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.