The True True Truth
July 20, 2020 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Because “now, more than ever, it might be important for you to try” to reach loved ones deep in the web of conspiracy theories, John Cena, Catherine O'Hara, Billy Porter, Paul Rudd, and Alex Trebek have worked with John Oliver to create videos asking people to think more critically about information they find on the internet.
posted by katra (63 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
2 out of the 5 are Canadian. Seems like a conspiracy to me.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:43 PM on July 20, 2020 [12 favorites]

Billy Porter is still my favorite human.
posted by thivaia at 9:59 PM on July 20, 2020 [5 favorites]

I love Billy Porter but he really needs to just perform through some anti-reflective spray on his glasses then next time he does one of these.
posted by hippybear at 10:10 PM on July 20, 2020 [5 favorites]

posted by katra at 10:15 PM on July 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

"The smallest one, but it still counts."
posted by hippybear at 10:36 PM on July 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

Watching the John Cena one, where he slowly (yet with purpose) disrobes, I honestly wondered if that was going to be a theme, and saw Alex Trebek on the list... I wondered, was Trebek going to slowly disrobe while talking about misinformation, revealing bulging arm veins and an abdomen that looked as if it had been carved from some sort of perfect marble?

Sadly, no.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:25 PM on July 20, 2020 [30 favorites]

This video cuts to the chase.
posted by zaixfeep at 1:01 AM on July 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

How to talk to conspiracy theorists—and still be kind - "Experts and r/ChangeMyView subreddit moderators offer 10 tips to debunk conspiracy theories convincingly."
posted by kliuless at 2:02 AM on July 21, 2020 [14 favorites]

These are promotional tools for the celebrities involved and feel-good fodder for those of us who already know how to recognise misinformation and conspiracy bait. These videos wouldn't even register to your average q-anon cousin and Wayfair child trafficking auntie, and if they did it would just be as more evidence that celebrities are In On It.

I don't want to be a buzzkill, but the conspiracy theory crisis is a serious threat to democracy - maybe the most serious threat. These cutesy 'educational videos' basically exist so those of us who don't believe in the illuminati can pat ourselves on the back for being so smart. It trivialises the problem without doing anything to help resolve it. I mean I have no idea what COULD resolve it, but it's not this.
posted by cilantro at 2:05 AM on July 21, 2020 [62 favorites]

The John Oliver link is not available to people outside North America :(
posted by daybeforetheday at 2:40 AM on July 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Wow. I assumed they would be patronising but holy shit "I thought I was dead because of a hashtag"?
You know what you sound like right?

There's a difference between thinking someone is acting like an idiot and thinking someone is an idiot.

John Cena was cool though.
posted by fullerine at 2:41 AM on July 21, 2020

HBO regularly locks Last Week Tonight links to North America only, possibly because they have a deal to distribute the show to other networks in other countries.

These are promotional tools for the celebrities involved and feel-good fodder for those of us who already know how to recognise misinformation and conspiracy bait.

Maybe, maybe not? To me this sounds like argument from inertia. At least they're trying something? And in this age being a celebrity coming out as against unthinking stupidity isn't going to do your career favors? I find it useful to have these things laid out explicitly, which has actually not been done often.
posted by JHarris at 2:45 AM on July 21, 2020 [19 favorites]

It's like--

It's easy to airily wave your hand and says everyone knows [this thing], or nobody does [that], but those statements are almost never literally true. It seems obvious that everyone has made up their minds about Donald Trump, for example, but his approval ratings still go up and down in response to whatever news there is about him, even if it seems that it should be perfectly inelastic. There are people this stuff can reach even if you can't see it, even if I can't see it. It just seems to be true.
posted by JHarris at 2:53 AM on July 21, 2020 [31 favorites]

The John Oliver link is not available to people outside North America :(

It’s not available to everyone inside North America, either. I think it’s only available in the United States. It’s telling me it’s blocked in my country (Canada).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:02 AM on July 21, 2020 [8 favorites]

Yeah just to be clear I think the celebs involved had good intentions but in reality these videos only really served to endear them to people who like these specific celebrities anyway, which for the most part aren’t the same people who are into conspiracies.

