Conspiracy theories have been around for hundreds of years, but with the rise of the internet, the speed with which they spread has accelerated and their power has grown. Back in the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy promoted conspiracy theories that communists had deeply infiltrated and threatened all branches and agencies of the U.S. government; last month, Donald Trump retweeted conspiracy theories in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein’s death.
Conspiracy theories are all around us. But how do they work, who believes them, and why? What kind of damage can they do—and how can we do a better job of controlling that damage, as individuals and as a society?