Conspiracy Theories

Miscellaneous

May 23

We have become the most well-informed people in the history of the world, while at the same time choosing to be morons who believe nonsense.

Believing conspiracy theories is a very strange phenomenon, because we all know “something is dreadfully wrong” with society. But instead of using the God-given sense we have to suss it out, we just let our prejudices form the wackiest possible answers to suit our injured egos.

I say “ego” because our beliefs are intricately intertwined with our imagined self. And I say “imagined” because who we are and who we think we are can be (often are, actually) very different and sometimes at odds with each other (but that’s a paper for a later date).

I’ve posted at our Facebook page a scholarly article on conspiracy theories to be found at this link: Understanding Conspiracy Theories. However, for some it’s a bit boring and not their cup of tea, so I’ve got more (and more) to post that have a bit of entertainment value.

First off, let us discuss the main difference between science and conspiracy theories.

Obviously I like being blunt, and I never apologize for my sense of humor.

Conspiracies actually do exist. If they did not exist, laws about conspiracies would not exist. From FindLaw.com we get the following:

A criminal conspiracy exists when two or more people agree to commit almost any unlawful act, then take some action toward its completion. The action taken need not itself be a crime, but it must indicate that those involved in the conspiracy knew of the plan and intended to break the law. A person may be convicted of conspiracy even if the actual crime was never committed.

https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/conspiracy.html

Over the winter of 2019/2020 were heard a lot of screams about “He didn’t commit a crime,” and “No crime was committed.”

As you can see from above, the actual crime doesn’t have to be committed, it takes only the intent, or only the conspiracy to commit a crime.

And conspiracies are actually uncovered . . . by government agencies, investigative journalists, and even private detectives (no, they don’t just exist in film and old time radio).

Conspiracy Theories, on the other hand are discussed by you and me and everybody, on the web, at parties, on YouTube, and at websites. One huge difference is there is no experts involved, because the individuals take it upon themselves to be self-appointed experts; that they are the masters of the “truth.”

And it is very natural and human to want to help others. This is why we spread them. We think we are helping others.

I’m not going to take this any further, because I’ve found a great article that explains it all, and is relevant to the pandemic we are currently experiencing: “Immune to Evidence”: How Dangerous Coronavirus Conspiracies Spread.

One huge reason I’m bringing this up now is that conspiracy theories, during a pandemic, are deadly. And another huge problem is that they are being propagated by “some” of the media.

The term “Fake News” is drowning us just as much as fake news is drowning us, but it really started in the White House.

Lesley Stahl interviewed the President  a while back, and he told her exactly why he uses the term fake news: “You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.”

In other words, when journalists do their damndest to get to the truth and publish it, there is a vast crowed out there who won’t believe it, refuse to verify it, and label it fake news offhand.

This is how we dumb down our society. If you refuse to think for yourself, refuse to engage your cerebellum in critical thinking, you will never know the truth and accept lies in its place. Most stories can be corroborated, but you have to actually go out and do a bit of work.

“I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance.”

Ruben Blades

How to Spot Fake News

First you have to want to spot fake news. For most, if it resonates with their prejudices, that’s all they need. For the rest of you, there are steps to take to determine if something is true or false.

