Opinion: Conspiracy theories have their merits

Holly Fisher is a senior English and linguistics major from Elizabethtown, Ky.

08Without a doubt, conspiracy theories are spawned from the rubble of paranoia, distrust and the sinister whispers of the Illuminati. From the Roswell cover-up to the death of Elvis Presley, there is no limit to what conspiracy theorists will sink their teeth into. However, these theories are not just for crazies running around in aluminum hats. Conspiracy theories, in small doses, actually can be beneficial and break up the monotony of everyday life.

The two most important words in the world of conspiracies are “what if.” A television reporter once announced, “We’ve finally put a man on the moon,” and

someone thought, “What if we didn’t?” A government official said, “Area 51 is an experimental testing range for United States aircraft,” but someone stood up and said, “What if it’s not?” When fluoride was introduced into the United States’ water supply to help prevent tooth decay, someone legitimately wondered, “What if the fluoride is actually a toxin invented by communists to brainwash the American masses?”

That initial “what if” is how every conspiracy theory is born, and while what comes after might be borderline delusional, we should never take the desire to question the world at large for granted. We absorb new knowledge every day. When we become complacent in absorbing knowledge, we become complacent in producing it as well. The human brain needs exercise, and it needs to be let out of the box every once in a while or it’ll dig itself into a rut. Conspiracy theories stretch these neural muscles and encourage us to think beyond conventional structures.

Surprisingly, conspiracy theories also can be useful for their intended purpose — to reveal the truth.

Before Watergate, theories involving the Nixon administration floated around the same circles as theories involving government implants and tracking devices.

The outlandish conspiracy theory claiming the CIA was conducting illegal mind control experiments seemed ridiculous until former President Bill Clinton revealed and apologized for Project MKUItra during 1995. People even chuckled when the U.S. government was ac- cused of playing Big Brother, but when whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden stepped forward, they stopped laughing. Most conspiracy theories sound crazy, but that alone doesn’t mean they are untrue. Having a general knowledge of these theories also can reduce any initial panic when the truth finally does come to light. If people already are familiar with the concept, even as a conspiracy theory, then the shock value is lowered.

This is not to say all conspiracy theories are true or we should start taking preemptive measures to stop the government from listening to our thoughts. There are legitimate paranoid delusions and when those delusions become so great a person can no longer function within society, then an indulgence in conspiracies is no longer a healthy one. However, there is no harm in wondering whether or not the government is hiding aliens in Area 51 or entertaining the idea that pharmaceutical companies keep a cure for cancer under wraps to boost their profit margin.

Conspiracy theories are compelling ideas with interesting implications. They’re fun, they’re entertaining and they spice up the world we live in. Heck, there’s even a conspiracy theory claiming conspiracy theories are the real conspiracies. How’s that for a theory?

So don’t be afraid to ask those questions. Dip your toes into the conspiracy waters and see where the current takes you.