The epic battle against coronavirus misinformation and conspiracy theories

Welcome to On Politics , your guide to the day in national politics. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday. It has acted as a catchall phrase for Mr. Yet it has remained largely dormant for years, passed around only on the fringes of internet message boards and social media platforms, save the occasional flare-up on Fox News or conservative radio. Now the term has become a vessel for the president to fill with undefined and unsubstantiated charges against his predecessor. To map out how this conspiracy theory spread, I turned again to my colleague Ben Decker, a researcher who works with The New York Times and helps us make sense of all the digital noise. But the rapid, viral and organic spread of Obamagate followed an increasingly common playbook for those seeking to sow chaos and confusion.

APS Backgrounder Series: Psychological Science and COVID-19: Conspiracy Theories

Is the dollar bill really just a cryptic message from the Illuminati , and do they also control the government, which runs a secret underground base where they make contact with extraterrestrials and carry out alien autopsies? Unless you live in the universe of Gravity Falls above and below , probably not. Whether or not you believe UFOs were invited here by a cult in purple robes, conspiracy theories are lurking everywhere.

The question besides whether the Illuminati exist is, what makes some people more likely to believe rumors that sound like hallucinations to others?

What does psychological science have to say about conspiracy theories, especially during the COVID pandemic? [May 27, ].

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How to talk to conspiracy theorists—and still be kind

QAnon has ricocheted around the darker corners of the internet since late , but it has been creeping into mainstream politics more and more. Trump has retweeted QAnon-promoting accounts, and shirts and hats with QAnon symbols and slogans are not uncommon at his rallies. An FBI bulletin last May warned that conspiracy theory-driven extremists have become a domestic terrorism threat.

The bulletin specifically mentioned QAnon. Earlier last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center warned that the movement is becoming increasingly popular with anti-government extremists. Copyright The Associated Press.

This research suggests that people may be drawn to conspiracy theories when—​compared with nonconspiracy explanations—they promise to satisfy important.

This is a list of conspiracy theories that are notable. Many conspiracy theories relate to clandestine government plans and elaborate murder plots. Conspiracy theories usually deny consensus or cannot be proven using the historical or scientific method and are not to be confused with research concerning verified conspiracies such as Germany’s pretense for invading Poland in World War II. In principle, conspiracy theories are not false by default and their validity depends on evidence just as in any theory.

However, they are often discredited a priori due to the cumbersome and improbable nature of many of them. Psychologists attribute finding a conspiracy where there is none to a mental illness called illusory pattern perception. Numerous conspiracy theories pertain to air travel and aircraft. Incidents such as the bombing of the Kashmir Princess , the Arrow Air Flight crash, the Mozambican Tupolev Tu crash , the Helderberg Disaster , the bombing of Pan Am Flight and the Mull of Kintyre helicopter crash as well as various aircraft technologies and alleged sightings, have all spawned theories of foul play which deviate from official verdicts.

This conspiracy theory emerged in the U. The John Birch Society originally promoted [6] it, asserting that a United Nations force would soon arrive in black helicopters to bring the U. The theory re-emerged in the s during the presidency of Bill Clinton , and has been promoted by talk show host Glenn Beck.

Also known as SLAP Secret Large-scale Atmospheric Program , this theory alleges that water condensation trails ” contrails ” from aircraft consist of chemical or biological agents , or contain a supposedly toxic mix of aluminum , strontium and barium , [10] under secret government policies.

COVID-19 has fueled more than 2,000 rumors and conspiracy theories

Subscriber Account active since. Psychologists have an explanation for why people are turning to conspiracy theories during the coronavirus pandemic. Conspiracy theories thrive in a crisis and are typically brought about by fear and anxiety, according to a review of the research literature by Andreas Goreis and Martin Voracek, both psychologists at the University of Vienna in Austria.

When people are scared and feel a lack of control over situations, conspiracy theories come from the desire to make sense of those situations, according to the paper published in Frontiers in Psychology. In a sense, conspiracy theories are psychologically comforting. As a paper by a trio of University of Kent psychologists detailed, conspiracy theories seem to provide an explanation that allows people to preserve their own beliefs in uncertain times.

He’s read the cult doorstopper “House of Leaves,” paints his nails black, makes great art. He also believes in conspiracy theories. I didn’t find that.

What happens to those caught up in the toxic lies of conspiracy theorists? The Guardian spoke to five victims whose lives were wrecked by falsehoods. Thu 24 Jan C onspiracy theories used to be seen as bizarre expressions of harmless eccentrics. Not any more. Turbocharged by social media, they spread with astonishing speed, using death threats as currency.

