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Conspiracy Theory Rules of Engagement

Silvestor

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Extracted from article "I’ve been talking to conspiracy theorists for 20 years – here are my six rules of engagement". here

1. Acknowledge scale of the task

Talking to people who endorse conspiracy theories is inherently difficult. Simply laying out evidence or pointing out logical contradictions in the conspiracist argument is seldom enough. Conspiracy theories are, by definition, irrefutable. Lack of evidence of a conspiracy, or positive proof against its existence, is taken by believers as evidence of the craftiness of those behind the plot, and their ability to dupe the public. So arm yourself with patience, and be prepared to fail.

2. Recognise the emotional dimension

Conspiracy theories seduce not so much through the power of argument, but through the intensity of the passions that they stir. Underpinning conspiracy theories are feelings of resentment, indignation and disenchantment about the world. They are stories about good and evil, as much as about what is true.

This gives conspiracy theories a strong emotional dimension. Tempers can flare and conversations turn into a shouting match. It is important to prevent this from happening. Be prepared to de-escalate the situation and keep the dialogue going, without necessarily giving ground.

3. Find out what they actually believe

Before trying to persuade someone, find out the nature and content of their beliefs. When it comes to conspiracy theories, the world is not divided into “believers” and “sceptics” – there’s a lot in between.

A minority of committed believers treat conspiracy theories as the literal truth and are particularly resistant to persuasion. Many others might not see themselves as “believers”, but are willing to accept that conspiracy theorists might be onto something and are at least asking the right questions. Establishing the precise nature, and extent, of someone’s belief, will enable you to better tailor your response.

Also, try and find out what specific conspiracy theory they endorse. Is it 5G or Bill Gates that they think is behind coronavirus? Or both? What videos or websites have they looked at? Once you find out, gather as much disconfirming evidence as you can from credible sources, including multiple independent fact-checking websites.

Background research will help you to focus the discussion on the substance of the claims. Never question someone’s intelligence or moral sense, as this is the quickest way to end a conversation.

4. Establish common ground

One of the main problems with conspiracy theories is that they are not confined to tinfoil-hat-wearing kooks or political extremists. In times of crisis and uncertainty, they can contaminate the worldview of otherwise reasonable people.

Conspiracy theories make reality seem less chaotic, and tap into broader, often well-grounded concerns about the world such as the concentration of financial and political power, mass surveillance, inequality or lack of political transparency. So when talking about conspiracy theories, start by acknowledging these broader concerns and restrict your discussion to whether conspiracy theories can provide an adequate or meaningful answer.

Many people come to conspiracy theories through genuine, albeit misguided, curiosity about how to make sense of the world. They sometimes see themselves as healthy sceptics and self-taught researchers into complex issues. Avoid criticising or mocking this. Instead, present it as something that, in principle, you value and share. Your aim, after all, is not to make them less curious or sceptical, but to change what they are curious about, or sceptical of.

Conspiracy theories often sound convincing because they start with the detailed exposition of credible scientific or historical facts. The problem is that these facts and arguments lead to extraordinary conclusions.

The kernels of truth on which conspiracy theories are based are a solid starting point for a discussion. Agreement on at least some of the facts will allow you to focus on the leap of imagination that allows two and two to make five.

5. Challenge the facts, value their argument

Debunking conspiracy theories requires a two-pronged approach. The first involves challenging evidence and its origins. Address specific claims and discuss what constitutes a credible source. Offer to look at the evidence together, including on fact-checking websites.

If you are talking to a staunch believer, they probably won’t even engage with you on this. But if they have not yet fallen down the rabbit hole, they might, and this may lead them to start questioning their views.

The second approach involves challenging the relevance and value of the conspiracist case more generally. You may want to point out that throughout history, conspiracy theories have come up short.

For instance, the longstanding claims by AIDS denialists that antiretroviral drugs are more harmful than HIV were not only disproven, but they contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. More recent and similarly baseless theories about the polio vaccine causing sterility directly led to the disease resurging in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afganistan.

COVID-19-related claims are in the same genre. Setting these conspiracy theories in their historical context can demonstrate that they offer nothing new, and don’t ask the right questions about the pandemic and its causes. This just might encourage the person to direct their curiosity and scepticism to more worthwhile concerns.

