I’ve been thinking about conspiracy theories and fake news a lot lately, and I wasn’t sure what to do, so I thought, “Why not try it myself?”
My goal was to make up something so transparently dumb that nobody could possibly believe it. I spent two days trying to come up with something and realized that
because of the very nature of conspiracy theories. The entire idea is that the more the mainstream rejects it, the juicer it is.
I did have a couple of funny ideas, which I will detail, before sharing something my dad made up that illustrates my point. (I get it from him, after all).
“Listening to Nickelback cures COVID” - I thought, if anyone is dumb enough to believe that, at least it won’t hurt them - but then I listened to myself and realized what I was saying
Um... uh... I’ve got one! “Having a beard is protective against COVID” - surely that one is dumb enough for people to realize it’s a joke? No?
Okay, here’s my dad’s story, and the reason that my mom is my mom and that, thus, I exist:
He had a girlfriend who was hot and fun but not super bright. He wanted to demonstrate to her how gullible she was, so he made up a ridiculous story, like so:
“Giant condors live on Mt. Hood and they swoop down to the fields and steal babies and eat them”
She believed this and started crying because of how horrible it was. He felt so bad that he told her he had made the whole thing up and it wasn’t true. THEN she decided that it really must be true after all, and he was now lying to make her feel better. It is possible that she believes baby-stealing condors live at Timberline Lodge to this very day. We will never know because my dad broke up with her and married my smart, ambitious mommy instead.
It is possible that that same woman is actively sharing the “Plandemic” video on social media as well.
Isn’t it more fun to believe that we are the chosen few who are savvy enough to understand the true truth, and that everyone else is a sheeple??
See, I wouldn’t have fallen for that story, even if I didn’t already know that my dad is a spinner of tall tales, because I’m an ornithology nerd and I’m super into condors. I know they eat carrion. The one who steals children is the Slender Man, everyone knows that!
That’s the first thing to consider when evaluating juicy exciting stories. Who is telling them?
Rule 1: Consider the source
An issue that comes up when someone is trying to talk a true believer through a conspiracy, even one that has already been widely debunked, is that the true believer will say, “Why would they lie?” Like, what could their motivation possibly be??
This person is what we would consider an easy mark.
I come from a family that prides itself on word games, banter, snappy repartee, storytelling, puns, and leg-pulling of every kind. If you know any one of us, simply extrapolate up and across the family tree. Whenever one of us prevails in a battle of wits, we save it up to regale one another at family parties, and inevitably wind up falling about laughing ourselves into hysterics.
The lesson here is that some people will propagate silly stories just for, as they say, the lulz. Or for that other new game, clout.
Others will do it because, say, their former professional reputation is shot and they have a new book to sell.
Others will do it because they are Russian operatives who think it’s hilarious to destabilize Americans and, thus, American culture, economy, and politics.
Others will do it because they are teenagers (or people with the mentality and emotional maturity of teenagers) who have nothing better to do than troll people.
Others will do it because they are, to use the technical term, whackaloons.
Others will do it because they have burned out on all the pre-existing conspiracies and they need a fresh one.
All of this adds up to:
Rule 2: Consider the motivation.
Why, who on Earth would ever say something that wasn’t true?? Other than the entire mainstream news media, governments, academia, and medical establishment of each and every nation and culture throughout history?
Bats in belfry
Born chaos muppet
What always mystifies me is how someone can be so suspicious of certain things and yet so wide-open to others. Why we think we are such skeptics and contrarians, but we don’t realize that the back gate to the brain has been left wide open.
I’m gonna make up another conspiracy and we can test out these ideas.
Okay, here we go. This is the joke fake satirical idea that I am testing for comedy humor purposes.
EATING MEAT CAN GIVE YOU CORONAVIRUS
My proof is that thousands of slaughterhouse workers have been infected and at least forty of them have died. They are breathing COVID all over your meat!! Also everyone knows that cows, horses, and dogs have been getting coronavirus for years and years.
What do you think of them apples??
Okay, let’s take it apart.
(Actually totally not. Don’t go trying it and screwing up and then blaming the lifestyle just because you did it wrong).
Now you know not to believe anything just because I said it.
Next we can pick apart what I actually said, how that shapes up as a logical argument, and whether my stated results follow from that argument.
First off, I didn’t cite any sources for my claims, so it would be up to you to Google those numbers and see what comes up. Is it true that at least forty humans have died because they were producing meat under the Defense Production Act?
Second, I seem to be claiming that coronavirus can be transmitted into the food supply through people breathing on it. Is that true? Seems like the kind of thing that someone would have tested by now, takes only a minute to Google.
Third, I seem to have made a factual statement about coronavirus in animals. Is that the same coronavirus as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19? Again, easy to check.
Note: A “factual statement” is a claim that something is a fact, such as “the Moon is made of green cheese.” It isn’t necessarily true, but it can be tested or verified, unlike an opinion, such as “tights are not pants.”
Okay, for reals though, I don’t want to convince more people to quit eating meat because quite honestly it has been getting very hard to find beans and legumes lately. Back off, people, go eat sardines and leave me the beans! Leave me the lentils or I’ll get relentless! Stop giving peas a chance! Or something.
The only way I can think to tackle the hundred billion and five conspiracy theories out there is to try to talk about them as folklore, try to reinforce everyone’s critical thinking skills, and of course offer a few talking points for others who are doing the same.
It’s my belief that somewhere inside every credulous believer of conspiracy theories is a keen and curious mind that can be shaped to the discipline of inquiry. We can do it together. Let’s approach this conundrum with kindness, patience, good humor, and sympathy.
Or at least humor.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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