According to Merriam-Webster, a conspiracy theory is a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators. People formulate conspiracy theories in order to cope with the fear of the unknown and to explain unprecedented phenomena that are frightening. Because the population is afraid of the unknown, it creates conspiracy theories in order to deal with its anxiety. The public uses theories as “logical” answers; however, conspiracies are illogical because they deny scientific fact and official records. Conspiracy theories exacerbate society’s fear and anxiety. I am going to show how the Bermuda Triangle, Area 51, and the moon landing have contributed to conspiracy theories being harmful to the public.
Area 51 is a United States Air Force facility in the southern part of Nevada. Though the purpose of the base is unknown, historical evidence suggests that it supports the development and testing of experimental aircrafts and weapon systems (Popular Mechanics). Conspiracy theorists believe that the remains of crashed UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) are stored in Area 51, where government scientists reverse-engineer the aliens’ leading technology. Allegedly, the government has made advanced weapons and aircrafts including stealth bombers and reconnaissance planes. This conspiracy came after many supposed sightings of UFOs and a testimony from an army colonel who says he was granted access to extraterrestrial material from an alien spacecraft that crashed in the nearby desert (Time Magazine). This conspiracy has hurt society because it has caused people to distrust the government. It makes it seem as if the government isn’t telling us about potential dangers. Losing trust in the government is treacherous since it might influence us to be reluctant to vote in elections and follow the law. This becomes a vicious cycle because the government might respond by trusting the public less and so on and so forth.
Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on July 20th 1969 at 4:18pm EST. At 10:56pm EST, Neil Armstrong was ready to put his foot into another world. He climbed down the ladder and said: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” (NASA). Four decades after the presumed “giant leap for mankind,” there are doubters who say America was so desperate to defeat Russia in the Space Race that they hired Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the other astronaut in the Apollo 11, to stage their mission on a secret film set in Hollywood. Theorists speculate that because the American flag planted on the moon swayed, Aldrin must not have been in space. The flag’s movement suggests that there was wind, but there is no wind on the moon. However, NASA states that the flag’s ripples derives from Aldrin’s twisting motions to firmly install the flag into the moon. In addition, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick may have helped NASA fake the lunar landing because his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey proves that the technology existed back then to create a spacelike set. As far-fetched as it may seem, a 1999 poll conducted by Gallup shows that 6% of Americans believe the lunar landing was fake and 5% were undecided (Time Magazine). This conspiracy theory is harmful to the public because it contributes to people denying scientific evidence that the Apollo 11 indeed landed on the moon. Humanity will suffer if people continue rejecting modern science. For example, global climate change is a reality that impacts people everywhere. If the general public chooses to stay ignorant, we will inevitably destroy our environment and ruin the planet for future generations.
The Bermuda Triangle is a region between Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. In this triangle in the Atlantic Ocean, there have been many puzzling disappearances of planes and ships (Department of Defense). These mysteries have caused people to develop many conspiracy theories to answer the question of how these ships and planes disappeared with no bodies or wreckage ever found. One of them is a space-time warp. Supposedly, a rift in space-time opens in the Bermuda Triangle every once in awhile, so all of the planes and ships traveling in this specific place at this time are lost inside the rift. That is why there is never any wreckage. Another theory is that one of the assumed locations of the lost island of Atlantis is in the Bermuda Triangle. Some believe that Atlantis was a civilization that had made amazing technology, and the technology may be active on the ocean floor. This equipment may interfere with the instrumentation of modern planes and ships; this has caused them to crash and sink. Finally, the last conspiracy theory is that methane gas hydrates bubble up from the sea sediments, causing ships to disappear. Landslides on the ocean floor release large amounts of gas, which would reduce the density of the water, making any ship sink like a rock. The gas could also ignite aircraft engines causing them to explode (Thought Co.). This conspiracy has impaired society because it makes people hesitant to travel in this area. Without these conspiracies people would think that all of these incidents were merely coincidences. Conspiracy theories capitalize on fear and make people irrational, even though the Bermuda Triangle is no more dangerous than any other part of the ocean. Irrationality forces people to doubt themselves when there is simply no need to.
Ultimately, there is one positive thing about conspiracy theories. It causes people to open their minds, think independently, and analyze situations critically. Despite this upside, all of the aforementioned examples show how conspiracy theories have negatively impacted society. There would be less fear in the world if these conspiracies didn’t exist because people would think of them as coincidences, or even if they did see a flaw in an explanation, they wouldn’t spread it or exaggerate it through an absurd conspiracy theory. Conspiracies are reactions to anxiety that spread mass paranoia across the globe. They make us excessively skeptical of the government, Ignorant of pressing issues, and irrational to the point of extreme doubt. Without conspiracies, our society would not live in fear of the unknown, and instead, we would rely on dependable sources to draw conclusions.
Blitz, Matt. “The Real Story Behind the Myth of Area 51.” Popular Mechanics. Cameron Connors, 18 Apr. 2017. Web. 23 June 2017. <http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a24152/area-51-history/>.
“Conspiracy Theories.” Time Magazine. Time, 2008. Web. 23 June 2017. http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1860871_1860876_1861006,00.html
“Conspiracy Theory.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 23 June 2017. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conspiracy%20theory
NASA Administrator. “July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind.” NASA. NASA, 20 July 2014. Web. 23 June 2017. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11.html
United States. Department of Defense. US Coast Guard Headquarters and the Naval Historical Center. Bermuda Triangle Fact Sheet. 11 December 1998. Web. 23 June 2017. http://www.dod.mil/pubs/foi/Reading_Room/UFO/195.pdf
Wagner, Stephen. “The Top Bermuda Triangle Theories.” Thought Co. 30 January 2017. Web. 23 June 2017. https://www.thoughtco.com/theories-of-the-bermuda-triangle-2593654