It all starts with a viral video on Facebook, a woman sitting in her car, scared. Perhaps in a moment someone will get her and prevent her from sharing this urgent information. The stern faced woman spouts dates, events, code words, such as ‘Electromagnetic Radiation’. Nothing is clear but it feels real. Also, the entire world is quarantined because of a virus so it must be true.
It continues with the richest man in the world, the one who wants to regain the sympathy of the masses since he is now seen as a threat. How could he have predicted the pandemic 5 years ago? He is probably funding the Chinese lab that produced and distributed the virus worldwide. And now he will appear as our savior and pay for our vaccine. That’s how he will earn our love and admiration forever.
Then there are allegations: it is a specific country’s fault/ an ethnic group / sect. The Americans blame the Chinese biological weapons production lab. The Chinese blame the Americans for trying to curb their economic growth. The Iranians blame the Israelis (or Jews) saying they genetically engineered the virus to make money from a vaccine and thus rule the world.
Then the conspiracy turns on nature. This is earth getting back at us, nature has come to take revenge on us, due to the damage humankind has caused. So soon we will all die, like in the days of the black plague, or the Spanish flu.
Conspiracy theories improve from year to year. We now see high quality films depicting threatening photos (with photo manipulation), interviews, somber music and dramatic narration. We are then bombarded with content and headlines from various newspapers and websites asking questions we simply don’t have an answer to, such as: “How did he know five years ago that a plague was about to break out”? (Perhaps because it was in the midst of five epidemics that broke out in the early 21st century …), “Do you even know what a 5G system can do to humans? (No …). How come Hollywood just released a movie about contagions less than a year ago?
There is nothing like a good conspiracy theory for an anxious heart in the midst of a global crisis. If you dare to demand evidence, you are usually sent to search alone. Why would anyone do the work for you? And don’t ask annoying questions. You’re taking all the sensationalism out of it.
I would like to coin this phenomenon, “the stupidity of the masses” (similarly to the wisdom of the masses). The same wisdom that allows us to solve complex problems by using mass answers also makes effective use of our pack mentality as the lowest common denominator – building on our shared fears, our ignorance and our tendency toward populism.
We live in a world full of information, but we are lacking in knowledge. Too many of us know too much about things we don’t understand. We have access to a lot of information, but we don’t necessarily have the tools to know if this information is accurate, reliable, or fake. So we are at the mercy of our psychology, we are slaves to our emotions. We are then led by our anxieties and the mass crowds. Anyone that opposes this mind set is sent – to study and do the work for us. This is the world we live in.
And so I would like contribute my mindset in order to reduce the “stupidity of the masses” that adopts new conspiracies daily. I recommend using the following tools to examine these theories:
- Supporting evidence: Is there any evidence for the main claim of the conspiracy or is it based on speculations (i.e. someone has deduced it based on information that is not necessarily connected). Evidence is the basis of every claim, and our expectation, our instinct, should be to immediately demand evidence. It is important to remember that nowadays there are cameras everywhere, photographers, or a document trail (bank accounts, military papers, scientific or a leak). Therefore, if no evidence can be furnished, this is a likely sign that the conspiracy is false.
- Is the information reliable? Anyone can make a stern face and take pictures. However these frightening images do not make the information reliable even if they seem credible. So again, the rule of thumb should be: no matter who provides you with the information, the information must be evidence-based.
- Proof must be provided by the person making the claim. This is one of the most important rules in disproving conspiracies. If someone makes a claim and sends you to look for evidence, there is probably a reason. We must demand from those making claims to present credible, verifiable and trustworthy information. If not, it is our moral duty to delete the message and prevent the writer from spreading these harmful messages any farther. Bottom line, whoever makes the claim is the one who is responsible to prove it.
- Mass data does not mean it is correct. Data must be verified for its source and its meaning: As previously mentioned, we are in an information overload. We require deep understanding furnished by professionals, even if it is controversial. Controversies are a good basis for examining theories because they allow for a deeper discussion between people who understand the issue, and can then reach conclusions. Therefore, it is very important to verify the source of the information, who published it and who is interpreting the data. My suggestion is to try and access the scientific source on which the knowledge is based. Go straight to the science. True, scientists are not always right, there are mistakes as well as deliberate false publications. However, the chance of a purposeful misleading publication of a scientific paper are low, especially since scientific journals require peer reviews by scientists before publication.
- Illogical elements that incite conspiracies: Whether the conspiracies are disseminated via movies, online content, viral messages, or baseless testimonials on social networks-they all serve a purpose. Their job is to move us away from a rational line of thought. When we watch a clip of a lecture in front of an audience, we tend to “conform” to the message and view it as a reliable piece of information. Because if anyone went to all the trouble of producing such a video, they probably knew what they were talking about. It’s important to remember that there are mass movements around the world who believe controversial conspiracies, for example the “Flat Earth Movement,” who believe that NASA and the world governments are deceiving us, and that you can reach the edge of the Earth which is hidden in an ice wall. However please remember that this group has never presented established information that supports its thesis. Don’t be naive and fall for charlatan clichés.
- Searching for a logical Reason: It is very important to ask: what motivates the people behind the conspiracy theory. Would Bill Gates have risked his life, his family’s life, his fortune, his home, his name, his life’s work to produce a virus that would harm millions of people – only to be portrayed as a savior? After all, if he gets caught, which would be likely, he’d spend the rest of his life in prison – at best. It makes no sense.
- Is such a coordinated multiplayer scheme possible: In order for a covert program of significant magnitude to occur, there must be a large and powerful mechanism powering it. Hundreds of people working on it from researchers, scientists, bankers, media experts through to pilots, suppliers etc. – all the people involved in the planning and execution of the program. So then ask is there such a mechanism taking place in absolute secrecy – Do you think this is possible?
In summary, there is a minuscule (near zero) likelihood that the earth is flat, that passenger jets will spray us, that 5G technology will give us all cancer, of a multi-nation scheme to cause autism through vaccines or that NASA staged the moon landing .You can now go back to sleep quietly.