Re. fluctuations in Trump’s approval ratings - I honestly don’t think that people change their minds about him. I think they change their minds about whether to participate in a poll at any given time based on how angry they are or how much the brain-worm migraines are affecting them.
posted by cilantro at 3:10 AM on July 21, 2020 [6 favorites]

I think it’s only available in the United States.

No, the main story is always available to me here in Germany, just like this one. It may be an English speaking vs. non-English speaking divide.
posted by scorbet at 3:35 AM on July 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

I disagree with a lot of the tips in "how to talk to conspiracy theorists" link, and also think these videos are not helpful, nor is the very idea of asking people to think critically about what they read on the internet, because that is exactly what they think they are doing.

What I do not disagree with is that if you want to engage (and you should seriously consider this, because it is often not worth it), you need to treat the person with respect. Criticize the beliefs and not the person. Be kind. But be ready for them to take it personally anyway. Be ready for them to treat every comment as an attack, no matter how careful you make it. I have had a family member scream at me in tears for "wanting to torture children" because I suggested that maybe we could look up the actual legislation relating to the creation of the vaccine court and read it together.

I have managed to get through to someone in a meaningful way that produced a actual change* exactly one time. I said "In all the history we know, the people who claim some group is not really human have never been the good guys." It was blunt, and judgemental, but also impersonal, and the person knew I cared about them. For whatever reason, it got past the first defense of rationalization. The conversation just stopped, and over the next few months, things changed.

* Maybe they were just ready to change their mind, and what I said gave them an excuse. Or maybe it only made a difference to me, and they changed their mind all on their own. You can never know.
posted by Nothing at 3:45 AM on July 21, 2020 [38 favorites]

cilantro, Republican Voters Against Trump is promulgating a lot of short video clips of Republicans and recent ex-Republicans against Trump. Some of them turned against the party when it nominated Trump, but I think more of them voted for Trump and then were enraged or disgusted by his behavior. I wish I'd made a spreadsheet about various traits, but I'm pretty sure the latter are the majority.

None of them have talked about being convinced by people who were opposed to Trump, though I suppose that could be happening in the background.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 3:47 AM on July 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Scientists find a link between low intelligence and acceptance of 'pseudo-profound bulls***' (The Independent)

There’s a psychological link between conspiracy theories and creationism

Is Education Tied To Conspiracy Theory Belief? [Spoiler: Yes] (NPR)

Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of Mass Opinion (American Journal of Political Science)
In contrast with many theoretical speculations, we do not find conspiracism to be a product of greater authoritarianism, ignorance, or political conservatism. Rather, the likelihood of supporting conspiracy theories is strongly predicted by a willingness to believe in other unseen, intentional forces and an attraction to Manichean narratives.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:29 AM on July 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

What we need are videos that explain how to educate someone with the emotional and intellectual capacity of a five year old without sounding like a kindergarten teacher.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:45 AM on July 21, 2020 [13 favorites]

conspiracy theories of the current age used to be divine visions of prophets, speaking as a religious person myself. it's very apparent however that the mental poisoning of conspiracy thinking can't be addressed meaningfully simply at just the interpersonal level. a good many is probably within recovery potential enough to be helpful to the body politic as long as we cut off their exposure to the poison, but i don't know what else to recommend other than the long-term project of rebuilding trust in institutions and all the necessary restoration to the public space that goes with it.
posted by cendawanita at 5:04 AM on July 21, 2020

Is John Cena in this? I can't see him.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:27 AM on July 21, 2020 [9 favorites]

to airily wave your hand . . . I can't see it

Wait a minute.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:00 AM on July 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm impressed that John Cena removes his jacket, tie, and shirt without once breaking eye contact with the camera.
posted by Gelatin at 6:01 AM on July 21, 2020 [8 favorites]

I've only watched three (John Cena, Catherine O'Hara, and Billy Porter) and those all followed the same script:

- You have to know where the information is coming from
- Is it a trusted news source
- Are lots of other trusted news sources saying the same thing

I mean, the problem with people believing crap on the internet is partly because their idea of a "trusted news source" is "what I, personally, trust" or "hey, it sounds real". Whether it's Fox or Sinclair or Breitbart or some people Telling It Like It Is on reddit or a Facebook group that knows what's what or some spam forward that's clearly trustworthy because your friend sent it to you and also it says that the information came from "a doctor". Maybe even a real doctor with a real name. Why would you bother checking up on that?

