SOCIOL 4EE3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: Canadian Human Rights Act, Pharmaceutical Industry, Conspiracy Theory
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In this chapter, Kay analyses the conspiracy phenomenon and looks at the various
psychological circumstances that could drive one to become a conspiracist. He argues that in a
big picture sense, conspiracism arises when people’s minds stray from reality due to some
national or personal trauma, and they seek to battle against traditional authority and belief
The first underlying psychological event that could lead an individual to conspiracism is
the midlife crisis, where people seek out new identities and try to reinvent themselves as an
escape from familiar patterns of life. Using the example of 9/11 Truth Tellers, Kay argues that
these people envision themselves as brave martyrs for speaking the truth and are stirring up
debate because they are seeking out adventure during this life-stage.
The second case of conspiracists is the failed historian who attempts to recreate a version
of history when the actual events do not align with their ideology. Kay uses the example of anti-
Stratfordians and Freud who believe Shakespeare did not write his plays. This shows how people
construct a fantasy version of history when their particular visions demand it. These people avert
their attention and ignore facts and voices that disprove their account of certain historical events
and refuse to hear naysayers.
Conspiracism also arises from what Kay calls the damaged survivor, which is an
individual who has overcome some sort of struggle, often medical, and attributes their suffering
to pharmaceutical companies and credits God or natural methods for his or her healing.
Conspiracists supporting alternative medicine and advocating against vaccines are often under
this category. Kay says people need some political or social body to attribute blame to and
convince themselves and others that there is an oppressive evil in their presence. Kay argues that
these conspiracists are particularly convincing to some because their stories of grief have the
ability to shut down the mental and intellectual facilities we have that could degrade their
arguments. People are more comfortable with having answers to their grievances which is why
these individuals appoint blame to the state and pharmaceutical institutions. Self-appointed
celebrity health experts also facilitate the spread of these conspiracists’ messages.
The cosmic voyager is someone who believes the world is not what it seems and
everyone is bound by an invisible force. These conspiracists often fixate on “mysteries” like
Stonehenge and Easter Island as a form of proof that ancient societies lived blissfully.
The clinical conspiracist is someone who Kay considers to be crazy or insane. They do
not contain a mental firewall that allows them to separate conspiracy theories from everyday life.
These people often live in severe paranoia and view themselves as both heroes and targets.
The crank is an individual who strives on using primary sources, charts, maps, and some
form of logic to prove a certain theory. They feel very proud for enlightening themselves to the
previously hidden reality and view themselves as independent, in control, and superior. They
attempt to learn as much as they can about a variety of different fields in order to support their
theory, and feel satisfaction with having this unlocked secret to the reality of the world.