The market for conspiracy theories

Published: May 14, 2011
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The favourite platform for a conspiracy theorist is a television talk show.

What was limited to marginal audiences in the past has now transformed into a huge commodity. Following every ‘big’ incident in any part of the world, it sells the most – conspiracy theory.

In Pakistan, conspiracies theories are constantly evolving. You can get to any conclusion whatsoever, and come up with any analysis on a given situation. It will sell, provided you have a platform to market your theory.

The favourite platform for a conspiracy theorist is a television talk show. The real disseminators of such theories, however, are local language newspapers.

Deriving their credibility from the conspiracy-theory-based talk shows, the vernacular newspapers help people find their faith in them. A single conspiracy theory is hence sold multiple times to multiple audiences. Bin Laden’s killing was an ideal scenario to witness the market of conspiracy theory at work.

The media stationed outside the compound where Bin Laden was killed bought everything; from hearsay to planted stories by certain vested interests, they were passed on to people without verification.  The conspiracy theories not only emerged out of media’s sheer lust for ‘exclusives’, they were carefully formed and planted through a mechanism.

Limited real time information and lack of institutional analysis contributed to the synthesis of a barrage of theories – from plainly rejecting ‘Bin Laden was ever alive’, to questioning ‘US capability to carry out a military raid inside Pakistan’, every other idea has flourished.

People’s lack of knowledge is not the only reason why conspiracy theories sell well. They help them find a focus in an environment of confusion and vagueness, which also is sometimes deliberately created. So, let me give you one of my own here and see if it sells,

‘Bin Laden’s time was up. He was in the custody of Pakistani military for a long time. They were only waiting for a suitable time to get rid of the good-for-nothing. However, the world’s super power, in a surprise move, denied the Pakistanis of the reward money and decided to take him out on their own. This way they secured a respectable exit from Afghanistan,’ It is that easy. It may or may not be appealing but it definitely lacks evidence.

Umer Nangiana

Umer Nangiana

A correspondent for The Express Tribune in Islamabad.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fahad Raza

    “Conspiracy till not declared official” is the favorite stance of media. To every unanswered question theories become conspiracies, only transparency in any action conducted by the government can kill them.Recommend

  • S. Asghar

    It may or may not be appealing but it lacks evidence. So, where is ‘evidence’ of Osama’ death?

    Believe the President and white house, which officially changed their narrative twice :-)Recommend

  • http://www.myasinmasood.blogspot.com Muhammad Yasin

    Another conspiracy theory. Recommend

  • Khalid Rahim

    It all depends on the type of condiments the media uses to lure the Public towards the menu
    in their kitchens!Recommend

  • Abhinav

    @S Asgar
    do you think pakistan as a country exist or it is another conspiracy to humiliate muslisms?Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    @Abhinav:
    It exist to humiliate Indian it reminds them of Jinnah how he won i from Britishers and Hindus both. Live with thatRecommend

  • Anoop

    @Fahad Raza:

    “Jinnah how he won i from Britishers”

    –> While Gandhi and Nehru went to jail dozens of times and have written books from within jail, if Jinnah was a Freedom Fighter, wonder why he never went to jail a single time.

    This is the biggest canard in Pakistan- That Jinnah won Freedom from the Britishers. Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    @Anoop:
    he never went to jail because he was the bes barrister of that time and he played Britisher’s with their own law never breaking it. He knew very well where to do what ? how to win by a discussion and debate than to use force of violence. Confronting the Britishers verbally than by putting people in harms way.
    According to Nehru:Jinnah was
    The old Advocate of Unity, Mr. M.A.Jinnah, … was advanced than his colleagues, and stood head and shoulders above them”. (Nehru – Paraphrased: Quoted from his book freedom at midnight)
    He was the wisest among the leader of that time, he set a great example to other statesmen to follow by his skill in negotiation, his integrity and his honesty.
    and his honesty was best commented by non other that Mahatma Gandhi:
    ‘Jinnah is Incorruptible and Brave’
    Now Britishers were some what reluctant in doing partition as they delayed the partion till the end of WW2 think that the demand would die and Jinnah will settle for provincial autonomy but he persisted Lord Mountbatten had enormous confidence in his persuasive powers. But as far as Jinnah was concerned, he felt that though he tried every trick, he could not shake Jinnah’s resolve to have partition. Mountbatten said that Jinnah had a ” consuming determination to realize the dream of Pakistan.”
    In case you don’t know and still want to believe that Jinnah didn’t get the freedom from brutish let me remind you British Raj Ended in Pakistan first on 14th august then on India on 15th. Live with that.Recommend

  • Anoop

    @Fahad Raza:

    “he never went to jail because he was the bes barrister of that time and he played Britisher’s with their own law never breaking it.”

