  Without you telling us, we would have never have taken such a claim seriously.  Your wonderful presentation has turned believers into all of us.

If you find yourself as one of these believers, please ask why you are so willing to accept these things without proof.  (Ha ha!  I’m joking, of course.  These guys all think they have “proof” and we’re just too stupid to see it — or more likely, we’re all part of the conspiracy, too!  Dun dun DUN!)

Now do not read this post to mean that I think there are no such things as conspiracies.  Of course there are — businesses conspire to set prices, drug pushers conspire with police officers to make sales and not be arrested, and so on — people conspire every day.  I am referring to the huge major Illuminati-type of massive conspiracies that logically just cannot exist.