A minimum 4 pages essay on Should the government provide publicly funded health care for all citizens
9 October 2021
Conspiracy theories: how to eradicate them
“I can’t let you grow up in a world that’s so corrupt by evil without at least standing up for you and for other children just like you,” stated Eldgar Maddison Welch when he pressed record on his cellphone camera, early in the morning before sunrise, addressing his message to his daughters. He then drove to where he thought was the center of an illegal operation: Comet Ping, a popular Pizzeria in Washington, which is known as the center of Pizzagate, according to conspiracy theories that this is the place where powerful Democrats like Hillary Clinton are abusing children. Welch was going to rescue those children from the hands of evil with a gun. In the end, however, he found 0 evidence of abducted children but threatened others and harmed himself because of his mistaken belief in a conspiracy theory popular among right wing commentators.
Conspiracy theories are accusations of elaborate plots involving secret and evil or immoral plans or actions taken by a powerful group or organization for some form of gain. In spite of their lack of credible evidence, many, like Welch, believe such theories.
Conspiracy theories have existed in the United States for as long as it has existed and can play a critical role in history. For example, some people believed that the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from President Trump, and these conspiracy theories led to the attack on the US Capitol on Jan 6, 2021, while Congress was in session, the first that ever happened in the history of the country. Today, with social media being available to most everyone, the making and dissemination of conspiracy theories has increased.
Some people argue that conspiracy theories, while sometimes problematic, allow people to break the silence and reveal what is really happening on a subject, and that all conspiracy theories should be treated and judged like any other theory and be allowed to flourish. Others argue that there have always been conspiracy theories, and that they are generally harmless or even show evidence of healthy skepticism. Though those claims may seem compelling, conspiracy theories threaten the social systems that people rely on and encourage inaction, and they should be combated through critical thinking, debunking and segmenting types of conspiracy theorists.
Conspiracy theories threaten social systems that citizens rely on. The democracy of the United States has been threaten on January 6th 2021, when a group of conspiracy attacked the US capitol based on the belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Trump. The capitol has long been known as the “people’s house” . But after the insurrection of January 6th, the capitol became a military camp.
Resources that are supposed to be in use of the public, are being misdirected. For example, Pizzagate, this theory has been a waste of time for the police because Eldgar M. Welch never found any children being sexually abused or a sex trafficking operation in the basement. It was a waste of police because there are children elsewhere being sex trafficked.
Conspiracy theories have also been linked to violent intentions which makes the public feel unsafe, a survey had been conducted in the United States, participants were and low in conspiracy thinking and the results showed that the ones who were high in believing in conspiracy theories agree to the statement “violence is sometimes an acceptable way to express disagreement in the government” than the ones low on these beliefs (uscinski and gouglas).
In addition of threatening social systems, conspiracy theories encourage inactions. They have been on the rise in recent years, especially in this time of fear caused by the Covid-19. This pandemic left some people with no choice but to create some conspiracy theories. For instance, there are beliefs that the vaccine was handmade, and the vaccine is made to change the DNA in a human body. The actual definition of conspiracy theories is a belief that a powerful group of people are taking immoral actions in secret which in this case is the government. Believers of these conspiracy theories are easily going to mistrust the government since it is the one regulating, administrating the vaccines and making guidelines for the public in order to reduce or eliminate the virus and according to most experts, the only way to fight this pandemic is for people to adopt hygiene measures and physical distance virus (Lancet). Which conspiracy theorists in this case will not obey or do because these recommendations are made by the government. In the article “The Effects of Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theories on Vaccination Intentions,” Douglas and Jolley stated, “It is therefore possible that beliefs in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, and exposure to such theories, increase feelings of powerlessness about the ability to change health outcomes, which subsequently reduce vaccination intentions (jolley and douglas).” Social distancing and levels of vaccines taken will decrease.
Going further with another example, this mistrust in government also leads those theorists to think that the decisions on who will govern the country are in an unknown upper hand which would make them not contribute to democracy by not voting. In an article on the website FiveThirtyEight a man named Richard Brown refused to vote in 2008 and the 2012 election because “He’s already in office… I kinda figured he didn’t need my help… one missed vote isn’t going to change anything” (thomson-deveaux, mithani and bronner).
Most people believing in these theories are not taking actions to make a necessary change.
