Conspiracy theories are not just for people with tin foil hats. They’re quite common, and some conspiracy believers have very high IQs. Part of the issue is that conspiracy theories often take a small truth and exaggerate it into something larger.
Let’s look at a couple examples. One often hears the phrase cultural Marxism thrown around. YourDictionary.com defines cultural Marxism as “A loose Marxist movement seeking to apply critical theory to matters of family composition, gender, race, and cultural identity within Western society”.
That’s a good definition, and represents the small truth of cultural Marxism. Indeed, in the early 20th century, Marxist intellectuals established the Frankfurt School to combine Marxist economic theory with social and cultural theory. It had a huge influence in academia, and became especially popular in the 1960s and ’70s with hippies, radicals, second wave feminists, and other social justice activists.
This, in turn, had some influence on the Democratic Party in America. But this does not mean Democrats are a Marxist party, just as Republicans are not a fascist party even though there are racist and xenophobic influences in it.
It is further true that cultural Marxists wish to transform society – as do libertarians, Republicans, Christians, atheists, and so on.
Cultural Marxism becomes a conspiracy theory when opponents claim that there actually is a secret cabal of professors, politicians, and others who are planning the overthrow of Western society. The conservative Free Congress Foundation created a video which stops short of positing a secret cabal. But notice the comments. More than one person claims that the Jews are behind it.
Feminism has drawn inspiration from Marxism, and the notion of patriarchy too is a small truth that is sometimes exaggerated into a conspiracy theory.
Almost all rulers throughout history have been men. That’s the truth of patriarchy. But feminists take this a step further and claim that men as a class have rigged society to oppress all women as a class. Thus, all privilege is male – female privilege doesn’t exist – and all oppression is of women and girls. And this is the conspiracy theory.
Scientific American describes 10 features of conspiracy theories. Notable for feminist patriarchy theory are #3 & #4, the situation being complex and requiring large numbers of people (all men throughout all of history) and events; #5 the goal being grand, such as world domination; #6 & #7, exaggerating the importance of minor events (micro-aggression); #8, opinions are represented as facts; #9, the conspiracy is said to permeate every societal institution; and #10, a refusal to consider alternative explanations.
That’s 8 out of 10, which is sufficient to say that feminism is based on a conspiracy theory.
A final thought: I noted that even intelligent people fall for conspiracy theories. This includes scientific skeptics, who make it their business to debunk conspiracy theories. But even self-declared rationalists have their sacred cows. Case in point is Atheism+, which is atheism plus feminism and social justice warriors.