    –> If you say so. Might I remind you even Gandhi was a barrister too. Dont you wonder why the World celebrates Gandhi, while nobody even mentions Jinnah!

    Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and even Obama were inspired by Gandhi, not Jinnah.

    Jinnah might have been very smart ,indeed, as you claim, but his reason for the creation of Pakistan shows how hollow that claim is no matter what anyone will say. Nehru was a Gentleman, and it is because of the stability that he gave to the nation that India did not end up like Pakistan. And, Jinnah wanted India’s Muslims to be saved from the likes of Nehru and his party! Very smart, indeed!

    “He was the wisest among the leader of that time, he set a great example to other statesmen to follow by his skill in negotiation, his integrity and his honesty.”

    –> Rubbish. The greatest leader of Muslims of the Freedom movement was Maulana Azad. Jinnah couldn’t even convince the maulana to move to Pakistan. It was very obvious the new state of Pakistan wouldn’t survive the present form and Maulana Azad had even remarked that the creation of a nation for Bengalis is imminent. His predictions came true in 24 short years!

    Goes to show that while the likes of Nehru and Maulana saw the disaster that Pakistan was going to be, Jinnah fought foolishly for it.

    Freedom movement threw up a number of leaders and intellectuals at all levels in India. Jinnah couldn’t convince an single one of worth to come with him. No wonder when he died there was no one else to look after the experiment about to go bad!

    “In case you don’t know and still want to believe that Jinnah didn’t get the freedom from brutish let me remind you British Raj Ended in Pakistan first on 14th august then on India on 15th. Live with that.”

    –> That doesn’t mean squat. The Congress engineered the Independence declaration in such a way that a Constitution was written within 4 years of Independence! How many decades did Pakistan take to write one? Even the present one is filled with such loopholes that laws such as Blasphemy laws exist. That is unthinkable in India, all thanks to the Constitution that people like Ambedkar and Nehru saw through.

    Anyway, live with your Jinnah and his ill though of experiment. Jinnah had said a minority can never become the premier in India and reasoned that, hence, he wants a nation for Muslims. A Sikh is the PM now in India, well into his 2nd term in a country with 80% Hindus and only 5% Sikhs. Jinnah was wrong on all accounts.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    @Anoop:
    You are the myopic fool of the first order.
    you are negating the praises YOUR LEADERS SAID about Jinnah and vomiting your own animosity. Which is worthless. Recommend

  • Anoop

    @Fahad Raza:

    Aah, name calling. Ouch!

    In stead of proving me wrong with facts, you indulge in this. Typical Jinnah style. Instead of living in India and working for a better future for all its citizens, he chose to become a non-secularist and run away in order to fulfill his ambitions.

    I do not need to point at facts and figures when it comes to ideological, political and economic failure of Pakistan. It is all too evident. The rot starts from ideology which Jinnah had a major hand in forming.

    A Country based on Religion and Hate towards the other(As you demonstrate so beautifully in your own words) will only consume itself.

    Yesterday it was the Hindus and Sikhs, today it is the Ahmedis and Christians. Tomorrow it will be the Shias and Sunnis. I guess tomorrow isn’t too far looking at the acts of TTP, LeJ,etc. in the recent past.Recommend

  • EK

    This article is a conspiracy theory itself.Recommend

  • bharat

    @Fahad Raza:
    india and pakistan had celibrated independance on 15th august for years, later it was desided by pak to celibrate it on14th aug. to distinguish themself.Recommend

  • folkefiende

    @Fahad Raza:
    Let me say this Jinnah used to drink why dont the talk about that in Pakistan? You may say Gandhi used to sleep naked with women to test his celibacy. He wrote about it. While jinnah did all things unislamic that you could imagine in todays pakisan. Drinking marrying outside religion. Couldnt speak urdu preferred english. His anecstors were poonja hindus and none of his descendenst lib
    ve in Pakistan. In fact they own properties and are business tycoons in India….namely the Wadias…To bhaiyaa Fahad sahab…tarikh padho sab kuch..samajh aajayegaa…allah khair kareRecommend

  • Fahad Raza

    @folkefiende:
    Oh looks like you’r reading history from some Z angle. Recommend