And since all these sources parrot one another, whether a lot of "trusted" sources say the same thing is not even a helpful measure these days.

Plus, as any good conspiracy theorist knows, the mainstream media and so-called experts are all trying to hide the truth from us, right? And Snopes is a radical-left Fake News source, so you can't trust that.

I'm kind of astonished these are so badly done.
posted by trig at 6:24 AM on July 21, 2020 [19 favorites]

Ain't no blade can protect you from the true true.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:31 AM on July 21, 2020

I think they're trying to avoid giving the names of the usual suspects (Ox-fay Ews-nay) because that's often an automatic reject by these types of people.

There is something appealing about the blunt statement approach, but it is just as vulnerable to the claim that it's more about making the speaker feel good than about actually changing minds.

I've already made my opinion known, but would just like to add, there really is no easy way to do this. The tactic here is to offer the argument from voices that conspiracy theorists might respect (and are themselves not conspiracy theorists, of course).
posted by JHarris at 6:31 AM on July 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm with cilantro on this one.

Except for maybe John Cena, the celebrities chosen are generally well known for being relatively progressive. Especially Catherine O'Hara, Paul Rudd and Billy Porter. (John Oliver as well, obviously)

Like, do people really think the massively anti-trans crowd is going to listen to Billy Porter because he wore a dress that one time? They won't. He's already dismissed in their eyes. They think it's a conspiracy to feminize black men thanks to Dave Chappelle, who has pushed that conspiracy. They see Billy Porter as part and parcel as a "feminized black man." (Let's not even get into the whole painfully obvious they're not going to listen to him because he's black, that's just the fucking cherry on top of their hate milkshake.)

The whole fucking problem is you're starting with people who they're flat out just not going to listen to.

Even Cena might be too progressive for them, supporting LGBT causes and all.

Basically, this entire list of celebrities is a non-starter for these people so it's absolutely to make liberals feel good about themselves while patting themselves on the back.

If you can find me one Trump supporter wouldn't immediately tell you to fuck off if you said you wanted them to listen to what says Billy Porter about conspiracies, I'd like to hear about it, because I don't believe it.

The tactic here is to offer the argument from voices that conspiracy theorists might respect

Literally my point, the wrong celebrities to start with, if that's what you're aiming for.
posted by deadaluspark at 6:47 AM on July 21, 2020 [9 favorites]

Hugs to everyone whose family, friends, neighbors etc. are coming at them with spirit-breakingly stupid conspiracy theories.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:50 AM on July 21, 2020 [14 favorites]

Seriously, you want them to listen, you gotta start with libertarians like Penn Jillette and the problem is you're not going to get much useful out of someone like him.
posted by deadaluspark at 6:54 AM on July 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

For whatever reason, it got past the first defense of rationalization. The conversation just stopped, and over the next few months, things changed.

This has been my experience, too: discourse will not change these kinds of opinions about the world, and most people are not looking for someone to teach or enlighten them (at least, not consciously). In this, as with all "teaching", people can only be persuaded to learn (which is an active verb on the part of the person learning), and there are all kinds of persuasion.

The only approach I've found effective with this stuff (conspiracy theories, Trump, politics generally) is not to challenge the person on the information, but just to clearly and directly state my belief or perspective and leave it at that. Then the person I'm talking to can decide if they respect me and what I think enough to reconsider whatever it was we were talking about. If they do have some personal respect for me, more often than not, they actually reconsider their perspective; if they don't, nothing I could say would change their mind about anything, anyway. (I think it's similar to studies about teacher effectiveness that find that no method or pedagogy is more effective than a teacher's personal credibility to their students; a teacher whom students find credible can use a wide array of teaching methods effectively, because they have students' trust and buy-in first, so they're actually listening to whatever the teacher says, however they say it.)

I also find, after thinking through lots of different ways to approach this, and trying most of them, that this is the most respectful way: it just rarely works to tell anyone what they should think, or to try to force-educate another adult who is supposed to be responsible for themselves; but I won't hesitate to voice my own opinion, nor to explain it. But beyond that? As always, it's up to each of us if we choose to listen or not, on this or anything else.

