Reply To: Conspiracy theory spread

  • Whit Blauvelt

    March 27, 2023 at 8:45 pm

    Thanks Don. My question was on both levels. I would love to reach my brother, and as you say argument just doesn’t help. He’s also convinced the covid vaccine killed tens of thousands of people, while drug companies and governments all conspired to hide it. Meanwhile he’s a good family man, holds down a decent job and so forth. He has no religion at all, nor artistic involvement, and is proud of going decades without reading a book. But he soaks up these conspiracy theories from odd corners of the Internet, and his coworkers in the defense industry.

    The societal level is my greater concern, as my brother individually is no danger to anyone. A society in which so many join in hyper-rational, senseless, paranoid ideation is a great danger to all, whether or not we join in the madness. While “the paranoid style in American politics” has been long with us (, it’s now on unusually prominent display, and shares its delusions internationally, particularly with the far-right European political groups, but also with such odd bedfellows as yoga teachers, health-food purists, and those against all childhood vaccines.

    So at the societal level, where some prominent politicians, television “news” performers and billionaires who prefer a distracted public are stoking conspiracy paranoia, how can that be countered? Bringing out factual arguments, as we see with climate threats and many other issues, more tends to harden denial than change minds. Pointing out that it would be impossible for thousands of scientists to conspire about anything goes nowhere for those who are convinced that virtually all scientists have subscribed to an anti-capitalist agenda and forsaken honest science to promote it — as if capitalism is uniquely allied with fossil fuel firms, and has nothing to do with cleaner energy alternatives.

    Is there messaging which can help counter the wide-scale madness? If there is, perhaps it must be more art than science, prevailing more through aesthetics than logics. What shape can that best take?