The human mind is good at making sense of all kinds of things. Clouds, random statistics, inkblots. It's always a bit of a struggle, trying to sort out the things that make sense to me from the things that actually make sense.
Conspiracy theories are a good example of this. It feels really good to take a dozen random facts and fit them into a connecting pattern. Nothing sticks out, nothing is meaningless or random. We like things that make sense.
Other ideologies do this too. When I was reading up on agrarianism, everything seemed connected to agriculture. Unemployment? It's because their ancestors sold the family farm. Epidemic of depression? Too little exposure to nature! Health problems in this country could all be traced to overconsumption of processed corn products.
And it's not like these things are totally unconnected. There is a real relationship I was seeing. But it was always tempting to paper over the things that didn't fit -- the Facebook friend whose husband profitably manages a commodity corn farm, the joy a friend has working in technology and rarely going outdoors, the way I really do love the taste of Taco Bell burritos. They made the pattern less beautiful and so I didn't want to acknowledge those things.
Libertarianism was another, for awhile. Libertarianism can connect to agrarianism, as I spent a lot of time working out, but there were moments they did clash, and it made me feel uncomfortable sometimes. For instance, when reading Fast Food Nation, I could see that the sustainable food movement had nothing at all to do with a right-left dichotomy. Sometimes the big food lobby got Democrats to vote for increased regulation to drive out their smaller competitors, and other times they got Republicans to vote for decreased regulation so they could get away with some shady business practices. It felt like they were using people's interest in the question of "more vs. less government" to manipulate them to back certain things.
I realized that more vs. less government is a line, but the right policies are a picture, a picture which sometimes calls for government action and sometimes not. In general I still feel that people neglect the possibility of solving problems without government, and underestimate the negative side effects which always crop up when you use a blunt instrument like government to solve problems, but that doesn't mean that you can answer all questions with a simple "just legalize/deregulate it!" There are some problems that won't be solved without government. All but the most radical libertarians acknowledge this, but it is a good deal harder to keep this in mind than I would have thought.
It's occurred to me that habits of mind like this -- of seeing everything along a single axis, "more or less government," or "conventional or alternative medicine," or "conservative or liberal" -- are very tempting and very problematic. It leads us to team up with others who see things on the same axis, which makes it even more tempting to focus only on the things that match the pattern and ignore all the ones that don't. That's why libertarians are always so sure that food stamps aren't really necessary (because if they are, then federal involvement in them is justified) and alternative medicine proponents don't want to hear about scarlet fever and atheists think all Christians believe the earth is 6,000 years old. It's simple, it's easy, it allows you to keep seeing the pattern you think the world is.
I wish I knew the cure. For now, I just remind myself often: any time I notice that everything seems to be fitting into one unified pattern, I should look around for the pokey bits that aren't popping into place. They're there, my mind just has trouble seeing them.