15 Oct A shape-shifting reptile queen: conspiracy theories as told by SPUI25
We all probably know one or two conspiracy theories, like the stories behind 9/11. Personally I like to watch those weird documentaries on TV about aliens and conspiracies. It’s not that I believe in them, but I’m always interested in why there are people that do believe in those stories. SPUI25, the academic-cultural centre of the UvA, takes us on a journey through the world of conspiracy. The amount of enthusiasm exceeded the expectations of the organizers, apparently I wasn’t the only person that has a thing for conspiracy theories. This blog is about the interesting stories that the three lecturers of that evening discussed with us.
Life as a conspiracy theorist
The night started off with one of the most famous conspiracy theories: the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Kasper Verkaik, a filmmaker, told us everything about America’s most famous conspiracy theorist: Robert Groden. Kasper made the documentary ‘Plaza Man’ about Robert, focusing on how the mystery behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy is dominating this man’s life. He showed us parts of his documentary to make us understand what the life of a conspiracy theorist looks like. Almost every day Robert sits at a table full of the books he has written about the mystery, next to the location Kennedy was assassinated. Tourists, school trips and interested people come there to hear his stories, ask questions and get their books autographed. Robert has cooperated in every investigation so far regarding the assassination and even left his wife and kids to be able to invest all his time in his research. Kasper went to his house and showed us that Robert’s work was everywhere, from pictures of the autopsy of the president on the coffee table to boxes full of files piled up in the living room.
Are we crazy to (not) believe?
The second speaker of the evening, Sanneke de Haan, philosopher and working as a researcher in psychiatry, tells us about the thin line between being a sceptic and being pathologic. A sceptic is someone who has doubts about things that other people believe, which can be healthy behaviour. However, someone who is pathologic has a behaviour that is habitual, maladaptive, and compulsive: unhealthy behaviour. Sanneke gave us an example of someone she knows that started to become very interested in unresolved murders, did a lot of research on those topics and shared it with her by e-mail. Sanneke wasn’t too concerned about this person until she received an e-mail from him about how Oprah was probably a reptilian. She argued that if people aren’t in a good position in their lives (e.g. no job, lonely, depressed, etc.) they are more susceptible to conspiracy theories.
Of course it’s not a problem if you are interested in a conspiracy theory and want to know more about it, but when it gets the better of you, you need to take a step back. Or are we naive to not believe in some conspiracy theories? Maybe we are crazy to think all conspiracy theories are nonsense and the conspiracy theorists are just critical thinkers.
Queen Elizabeth II: a shape-shifting reptile alien
You might not have noticed, but most of the world’s leaders are 3 meters tall, blood-drinking, shape-shifting reptilian humanoids. Or at least that is what conspiracy theorist David Icke believes. Stef Aupers, the third speaker of the evening, tells us about some of the popular and less popular conspiracy theories. So you probably guessed that not a lot of people believe in this reptilian story, but what about 9/11? A lot of Americans (and even Europeans) think that the attacks on the World Trade Center were an inside job. Stef, professor in media culture, shows us that the media has a lot of influence on what we tend to believe. Another thing that is hard to assess is which aspects people believe and to what extent. Not all believers of a certain conspiracy theory are automatically hard-core conspiracy theorists.
Plenty of conspiracies and lectures
There are way too many conspiracy theories to put in one blogpost. So here’s a list of theories that will bend your mind, but be careful not to bend it out of shape.
If you want to broaden your mind with more than conspiracies alone, take a look at the programme of SPUI25.
Do you know any weird or interesting conspiracy theories? Let me know in the comments!