  • Consider the Source — Investigate the site/source. You can use Media Bias/Fact Check for this. However, you must keep in mind that though a site might have a political bias, this particular site shows you also the degree of truth in their factual reporting. And sites with a bias can report the facts, while at the same time omitting facts (or contexts) in order to sway the reader.
  • Check the Author — One of my favorite all time fake news purveyors is John Stossell. We reported years ago about his taking money from conventional farming to do a story on the dangers of organic food. It was hilarious. In fact, John Stossel has become such a paragon of bullshit (at least to me) that I’ve used the phrase when pointing out poor journalists: “He’s become the John Stossel of John Stossels.” Always check out the author.
  • Read Beyond the Headlines — Oftentimes, especially in today’s information age, headlines are meant to draw you in. The story itself can be very different. If the headlines are shocking, it’s best to read the entire story. And since most journalists (web journalists) don’t follow the “upside down pyramid” taught in journalism school, where the important stuff is laid out plainly at the top of the article, you will have to read to the bottom.
  • Check the Date — People will post articles to rile you up. They seem relevant to current events, but are not. They happened years ago and there are more relevant things in the news. A good, trustworthy friend will post: “This is old news, but I thought it relevant to what’s going on today.” Or something like that.
  • Check Out the Supporting Sources — this is important because often you’ll hear, “This is backed up by hundreds of studies,” and when you check out the hundreds of studies, most of them are unrelated and irrelevant. Additionally, unethical reporters will cherry pick something from a study, that the study in whole doesn’t fully support. Cherry picking is a great way to mislead a reader.
  • Is It a Joke? — There are way too many parody sites that publish silly crap. And they don’t tell you that they are a parody site unless you flip through their pages to find their “About Us” section. Anything shocking and subtly humorous should send up a red flag.
  • Check Your Biases — This is, sadly, something most people do not do. And I’ve been guilty of it too. Except I’ve learned to enjoy the warm feeling that rushes over me when I see news that I want to agree with, and then I dismiss it and check the facts. This comes from years of fact checking. I’ll show you one image circulating the web below that I did so want to believe.
  • Check With the Experts — There are quite a few fact checking web sites. There are enough out there that no one should ever post ridiculous crap anywhere. However, you’ll want to fact check the fact checkers first because there are unreliable ones out there too. Use that link above to the Media Bias site to check them out. And here are a list of the best fact checking sites: Research Guides.

I’m a firm believer that we must learn from history or . . . you know the rest. This is why a good part of our focus is the history of medicine, and one of our latest articles, The Spanish Flu, shows the need, the dreadful need to learn from history and considering the state of our pandemic, we’ve failed.

I found this image online, and boy oh boy did I want to believe it’s authenticity. I even posted it, and then I felt that twinge I get when my prejudices accept things without critical thinking. I immediately went online to find Pepys’ diary, and sure enough it was posted at the Gutenberg Project.

No, this was nowhere to be found in Pepy’s diaries.

Fake News Can Be Dangerous

Again I’ve found hydroxychloroquine in the news, and this time it’s 90% effective.

Bullshit. But the sites promoting this news have hundreds of comments thanking them for the truth.

This is really the first time I’ve ever seen a drug promoted with political intent. Because it was offered up by the the President, all those who love the President willingly eat up the news about hydroxychloroquine.

Here’s a news flash for you: You can love your president and still use critical thinking.

This image should be enough to show you the political side of conspiracy theories.

I enjoyed one of the comments that pointed out that the VA study was rigged because the experimental group consisted of the elderly and many who suffered from other illnesses.

That cracked me up. I read the study, and the control group was also elderly and suffering from various other illnesses. This is “how” science works. In an RCT (randomized controlled study) you make both groups significantly the same so as to minimize variables.

duh

And could fake news be any more dangerous during a pandemic than when it makes people believe that something is not as contagious as it really is, or downplays your chances of catching it, while up-playing your chances of survival?

I have a video for you. Learn how germs are spread. And believe it.

Finally, I have one more article for you on Conspiracy Theories, and this one can help you help others you love get on the right track and stop spreading “dangerous shit” to friends and relatives. Yes, during a pandemic, conspiracy theories and fake news are deadly. So stop it!

Conspiracy culture and the power of compassion.

Everyone stay safe. Let’s not spread this virus and let’s not spread the viruses of conspiracies and fake news. Let’s survive this one together and see what brave, new world lies ahead.

  • carolann says:

    Very important article. Now if we could only get the conspiracy theorists to break their addiction.

    • David says:

      I’ve had to delete them from our Facebook page. It’s really sad, because “they want to help.”

      And it’s so damn easy to be drawn in.

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