Conspiracy theories can be overcome through critical thinking. Educational attainment is closely associated with how willing Americans are to believe a variety of conspiracy theories (Clemence). Conspiracies tend to engage students so they can discuss (the facts, types of evidence, context..) about the misinformation. For example, the Flat Earthers argues that the world is flat because it looks like it (mirsky) and they base their evidence on observations they made. Giving students the chance to go further in this conspiracy theory will give them a lot of scientific evidence against the conspiracy. The Finnish experience proves that giving citizens the confidence to debunk conspiracy theories themselves is more effective than providing them with the right information (Cichocka). Students will later develop critical thinking skills to debunk misinformation.
Conspiracy theories should be combatted by prebunking and debunking. The spread of fake news has become a serious problem and it is growing especially online. Focusing first on how they can be prevented, research has shown that making people aware of both their own vulnerability and the manipulative intent of others can act as a more general strategy for inducing resistance to deceptive persuasion (Van der Linden , Traberg and bassol), to prove that point a free online browser game was developed Bad News; the game makes its players resist misinformation by putting players as the ones who created the bad information and get as many followers as possible and learning misinformation strategies in the process (news).
15,000 participants were tested before and after playing the game and the results were effective and published by Palgrave Communications. Bad News is now an award-winning game. Secondly, when the misinformation is already out it can be combated by debunking using facts, logic and respect. It is said that conspiracy theories grow out of fear and uncertainty, “often, these people are very worried about something, and this issue is important to them” says Prof Karen Douglas, a psychologist who studies conspiracy theories at the University of Kentucky. Debunking their beliefs should be done with caution and understanding their points of view with no judgement. “You want someone to articulate what they are thinking, and why they are thinking it, in a non-confrontational way” Douglas says. Talking about how people who believed in conspiracy theories changed their views can be effective as persuading others who fell for the same conspiracy theory. There are now, for example, many reports of erstwhile Covid-19 deniers who have since contracted the virus and renounced their formers beliefs (robson).
Conspiracy theories can be undermined by “segmenting types of conspiracy theorists”. To be able to eradicate conspiracy theories making, understanding and knowing the behavior of the people behind these theories might be helpful. It is well known to think like a criminal so you can catch a criminal, in this case catching them is not the goal but having the idea of the type of people they are based on psychology behaviors and personalities and factors of identity, to target them is the goal.
Abundance of studies showed conspiracy beliefs as symptoms of psychological disorder, fear and anxiety were found to be reasons why people tend to make conspiracy theories and religious are more likely to fall into this tendency then non-religious (goreis and voracek).
While others claim that conspiracy theories are harmless or show healthy skeptism and taking advantage of their 1st amendment rights “The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Which in this case they argue that conspiracy theories are freedom of speech and beliefs.
Protecting the right to free speech should not be elevated above the well-being and safety of the public or consumers of conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories flourish in times of fear and uncertainty. The 2020 presidential elections or the current Covid-19 pandemic caused the perfect environment for them to take place. When conspiracy theories are thriving, they threaten our democracy and trust in our government which leads to feelings of helplessness resulting in inactions. Some solutions have been drawn to combat them, they can be combatted by educating critical thinking, debunking them and segmenting types of conspiracy theorists to target and present appropriate information to them. The public should look more in the veracity of information on a topic and ask more questions to the authorities in government (it can be senators, representatives…). with the public looking more into the government in order to trust it, the government should have more over say on topics that are bringing questions to the public. Those who have found to be threatening our social system should be held accountable so that citizens will learn to trust their governments and take actions.Works Cited
Cichocka, aleksandra. “to counter conspiracy theories, boost well-being .” nature (2020).
Clemence, Jacqueline. “when it comes to conspiracy theories, education matters .” 26 february 2021: 3.
goreis , andreas and martin voracek. “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Psychological Research on Conspiracy Beliefs: Field Characteristics, Measurement Instruments, and Associations With Personality Traits.” Frontiers (2019).
jolley, daniel and karen douglas. “Plos One.” the effects of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories on vaccination intentions 20 february 2014: 2.
Lancet, The. 1973-1987. 01 june 2020. 27 june 2020.
mirsky, steve. “flat earthers: what they believe and why .” scientific american (2020).
news, bad. bad news . n.d.
robson, david. “it’s only fake-believe:how to deal with a conspiracy theorist.” the guardian (2020).
thomson-deveaux, amelia, jasmine mithani and laura bronner. “why many americans don’t vote .” FiveThirthyEight (2020).
uscinski , joseph and karen gouglas. “Understanding conspiracy Theories .” 2019: 33.
Van der Linden , Sander, cecile Traberg and melisa bassol. “how can psycology science help counter the spread of fake news?” 2021.