Are Conspiracy Theories Harmless Fun?

Anti-Obama protester at an Austin, Te...
Anti-Obama protester at an Austin, Texas "Tea Party" protest on July 4, 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
January 20, 2017. Remember that date. In fact, you might as well put it on your calendar. It is going to be one of those dates we in the U.S. look back on decades later and say, "That was the day everything changed." What is so special about January 20?

This is the date that is supposed to be President Obama'a last day in office. I say "supposed to" because there are quite a few right-wing conspiracy theorists out there who have been telling us for several years that President Obama is a "tyrant" who will never willingly leave office. And when the sun sets on January 20, 2017 with President Obama still in office, in control of the military, and refusing to leave, they will be proven correct...or not.

If this reminds you of another recent prediction that didn't quite work out, you are not alone. If I was the betting sort, I'd bet that there will be a peaceful exchange of power on January 20. President Obama will move on to do whatever is next for him, and his replacement will assume the responsibilities of office. I'd further bet that we won't hear a peep from the conspiracy theorists when they are proven wrong once again.

But don't worry, the conspiracy theorists aren't going anywhere. We love our conspiracy theories so much that it never seems to matter how many are proven false along the way. We keep churning them out. The stranger the better. Just as there will be yet another religious "prophet" predicting the next end of the world, there will be more conspiracy theories from the political right and left predicting all sorts of nonsense.

Are conspiracy theories like this just harmless fun or should they be cause for concern? Should those of us who are skeptics bother to respond to such theories, or would we be better served by ignoring them? Is there a danger that some might be so distracted by these bizarre conspiracy theories that they will be less attentive to real conspiracies that desperately need attention?