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[Philosophy/Culture] Plato's Cave: A Metaphor for Conspiracy Theories

Highly controversial and known for dividing opinion, ‘conspiracy theories’ are stories in our culture usually claiming to have information on top level government cover ups and scandals that haven’t been exposed to the public.

The problem with believing or disregarding conspiracies theories as a whole, is that they must be examined on an individual case basis. For instance, if someone said at the turn of the year that the Chinese Government were censoring information about the Corona Virus on social media apps to prevent news of a global pandemic outbreak, this would initially be called a ‘conspiracy theory’ - however it was proven to be true.

On the other hand ‘Flat Earth’ is an increasingly popular belief that the public are being lied too about the shape of the planet. Make up your own mind about which one of those you believe more, however the point is that they both fall under the umbrella of ‘conspiracy theories’.

Therefore we must be as objective as possible in our reasoning when distinguishing between what are simply ‘crazy theories’ and what may actually be real events that have / are transpiring that deserve the attention of the public and media in order to shine a light on crimes committed behind the veil of powerful institutions and closed doors.

Often the most popular CT’s are the ‘juicy’ ones that contain elements of truth and mysterious coincidences, with far reaching implications associated with the impact it would have on public opinion if they were found to be true. Like ‘Chinese Whispers’ what may have started as the truth over time gradually distorts and is lost in interpretation, in doing so becoming easy to deny.

The most famous CT’s known to mostly all members of the general public (whether they believe them or not) are:

  • The Illuminati (a secret group of powerful elites who control the world)

  • JFK was assassinated by the CIA

  • The moon landings were fake

  • 911 was a false flag operation

The issue when it comes to certain conspiracies is that when you ‘look into it’, you start to learn disturbing verified truths that shatter the paradigm of your trust in institutions and transform your understanding of the society you live in. This ‘awakening’ is famously depicted in modern culture via the Matrix films in which characters are offered a ‘red or blue pill’ to decide if they see the harsh truth of reality or continue living in ignorance as bliss.

Perhaps the reason why CT’s are so often dismissed as a whole is because quite frankly, sometimes the truth hurts. Often people would rather turn a blind eye or simply reject the truth because it challenges the paradigm of their belief system (cognitive dissonance).

This is understandable given the multitude of other issues that humans have to deal with on a daily basis before confronting the sinister reality that for example, one of Britain’s most famous children’s TV show presenters Jimmy Saville was in fact a serial pedophile, or that British taxpayer money was used to fund terrorist organisations.

Some people will reject any information unless it has been covered by mainstream media before they accept it as true (also a contentious opinion). Though individuals such as Edward Snowden, a former CIA whistleblower who exposed invasive government surveillance and data collection, would argue that the however difficult it may be it is necessary to confront uncomfortable truths as otherwise crimes against humanity will go unpunished because of powerful institutions withholding information.

WikiLeaks founded by Julian Assange in 2004 with the main intention of exposing government cover ups and scandals, ignited a new generation of activists after leaking videos of civilians being killed by American soldiers.

The argument that continues to separate opinion, is how much should the public know? The charge against both of these men is that they exposed highly classified information that exposed the military industrial complex and compromised national defense against foreign attack. However many believe that these men are heroes for risking their lives to expose the ‘truth’.

Ancient Greek philosopher Plato confronted the theme of unfathomable truth in his famous ‘Allegory of the Cave’:

  • Imagine prisoners born in a cave chained facing a wall who have never seen the outside world. Shadows of people passing behind them are illuminated by fire in the cave and projected onto the wall in front of them.

  • They believe these shadows to be real, as that is all they have ever known.

  • One prisoner is freed and taken outside of the cave to see the real world. The sun light hurts their eyes and they are disorientated.

  • At first when they are told the world around them is real, and that the shadows are reflections, they can’t believe it.

  • Gradually their eyes begin to adjust until they can look at the outside world clearly.

  • They return to the cave to share their discovery, but they are no longer used to the darkness and struggle to see the shadows.

  • The other prisoners think that the person who left the cave has become stupid and blind, and they refuse to believe anything they are told about the world outside the cave, despite the opportunity to discover truth.

There are many ways to read into this allegory and it remains a poignant metaphor for the undertaking of a paradigm shifting discovery that exposes deeper truths about the nature of reality, highlighting the danger of cognitive dissonance in preventing growth beyond what we think we know.

In our modern society we no longer have a culture of ‘myths’ such as slaying dragons like the ancient civilisations of the past. However it could be said that some of the more bizarre conspiracies of today such as the world being run by shape shifting lizards or that ancient aliens created humans - could be seen as the modern myths of our culture.

On the other hand it must be remembered that some myths are indeed proven over time to be true. In this current Orwellian media landscape of ‘fake news’, false and unfounded information circulates online and this is a factor as to why CT’s grounded in truth are often rejected.

People are oversaturated with an abundance of misinformation and don’t have the time to verify every story. Yet we should be careful not to quickly dismiss a story simply because it’s called a ‘conspiracy theory’, as conspiracies have and will continue to happen.

Some conspiracy theories may serve as entertainment in the form of modern myths. Some may be the reflections of unknown truths.



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