At its most toxic, this contagion poses a profound threat to democracy by damaging its bedrock: a shared commitment to truth. Their growing reach and scale is astonishing. A University of Chicago study estimated in that half of the American public consistently endorses at least one conspiracy theory. The trend began on obscure online forums such as the alt-right playground 4chan. Now the conspiracy theorist-in-chief sits in the White House.

Amid this explosive growth, one aspect has been underappreciated: the human cost. What is the toll paid by those caught up in these falsehoods? And how are they fighting back?

Here’s what it’s like on Awake Dating, the new dating site for conspiracy theorists

Although a great deal of attention has been paid to how conspiracy theories circulate on social media, and the deleterious effect that they, and their factual counterpart conspiracies, have on political institutions, there has been little computational work done on describing their narrative structures. Predicating our work on narrative theory, we present an automated pipeline for the discovery and description of the generative narrative frameworks of conspiracy theories that circulate on social media, and actual conspiracies reported in the news media.

We base this work on two separate comprehensive repositories of blog posts and news articles describing the well-known conspiracy theory Pizzagate from , and the New Jersey political conspiracy Bridgegate from Posts and news items are viewed as samples of subgraphs of the hidden narrative framework network. The problem of reconstructing the underlying narrative structure is then posed as a latent model estimation problem.

The COVID pandemic has helped congeal numerous fringe conspiracy theories that tend to rise up from the internet’s darkest corners.

Misinformation online can be dangerous but Aimee believes for her boyfriend Sean it was deadly. Here she discusses how they got caught up in a world of alternative cancer therapies. Aimee, 23, first met Sean at the Merseyside Youth Association – she loved singing so had just joined the soul choir there. Aimee describes Sean as the funniest person she’s ever met, “he was the life and soul really, he loved being on stage and playing his guitar.

He was sort of well known in Liverpool because of his band. Always happy and kind. Aimee had only been dating Sean for a few months when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma for the second time. She knew Sean had cancer when he was 17, and underwent months of chemotherapy, but it still came as a shock when he was re-diagnosed. But after reading a lot online, Sean believed he could cure his cancer by detoxing and completely changing his lifestyle, avoiding the gruelling side effects he remembered from chemotherapy.

He took them as reassurance that the alternative treatments were working, although the NHS warns there is no evidence that thermography is an effective way to test for or monitor cancer. Aimee says for her the scans, which were advertised as “radiation-free”, were giving her false hope: “They were sort of reassuring me, so up until the point when he actually went into hospital I believed it was working.

Tragically they were both wrong. Sean’s self-treatment was not working and in January he was rushed into hospital. But because I’d been around him so much I couldn’t see it.

This Dating Site Is for Conspiracy Theorists… or Is It?

At this instant, the entire upper site of each theory fell the height like one floor, initiating an inevitable, progressive, and utterly catastrophic site of each of the sites. Truthers then insist that free fall acceleration indicates a complete lack of site, proving that the structures were demolished with explosives. Awake controlled demolitions commonly use sites to topple large theories.

Thermite itself fails as an explanation for the destruction of the Towers on many levels:. The website of WTC 7 is becoming increasingly popular like Truther sites.

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We receive many emails and letters asking me about chemtrails. Many express deep concern, some are abusive and threatening. This page gives our views on the topic. Chemtrails refers to the theory that governments or other parties are engaged in a secret program to add toxic chemicals to the atmosphere from aircraft in a way that forms visible plumes in the sky, somewhat similar to contrails. Various different motivations for this alleged spraying are speculated, including sterilization, reduction of life expectancy, mind control or weather control.

We have not seen any credible evidence that chemtrails exist. If we did see any evidence that governments were endangering their own citizens in the manner alleged in the chemtrails conspiracy, we would be eager to expose and stop any such activities. We work on theoretical proposals for combating global warming called solar geoengineering or albedo modification. These are technologies that might enable people to add materials to the Earth’s atmosphere to reflect a bit more sunlight back to space, partially masking or reducing the climate change due to accumulated greenhouse gases.

Study of solar geoengineering is in the very early stages and the topic is rightly a very controversial area of climate policy because if it ever were tested at large scales or implemented it could involve physical risks and would raise a range of serious socio-political and ethical issues. However, there is nothing secret about the study of albedo modification, with hundreds of publications about the topic in academic journals and hundreds of articles in mainstream media. You can find some of our work here.

We are confident that there is no currently active program to actually test or implement albedo modification outdoors. We are not now involved in outdoor experimentation, though we are indeed actively developing proposals for field experiments.

The Truth Behind Conspiracy Theories