Last Week Tonight's 7/19 episode was so good and on point it was genuinely therapeutic and cathartic to watch. These celebrity bits are really funny (which is job one for a comedy show), and are thought-provoking for their viewers, but won't persuade anybody who isn't already listening.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:28 AM on July 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

The problem with the thinking and research and learning that leads to conspiracy thinking is that it’s like an incomplete course of antibiotics: It just leaves you with a little colony of ideas that are now hyper-resistant to more analysis. I don’t know what counters that except, if we’re lucky, enough people modeling calm and comprehensive analysis. (And we all harbor colonies of resistant thinking, by the way.)
posted by argybarg at 7:36 AM on July 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Anecdotal, but I know plenty of otherwise very smart, well-educated, left-leaning (and profoundly leftist)people (some of them literally work in higher education) who hold fast to (and propagate) some super batshit ideas. As an example, I have been shocked by the number of people I know, care about and respect who have absolutely refused to consider taking (or letting their children take) a (thus-far still theoretical) Covid vaccine.

I don't think it's particularly useful to write off everyone who believes conspiracy theories as a conservative idiot.
posted by thivaia at 7:37 AM on July 21, 2020 [7 favorites]

Fun but useless - you can't argue with madness. I'm pretty sure my older brother still believes that Michelle Obama is a man (and Obama is a crack whore who was married to a Muslim man, and 9/11, etc., etc. ... I hear he's now a Covid denier).

Back when we were still speaking, I spent a month refuting all of his "evidence" (all youtube videos). His response? "I understand that you're too weak to accept the truth."

The problem is not (just) lack of critical thinking. There is something much deeper going on here: racism, sexism, mental illness (etc., etc.), a desire to be special (in-the-know), a snake-brain response to helplessness and fear ...

But yeah, the videos are fun. :)
posted by anshuman at 7:37 AM on July 21, 2020 [7 favorites]

Sorry for all the parentheticals. I haven't had enough coffee and couldn't figure out a more direct way to say that.
posted by thivaia at 7:38 AM on July 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I mean, the problem with people believing crap on the internet is partly because their idea of a "trusted news source" is "what I, personally, trust" or "hey, it sounds real". Whether it's Fox or Sinclair or Breitbart or some people Telling It Like It Is on reddit or a Facebook group that knows what's what or some spam forward that's clearly trustworthy because your friend sent it to you and also it says that the information came from "a doctor". Maybe even a real doctor with a real name. Why would you bother checking up on that?

And since all these sources parrot one another, whether a lot of "trusted" sources say the same thing is not even a helpful measure these days.


Like, the "is it a trusted news source" aspect might be relevant for people in the early stages of heading down the rabbit hole via YouTube suggestion algorithms because they Googled "Waht is QAnon?", but mostly people believe this stuff because they want to believe it, even if it's just to feel like they have some level of control over a chaotic and uncertain life (and feeling like you've got Seekrit Knowledge That Explains Things is absolutely about feeling in control even if the surface message is "Plots and Conspiracies and You Are Being Manipulated.")

At this point really what is needed is a certain level of basic minimum acknowledgement of objective reality across social and traditional media, and I don't see how this is going to happen without both legislation and economic pressure. Getting celebs to make anti-conspiracy videos and hoping they go viral isn't really of much practical use.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:40 AM on July 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Imagine the response of conspiracy theorists to “legislative and economic pressure” to quash their ideas.
posted by argybarg at 7:47 AM on July 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

What happens when your trusted sources are OANN, RT, Washington Times, the Daily Mail, and Jordan Peterson?

What happens when your trusted source is the government?

I don't think we have a basic level of shared consensus reality. I almost feel like we need that in our legislatures as well: a descriptive branch to agree on what the world actually looks like and what happened, and a prescriptive branch to decide what to do about it.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 7:49 AM on July 21, 2020 [7 favorites]

Wrinkled stumpskin - i almost favorited, then thought, “but who will decide?” I mean (if I’m understanding you correctly) ... we’re already there, in a way, and it’s Not Working.
posted by anshuman at 8:04 AM on July 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Conspiracy Theory Handbook was flashed on the screen during this segment; I went straight to Amazon to find it but it turns out to be a short PDF available for free.
posted by jquinby at 8:15 AM on July 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

Also - our extended family seems to have been largely inoculated from conspiracy-theory madness. I credit this to the fact that many of them have worked for the federal government in one way or another and are in no way convinced that there enough competent people to pull off any sort of grand, all-encompassing plot. This isn't to echo the dumb refrain of hurr durr gubmint workers amirite but more to echo the point Oliver made about the number of people required to execute a plan and then keep it secret.

