- No, it stems from an emotional need. People turn to these kinds of fringe conspiracy beliefs because they’ve been told that they’re stupid all their lives. In order to get “revenge” on people who’ve told them that they’re stupid, the flat earth types embrace beliefs that undermine the authority of those people. If they have been told that they’re stupid because they don’t understand science, the flat earth types will embrace some ideology or belief that says the entire body of knowledge that comprises “science” is illegitimate.
- This behavior stems from the emotional need to feel smart and important in a world that constantly tells you that you are dumb and insignificant. The fringe communities these people join give them the emotional security most people feel talking to family, friends, and people who share popular opinions and beliefs among themselves.
- Now that there are giant, vocal, prominent online communities dedicated to fringe conspiracy beliefs that they can join, people like this don’t feel the need to censor themselves when talking about these subjects now; they don’t fear ostracism from the public and their real life communities because they don’t HAVE to live a lot of their lives in real life meat-space. They can believe what they want to believe and lob endless potshots at that larger public that had made them feel so small before they joined the fringe public.
- And unfortunately our culture in the US and much of the West loves David and Goliath narratives and “Chosen one” narratives and narratives in which fringe beliefs come to occupy the whole world after an early period where those beliefs are persecuted by authorities and the public (ie Christianity). Psychologically, THESE particular inputs subconsciously drive much of the fringe believers, since they teach the believer that the world is against them, but if they just believe hard enough and stick to their guns that they will be able to shut up the naysayers and change the world in their own image. They have a lot of anger at said naysayers, so they will continue in their fringe belief so long as there is vocal opposition to that belief. Instead of dissuading the believer, intense vocal opposition from a majority of the public only reinforces the believer's resolve in sticking to their guns. Again, because those David and Goliath revenge narratives they've been conditioned with their whole lives emphasize that it's always the little guy, the underdog, the outnumbered who will triumph in their quest to get revenge against the powers that be.
- It’s the same emotional need to get revenge on people who have made the believer feel stupid that drives people who embrace Nazism, Stalinism, all kinds of weird fringe conspiracy theories, etc. For example, when questioning why certain people hold far right beliefs, sometimes the believers let the mask slip a bit and admit that they started getting into those beliefs because they had been told they were stupid all their lives and they hate “elites” who have made them feel that way. Embracing knowledge gained outside the classroom is a form of emotional revenge against academic "elites" who have scorned them. Groups like incels and MGTOWs have been unusually honest about those drives to get revenge against those people who have made them feel bad, sadly; but flat earthers, even more sadly, are rarely honest about that emotional need and their drive to fulfill it. Instead they try to pretend to be scientific experts whose existence nullifies the need for expertise itself. But rest assured, it’s all an elaborate cover for the terror and insecurity and emotional stress they feel about being singled out as stupid. They just frame it as an intellectual belief instead of an unfulfilled emotional need.
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