Is Conspiranoia the Product of Ignorance or Delusion?

It occurs to me that perhaps we sometimes look for unnecessarily complicated explanations in trying to understand the mental processes of those who are conspiracy obsessed, Several examples I’ve seen recently lead me to wonder if perhaps many common conspiranoid beliefs are the result of a simple misunderstanding or misreading of a text, or even an inability to parse an English sentence correctly. Or perhaps there is an inclination to read what one expects to see in a text rather than what is actually there – reading between the lines and ignoring the lines themselves.

I recently encountered a textbook example of this in the text accompanying a YouTube video titled “WARNING – Microchipping to Begin in 36 Months Under New Health Bill.” It’s a particularly excellent example because the author actually quotes the text of the Healthcare bill and then proceeds to interpret it in a way which obviously has zero connection to the actual words he’s quoting. Here’s the relevant part of the text:

“The new Health Care Bill, H.R. 3200, just passed by Congress has within it the requirement that all people thereunder shall be microchiped. The plans for this microchipping have been in the hopper going back to December of 2004.

Witness the actual FDA (Food and Drug Administration) document dated December 10, 2004 entitled Class II Special Guidance Document: Implantable Radiofrequency Transponder System for Patient Identification and Health Information. This ten page document may be read on the FDA website at…”

Now, if you go to the FDA website listed, what you find is a standard applicaton for FDA approval of a medical device. Nothing about mandatory implantation, just information about the chips which are a commercial product to help doctors track patient records electronically. Yes, the chips are implanted, which is why they need FDA approval, but there’s nothing there about any kind of government program or mandatory implantation. Just because the FDA is the government, that doesn’t mean that it’s endorsing or mandating this product. It’s just reviewing and ultimately approving its use exactly as it has countless other drugs and products.

The bizarre documentary misanalysis goes on from there:

“Witness the wording within H.R. 3200, Americas Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 found on Congresses House Ways and Means website…On page 1001 is Subtitle C National Medical Device Registry which states,

“The Secretary shall establish a national medical device registry (in this subsection referred to as the registry) to facilitate analysis of postmarket safety and outcomes data on each device that is or has been used in or on a patient.”

In other words, everyone microchipped pursuant to the new Health Care Bill must be registered with the Secretary. The Secretary is defined as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.”

There you have a quote from the document followed by a conclusion which cannot possibly logically result from an accurate reading of the text. The provision in the healthcare bill clearly refers to analysis and registration of the devices. It says nothing at all about registering people or making the devices mandatory. The author just leaps to that conclusion because of his paranoid inclinations.

I think it’s not a coincidence that he then goes on to quote extensively from the Book of Revelation and identifies the microchip as the famous Mark of the Beast. Clearly this very confused individual and what has happened here is that he heard about these microchips on a news report (the video shows that report) and immediately leapt to the irrational conclusion that they were a diabolical plot from a government working for the Antichrist. He then went looking for documentary evidence to support his belief, finding the FDA filing and the section in the healthcare bill which refer to the chips. And then he just assumes that these dosuments support his beliefs, even though they do nothing of the sort.

This is the exact inverse of a normal reasoning process. Normally you would start with evidence and draw conclusions based on the evidence. In this case the writer has started with his conclusions and then looked for evidence to support those conclusions. In the best case he might have found evidence which he could take out of context or shape to fit his conclusions. But in this case he just took evidence which really does nothing to support his conclusions and then points to it victoriously as if it says something which it does not.

This type of inverse reasoning seems characteristic of the thought processes of many conspiracy adherents. Their conspiranoia warps their perception of reality and they literally see and read things which are not there. They can look at video of planes and see guided missiles. They can read a government document and draw farfetched conclusions unrelated to its contents. They can ignore any amount of evidence if it doesn’t fit their predetermined conclusions. My first, charitable inclination is to assume that they just don’t know how to reason properly or can’t understand what they see or read, but given the almost hallucinatory disconnect from reality required to make these leaps of illogic, the less kind but perhaps more accurate conclusion is that this is evidence of some sort of actual mental disorder.

I’m not a psychologist, but I do have some understanding of the difference between reality and fantasy, and when fantasy supplants reality and you begin seeing things which aren’t there or even reading subtext which is not objectively present in a document, that’s a sign that something is very wrong. The fact that we’re dealing with a shared delusion or some sort of mass hysteria which effects a small but notable segment of the population doesn’t make it any less crazy, though it does make it a greater concern, raising the question of whether this particular mental disease is contagious and if so, how can it be contained?


About Dave 534 Articles
Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at

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