6. Finally, be realistic

There is, of course, no guarantee that this advice will be effective. There are no incontestable arguments or fail-proof strategies that will always convert a conspiracy theorist to scepticism. Therefore, set realistic expectations. The aim of talking to conspiracy theorists is not to convert them, but to sow doubt about an argument, and hopefully enable them to gradually build up resistance to its seductive appeal.
 

Silvestor

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dacrunch

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I'm having a problem with some younger (30's-40's) people I know, who "buy into anything" (too much weed?)... rather than concentrating on the POLITICAL/ECONOMIC "theories with legs"...

How to "debunk"
- flat Earth
and the latest (Should I try?)
- buildings (19th Century) that have no "correspondence" with their "population base" (then or now), as shown in

 

Bigfoot

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The problem with article in the OP is that takes a default position that conspiracies can't be real. Here is a dictionary definition of conspiracy.

"Conspiracy
an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act."

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/conspiracy

Now let's think about that. An agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act...

So, when the CDC approves vaccines that have skipped all the normal safety protocols, and when the media demonizes a safe drug like Ivermectin, in order trick people into believing that a vaccine is their only chance to survive; is that a conspiracy? You're damn right it is!
 
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dacrunch

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The problem with article in the OP is that takes a default position that conspiracies can't be real. Here is a dictionary definition of conspiracy.

"Conspiracy
an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act."

Yes, EVERY "detective" and "investigator" in Law Enforcement, the Justice Department etc. is DE-FACTO a "Conspiracy Theorist"... Let that sink in.
 

glockngold

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Fact-checking websites are referred to twice in the article.
So it must be true....right?

I would say that the piece does have merit as a blueprint for persuasive discussion.
A double edged sword so to speak.
 

arminius

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arminius

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I'm having a problem with some younger (30's-40's) people I know, who "buy into anything" (too much weed?)
Your point is well taken, but please don't insult weed with peoples incredible ignoramousness.
 

dacrunch

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Your point is well taken, but please don't insult weed with peoples incredible ignoramousness.
Just an "observation" of the "people concerned" with passing me on these so-called "conspiracies"...
 

dacrunch

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By now, somebody could have corrected the spelling of coNspiracy in the title of this thread, just saying...
 

dacrunch

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The info in the OP is a tad outdated since there is a massive shortge of conspiracy theories that just came true. Conspiracy theories explain what the government can't or won't. They are more reliable then the nightly news casts.

I enjoyed the 1st movie "Men In Black", when the "real news" was to be found in the "National Enquirer"... (amusing)

But "seriously", I just watched a movie for perhaps the 10th time since it came out, never gets boring, full action movie... Mel Gibson (& Julia Roberts) in "Conspiracy Theory". If you've never seen it, or have forgotten most of it (jam-packed with "true historic conspiracies")... with a VPN & Utorrent (my preference, no ads or spam) or Bittorrent you can get it quickly from the pirate bay, at www.knaben.ru

... as well as most movies you'll ever want to watch (just be careful of the new releases, often spam unless they have a ton of "users") - & tv series (full seasons) too, and audiobooks, and ebooks... and applications (just got the now unavailable anywhere Windows Movie Maker for Windows 7 so I can edit, crop, merge clips & videos & home vids from the smartphone...)
 
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hoarder

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Simply laying out evidence or pointing out logical contradictions in the conspiracist argument is seldom enough.
Pointing out and solving contradictions is the path to truth regardless if you're refuting or denying conspiracies.
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Buck

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there's a conspiracy theory floating around, out there, it goes a bit like this;

the CIA created a program to denounce conspiracy theories, claiming them as being untrue, to be nothing more than conspiracy theories in and of themselves, and due to that point of view, they were now going to create more conspiracy theories, then demonize them all, as being conspiracy theories, and the people who believe in them, to be conspirators, thereby removing that term from ever being used against themselves


because they're the good guys...


i think i believe it.....
 

Avalon

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By now, somebody could have corrected the spelling of coNspiracy in the title of this thread, just saying...
:rotf: not sure how that got by Goldehedge. He must be taking his new role of retired Mod seriously.
 

dacrunch

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:rotf: not sure how that got by Goldehedge. He must be taking his new role of retired Mod seriously.
it's fixed now - that was quick!