Coronavirus, ‘Plandemic’ and the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking

No matter the details of the plot, conspiracy theories follow common patterns of thought.
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John Cook, George Mason University; Sander van der Linden, University of Cambridge; Stephan Lewandowsky, University of Bristol, and Ullrich Ecker, University of Western Australia

The conspiracy theory video “Plandemic” recently went viral. Despite being taken down by YouTube and Facebook, it continues to get uploaded and viewed millions of times. The video is an interview with conspiracy theorist Judy Mikovits, a disgraced former virology researcher who believes the COVID-19 pandemic is based on vast deception, with the purpose of profiting from selling vaccinations.

The video is rife with misinformation and conspiracy theories. Many high-quality fact-checks and debunkings have been published by reputable outlets such as Science, Politifact and FactCheck.

As scholars who research how to counter science misinformation and conspiracy theories, we believe there is also value in exposing the rhetorical techniques used in “Plandemic.” As we outline in our Conspiracy Theory Handbook and How to Spot COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories, there are seven distinctive traits of conspiratorial thinking. “Plandemic” offers textbook examples of them all.

Learning these traits can help you spot the red flags of a baseless conspiracy theory and hopefully build up some resistance to being taken in by this kind of thinking. This is an important skill given the current surge of pandemic-fueled conspiracy theories.

The seven traits of conspiratorial thinking.
John Cook, CC BY-ND

1. Contradictory beliefs

Conspiracy theorists are so committed to disbelieving an official account, it doesn’t matter if their belief system is internally contradictory. The “Plandemic” video advances two false origin stories for the coronavirus. It argues that SARS-CoV-2 came from a lab in Wuhan – but also argues that everybody already has the coronavirus from previous vaccinations, and wearing masks activates it. Believing both causes is mutually inconsistent.

2. Overriding suspicion

Conspiracy theorists are overwhelmingly suspicious toward the official account. That means any scientific evidence that doesn’t fit into the conspiracy theory must be faked.

But if you think the scientific data is faked, that leads down the rabbit hole of believing that any scientific organization publishing or endorsing research consistent with the “official account” must be in on the conspiracy. For COVID-19, this includes the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, Anthony Fauci… basically, any group or person who actually knows anything about science must be part of the conspiracy.

3. Nefarious intent

In a conspiracy theory, the conspirators are assumed to have evil motives. In the case of “Plandemic,” there’s no limit to the nefarious intent. The video suggests scientists including Anthony Fauci engineered the COVID-19 pandemic, a plot which involves killing hundreds of thousands of people so far for potentially billions of dollars of profit.

Conspiratorial thinking finds evil intentions at all levels of the presumed conspiracy.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

4. Conviction something’s wrong

Conspiracy theorists may occasionally abandon specific ideas when they become untenable. But those revisions tend not to change their overall conclusion that “something must be wrong” and that the official account is based on deception.

When “Plandemic” filmmaker Mikki Willis was asked if he really believed COVID-19 was intentionally started for profit, his response was “I don’t know, to be clear, if it’s an intentional or naturally occurring situation. I have no idea.”

He has no idea. All he knows for sure is something must be wrong: “It’s too fishy.”

5. Persecuted victim

Conspiracy theorists think of themselves as the victims of organized persecution. “Plandemic” further ratchets up the persecuted victimhood by characterizing the entire world population as victims of a vast deception, which is disseminated by the media and even ourselves as unwitting accomplices.

At the same time, conspiracy theorists see themselves as brave heroes taking on the villainous conspirators.

6. Immunity to evidence

It’s so hard to change a conspiracy theorist’s mind because their theories are self-sealing. Even absence of evidence for a theory becomes evidence for the theory: The reason there’s no proof of the conspiracy is because the conspirators did such a good job covering it up.

7. Reinterpreting randomness

Conspiracy theorists see patterns everywhere – they’re all about connecting the dots. Random events are reinterpreted as being caused by the conspiracy and woven into a broader, interconnected pattern. Any connections are imbued with sinister meaning.

For example, the “Plandemic” video suggestively points to the U.S. National Institutes of Health funding that has gone to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. This is despite the fact that the lab is just one of many international collaborators on a project that sought to examine the risk of future viruses emerging from wildlife.

