Heard the one about the fake moon landings? How about the story of the alien spaceships hidden by the government? Or how about the plans for world take over by the <insert name here> organization? Or how about the all-time favorite, solipsism, only you are real and everyone else is a hallucination/fake/robot/matrix avatar etc.?
I think everyone has come across these at some point. Absurd yet impossible to disprove ideas championed by people who hold these creeds close to heart. Strange ideas have always been with us, of late, they have become more visible.
Conspiracy theories have a long and dark history. In the face of a hostile and uncaring world, the idea that everything is managed by an evil overlording entity is strangely comforting for many reasons. It creates a scapegoat for all individual and collective failures. It is hard for anybody to admit they have made a mess of their own life or country. It is hard to admit that we may not possess the dedication or caliber our dreams require of us. Much easier to blame it all on somebody else. The idea that nobody is in charge and we are all sort of stumbling along is scary.
The danger of succumbing to such delusions are well documented. After World War 1, many Germans refused to believe they could have been on the verge of defeat. Instead people found refuge in creating phantom enemies. The Jews, the communists, the elites, somebody had to have betrayed the noble Germans and forced them into the humiliating Treaty of Verssailles.
Anti Semitic Nazi Propaganda
The aftermath this paved the way for does not bear repeating.
A conspiracy theorist invariably sees himself as a hero. The dull prosaic mediocrity of life is replaced with the romantic notion of a romanticized Churchill figure. Alone they dare defy tyranny. This is also true at the collective level.
In the past it was possible to look upon conspiracy theorists as largely harmless cranks, of little danger to anyone but themselves. Now, it looks like in some places, the lunatics are taking over the asylum.