What is a conspiracy theory?
Conspiracy theories are false narratives that prey upon weakness and fears – real or perceived. They are seemingly substantiated by pseudoscience and fallacies – unsound reasoning that in fact proves nothing. They are most effectively spread and amplified by social media.
The great human and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic gave momentum to various wild narratives, spread by anti-establishment movements that have all the hallmarks of religious sects. These sects are especially seductive if you are feeling alone or if you’ve just experienced a loss.
It’s tempting. As long as you accept these narratives, you’re welcomed with open arms.
Conspiracy theories & Logical fallacies
Conspiracy theories are packed with logical fallacies, flawed reasoning using deceptive faulty arguments.
That is why conspiracy theories are so hard to counter: there is no logic to them. Unsound reasoning makes a rational argument extremely difficult and frustrating. Understanding fallacies helps: we explain the most common ones in the LOGIC section. See: fallacies, pseudoscience and propaganda.
Fallacious arguments may be used knowingly, but more often than not people seem unaware of the logical errors that have seeped into their narrative.
Fallacies that are particularly common in conspiracy theories: appeal to authority, furtive fallacy, conjunction fallacy.
Divide and conquer
Planted conspiracy theories can have serious security implications when they are aimed at polarization. A divided country is a weaker country.
This type of false, disruptive narratives should therefore be seen and treated as weapons of war. According to the FBI, spreading them is an act of information warfare.
We can see the destructive effect of conspiracy theories all around us: false and disorienting narratives are ripping apart the social fabric of society, splitting families, antagonizing long-time friends.
As yet, this is a largely unregulated sphere – anyone can wield that very destructive weapon without serious repercussions.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Always check the source of your information and, more importantly, who is financing the spread of that information. You may be advancing someone else’s agenda without realizing it. That agenda may be very undemocratic.
So who is paying for that flyer or the free newspaper in your mailbox? If it’s not transparent, you may be the target of propaganda.