Where conspiracy is defined as:

an agreement between persons who intend to gain some collective advantage while keeping their agreement secret from the public or from other people affected by it.

The problem is that our hypothetical conspirators are running amok, being video-taped, photographed, documented at every turn... and basically everyone is still shrugging their shoulders and carrying on with their day-to-day lives.

Even though that Youtube video hit 1 billion views, even though CNN dedicated a thirty minute segment proving a common though twisting thread... no one cares.

Sure, there's some initial worry. Maybe enough to warrant one or two investigations. But their "results" are anodyne, or maybe not portrayed as alarming, so 95% of the public-at-large simply starts ignoring the conspirators and their continuing crimes.

Even ideologues and tin-foil-hat-wearers on both ends of the political spectrum are skeptical, oblivious, or are blaming it on other causes.

But why? For what reason would this conspiracy be unthinkable yet widely known, evil yet somehow trifling to the modern citizen?

I'm looking for an answer that isn't predicated on mind control, insanity of those who recognize the conspiracy, virtual realities, technological handwaves, or politically-polarized topics like Climate Change. Those kinds of topics, by definition, means swathes of society assuming conspiracy instead of maintaining indifference.

I don't know what the answer is myself, but, ideally, it will focus less from the exact nature of the conspiracy, and more on our collective capacity for self-deception.

  • $\begingroup$ It's all FAKE NEWS. $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2017 at 17:22

5 Answers 5


What is the conspiracy and what is the overt act? Are they related?

  • Alice and Bob conspire to defraud the government by coordinated bids on military procurement contracts. Alice also gets into the news by using her wealth to fund a private Mars flight. No contradiction, really. The overt act might even help to shield the conspiracy since Alice is obviously not just another greedy investor, she has ideals.

  • Alice and Bob conspire to keep the knowledge of aliens in Area 51 from the public so that their companies can patent reverse-engineered technology. Alice also gets into the news by flying an alien-derived air car to the Oscar party. The overt act exposes the conspiracy.

I presume that you are talking about the second case here. TVTropes talks about The Unmasqued World. So the question would be why the general population does not get very upset about the unmasquing, and/or tries to forget that it happened.

  • Can the conspirators provide a mundane explanation for the overt event? Everybody knows that Alice owns a high-tech company. Yes, they have air cars.
  • Does the true explanation contradict firmly held beliefs of the population? It might be rejected for that reason.

It seems like something that are happening today due to "post-truth". After there is a lot of false conspiracy theories people get used to them and don't really believe any new is true and even if they do believe, that belief does not make them act due to previous behavioral conditioning plausible conspiracy theory → no real problem in the end.

By the way, the climate change got politically polarized in somehow artificial way. Two years ago it was still something that was rather obvious and denialists were perceived like flat-earthers. There is no reason not to use such manipulation in your world.

One more solution is looking at the problem from a perspective of some conspiracy theory proponent. Choose real non-plausible (but non joke! no donut-earth!) conspiracy-theory and try to think like people who believe in it. Then apply this way of thinking to your world but this time assume it is actual situation and the majority not taking it seriously is wrong.

One more think: you want to have a group of people taking your theory seriously but not a coherent powerful social group sharing common belief. They should either believe they are alone or that they have no real power. Or even better, that there is no reason to act. And there is no need for "no reason because it is solved by XXX", it may be just no reason because nobody came with reason for action.


There is no conspiracy...

... unless the purpose is illicit. It is not illegal anywhere for several friends to organize a private association with the purpose of building toy electric trains; they don't have to register anywhere, they don't have to announce it, and they are perfectly in their right to post pictures of their toy trains on Flickr.

If the purpose is illicit, then the so-called conspirators cannot possibly do their work in the open: because any lowly assistant public prosecutor with a drop of ambition will sense the low-hanging fruit and put them on trial.

The question doesn't say what those conspirators want to do: in the absence of any indications of malice I canot distinguish this so-called conspiracy from any other association created to further a common interest, such as, for example, writing the Linux kernel or building the Debian operating system.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people involved in writing the Linux kernel. There are certainly thousands of people involved in building Debian (the basis of Ubuntu etc.). They do it in public, they are well known, and yet everybody seems to carry on and allow them to undermine Windows Server. There are entire web sites dedicated to following the activities of the conspirators who make the Linux kernel and Linux-based operating systems!


Simple reason is that most people are more invested in their own lives... think about this... in any given government administration, how likely are the upper echelons of said government going to negatively affect you? Compare that to getting the kids to daycare and performance reviews with the boss and papers that are do in school. The mythical "They" might run the entire world, but hey, it's not doing anything that hurts you in the immediate run.

Outright rejection of the theory can also be attributed to push back against the thought that that someone is controlling me. Yeah... that one country might be suspected to have hacked the election, but I know my vote was made of my own free will and there would be a lot of coverage of a machine that was proven to have been hacked.

Another factor is just Occham's Razor: the simplest explanation is the most likey. Consider the moon landing conspiracy theory... which is more plausible... we strapped three men into a small capsule, put them on top of a gigantic nuclear missile, hurled them into space, where they managed to land on the moon and then return safety to earth... or we faked the whole thing on a set in Hollywood? Well... when you put it like that... the latter... but then consider that it's been almost 60 years since we did that and we've heard nary a grip from, well, a guy with a grip... or a disgruntled prop artist, or a disillusioned set builder who fell on hard times when movies went digital and wanted to make a quick buck?

The there are threads that just unravel the notion of a conspricay theory... like, what's more likely: Islamic Terrorists flew four planes into American targets in an act of war against non-Islamic infidels... or in less than a year, a brand new executive administration was able to enact a vast conspiracy to blame Afghanistan, a nation know one knew of until the day of the attacks, all for name-a-beneficiary-corporate-power that would be all so willing to watch a major economic office building collapse... all stolen from an X-Files spin-off so forgettable, that it's only remembered for forecasting the plot of the 9/11 conspiracy theory a a few months before 9/11. And who is the diabolical mastermind behind this whole thing? The one man with the intelligence to pull this whole thing off? Why President George W. Bush.

Conspiracy theory is modern myth... it's "God is angry and that's why there's a storm" for modern man. Now that doesn't discount real, actual conspiracies... but Reality can at times be stranger than fiction and the people who would be more open to believing these things hurt their cause with aforementioned non-sense (Russian hacking aside... we still don't have the full details there... though I take a little longer to convince of such things).


Deeply held beliefs that are not based on evidence such as religious beliefs would be capable of blinding people to evidence in plain sight regardless of the circumstances. For example:

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh

The actual truth or falsehood of the claims made is irrelevant to the believers because they “know” that he can do no wrong.


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