On the conspiracy theory miasma:
I don’t really think the fundamental issue here is gullibility (although it certainly plays a role). Instead, I think what is happening is a use of language that is a means to a particular end. For these movements, the willingness to suspend belief and to hold views they know are not true is a sign of belonging, a sign of loyalty to the tribe.
What a movement rooted in power instead of truth actually wants are people who are willing to accept seemingly crazy ideas…and to change them at a second’s notice, not because they’ve been persuaded by some other idea, but just because the talking points have changed. That’s what George Orwell warned about in totalitarian states. “It sets up unquestionable dogmas, and it alters them from day to day,” he wrote. “It needs the dogmas, because it needs absolute obedience from its subjects, but it can’t avoid the changes, which are dictated by the needs of power politics.”
Today, you are asked to be enraged about the secret pedophile ring in a pizza parlor, but, tomorrow, when this is proved not to be true and the purveyors of it move on to something else, no one apologizes or announces a change of mind. It’s just forgotten. The language wasn’t actually a truth claim, but a means to an end—to show you who is one of us and who isn’t, who belongs and who doesn’t.
– Russell Moore