michael perelman wrote:
> It's easy to make fun of wacky right-wing conspiracy theories, but I suspect
> that the main purveyor of conspiracy theories in the world today is the
> government of United States of America.
I think that probably a distinction should be made between those conspiracy theories which originate "among the people" as it were and those which are deliberately engendered by some state or organized group with definite political purposes in mind. The belief that the Kennedy assassination resulted from a conspiracy (or the various beliefs clustering around Roswell) has a different feel and different effects from say the alleged Bulgarian plot to assassinate the Pope. "Popular" (not exactly the word) conspiracy theories spring up to *explain* the apparently inexplicable. They aren't really "irrational," merely wrong.
This is another reason why Doug's search for a psychological explanation is wrong: his assumption that they are irrational is wrong. In fact I've never encountered an "irrational belief." I've only encountered very wrong beliefs based on inadequate informatio and/or training. Granting their premises, they are always quite rational.