“Supporters of the flat earth with a compass tried to reach the edge of the world.” “There is no coronavirus, this is a global conspiracy.” “They had the vaccine ready in advance and hid it.” “5G network radiation is responsible for the appearance and spread of the virus.” How come so many conspiracy theories are circulating in the age of scientific and technological progress? Why, while public opinion has access to continuous knowledge, does it adopt unsubstantiated interpretations of an event?
A very interesting thought on this subject has been expressed by the important philosopher of the twentieth century, Hannah Arendt. The masses, Arendt says, do not believe in anything visible or even in the reality of their experiences. They trust neither their ears nor their eyes, but only their imagination, which is attracted to what is at the same time universal and has an inner coherence. They are not convinced by the facts, even the false ones, but only by the coherence of the system to which they supposedly belong. The importance of repetition is usually emphasized, because there is a perception that the masses are not very capable of understanding and remembering.
What they refuse to acknowledge is the random nature of reality. They are predisposed to accept all ideologies because they explain events as if they were mere examples of laws and eliminate coincidences by inventing a last-ditch imaginary force that extinguishes all accidents. It is an escape from reality to myth, from coincidence to coherence. The masses want a world of complete cohesion, comprehensible and predictable. As if demanding the constant repetition of the miracle of the seventies, where, according to tradition, seventy different translators performed in the same way a Greek translation of the Old Testament. Common sense can only accept this story as a myth or a miracle. But one could argue that it is a proof of the absolute fidelity of every word of the translation.
In other words, if it is true that the masses are possessed by the desire to escape from reality, because in their essential alienation they cannot understand and suffer its accidental and incomprehensible aspects, it is also a fact that their thirst for fairy tales has something to do with the fact that the rational side of the human mind opposes pure luck. The flight of the masses from reality is a condemnation of the world, in which they are forced to live without being able to exist. This is because this world is determined by coincidence, and people need to constantly transform chaotic and random conditions into a pattern with some relative coherence.
The revolt of the people against realism and common sense shows that it is difficult to have a balanced view of the interdependence of the arbitrary and the predictable, the accidental and the necessary. There also finds room for the development of totalitarian propaganda, which could not openly offend common sense, except when it has ceased to exist. The alternative is to face an anarchist and arbitrary development of reality, or to submit to an ideology with an extremely rigid logic, completely imaginary. The masses almost always make the second choice and are willing to pay for it with individual sacrifice – not because they are fools or perverts, but because in the general catastrophe, this flight gives them some self-respect.
That is why, says Arendt, totalitarian movements create a world of false coherence, a world of conspiracy theories that better meet the needs of the human mind than reality. In this world, and only with the imagination, the alienated masses feel familiar and have the impression that this way they avoid the constant blows that real life and real experiences have in store for people and their hopes. And the great philosopher brings the extreme but typical example of Nazism. The most effective myth of Nazi propaganda was to find a Jewish international conspiracy.
Source: Rebecca Kotsaridou