I saw it here, I think, in another thread, but I'd be willing to bet that very few conspiracy theorists have ever worked as project managers (or managers, period).
posted by jquinby at 8:23 AM on July 21, 2020 [9 favorites]

I think a lot of you are mistaking the audience for these videos.

They're not meant to deprogram someone who's in deep and has been spouting Fox/Republican propaganda for a while. They're meant as a preventative measure for someone who looks like they're edging toward that cliff.

You show it to your friend/uncle/aunt/cousin who's always been super sweet and caring, but last week for the first time shared concern about Wayfair trafficking humans, and you realize you need to inoculate them before they fall down the rabbit hole.
posted by explosion at 8:24 AM on July 21, 2020 [33 favorites]

It's worth noting that not all those who participate in conspiracy theories are moon-barking mouth-frothers. Unfortunately, it's much more insidious than that. If you pay attention online and in your interpersonal conversations, you can track the various coded phrases being passed around like the actual memes they are.

For example, while browsing the comments on Reddit for a few disparate posts about recent Ruth Bader Ginsburg news, there emerged a narrative about two things: how she should have stepped down during Obama's presidency and her cognitive abilities. I'm guessing the latter was just tacked on because it's trendy (aka contagious). The former point, however, kept cropping up from different accounts in different posts but several contained the same language about how RBG had "gambled" (on Hillary winning) and "lost". That phrase, specifically, "she gambled and lost" showed up multiple times. Maybe a coincidence? Is this now a new conspiracy I've just spawned? Am I part of the problem now?

Anyway, another example, one closer to home, is when I speak with some of my family members. Inevitably, despite attempts to the contrary, discussion veers into the realm of the political and topical. All too often when it does, I'll hear echoes and hints of specific propaganda points in their words. For example, when talking to one of my parents about Covid-19 and the return to schools and related topics, they made the comment that "they'll just keep making new cases to justify closing things down". The subtext there is that my parent has been exposed to the narratives that testing creates cases, don't trust medical science, and that ultimately it's largely a hoax overblown by somebody to fulfill whatever fear-contract Fox News has promised its viewers.

Sorry for the long meandering reply, the whole conspiracy thing really hits home both personally and at a distance from watching events unfold over the last few years. It's very stressful and upsetting. From an emotional standpoint, it feels like a great many people I love and care about have been robbed of their agency by an unrelenting avalanche of manipulation and indoctrination. It's a global firehose of gish galloping falsehoods and never has there been a more captive audience ready to drink straight from that thunderous outflow of effluence.

Perhaps the worst part is that to lay it all out like that makes me feel crazy. Surely, everything going on right now can't all be real. The corruption and criminality can't be that brazen, that out-in-the-open, right? Argh and ugh in full measure.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 8:27 AM on July 21, 2020 [14 favorites]

Seems to me a new big brother GoFundMe for anshuman is in order.
posted by y2karl at 8:47 AM on July 21, 2020 [1 favorite] it's absolutely to make liberals feel good about themselves while patting themselves on the back.

Yeah, so true. At the last meeting of "Liberals for Good Feeling" we all wore the same T-shirts and stood around in a circle so everybody got a patted back. It's in the charter, along with the secret handshake.

On the other hand, maybe we all are tribal creatures to whom pattern recognition is the machine that drives our intellect. You know: I am a thoughtful person. You're okay, but a bit opinionated, and that guy is a pig-headed fool.*

But Oliver's examples are aimed at promoting just the opposite reaction from some I've seen in this thread. Back in the day, right around the time we invented sliced bread, the Peace Coalition tried to train some of its reps to engage the bystanders who came out to watch the demonstrations and get their fair share of abuse.

In those days, the world was divided into hippies and hardhats, hawks and doves, with an underpinning that was chartered by such as David Duke and Curtis LeMay (on the one hand), and MLK and Bobby Seal (on the other). Please. I know it was a Coalition with more moving parts that a centipede has bunions, but please allow me my simplification.

