From all the existing theories in the world, I bet conspiracy theories are the most long lasting ones. But why? Why people love conspiracy theories so much? What's the effect of these conspiracy theories and how the government should deal with it? A short paper from Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule could give some hints to answer that. Download it here.
According to them, one of the distinctive characteristics of conspiracy theories is their "self sealing" quality, meaning, conspiracy theorists are not likely to be persuaded by an attempt to dispel their theories; they may even characterize that very attempt as further proof of the conspiracy. I begin to think that these conspiracy theorists are acting like religious fundamentalists, resistant to correction and living in denial :p.
In any way, the case of conspiracy theories is pretty relevant for Indonesia. The paper argues that conspiracy theories are more powerful in societies with systematical malfunctioning or skewed institutions of knowledge. Some simple questions, do you believe your own government, that they really work for the benefit of the society? Do you even believe that all of the cases related to "religious violence" are a part of bigger schemes?
Conspiracy theories can also be dangerous. We wouldn't have any problem if they stay as nice gossips material to be discussed at "warung kopi". The problem is, they are not as simple as that. In some cases, conspiracy theories can produce an imminent threat to the society. Consider the case of zionist-american conspiracy to control the world, that everything that happen in this world until today are the result of their control? Do you believe this? Personally, I don't buy it, especially with the current economic crisis in America. But as you may see, some people believe that. Try the terrorists who think that they are in a holy war with Americans because of such conspiracy theories. Or if we look nearby, the case of Ahmadiya persecution can be a solid example of the danger of conspiracy theories. Ahmadiya has existed in Indonesia for more than 75 years, why the dispute occurs now? What's behind all of this? Will the violence stop?
The paper further argues that the Government should carefully deal with conspiracy theories. Remember the "self-sealing" quality? Therefore, not all conspiracy theories should be rebutted, only the ones who pose the most serious danger. And even if it is the case, the rebuttal should not always be made by the Government, especially if the Government is the subject of the conspiracy theories. Independent think thank institutions can also help. Of course, these institutions must have solid credibilities to gain the trust of the people (and I must say, the case of establishing these trusted institutions is quite challenging in Indonesia).
I would suggest you to read the entire paper by yourself. This is a very short paper, consisting of 30 pages only and has summarized the basic issues of conspiracy theories. Hopefully, the paper can open our eyes on how easy we can fall into the prey of conspiracy theories.