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article imageConspiracy Beliefs About 9/11 Fueled by Internet, Power, Cynicism

By Carol Forsloff     May 28, 2009 in Politics
A recent article in U.S. News & World Report focuses on psychological profiles of individuals who believe in conspiracies. A research study revealed those who back a conspiracy theory regarding 9/11 are apt to believe in other conspiracies also.
The research was conducted at the University of Westminster in London. It identified a number of traits associated with believing in 9/11 conspiracies among British citizens. Some of these traits included mistrusting authority, taking a cynical stance toward politics and feeling generally suspicious towards others. These attitudes are part of the thinking that occurred after terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged part of the Pentagon in the United States.
Viren Swami led the team of researchers and declared, “Often, the proof offered as evidence for a conspiracy is not specific to one incident or issue, but is used to justify a general pattern of conspiracy ideas.” In other words he seems to say in concluding his research that people who believe in conspiracies generally approach new situations in very much the same way, bypassing any need for confirming evidence. In other words if one believes the government is covering up an involvement in the 9/11 attacks the same person might also be inclined to believe the government hides evidence of extraterrestrial contacts or John F. Kennedy was not killed by a solitary gunman.
The research included a battery of questionnaires administered to 257 British adults that included also a standard personality test. Those who participated in the study came from different ethnic religious and social backgrounds. Most people did not believe in the major 16 conspiracy beliefs about 9/11 those who did to express a pattern of beliefs. According to other researchers and social scientists these patterns evolve ordinarily from feelings of powerlessness, need to bolster self-esteem and diminished faith in one's government.
A recent article by Phillip Lehman argues conspiracy theories and beliefs in them are on the rise. Surveys have found in 1990 90% of Americans believed there is a conspiracy involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He declares much of the expansion of conspiracy beliefs is a result of the Internet which allows them to be quickly created and spread to a wider audience than one's immediate community. He uses as an example a conspiracy-based website created about the death of Princess Diana within hours after her death from an automobile accident in 1997.
Another author theorizes conspiracy theories develop when one's reality is challenged. In other words when an incident falls outside of the usual and expected possibilities and does not match deeply held beliefs and assumptions people are more apt to believe in conspiracy theories. An example is the crashing of American airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon that occurred on September 11, 2001. a French author maintains in a book that since no large sections of an airplane could be seen in photos of the site some other explanation other than the crash of the airplane could explain what happened.
This recent research into the characteristics of those who believe in conspiracy theories can be helpful in examining the course events take in the minds of the people and how this might affect certain political and social beliefs and decisions, according to the experts. It might also explain why political parties and individuals successfully use cynicism and denouncing others who may in fact have the facts.
More about Conspiracy theories, Kennedy assassination, September
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