Pandemic-related conspiracy theories: Why do we repeat history?

From history, we know that pandemics and times of crises, in general, tend to fuel a lot of conspiracy theories. And from the many pandemics in the past, we know some of how this played itself out and what type of conspiracy theories flourished.

In general, it seems that people get scared, don’t trust authorities, and make up their own stories about what’s going on – which often involves blaming certain people or groups. And the people who get into these conspiracy theories are often the ones who already have an outsider identity, feel left out from the mainstream and/or the elite, and feel generally powerless.

In hindsight, these conspiracy theories seem a bit silly and misguided. It’s clearly something scared people engaged in to make sense of a confusing situation.

Knowing this, why do some repeat history? Why do they engage in the same types of conspiracy theories that some did during past pandemics?

Why do they, knowing that their views will likely seem equally silly and misguided?

One answer is that this is a natural expression of some dynamics in the collective and individual psychology.

Another answer is that these people likely don’t know much history. If they did, I imagine they would hesitate to engage in the same type of conspiracy theories we know from history.


The pandemic-related conspiracies we see today follow the pattern we have seen from pandemics in the past. And in hindsight, it all looks a bit ridiculous. 

So why do people repeat it today? 

Likely because they don’t know much history, and don’t bother looking into it. They prefer to act on their reactivity instead. 


I know there are some legitimate concerns behind vaccine skepticism and so on, and I do agree with the small seeds of truths behind many of the conspiracy theories. At the same time, the form much of this takes is based on bad logic and bad data, and seems to come more from reactivity than anything else.

What we see is very predictable based on history. History repeats itself. And much of it looks as ridiculous today as it does when we look back at similar conspiracy theories that flourished in past pandemics – in different cultures and throughout history.

And, yes, I would include a lot of the anti-pandemic measures views here (anti-vaccine, anti-mask wearing). These too follow the conspiracy theory patterns we see from past pandemics, and they are generally not founded in good logic or good data.

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