Anyhow, the objective of this training was to try to spot fence-sitters in the crowd, and talk to them. The Silent Majority was the overarching demographic here, and all those flavors of conservatism flocked to find shelter under their tent. Talk to Fence Sitters. Get it? Don't be so naive as to trample on any person's articles of faith.

But, back to us lazy ass hippy liberals whose objective is to feel good a do back-patting.

What? I say no. It's exactly right to rally around "our" own talking points. Think about it. We can't hug right now, but everybody could use a pat on the back. And John Cena nailed it with as clever a gimmick as I've seen in quite a while. Let's breathe life into this meme. It does the youngans good to see the lite versions that empower their parents to groan and moan and pound the table while they wait for Rachel Maddow to finally get to the point.

And if the core message is to try to check your sources, then that's good.

*shout out to Ambrose Bierce.
posted by mule98J at 8:50 AM on July 21, 2020 [15 favorites]

Yeah, I think these videos will be completely useless for deprogramming the full-blown QAnon crowd, but thivaia makes a good point: when we finally get a Covid-19 vaccine, a lot of well-meaning people are going to be scared and uncertain of it, and conspiracy theories about vaccines will be exactly that phenomenon of "news that reinforces how you already felt about things" that we know even very smart people are susceptible to. So we need to think about ways to get out in front of that. There are, unfortunately, a lot of far-left anti-vaxxers already, and people you don't necessarily expect to be susceptible to this kind of fear-mongering may well prove to be.

One important thing that these videos try (but IMO fail, due to being kind of patronizing) to do is to recognize the order of cause and effect that's usually in play:
1.) person feels scared/anxious/uncertain about something
2) they go looking for (or invent) conspiracy theories to justify those feelings.

Debunking the specific conspiracy theory itself does not address those feelings and may even make those feelings worse, so it usually doesn't have the desired effect. You have to acknowledge that the person's feelings are real, and valid, or you're never going to get anywhere. I think LooseFilter's approach of just stating your own beliefs gets at that; the best way is not to convince them they're wrong, but to be visibly and openly aware of the things that scare them and acknowledge those potential risks/threats and then just refuse to be scared of those things. If they don't respect you they'll decide you're a deluded sheeple, but you probably were never going to get anywhere with them anyways, because they don't respect you; but if they do respect you, being that example to them might have an impact.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:06 AM on July 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I know somebody at work who dabbles in various conspiracy theories; nothing too out there as these things go (I've never heard her say anything racist/anti-Semitic, etc.), but I always wonder if what she's thinking is more extreme than what she's willing to say out loud at work. I haven't seen or communicated with her since our workplace shut down in mid-March, but I wouldn't be surprised if she's fallen farther down various rabbit holes since then. The kicker is, she's a librarian and thus should at least in theory be more information-literate than the average person.

A couple of times in the past I tried to push back on some of the misinformation she seemed to accept as fact, but my powers of persuasion are terrible at the best of times and I quickly grew exhausted by the effort; arguing with conspiracy theorists is like getting bogged down in rhetorical quicksand.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:07 AM on July 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

> should at least in theory be more information-literate than the average person.

I think this is a common trap people fall into. There are plenty of people who are objectively smarter and/or better educated than average and most probably recognize that, too. I'd be curious to learn how often that creates a sort of false sense of informational/manipulation/bias security. With a dash of circular self-reinforcement, too in the form of "well, I feel convinced and I'm smart, therefore this data and its source can be trusted because I trust myself".

Sometimes, I feel like I'm engaged in a very long game of chess against my own cognitive behavioral patterns. Although, some days I'm only capable of playing checkers. Or just flipping the board–and a matched set of birds–in response.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 9:24 AM on July 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

The Conspiracy Theory Handbook is great! Putting that in the hands of someone who is just on the fringes of conspiracy theorising might be good for them. I particularly appreciate that the first sentence is "Real conspiracies do exist".
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 9:43 AM on July 21, 2020 [5 favorites]

The real conspiracy was the systemic injustice we fought along the way.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:45 AM on July 21, 2020 [24 favorites]

I think a lot of people here are underestimating the propensity of left-leaning types to get caught up in conspiracy theories as well. I've seen a number of lefty acquaintances - many of them young, PoC, queer, and/or college-educated - take the Wayfair conspiracy seriously.
posted by airmail at 10:40 AM on July 21, 2020 [7 favorites]

I think a lot of people here are underestimating the propensity of left-leaning types to get caught up in conspiracy theories as well.

