I spoke with a longtime coworker just as I was leaving today. She's quite the conspiracy theorist, and I was surprised to find she is now a Truther in addition to being a Birther. She voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004, but now thinks he's part of the oOne World conspiracy. She is a full-fledged CFR/Bildeberg/Trilateralist at this point.
When I have known someone for many years, I tend to think of their recent self as their "real" self, and earlier versions as stages. For the last ten years, I have seen her as a fundamentalist Christian, considerably more interested in endtimes prophecy than I ever was, and drawn to political things that outraged her. The items she would pass on to me often involved finding significance in what I saw as relatively minor events. I now think that the last two years or so she must have been something a bit more eccentric than that. About five years ago she married a pastor from Georgia who had been serving a church up here. I imagine his politics may be involved.
Here's the interesting part: I've known her since she interned and then was hired here, over fifteen years ago. Not only was she quite liberal then, especially around women's issues and redistribution, but she was something like a conspiracy-theorist then. In more public conversation, she was in the patriarchy/rigged-economy/plutocrat camp, but privately, she let on that she was quite convinced that powerful males in the government were not merely unenlightened sexists - not really a conspiracy - but that they intentionally sought to pass legislation that would insure that women were kept subservient in future generations.
Before I knew her, she had been a member of the Boston Church, an intentionally apolitical sect which has rigid hierarchical discipling practices and some suspect theology, described as a cult by some.
Well, I'm making her sound foolish - she's a lovely person actually, and bright enough. Flamboyant, funny, kind.
But it leads to an interesting speculation. I am not the first to note that a tendency to believe in conspiracies often precedes the data, which is acquired later. Confirmation bias seems to be incredibly powerful with these people. And though conspiracies have more than their share of loners, they seem also to be easily influenced by the small circle of people they hang with. They communicate with each other a lot, sending each other stories and links. And while they often have an extreme left or extreme right overall tendency, they also usually have these oddities of belief that come from the other side of the spectrum, and even more often, conspiracy beliefs that can go either way, like alternative medicine or anti-corporatism.
Do any of you know any conspiracy theorists who are, well, centrist? I was about to type "moderate," but that seems self-contradictory. I know pessimists who will wish a murrain on both the houses of our current political alignment, but I'm not discovering any conspiracists in that census.