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Opinion

Understanding danger in conspiracies

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March 28, 2014

If you have been watching the news for the past couple weeks, chances are that you have seen almost nothing but news stories about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the airplane that went missing on Sunday, March 9.

We have heard about the pings that have been received and the debris that has been found that could possibly have come from the missing plane, we have heard the heart-breaking testimonials from the missing passengers’ friends and family, but most recently we have been reading stories that are bound to appear with any mystery or tragedy: conspiracy theories.

For this particular story, the conspiracy theories are that the plane getting lost was not an accident. that it involved foul play and that the Malaysian government knows what happened to the missing plane but they are keeping it a secret. The most shocking conspiracy from this list is that the plane is not actually missing at all.

We have heard this kind of conspiracy theory before, including tragedies such as the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy and even when the Twin Towers were attacked on Sept. 11.

We hear or read these things and all we can do is re-think things. That, or totally pass the sometimes crazy theories off as something some bored nut job thought up. We have to take it upon ourselves to decide what is true and what is just another lie that is being force-fed to us by who knows who. But how do we decide what is true or not? Do we pass up the most out-of-there theory because we believe it is too crazy to be true?

Personally, there is nothing I love more than a good conspiracy theory. I have read countless books on John F. Kennedy’s assassination and I am currently reading another and I am only a little ashamed to say that I have bought into several stories about who really was behind the death of America’s beloved president. I think it is safe to say that I am obsessed. Sometimes conspiracy theories are fun, right? It can be a good time trying to decide what really happened and sometimes buying into the fact that some things may never be known or letting stories convince you that the government is evil. It is not like anyone is getting hurt by these theories, right?

But that is the thing about conspiracy theories. People do get hurt. I mean, I did not know anyone who perished in the 9/11 attack, but if one of my loved ones died and I later was on the Internet and came across a conspiracy theory saying that the 9/11 attacks were a plan so that the U.S. government could blame terrorists and go to war, I would be hurt. That theory, and many like it, offers the idea that the people who died in these tragedies, the tragedies that were “staged”, died for nothing. In suggesting that and encouraging the crazy conspiracy theories that you find on the Internet, you are hurting the ones who were involved and their loved ones.

The best thing that you can do when a loved one has died is find closure, and closure may be close to impossible to find if you never know what really happened. Also, of course, the people who lost a loved one in a tragedy do not deserve that.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that maybe we should not spend our days believing in the conspiracy theories that we find on the Internet, believing that something was a hoax and that our government is out to get us.

Because when that happens, it hurts those people who were involved in some way. Nobody wants to know that their loved ones died in vain, and when conspiracy theories fl oat around saying something did not happen or that the government staged the tragedy, the deaths of those people who perished lose significance. And when it comes to death, significance and meaning are horrible things to lose.

Natalie Howell is an alumna of UW-River Falls. She was editor of the <em>Student Voice</em> during the 2016-2017 academic year.