I mean, I'm showing my age here, but remember "Loose Change"
posted by thivaia at 12:25 PM on July 21, 2020 [6 favorites]

Again, it's all well and good to berate LWT for trying to do something, but in the absence of any other good idea I'm glad they're breaking through the temptation to succumb to inertia.
posted by JHarris at 1:47 PM on July 21, 2020 [7 favorites]

Is this PSA/very special episodes for boomers/genX?

Btw it's not just QAnon this should be reaching- the more nervous of my left leaning peers tend to blindly share anything bad they uncover about politicians they don't like, even when it is actually outrage fodder designed to stir conflict and exhaustion.

It's easy to push this onto one's hypothetical racist extended family, but plenty of stuff like TERF or SWERF propaganda is way closer to home.
posted by Phalene at 3:10 PM on July 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

I think it's a serious mistake to be lured into complacency by "we're all smart here" or "we all vote progressively here" or anything similar. I had a phone call with a coworker earlier today that left me with a real worry about whether they're in danger of going down this kind of rabbithole. Bad enough when during our May department meeting (via Zoom) they said "so we locked down to flatten the curve, and we've done that; when can we come back to the office?" and I thought "...we haven't 'done that' at all."

Today their conversation included remarks about how "the case numbers keep changing" and "what they tell us to do keeps changing" in a tone that made me mildly uneasy. What's frustrating is that if we were face to face, I think I'd be able to facilitate discussion about "yeah, that's how science works, and while things are scary it's encouraging that we're coming to understand this virus better" and respond to their concerns. It didn't feel possible over a webcam conversation. I was also dismayed that despite their concern, they don't seem to be up on the recent reports about the kind of lasting effects some people are seeing. It's generalized worry without information, which seems dangerous.
posted by Lexica at 4:50 PM on July 21, 2020 [8 favorites]

These cutesy 'educational videos' basically exist so those of us who don't believe in the illuminati can pat ourselves on the back for being so smart.

I've noticed exactly this kind of "inside the bubble" scripting becoming more and more common in activist circles. This video that GetUp recently crowdfunded to defend the ABC has exactly the same deficiency.

I have the deepest admiration for our redoubtable public broadcaster and am as distressed as anybody you'd find about the way Scotty from Marketing and his Murdoch-addled mates have been treating it, but there is no way on God's green earth that this kind of thing is even going to touch anybody who has been pushing the decisions to de-fund it. Not even slightly.

At least The Juice Media makes stuff with enough bite to sting the arseholes into trying to swat it down.
posted by flabdablet at 5:26 PM on July 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Another thing to keep in mind is, it is rare that a single message convinces anyone. LWT's videos may not directly change many people's opinions, but they're a data point, they keep the issue in people's minds, and maybe cause them to think, "That Facebook conspiracy theory I saw? Maaaaybe it actually is as bullshit as it seemed at first." Just because a single measure isn't completely effective doesn't mean it shouldn't be taken.
posted by JHarris at 7:34 PM on July 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

In related news: Twitter announces broad crackdown on QAnon accounts and content (Guardian)
The company said it would block URLs associated with QAnon from being shared on the platform, and would no longer recommend content and accounts associated with QAnon or highlight them in search and conversations. These restrictions will affect approximately 150,000 accounts, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed. NBC News first reported the crackdown. “These accounts are engaging in behavior that is designed to further the spread of content that has resulted in clear and well-documented informational, physical, societal and psychological offline harm,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
And previously: A med-school staffer dived into online groups to debunk coronavirus conspiracy theories. Would anyone listen? (WaPo / Stars & Stripes reprint)
He’s a 36-year-old research coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine — department of biostatistics, epidemiology and informatics — who’s made a stay-at-home hobby out of defending states’ pandemic-era restrictions and combating coronavirus misinformation on social media. Posting resources for his friends and diving into the online communities where misinformation thrives, he’s part of an everyday line of defense against the deluge that’s overwhelmed even professional fact-checkers — comments from family, friends or total strangers on the lookout. The efforts can feel futile, even as research suggests that average citizens of the Internet are a real force in correcting misperceptions.
posted by katra at 8:01 PM on July 21, 2020 [8 favorites]

On FB, my smart, slowly-radicalizing brother-in-law tagged my biggest-damn-racist-Trumpist-asshole brother-in-law in the Cena video.