Learning about common traits of conspiratorial thinking can help you recognize and resist conspiracy theories.

Critical thinking is the antidote

As we explore in our Conspiracy Theory Handbook, there are a variety of strategies you can use in response to conspiracy theories.

One approach is to inoculate yourself and your social networks by identifying and calling out the traits of conspiratorial thinking. Another approach is to “cognitively empower” people, by encouraging them to think analytically. The antidote to conspiratorial thinking is critical thinking, which involves healthy skepticism of official accounts while carefully considering available evidence.

Understanding and revealing the techniques of conspiracy theorists is key to inoculating yourself and others from being misled, especially when we are most vulnerable: in times of crises and uncertainty.

[Get facts about coronavirus and the latest research. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]The Conversation

John Cook, Research Assistant Professor, Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University; Sander van der Linden, Director, Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab, University of Cambridge; Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair of Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol, and Ullrich Ecker, Associate Professor of Cognitive Science, University of Western Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

https://oddrops.blog/2020/05/16/8514/

Some People

Some people feel helpless & anxious.
Some people are bored.
Some people are self-quarantined alone and are lonely.
Some people are realizing that After will be very different from Before.

Source: Some People

What makes us believe a false claim?

fullfact.org/media/uploads/who-believes-shares-misinformation.pdf

Boris Johnson drops word ‘onanism’ from speech after criticism

Diana Birkett, a London psychotherapist, said Johnson appeared to have an obsession with masturbation. “His tendency to slip into sexualised abusive language suggests a disturbing lack of maturity in one standing for the highest office.”

Source: Boris Johnson drops word ‘onanism’ from speech after criticism

Johnson thinking about his Johnson…

British journalists have become part of Johnson’s fake news machine

It’s chilling. From the Mail, The Times to the BBC and ITN, everyone is peddling Downing Street’s lies and smears. They’re turning their readers into dupes.

Source: British journalists have become part of Johnson’s fake news machine

Depressing!

Catholic School Bans Harry Potter Books Because They Contain ‘Real Curses And Spells’

Can you feel the stupid?

Source: Catholic School Bans Harry Potter Books Because They Contain ‘Real Curses And Spells’

I was Boris Johnson’s boss: he is utterly unfit to be prime minister

If the Johnson family had stuck to showbusiness like the Osmonds, Marx Brothers or von Trapp family, the world would be a better place. Yet the Tories, in their terror, have elevated a cavorting charlatan to the steps of Downing Street, and they should expect to pay a full forfeit when voters get the message. If the price of Johnson proves to be Corbyn, blame will rest with the Conservative party, which is about to foist a tasteless joke upon the British people – who will not find it funny for long.

Max Hastings in The Guardian

Boris Johnson’s long list of broken promises to voters

Johnson has promised not to delay Brexit if he becomes prime minister. However, analysis of his record reveals a long list of previous broken pledges.
— Read on www.businessinsider.com/boris-johnson-broken-promises-london-mayor-conservative-party-leadership-contest-2019-6

Should I Respect Your Beliefs?

via Should I Respect Your Beliefs? | Courtney Heard

There is not a religion on earth I respect and there’s one simple reason: I value the truth. Centering your life and your core values around something for which there is no evidence is dangerous. Once you accept one idea on faith, you’ve set your standard of evidence extremely low. You can then be led to believe other ideas for which there exists no empirical, demonstrable evidence. As such, these beliefs make it easy to inspire murder, child abuse, science and medicine denial, wars, genocides, discrimination and the stripping of human rights. Stubborn belief in that which cannot be proven is the very last thing that deserves respect.

I reserve my respect for that which does deserve it. That which upholds the value of human life; that which values individual rights. I save my respect for people, for this planet, and all the creatures on it, including you, but I will not give it to your unfounded beliefs. The very fact that you feel the need to demand respect for your beliefs from strangers on the internet is perhaps a sign they are not worthy of respect at all.

Lord Heseltine unveiled as European Movement President

We know what purpose we have today.

Our purpose remains crystal clear.

We stand for a stable, peaceful Europe.

We stand for a union of Parliamentary democracies.

We stand for a continent of shared resources thus empowered to play a full and equal role in the modern world.

We stand for those who believe that there are obligations inspired by our relative prosperity.

Source

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