Sixty percent of us believe in “conspiracy theories”, and we shouldn’t. At least according to Hugo Drochon, Professor of Politics at Nottingham University.
He doesn’t raise the question of whether or not some “conspiracy theories” may be true, his blanket assumption is that all of them are not. His article is not about WHAT people think, WHY they think it, or IF they’re wrong. The article is about rationalizing social control – specifically steps the state can take to assert control over the political opinions of the electorate.
Indeed the entire premise of the article is right there in the headline:
Britons are swallowing conspiracy theories. Here’s how to stop the rot
British people think things they shouldn’t, and here’s how we can stop them. The flawed logic is aggressive. The patronising tone nauseating. It’s the terrifying smiling face of a Brave New World.
The article deals only in absolutes. There are “conspiracy theories”, and they are all wrong. Even such vague concepts as the idea the government might publish misleading statistics or that there could be unelected people running the country in spite of our notional democracy.
It’s a programmed response. A piece of hard code: If(Conspiracy).addClass(“false”)
No space is given over to the raft of historical “conspiracy theories” which turned out to be completely true. NSA mass surveillance. The “sexed up” dossier. Iran-Contra. The DNC rigging the primaries. The Gulf of Tonkin incident.
They are disregarded, ignored because they do not serve the narrative.
It is so blatantly dishonest it needs, and merits, no refutation. An alleged “academic” should know better, should be better.
Leaving aside the cod-psychological waffle, the frankly offensive assumptions, the frequent lies by omission and the constant conflation of all “conspiracy theories” as broadly the same thing, (People who believe aliens crashed at Roswell are filed alongside people who debate Global Warming, 9/11, and vaccination). What we’re presented with is a five-point plan to make sure we stop thinking things of which Professor Drochon does not approve. It’s just that simple.
1. Stage Interventions for your deluded loved ones
Although mistrust in politicians and other leaders is at an all-time high, trust among friends (87%) and family members (89%) remains rock solid. This can be a double-edged sword: if conspiracy theorists are friends with other conspiracy theorists, then that’s likely to be mutually reinforcing. But conspiracy theorists will also listen to their friends and family who are not. So if you have a friend who starts sayings things about how the CIA was behind 9/11, try talking to them. You never know, they might come round to thinking it was al-Qaida who hijacked the planes, after all.
Drochon doesn’t go into WHY people don’t trust politicians, of course, which may be connected to the “conspiracy theories” that turned out to be true. The lies about WMDs in Iraq, for example, would be held up as a “conspiracy theory” if hadn’t been conclusively proved.
Ignore history or facts or precedent or debate and remember – “conspiracy theorists” are ALWAYS wrong. It’s like a mental illness or a drug addiction. The important thing is you sit down any friends/family you have who believe things they shouldn’t believe, and you berate and/or shame them into changing their mind.
2. Argue from authority
Sadly journalists (77%) are no better trusted than government ministers or company bosses. Academics, however, fare better and retain the trust of 64% of the public. So academics should engage more with the public: Cas Mudde for instance, an expert on populism, has just launched a new series with the Guardian about “the new populism”. Consider this column my own attempt to do so, too.
Again, he doesn’t ask WHY journalists aren’t trusted (coughIraqcough), he just thinks it’s “sad”. Obviously, in a perfect world, we’d all trust journalists who are all great guys and just trying to help.
Anyway, we can’t be expected to learn, understand or debate issues amongst ourselves. We need to listen to academics*, who know what they’re talking about. Including, fortunately, Professor Drochon himself. Remember, someone with a PhD is not only smarter than you, but morally superior as well. They are also incapable of ever being mistaken or having an agenda.
*When he says “academics” he only means SOME academics, obviously the academics who research JFK, 9/11 or alternate theories of global warming don’t count. Disregard them entirely.
3. Indoctrinate Your Children
Studies show that those with higher educational achievements are less prone to believing conspiracy theories. The implication here is there should be more investment in education, which of course would be welcome. But compulsory courses on online education – learning to tell fake news from real for instance – should be considered, too.
Compulsory education courses for children. We need to teach our kids that anything they read on the internet which departs from the acknowledged government position is WRONG. This will help stamp out
dissent conspiracy theories, and is not at all Stalinist.
By asking questions about social media consumption, our latest poll confirms what has been suspected for a while: social media encourages conspiracy theories. Not all, mind you: Facebook encourages conspiracy theories, but Twitter mitigates against them. It turns out YouTube is the worst offender: those who get their news from the video platform are much more likely to believe conspiracy theories.
So far most of these new technologies have been left to regulate themselves, which has led to scandals surrounding the role Facebook might have played in recent elections. Politicians should take a more active role in regulating the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories. Falling that (sic), you’re welcome to delete your various accounts.
As mentioned above, “conspiracy theorists” talking to each other can be self-reinforcing. We need to stop that. The best way to do that is to regulate the internet. To make sure certain opinions don’t get shared and certain thoughts don’t get expressed.
It’s important to remember that this is NOT censorship. This is regulation. Bad people censor the truth. Good people “regulate” lies. The Government (who only 23% of people trust) can, of course, be trusted to carry out this task. There is no chance, at all, that they would use this to their own ends. After all, an academic suggested it…and they are not only smarter, but morally superior. I know, because an academic said that too.
Conspiracy theories spread among those who feel they are not being heard. Politicians have a responsibility to be more responsive to the demands of their citizens: it is true, for example, that the question of this country’s relation to the EU had long been off the table, and fears about immigration often fell on deaf ears. That is not to say they should follow Hillary Clinton in saying immigration into Europe should stop, but a coherent account of what type of immigration this country wants, and why, needs to be offered, alongside a clear vision of what its future relationship with the EU is going to be.
Conspiracy theories only spread as a result of people not being listened to, so we should stay in the EU and offer a more coherent immigration policy. Then people will stop believing in Aliens and won’t question 9/11 anymore?
Is he saying the government should make some token populist compromise or face a backlash? How does that relate to global warming? Is he saying anything even approaching that coherent?
Is it simply that every article in the Guardian needs to be related back to Brexit?
I’m struggling with this one, honestly. Does anyone have the faintest idea what he’s talking about?
Answers on a postcard, please.