Probably the latter BIL is indeed a lost cause, because it’s not like he’s going to figure out critical thinking after all these years.

Still, it did wonders for my husband’s morale, and for mine, and maybe it sent a glimmer of a message to the other 45-worshiping, plague-denying suckers on that side of the family. Uh-huh. We see you. You’re not actually swaying us. This is your stupid MLM all over again, with even more negative ROI.

Maybe it is feel-good nonsense and it won’t change any minds that are already firmly tinfoil-ensconced. The persecution complex probably runs way too deep, and surely this attempt at good-natured illumination just feels like more persecution.

Still, it gave those of us who are NOT BUYING IN a tool to signal, as good-naturedly as possible, that we still are NOT BUYING IN.

Loneliness is a natural consequence of joining a moronic death cult; maybe it’s time to let people absorb that consequence, instead of gamely shielding them from it.
posted by armeowda at 10:42 PM on July 21, 2020 [14 favorites]

videos that explain how to educate someone with the emotional and intellectual capacity of a five year old

emotional maybe, but not intellectual. Smart people have been falling for stupid shit since ... well, since there have been people.

a quick ctrl/f of this thread finds zero hits for: "intellectual character" which is a phrasing I first encountered just the other day. There is a book about it though this csmoniter piece gets to the nut of it:

Lessons in shaping 'intellectual' character

tldr version (emphasis mine):

Ritchhart has identified six dispositions as central to intelligence. A person must be curious, open-minded, reflective, strategic, skeptical, and must search for truth and understanding. By looking at cognitive ability as a set of behaviors rather than an innate talent, intelligence becomes something that educators can teach.

Teachers must explain to students that the process of learning, and the questions they ask, are just as important as the answers, Ritchhart says.

I've noticed that it's popular to say that people who fall for conspiracy shit tend to lack in critical thinking skills. What I like about the intellectual character angle is that it allows for people to have those skills but, for whatever reason, not use them -- not all of them anyway. So, for instance, you can be committed to the search for truth and understanding and be strategic about it, but if you're not being open-minded reflective and skeptical, you're doing it wrong ... and wormholes await you.
posted by philip-random at 8:12 AM on July 22, 2020 [6 favorites]

It helps to remember that this problem began with the divide between true belief versus rational approaches in the political arena. Wedges such as abortion, socialism, urban crime and military intervention were driven by these symbols, to keep the money away from social spending. There was always an effort to paint the rational as evil or not good enough, while politeness and family bonds prevented us from calling them crazy or stupid to their faces. The narrative has changed slightly, with religion losing its punch, so they shifted to calling us brainwashed, which is the method of turning tables developed by Roy Cohn (Trump's and McCarthy's mentor), essentially labeling one's enemy as one's own weakness in order to dismiss copycat criticism before it arrives. Here's where it gets tricky because the gentle critic can't have it both ways, appearing as better-than while letting the insults slide to victory. However, if we let them know their arguments are childish and self-defeating, then they have a chance to self-moderate and try to improve their position in a more rational vein in order to make their case. And that's the point, because they must convince themselves first. We are only needing them to self-moderate and not to flip to an opposite position, because the plainly opposite position is still theirs, because they invented it along a straight line that falls into their plan and they instinctively know it. In other words, they've been controlling the debate this entire time. So we are indirectly debating the position of true belief and not any specific viewpoint. On that note, consider for a moment that if we think we can pull them to a safe middle point by staking an extreme opposite view, as if Newtonian forces are at work here, then we are in fact brainwashed.
posted by Brian B. at 8:23 AM on July 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

you can be committed to the search for truth and understanding and be strategic about it, but if you're not being open-minded reflective and skeptical, you're doing it wrong ... and wormholes await you.

feelings vs. facts
posted by kliuless at 10:05 PM on July 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ok coming late to watching the actual LWT piece. But now all the comments referencing the appeal of a disrobing John Cena and not Michael Cera make a lot more sense.
posted by mephisjo at 1:05 AM on July 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

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