You can read my original post and our comments there, if you want, but I'll summarize here. I was talking about conspiracy theories in general and the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories specifically, how it was ghoulish to use such a tragedy for your own entertainment.
Jim found my interpretation hard to believe. (Note that this is just an excerpt from his comment.)
I tend to think there are lots of people beyond reason, who are neurotic or psychotic. I've known schizophrenic people who believe in wild paranoid beliefs like this. ...
Like our problem of insane people getting guns, I think we have a problem with insane people using the internet.
Now, I commonly use words like 'crazy,' 'insane,' and 'lunacy' when I'm blogging here, often referring to ideas, but sometimes to people, too. Heck, I've even got a tag for insanity. But I don't mean it literally.
Of course, I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so I'm not qualified to make a diagnosis of insanity. But there's more to it than just that.
For one thing, I grew up when totalitarian regimes, if they didn't want to just execute political prisoners, would sometimes declare them insane and imprison them in well-guarded asylums. That works better than a regular prison, because who's going to pay attention to what an insane person says, right?
For another, I'm not sure that insanity is all or nothing. You can hold crazy beliefs* without being completely crazy, and you can have a mental disorder without being insane. In fact, I suspect that most of us, at one time or another, could stand for a little more mental health. IMHO, it's too simplistic to label all these people 'psychotic'.
But mostly, I just don't think this stuff would be so widespread if it were actually due to insanity. In fact, I think it's just the reverse, that it's such a common problem because it appeals to perfectly normal human nature.
It's human nature that makes it easy - very, very easy - to believe what we want to believe. Even skeptics have to fight against that tendency. In fact, scientists have created the scientific method, in part, as a clever way to work with human nature, rather than against it, because human nature is so powerful.
Now, if you look at an ordinary human being like you or me, how important are we in the grand scheme of things? If this were a play, we wouldn't even have a walk-on role. We'd be in the chorus - and not in the front line, either, but back behind everyone else.
But everyone is a star in his own story. You may be completely inconsequential to most people (though important to a few, admittedly), but in your own mind, you've got the lead role. You're the star in your own story, and it's only natural to want that story to be as entertaining as possible.
There are many ways to do that. For example, you might identify with a religion or a political party. You might be a Christian soldier, helping God to battle Satan for our souls - the most important fight that ever was or ever could be. Sure, you're just a foot-soldier, not a general, but you're still fighting a super-villain. How cool is that?
Conspiracy theories make it even better. Of course, your conspiracy of choice tends to depend on your political and/or religious leanings. You might be a 'birther' or a 9/11 'truther', but you're unlikely to be both. So conspiracy thinking doesn't usually replace the other entertaining elements in your internal story, but adds to them.
By the nature of conspiracy thinking, most people think you're crazy. To you, you're one of the small minority who know the Truth, the valiant few who haven't been hoodwinked by authority, the brave fighters against overwhelming odds. What a story, huh? You're not just a member of the chorus now!
No, now you're Walter Mitty. You're in the French Resistance. You're in The DaVinci Code. You may not be the leader of the movement, but you're still important. The real crazy people - crazier, at least - take it too far, but most conspiracy enthusiasts aren't like that. They're just pepping up their lives and, especially, their internal narrative.
That's why I call it entertainment. But it's also ghoulish when they're using a real tragedy, where six- and seven-year-old children were murdered, along with their teachers, and many others traumatized by the event. Real families are grieving, and it's despicable to use that just to spice up your own life.
Now, I know that these people don't realize that's what they're doing. I understand that. But it's still pretty disgusting, don't you think? What it's not, though, is insane - not technically, not literally. It's just human nature. That's my thinking, at least.
What do you think?
* PS. It's funny what we consider to be crazy and what we don't, isn't it? If I thought that aliens replaced all of us just before death, beaming us up to the mother ship while leaving a simulacrum behind to die, and that all people end up living on alien planets, healed of our injuries and cured of our diseases, that would be crazy.
But I could believe something very similar and it would be considered perfectly normal - even expected - religious faith. Both beliefs seem roughly equivalent crazy-wise, but one is sanctioned by our society and one isn't.