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.

Conspiracy theories welcome now recruits

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.

Conspiracy theories that were true

IN CONTEXT: Operation Berkshire

Evil conspiracies do exist. It has been proven that the world’s major tobacco companies long knew that smoking was addictive and caused cancer. They conspired in 1976 to promote controversy over smoking and the disease (not unlike the climate change controversy).

The seven companies PURPOSELY KEPT KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE REAL HEALTH EFFECTS FROM THE GENERAL PUBLIC, AND KEPT PUSHING THEIR PRODUCT. MILLIONS OF DEATHS ARE ATTRIBUTED TO TOBACCO SINCE THE 1970’S

The case was settled in the ‘TOBACCO MASTER SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT (MSA)’. Nobody ever went to jail.