Specifically, we yearn for a kind of narrative coherence in which motivations are simple, individuals’ actions make sense, and the whole thing has at least some measure of organization to it. We’ve been taught by innumerable movies and TV shows what a conspiracy looks like, and one of its characteristics is that things become more clear as you move along. What had seemed like a random collection of events turns out to have been directed from above, and eventually the entire plot is revealed. It may be thwarted, but it’s always carefully planned.
But that’s seldom how things go in the real world. Not that there aren’t sometimes conspiracies, because they do happen. But more often than not, somebody’s attempt at a conspiracy—colluding with a foreign power, keeping an extramarital affair quiet, sabotaging an investigation—winds up being a series of pratfalls.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t a genuine scandal or that laws weren’t broken. But the more we learn about the actions of Donald Trump and those around him, the clearer it becomes that this collection of nincompoops couldn’t run an effective conspiracy to change a tire.
As I have said before, conspiracy theories provide us with the illusion that the world is neat and orderly. If we can just find the secret levers, we can make sense of it and organize it.
In reality, the world is complicated and messy, and big problems tend not to have simple answers or straightforward solutions.